Today was a free day for us. Bonnie Marsha and I took a tourist sight-seeing bus in the morningand saw Havana neighborhoods from a different view on top of an open-air bus. We stopped at the cathedral plaza and had a cool one. I got my fortune told by a Santoria woman. she used Tarot cards and shells. It was a GOOD one. I got a sacred rock for health. I hope it protects me from all the sick people on the trip. We walked around Old Havana and shopped in a great old Cuban department store turned into a market place. We went back to the plaza and took a ride home in ’59 pepto-bismol pink Pontiac Skyhawk with Continental kit. Now THAT was fun.
The agriculture farms were a result of the special period when people had no food. We visited one large farm that now has 25 acres. Mostly vegetables and fruits. Everything is organic. No pesticides or fertilizers were available at that time due to the embargo. They use good bugs to eat the bad ones, 8 wells for water. Flowers are grown and animals were brought in for the compost. There are now 163 workers who are trained and well paid. The community comes to buy the products at a store run by the coop. 20% goes to restaurants
Guiar is a plant that is used to make maracas and medicine, sour sop, fruta bomba. Sugar apple, cheese fruit, beans, peppers.
For lunch we landed at Cojima a small fishing town where Hemmingway was inspired to write “Old Man an the Sea” here. They had his favorite table dedicated to him.
Guanacos is a town dedicated to the Santoria religion. This is African/Yoruba melded with Catholicism. Dancing, Congo and Rumba. We got an intro to this. No tourists here!
We are now on our way to dinner at a jazz club. This was real jazz with a singer and incredible musicians. A relief from the restaurant BuenaVista Social Club style musicians
I cannot count the times I have gotten on and off the bus during the trip.
Our last night in Cienfuegos was a dinner at a restaurant on the water with the breezes blowing through the windows. We departed at 9 and drov to Santa Clara, the town where Che Guevara is laid to rest. Big statue, museum and his interment along with the freedom fighters he was with. To the Cuban people, he is an icon. Many of his ideas are still in use today and serve the people well. There are still restrictions in nbusiness. The Cubans do not have much due to the embargo. Plus they are still recovering from the crash when the Soviets withdrew their help. We have learned a tremendous amount about Cuban culture. It’s an amazing country. One has to visit and experience the flavor of the culture.
Speaking of flavor, the food is all the same everywhere we go. Of course we get the tourist buffets but the Cubans do not have a variety of food available. They now grow many of their vegetables in coop gardens and farms. This gives the locals fresh veggies. After the Soviets pulled out the people nearly starved until they got the gardens going. There was no oil to run cars and machines. This is why time stood still for Cuba. They are predicting 4,000,000 Americans coming when the flights to Cuba begin. I hope that this doesn’t turn this clean, pure place into another Hawaii.
It’s green and lush and tropical here.
Tonigh we drive to a restaurant in a 55 Chevy. The driver pulled up and showed us the engine. He pulled a flask put of the engine and said This is my engine oil. And started drinking it.
we had a great dinner with everybody.
Trinidad was a colorful, colonial city about an hour out of Cienfuegos, founded by Velaszquez in 1514, lots of history and architecture. The Slave trade and sugar cane were the main market items then.
We had a city tour and lunch in a cool patio with songbirds in cages and colors everywhere (and of course the cars called “Yank Tanks”‘. Look for the Netflix show of the same name. It is very cool and gives the history of the cars in Cuba).
We had a stop in one of the plazas that included music by a small band and dancing (by us). Cuba is filled with music everywhere. Samba, Rumba, Salsa. .
Today we were out of here early and heard a talk about Benny More, the number one singer in Cuba during the 40s and 50’s. He invented the Cuban Jazz orchestra and was influenced by the big bands of the forties and added the Latin vibe to it. He died, sadly, at 47 of cirrhosis. His funeral was like that of Edith Piaf. We went to his museum and grave. It is probable that Ricky Ricardo and his band was influenced by him.
In this same town, we went to the temple of an African religion that still remains in this town, danced in circles and got cleansed. We donated a gifts to this small poor town as a goodwill gesture.
There are so many artists in Cuba, visual and musical too, who display and play locally. Cienfuegos is a cultural center and has a small town feel.
Dancing lessons tonight. Hot Cuba nights!! I was having too much fun to get pics tonight. I spent the rest of the time fanning myself to get cool.
Varadero is another side of the Cuban Experience, fabulous beach that was voted the third best in the world, first built on by the DuPont family, lots of Europeans.
We visited an artist workshop, sculpture and ceramics, some bizarre, using metal and recycled materials.
On to a town called Matanzas for lunch. This restaurant was in a private home. This is common for families to open up their home for a restaurant. We had entertainers, drummers, dancers, showing us their Cuban/African stories in dance. Pretty wild. We did the Rumba conga line with the dancers. Back to the hotel for a swim in the ocean. More tomorrow
Fabulous old cars in Central Havana today.
Architectural beauties, some restored, some not so much. Colonial, Art Deco,
This where the old car taxis pick up fares for a fun ride. Hopefully by the end of the trip, we will take a ride for 1 hour.. Lunch in an Italian place with music to entertain. On tho Varadero, we stopped and everyone was dancing and drinking Pina coladas. You don’t see these rest stops along I -5.
Bus to Varadero, a beach town on the Straits of Florida. Went swimming in a mad rainstorm. Bonnie and I have a suite with lots of room. When the tourists start coming from he US., I hope this area does not turn into another Hawaii. Love to you all. more later.