Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Cuba Travel- continued

Cienfuegos was our next stop and another interesting town with beautifully maintained old buildings and streets around the main square. Looking at the many buildings in Cuba both those in good condition and the ones left to deteriorate it is noticeable the amount of wealth that must have been invested in Cuba over the centuries. This would have been through the slave trade, sugar plantations and later became an American ‘playground’ with casinos and ultimately corruption.

Unfortunately I still was not up to par as we walked around. We ended having ‘another big lunch’ at what seemed to have been a luxurious yacht club. It was a buffet lunch but it was only going to be steamed rice for me. A building near to our lunch stop was once a palace built in the Moorish style of Southern Spain, it is now a hotel and restaurant.
Spanish influenced hotel

We stayed at Hotel Ranchos Luna another resort which was about 17km out of town and not only don’t we get value for money at a resort it is in an inconvenient location.

In morning I took my tablets for my diarrohea and hoped I would be feeling better. We then went to a print workshop set up for students and artists which was very informative. Then off again for ‘another big lunch’ of which I ate nothing though it looked very tasty and was a really lovely little restaurant.

We were then going on a boat trip around the harbour but I was gradually going downhill to the point where I just couldn’t even face sitting in a boat doing nothing. I got Relando to take me back to the hotel where I slept for the rest of the afternoon.

Yvonne dropped by at 6.00pm and re-assured me I hadn’t missed much, but it hadn’t been much of a productive day for me. This was the first time in all my travels that I had such an upset stomach.

We happily left the resort, which was supposedly 5 star but I wouldn’t have given it 2 stars as it was awful.

Off to Santa Clara to the Memorial to Che Guevera and his 29 fellow combatants killed in Bolivia in 1967. Their remains were recovered and brought here 30 years ago. Che is really big in Cuba, his picture is everywhere more so than Fidel’s. He is the socialist ‘saint’ martyred for the cause.
Part of the memorial to Che Guevera

Near the memorial and mausoleum there is a museum using old goods train carriages. It is an exhibition of Che’s operation of destroying the goods train and railway of the Baptista Government.

From Santa Clara we went to the 500 year picturesque town of Remedios. The buildings around the main square were recently renovated for that anniversary.

We stayed at The Barcelona Hotel which is very attractive. We were like kids in a lolly shop as our rooms were not only spacious but nicely decorated with Mucha prints on the wall. The bathroom was also roomy with all the accoutrements one would expect in a mildly upmarket hotel. We were excited to stay somewhere decent after the 2 nights at the horrendous resort, like something out of Soviet Russia.

Our second last day we left at 8.00 am on our long trek back to Havana. We arrived around lunch time on the old fort and lighthouse side of the river. We were seated on a terrace with a great view of the river and the city. It was ‘another big lunch’. After I had made that comment just about every day, Yvonne my companion dubbed me ‘Not another big lunch Frances.’ That said it was a tasty offering of pumpkin soup, lobster and chicken but the dessert spoilt the finish by over the top artificially flavoured strawberry ice-cream.

We then went to visit Cuban artist Ileana Mulet, neither of us was looking forward to it as we felt we were really ‘professional or serious enough artists. However she turned out to be such a delightful person and we had an interesting conversation with Enrique translating.
Yvonne & me with Ileana centre
Her paintings were fascinating as she used a variety of media, though mainly oil and acrylic.

We were then dropped off at our hotel ‘The President’ which is situated along The Presidents’ Boulevard where the statues of former presidents are spaced along the median strip. Being unaware of the time difference between Havana and the provinces we ended up an hour ahead of ourselves for dinner, we wondered why the dining room was empty.

Our last day was a free day. We took the ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus in which was a waste of time as went mainly hotel to hotel, commentary was hard to understand and was not worth the money. One learns from experience. We enjoyed wandering around bought some gifts for people, though souvenir wise there really isn’t much that is tasteful or interesting if you want something other than cigars, rum Che Guevera and Castro memorabilia. We had a voucher for lunch (another big lunch) at the famous Havana Club.

That night we were having our final dinner with our wonderful driver and guide both were delightful company and very chivalrous young men.

Relando picked me up at 4.00am punctual and with a smile the next morning for me to catch my flight home. 
Enrique & Relando

Cuba is a fabulous place and one I would definitely like to revisit.

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