The drive to Trinidad was long. 9.5 hours to be exact.
The drive itself is not too diverse in scenery. It reminds me of driving through an Asian country. Tropical, paddocks, little shacks. Cubans sitting on their verandahs. In their rocking chairs passing time, smoking, drinking coffee or rum. What’s the hurry anyway. Everything manana. Everything can be done tomorrow.
Enter Trinidad. My head turns right, left, side to side in excitement. Once again I am captivated.
Our casa is typically Cuban style. Orange walls, gold bedspreads and gold sheer polka dot curtains. It is a feast for the eyes to enjoy. 50s Retro, Art Deco, eclectic all rolled into one.
The streets remind me of little towns in Spain. Perhaps not as near or tidy, but as quaint and cute all the same. Cobblestone roads with the cobbliest cobbles you have ever seen, look fabulous but are hard to walk on. Colourful houses one after another all offering their houses as casas, for extra income.
Casa, restaurant, maybe a private home, bar, casa, shop, souvenir shop, followed by another restaurant and so it goes. Shops selling paintings of Fidel and Che. Amazing artists, you will see the sitting at their windows painting and subsequently selling the finished masterpiece, trinkets of this and that, beautiful hand made (by co-operatives(groups) of local women) crocheted scarves, tops and dresses. Hand made linen shirts, doilies, table clothes, pretty embroidered tops. Not cheap in Cuban terms, but certainly cheap for us westerners.
Street dogs continue to break my heart. Some seem to fare okay, some are a little worse for wear. They bark, they chase horses and bikes, they make me laugh. They are having fun. They are friendly if people gave them a chance, always looking for a feed or a pat. People are scared to touch them. This is sad for me to grasp.
Trinidad has certainly geared itself towards tourism and why not. There are so many restaurants. You wonder how they fill them, then buses, full of tourists arrive and the streets are swarming. Walking tours, horse riding tours and so on. Trinidad is reaping the tourism benefits.
This little town does seem to be a little bit more finically comfortable than what we have seen to date. As you walk past each house you see in to their living quarters. How? They only have shutters over their one front window which is covered by bars, think Spanish architecture late 1800s, they leave their shutters wide open and stand a greet people as they walk past. Hola, com esta, hello how are you? Again friends congregate at these windows, on footpaths In the town centre.
We walked the streets until we reached where the real Trinidad begins. Cobblestone roads turned into rocky roads turned into complete rabble. We see the poorer side once again. The people still beautiful, hola, can we please take a photo we ask? Si si, they are so accommodating. Like they are posing for a magazine,they stand, they smile.
The textures, the colours, the unevenness all add to its appeal. This is the trinidadian life. Men walking around selling garlic and onions strung together, thrown over their shoulders. Yelling out to the locals. Every one is yelling, always yelling.
Bike ridden carts selling fruits, horses tied up in front of houses, men in cowboy hats. Women wanting to swap clothes with me, children playing soccer in the street or small park, people with their doors wide open, barred in or not, watching tv, which is so loud. Everything is loud in this what we thought was a quiet town. Old women sitting at their barred windows, that is their tv, never moving, when you look closer, you can see their beds tucked in behind them. This is their life. Watching the modern world develop before their old eyes. A different life to what they once knew. They always say hola.
They stand at the front doors and smile. We ask again, may we take photo. Some say so si yes yes and pose, some are shy and wave and finger no no no. Always giving a smile though.
As I think back to the street dogs around the city square, I take in a whole different perspective here in this more traditional, poorer area. Dogs are house dogs, sitting well fed and protected in doors, at the barred windows. It’s quite contradictory in my thinking.
We find a gelato store. Yum. We had to eat quickly as it drips down our hands.
Teenagers stop and watch as we pass, they talk amongst themselves. I wonder what they are saying.
Trinidad like Havana is a photographers delight. Every way you look. Photo opportunity. Another too good to miss.
The number one attraction here is a history museum. Not particularly for what it has on show, but for the rickety old spiral stairs that you climb to reach the tower. I climbed them, and it was worth it for the view. Just as I was told. I could see the whole city, the mountains and glimpses of the sea. The sea is about 12km from town.
The same opportunity was rewarded to us in a convent as in the history museum, climb the rather volatile looking staircase to the bell tower to again look over this magic city. From this view it almost took on a Moroccan feel. The colours of blues, terracotta’s and sand with shattered brick roof tops. I love this little place.
Old cars still around in the city, probably in more disrepair than those seen in Havana.
Shut your eyes and just listen. They chat incessantly, they have real conversations. With passion, they yell, talk over one another, they laugh. It’s wonderful to hear. I wish I knew what they were saying!
Dinners and drinks in roof top restaurants, offering food so cheap it seems unfair. You pay for a main meal and for example you get, bread and dips, fried plantain (banana) that is so good, soup, salad, white and black rice, black beans, croquette made from rice and vegetables, then your main meal, whatever you order and fruits to finish. Yes we eat every last bite! All for about 8-12 Australian dollars. My mojito or daiquiri around 3-4 dollars.
Walking the dark streets at 10.30pm, it’s hard to see. Arriving at our casa just in time, the heavens opened like tomorrow was never coming. We made it. Then the electricity went off. Total blackness, feeling our way around unfamiliar surroundings. We find our room. It rained all night. Loud rain pelting, dogs crying, cats meowing, sounds I’ve never heard before. So so hot. Pillows that felt like bricks. Not much sleep was had, but I am in Cuba and that is the best thing.
Morning, overcast, rain has stopped, still humid, the streets are slowly drying up
Everyone sits in one of the two city squares to get there internet access which you pay around 1-2 dollars per hour.
Simple needs = simple life.
Around 1pm daily the streets quieten down, its siesta time for those who are happy with their lot, for those still wanting to reap those touristic benefits, you will still hear taxi? You want best cigars in town? Drink? Eat? Coffee?
Dinner at the most amazing, you must visit restaurant called La Redaccion. The building, the food, the service, out of this world. Look out for Yardier, the best waiter, who will make you happy with just his personality. Give him a big tip. A must do is please visit the toilets in this place. Grand does not describe it.
The last 3 nights we noticed the streets quiet early at night. A contradiction to what we have been told about the music scene and dancing. 10.30pm everything has been quiet, no dancing, just quiet. Speaking to a local this evening, we were educated to the whys of the lack of music and dancing. The country had been mourning in the loss of 119 lives in the devastating airplane accident recently. A nation united. These people continue to warm my heart. They are probably some of the nicest, kindest, compassionate people I have met in a foreign country.