A walk around Punta Gorda today, Nov 7
It’s been too long since I paused our story! So here we go!
That damn alarm clock goes off! Oh wait, this is a good thing! We have a new adventure and don’t want to miss it! This country is so magical. But I’ve used that word before. Brace yourself, I’ll use it again! True to the info I’ve received, breakfast is served to us at the time we request the night before. Today, we don’t have a scheduled tour so we request breakfast at 8:30 AM. Our plan is to explore Punta Gorda by foot and by ‘BiciTaxi’, a bicycle powered taxi, very common in this area of the world. So we ride along towards the wealthy part of town, quite the contrast from where we’ve been! Yacht Club, Mansions and well manicured properties.
At the end of the peninsula we come a long a park with magnificent views of the bay. A BiciTaxi Parking Lot, more mansions, and even a run down property for sale! Anyone want oceanfront property for cheap?
So we leave our BiciTaxi behind, 2 or 3 Dollars poorer and hoof it around the neighborhood. More Classic American cars, some pristine, some run down. Most of them act as taxis and commonly try to flag us down to give us a lift. We turn them all down and continue our walk through the streets and along the Malecon.
What is this? A park! But not just any park, and Artist Park! All kinds of strange sculptures made of all kinds of materials.
And then we come across “Villa Netty”, we’re told this was Fidel Castro’s ‘Home Away From Home’!
As any of you that know me, I always find ‘Lovers’ to photograph. And some other fun characters along the way including a man who enjoyed posing for my camera!
Then there was ‘Los Pinitos’, an estate on the water. Parks, Mermaid sculptures and gorgeous water views!
Are we having fun or what?
So we walk back to town where the luxurious properties gradually change back to less that grand, but still spectacular. The streets widen although we don’t know why. Not necessary for traffic, that’s for sure. We watch as all sorts of vehicles, both commercial and private abound. Many BiciTaxis and Horse Drawn Taxis appear.
Sidewalks show their once grand abundance of beauty. We find a restaurant that was recommended to us and we stop for lunch. After lunch, we see a delivery truck parked in front!
We come across an empty Horse Drawn Taxi, and since we haven’t ridden in one of these yet, we flag this guy down and climb aboard after he tells us it will cost 6 dollars to take us to an ancient cemetery that we heard was an interesting place to check out. So 15 minutes of bumpy ride later, we arrive at the entrance to an interesting place!
The front of the cemetery is just the epitome of another run down Cuban building that does not impress. But 6 dollars is 6 dollars and that’s what it cost to get us here (So we think), so inside we go. Ooops, the doorman want a dollar each too. Ok, ok, just another 2 dollars. I chuckle at myself as I continue my miserly ways and think like a poor Cuban! But we step inside and my camera thanks me profusely as eye candy awaits! Even though everything we see is hundreds of years old, it all lends itself to my camera lens for the next hour. This must have been very opulent in its day. Solid marble tombs and even the walls of the entire place are solid marble. Even decaying and crumbling, it is amazing to walk around here. We are soon aware that this is not only an old relic of Cuban history, but it is evident that to this day, people visit and memorialize their loved ones as we see withering wreaths and even a fresh rose lying on a tomb. One of the tombs is referred to “Sleeping Beauty” by people in town and is one of the reasons we were told to visit here. So this has been an interesting old cemetery to visit, but what’s that? Vultures circling overhead? What’s up with that? We never did find out the answer, but if this cemetery is that old, why are vultures circling?
We walk out, our eyes buzzing with excitement at the sights we have seen and our minds craving more. This is becoming quite the journey. Oh little do we know! We see our Horse Chauffeur still waiting for us and I swear I see dollar signs in his eyes. It occurs to me that his price of 6 dollars was to take us here, not to take us back. I estimate it was 2-3 miles to get here. We could walk that in an hour. An Hour??? I’m sure we can find better things to do with our hour than to walk through the same neighborhood we rode through to get here! So of course! Give us a ride back! After all, it’s only money! Hey, stop a moment, will you? I see some old trains and want to take a picture! No problem says the driver! Is that dollar signs rolling in his eyes again? Ok, got my shots. Take us back to the Historic District, will you please?
Ok, we’re back! How much do I owe you? Ok, sure. WAIT!!! 20 Bucks??? This is Highway Robbery!!! (Calm down Don, you’ll give yourself a coronary!) I feel like I’m being taken for a ride. Literally! Ok, what am I going to do, tick off a local that probably knows every other local and cab driver in a 5 mile radius? I pay the guy and pull out another dollar as a tip. Cheapskate Don! But wait, we were told that anything more than 5% is flaunting your wealth! I protest to the driver only a little and most of my consternation was in my own mind. He is not only appreciative, but truly thankful for our business! He should be, he just took us for a ride! Ok, I settle down and think about how long the guy spent with us and I am sort of ok with it. The most part of 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Is that worth $20? In Cuba? Oh stop it Don, in the States, you’d pay $120 for that same ride! Oh. Right. But this is Cuba! Am I ranting? Hope you got a chuckle out of my rant, I’m just kidding. It was worth every penny I spent!
So we’re back in the Historic District that we visited in the storm yesterday. And there was a tower to climb! I wish I could have climbed it at sunset last night with that beautiful sky! But it was closed when we got there. But it’s open now! And it is elevation and something to climb! The little boy comes out in me as if it were a tree with climbing branches. So up I go with all my cameras hanging around my neck!
Hmmm, so I thought the cemetery was photogenic! The views of the city amaze as I find the highest spot to climb to, a cupola with steep stairs that were thankfully not busy with other tourists for it was a one person climb descend. Two people could not pass here! Eye candy photographed, check. Old Cemetery visited, check. Punta Gorda, check. More Classic Cars, check. Hot and still humid, check. A cold beer, not check. Huh? Wait, got to get that check! So we find a bar in the square and we sit down for some cold refreshment. Beer, check. Mojito, check. friendly tourists to chat with, check. We sit next to this couple, one from Portugal, one from France. we wonder at the long distance relationship. Hey, who are we to judge? We all hit it off and they join us at out table and we chat and kibitz about our lives, Cuba and life in general. All is good. I give them the address of this Blog. I hope they see it. If you guys do, please comment so we can stay in touch! Excuse me new friends, I’ll be right back! Is that a 1956 Chevy out front? Yes, it is! I not only recognize the make and model, I used to own one. I was the second owner of it. (I’ve also owned every year Chevy from 1955 through 1969 except for a 1965 but that is a different story) So I take my camera, ever by my side, and I get a few views of a pristine 56 before returning to our table. So we are sitting there in the excruciating humidity and heat, staying cool with a couple drinks each (Hey don’t judge us, we weren’t driving, LOL!), and suddenly, this local Cuban approaches me and hands me a caricature of myself that he had been drawing off to the side, much to my surprise! And it was very good! I asked him how much he wanted and he said 5 CUC ($5). I said great and I paid him 6 CUC. A happy camper with new European friends and a new portrait of myself, I sit and order another beer. Wait! Take my temperature! I didn’t even haggle? I could have got that picture for 3 CUC! Where is that guy? (Slow down Don, be happy!) I chuckle out loud this time and my wife and new friends pick on me for my miserly ways! But at least, the man let me photograph him before I bought the picture! That makes it all worth it for he was a very photogenic character.
Ok, got to walk off the beers. Our new friends are missing out on their vacation and need to move along also. I find a couple more photogenic buildings to shoot before we return to our Casa. We find another Paladar for dinner and retire to our Casa where we have a view of Sunset over the Bay as I enjoy another Cuban Cigar. Later, I manage to capture the Milky Way over the city and its sparse street lights! I hope you enjoy!
Another night comes to a close. See you in the morning!