Trinidad, Cuba

An afternoon in a new place! Nov 8

Alian drives us into the city and heads for our lodging in the old historic district. As we get closer, I am thrilled that we chose to stay in this part of town! Cobblestone streets, primitive transportation, colorful buildings and skies that make everything look better! These are our first glimpses of Trinidad!

We arrive at our lodging, Hostal Siglo XV, and our new host, Hector Manuel, greets us and helps us get our luggage up to our second floor room. Well, no time to spare as we have a guided tour that starts in about half an hour and we’re hungry. So we head out to orient ourselves to find our tour and there is a great sandwich restaurant on the way. So we fill our bellies with food and another beer and Mojito for cool refreshment in the hot humid Cuban weather while listening to Caribbean Rock and Roll.

I want this clock!

One thing we immediately notice is the cleanliness of the streets! Cubans pride themselves in cleanliness! I wish Americans would follow this example! We easily find the main square a couple blocks away and we locate the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial (Museum of Colonial Architecture) where we are scheduled to meet with the Director, Luda, for a personal tour arranged by our Cuban contact as a personal favor! Luda greets us warmly and takes us around the old city, describing all the old buildings and she takes us into several private buildings that only she has access to. How fun is this! We find art displays and pieces of interest galore. We spy something that we will see in many places in Cuba, street blockades to prevent large traffic and restrict the area to foot traffic only. They bury old cannons in the street! We even find a working sundial and pull our clocks out to find it is accurate!

We continue on past a pirate statue, whatever that is there for, and find a colorful character playing guitar. We listen for a couple minutes, drop a Cuban Peso in his bucket and move on. Luda takes us up to a second floor private museum for some photo opportunities of this very colorful place. Then downstairs past an open air clothing store and a gift shop owned by a friend of hers. Of course, like most everybody we meet in this country, everyone needs to make a buck. I do spot a baseball cap that I lament not buying that celebrated who the Cubans think won the World Series!

A fun Panorama of Trinidad!

Panorama of Trinidad, Cuba

Luda takes us into a friends restaurant and we watch a brick oven in use, a fancy (for Cuba) table setting, a custom and pristine 55 Chevy and another friends restaurant that is also a museum (a common theme here, we find out). We spy a wine cellar in the restaurant that is a bedroom turned into a museum and I comment that I’d love to have dinner in that room! Luda introduces us to the owner and he is more than happy to arrange it for us!

Before we bid Luda ‘Adios’, she takes us into a religious section of town where the people practice Santeria. Luda tells us about Santeria (Way of the Saints), that it is an Afro-Caribbean religion based on Yoruba beliefs and traditions, with some Roman Catholic elements added. She tells us the religion is also known as La Regla Lucumi and the Rule of Osha. Santeria grew out of the slave trade in Cuba. Initiates in Santería are required to wear white clothing for a year, white clothing is also standard attire for attending Santería religious services. White clothing is considered a default attire for lay worshippers attending Voodoo ceremonies as a sign of purity and modesty. The Period of initiation takes a year and a week. The initial period of seven days in which various ceremonies are carried out, is followed by a year of a very, very strict code of conduct, which includes, the wearing of white and special sacred beads and bangles. They are prohibited from having their photo taken! I am strongly cautioned against taking photos of people wearing all white and I struggle with this concept because I really want to photograph them! After some mental wrestling, I decide that their religion is more important than my camera and I refrain on many occasions from pointing my camera at them.  They are prohibited from partying and have to drink and eat only from a special token bowl and spoon and cup that they must carry around with them at all times. They are supposed to keep themselves very pure and to spend time understanding and studying the advise from the Orisha. They must keep their heads covered at all times. Basically this year is the beginning of their new journey and they are reborn. Every individual Santero has different taboos relating to them as an individual.

Oh well, many photos not taken, we bid ‘Adios’ to Luda and thank her profusely for her time, not to speak of paying her the agreed upon fee! Our money belts lighter, but our minds happier and more educated, we move along and find another location to imbibe in cool refreshment and reflect upon our good fortune. Remember that Pirate Statue I thought we saw? Turns out to be a live action model. I knew there was something up with that!

Okay, our time with Luda complete, it is now time for our next scheduled event, a salsa lesson with Baila Habana Dance School. Music and dance is an essential expression throughout Cuban life. We want to get caught up in this lifestyle and dance with the best teachers from Trinidad. Alas, we have only 20 minute until this lesson and it appears that we are at least 30 minutes from finding this location. Add to that we have been walking and tiring ourselves out with Luda and all we want right now is to sit and relax. So we skip this potentially exciting part of our scheduled day and go back to our Casa Particular for a brief respite from the weather where we crank the air conditioner that we again find in our bedroom. Feeling a bit refreshed, I take a few shots from the rooftop patio of what I can see from there! Notice the Blue Cisterns. The water systems in Cuba are all Cisterns. If you want running water, you’ll need a Cistern on your roof. We never did find out how the water gets up there, probably a low volume pump of some sort.

In our travels around the city with Luda, we spotted bar Paladar El Ci Iollo, that bragged of a rooftop with sunset views. So, being about that time, we seek out this place and sure enough, we go up and are not disappointed. We order a cold beer and a Mojito, our standard refreshment for most of our trip! Storm clouds gather as we sit here and listen to a live Cuban Band play. Now this is relaxing and entertaining! Turn your volume on for the video!

Live Music is the best! Live music, a cold brew and a fantastic sunset is all that you need sometimes!

The day winds down and there is another hour until our reservation for dinner. Suddenly, the storm clouds that made our sunset so beautiful open up and drench the city. Luckily for us, we are in front of the restaurant and we quickly duck inside and the owner greets us. He seats in the Wine Cellar as promised. Notice the wine bottle display on the museum bed! We enjoy a wonderful seafood dinner and in the middle of the meal, the power goes out! The wine cellar goes pitch black, not a hint of light anywhere! So what do traveling troopers do? Well, we pull out our cell phones and turn on that app that shows a lit candle! That’s what we do! We prop our phones up with the app playing, glad we don’t need the internet to run it because since Vinales, there is no internet or WiFi to be found. We continue to enjoy our dinner when the waiter comes in the Cellar with real candles for our table and imagine his surprise when he sees our apps running! After a hearty belly laugh from the waiter, he leaves the real candle and retreats to help other patrons with the darkness. Soon, the power comes back on and everything goes back to normal. Well, normal for Trinidad, Cuba that is.

On our way back to our Casa, we stop and listen to a live trio play and start to experience the nightlife we have been told about. This city comes alive after dark with Salsa Music! A walk through the streets reveals the rustic nature of cobblestones and friendly locals as they revel in the music. We are only 2 blocks from the “Steps” where Salsa Bands play and rotate every hour. I put the camera down and order a cold brew. I find a seat among the revelers and light up a good Cuban cigar that I brought from the Vinales tobacco farms. A bar that sells me the beer gives me a complementary cup of honey for my cigar and I sit and puff on the cigar as I listen to the music and chat with a couple of other tourists. They also have Vinales cigars and I offer them honey. They accept and invite me to join them at their table. Not being one to turn down good company, I pull a chair over and we become friends! Again, if you are reading this and recognize the scenario, please comment and stay in touch! My wife, having been tired from the day, retired before I came to the ‘Steps’ and soon realized that I would need her help to get back to our Casa because we only had one key. so she sought me out and found me. She was enthralled with the lively music and hung out with myself and my new friends and we all had a great evening! Then we walked to 2 blocks back to our Casa and retired for the evening.

Wishing we had more energy to stay up all night and party, we fall asleep listening to the music at the ‘Steps’, only 2 blocks away as we drift off into slumber! See you all in the morning!

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