Day 7 – Trinidad – I see why you earned your reputation

Today was one of my favorite days! You know how when you feel better after having been so sick that you feel like you can do anything as long as you’re healthy? That was today for me. I finally – FINALLY – ate some food and drank some coffee for breakfast at my lovely casa particulare in Trinidad, on the southern coast of Cuba. It is a small Spanish colonial settlement town where you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There are more horses on the original cobblestone streets than cars. It was deemed a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988 and since then the tourists have come in droves. And I can see why. This is a charming, romantic place with it’s architecture and history. The heart of the place is the charming Plaza Meyor – the main square. There are cobblestone steps here where people either sit at tables or just hang out on the steps to have a beer or dance to local musicians who play on the stage. The square is surrounded by historic buildings where people rent out their front rooms for sellers to hawk their wares. So there is a ton of shopping but it’s not in your face like in other areas. And people aren’t begging you on the street to come into their stores. There looks to be very nice art here as well.

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

First on our itinerary was to visit Parque el Cubano, a short drive from Trinidad, to where we could hike to a waterfall and then go swimming in the watering hole. Trinidad seems be be considerably hotter than the other cities I’ve been to (that I can remember!) so a swim sounded absolutey amazing. The park was gorgeous. I may be turning more hippie as the days go by but it was a relief to be away from the city and the sounds and the smells and bask in fresh air and natural beauty. And we were one of the first groups on the trail so it wasn’t busy. The walk to the waterfall was only 3.6km so we had a nice, leisurely hike and then came up on the Javira Waterfall, which dropped only about 50 feet or so but was just stunning. It dropped from a cliff under which was a cave. I coudn’t wait to get in. A little cliff diving to get into the water? OK! It felt amazing and the water was cool and refreshing and oh so clean. I swam into the cave where you could see all of the beautiful and slighly creepy rock formations and the bats that were hanging out within them. It was seriously cool. In fact, it’s the highlight of my trip so far. Just beautiful. We hung in and around the water for a while just getting some sun and relaxing and talking before we headed back to Trinidad.

On the trail to Salto de Javira

On the trail to Salto de Javira

The waterfall at Salto de Javira

The waterfall at Salto de Javira

Lunch! And boy was I hungry – which I thought was a very good sign of my health. We went to a “famous” paladar in the old town called San Jose where, guess who I saw? Michael and his tour group that I met in Havana on Saturday last week. Small world, huh? I knew we’d be in the same cities so was hoping to see them again. I felt kinda like the mayor – sitting at restaurant and seeing some old friends. And…the pizza was fantastic. I know, pizza in Cuba. But yes, I’d been craving it!

San Jose Restaurant Trinidad

San Jose Restaurant Trinidad

We were given some free time to wander in Trinidad before dinner and the town is so charming. But, man, is it HOT. And it has no shade. What they call it here in English is “in the shadow”. So a guide will not say to get in the shade, they’ll say to get in the shadow. I was finally able to find some local, lovely art and some gifts for friends that didn’t include sinning (i.e. NOT cigars or booze).

As you walk this town you are inundated by it’s personality – or what I feel is it’s personality – and it has a distinct smell as well. It’s personality is slow and hot and sexy and romantic and thirsty (for more than just drinks). It’s stuck in the late 1800s and resisting the need to move forward. The scents of the city reflect this. You smell exhaust from the tour buses and classic cars, fragrant aromas of freshly cooked bread and pizza and more traditional dishes, sweat and sunscreen from the sunburned tourists and sometimes the droppings of horse and dogs. It is a heady mix – sometimes a good one and sometimes a bad, depending on your step. Regardless, it’s a city that will stay with you, one way or the other. And it is just filled with tourists. The locals you run into are in your homestay or serving at one of the restaurants, bars or shops.

Our evening was spent on the beach at Playa Alcon – the nicest beach in the southern part of Cuba. Cuba is known for it’s beautiful white sand beaches but those are in the north. This beach was….nice. It’s not the most beautiful I’ve seen but I’ve seen some amazing beach. This was white sand and ocean as far as the eye could see and that, to me, is enough. Some of us swam. I took advantage of the chance to swim in the ocean since I didn’t get to do that in the Bay of Pigs. The water is so, so clear! You can see down to your feet and some of the creepy things under the water (lots of sea urchins – ouch!). And literally you could see to the edge of the horizon and watch as the orange sun began to slowly dip into the sea. Simply beautiful and peaceful and calm and religious.

The sunset over Playa Ancon

The sunset over Playa Ancon

We had a lovely picnic on the beach. Tony had hired a local band to play for us. Ok, the band was 2 young Cubans but they were amazing. Guitar and bongos and voices and that’s all they needed. Tony joined in playing the guiro (a Latin American percussion instrument that produces a rasping noise) and even our driver Tony joined in playing the claves (another Latin American percussion instrument that produces a bright clicking noise). It was an unforgettable time. The sun setting, surrounded by new friends, eating delicious food and drinking various Cuban cocktails. Unfortunately, my body was not ready to accept any form of alcohol but I did try Trinidad’s traditional Conchanchurra, which is an intoxicating mix of rum, lime juice and honey. So yummy!

Tony on the claves, Tony on the guiro and our own personal band

Tony on the claves, Tony on the guiro and our own personal band

Beautiful red snapper served on Playa Ancon

Beautiful red snapper served on Playa Ancon

We’d been hearing about the one thing in Trinidad that you could not miss – a local disco called Disco Alaya. It is a dance club….in a cave! Its something not to be missed so some of us made a stop there after returning from the beach.

The packed steps outside Casa de la Musica, Trinidad

The packed steps outside Casa de la Musica, Trinidad

Ok, so I set a few ground rules for myself when I turned 30. Two of them where 1. not to stand in a line to get into a bar – it can’t be that good! and 2. not to pay a cover charge. I have broken the rules a few times and for good reason and this was to be one of those times. We stood in a line for at least 30 minutes and then paid 5 CUCs AND had to check our purses (WTF – where do you put your money when you’re wearing a dress?!). But off we went. And in a word (ok, two) – worth it! We walked down about 30 steps or so and crossed over and looked up into this open cavern. Stalactites hanging down, jaggety rocks, odd formations and of course – a dance floor. It was wicked cool. How they hung up big screen TVs for music videos and a DJ booth I’ll never know but the atmosphere was on the verge of explosive – like it couldn’t wait to get there. The music was way too loud. The dancing was called reggaeton – which “blends musical influences of Jamaican dancehall and Trinidadian soca with those of Puerto Rico, such as salsa, bomba, Latin American hip hop, and electronica” and is sung in Spanish. And the drinks were cheap and weak and way too small. It had a lot of charm. Picture Cubans and tourists in skimpy clothing dancing and singing as if no one was watching. Some couples hooking up in the corners and your senses inundated with sound and smell and sweat. Those of you that know me know that this is not my scene but I am so glad I went. I didn’t stay long but the fascinating mix of people and ages, the sensory overload and being able to see one of my tour mates dance with two local women and a transvestite was so worth the money!

Disco Alaya - a dance club in a cave, Trinidad

Disco Alaya – a dance club in a cave, Trinidad

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One Response to Day 7 – Trinidad – I see why you earned your reputation

  1. Sonia Anderson says:

    Beautiful commentary … thanks for sharing … and happy that you are better!

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