Tuesday, 24 December 2013

MY VISIT TO CUBA

Thanks very much to Barbara from Canada for her latest review and pictures of the Casa in Trinidad.

You can read Barbara's review below or go to our website.......

Hola Rena, Misleidys y Gustavo

I can’t thank you enough for arranging my visit to Cuba and making my stay there an absolute joy.

Misleidys and Gustavo are spectacular hosts. The whole family welcomed me into their lives and made me feel at home right away. Misleidys is a marvelous cook and Gustavo is the master fixer of all things – including my bicycle. Our many conversations about life in Cuba offered a priceless glimpse into this beautiful and complex country – “es complicado”. 

My three weeks of Spanish classes with Juani were wonderful. She is a great, patient teacher, and is very happy to share her wealth of experience with her students. 

Trinidad is a great place to kick back and spend some time. The town is big enough to keep you entertained with all the arts and cultural activities, but small enough to be very safe and welcoming. The setting is spectacular – close to both the beach and the mountains.

I can’t recommend this experience any more highly. You will fall in love with this family and with Cuba. I can’t wait to go back.

¡Te extraño mucho!

Casa in Trinidad, Cuba




FELIZ NAVIDAD 2013

Experience The Real Cuba
Felices Fiestas to everyone.  Wishing you all the best for 2014!


Monday, 30 September 2013

9 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CUBA AND MONEY EXCHANGE

SHOULD I TAKE CASH OR CREDIT CARDS TO CUBA?

If you are planning a trip to Cuba and you are confused about what you should or shouldn´t bring to Cuba with regards to currency and credit cards, then my advice would be to take a step back and think about what you would feel most comfortable with.  Personally, I’m quite happy to travel with cash only, and take a credit card in case of an emergency, but not everyone feels the same.
  1. What is the currency of Cuba?

    There are 2 currencies in Cuba; the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP). The difference in value is around 1:24.  In order to avoid an expensive mistake, make sure you know what the CUC and the CUP coins and notes look like and learn how to differentiate between them.

  2. Which currency can I use as a tourist in Cuba?

    You will use the CUC to pay for most things i.e. Casas, hotels, taxis, restaurants, bars, souvenir shopping, transport, tours etc.  The CUP is the weaker currency.  Most Cubans who have government jobs are paid with the CUP.  It is not always obvious when you can use the CUP; if you are unsure then speak with your Casa.  You can buy CUP at the CADECA or by receiving change from street vendors when paying with CUC. Generally there are fewer opportunities for you to pay for things with the CUP but it is possible to buy things from peso shops, fruit & veg on the streets and markets, eat at some restaurants and buy sandwiches and other food from street vendors.

  3. Can I buy CUC from my home country?

    No, it is not possible to buy CUC outside of Cuba, you will have to buy it at the airport upon arrival at a CADECA exchange bureau or by withdrawing money from an ATM.

  4. Which currency should I bring to Cuba?

    Well that depends on where you live and which currencies you have access to.  Whatever currency you bring you will have to exchange it into CUC, so check out the latest exchange rates in Cuba before you travel so you can make an informed choice.  When you are checking out the exchange rates, remember to look at the column that says ‘compra’, because you want to buy CUC and if you are looking to buy using GBP or Euros then multiply instead of divide the rate shown. 

    Being originally from the UK, I have always taken GBP and I’ve noticed over the years that you get more for your money when you exchange GBP. But now that I’m no longer based in the UK it’s not always possible to buy GBP so my second choice of currency is the Euro.  Canadian Dollars are also a good currency to take.  Whilst other currencies are accepted, they are often weaker so you should check out what is best for you.  I would not advise taking US Dollars as you will lose 10% in commission.

  5. Is it safe to carry lots of cash in Cuba?

    The first time I went to Cuba I didn’t know what to expect so I was super cautious and I took traveller’s cheques, cash and a credit card.  But since then I have felt comfortable and safe carrying cash in Cuba. Luckily for me, I´ve never had any problems, I usually exchange enough money at the CADECA at the airport to see me through at least a few days in Havana and then when I get to Trinidad I tend to exchange enough money to last me for the rest of my stay in Cuba.  I prefer exchanging the bulk of my money at the bank in Trinidad as it is a relaxed town and you tend to get served quickly; they can tell you are a tourist and usually deal with you straight away.   When I get to the Casa I usually lock my money in my suitcase or I sometimes carry a Safepac, where I keep my money and passport.  In any case, I find that staying in a Casa is safe, I have never had money go missing from my room and I don’t tend to carry lots of money around with me on the streets, I just take what I need and leave the rest behind at the casa.

  6. Where is the best place to exchange money in Cuba?

    The best place for me to exchange money is the place that has the smallest queue.  It doesn’t really make a difference if you exchange money at the bank or at the CADECA, there is very little difference in the exchange rate, so there is no point in wasting your day trying to get the best rate, just do it where it is most convenient for you.  The only places I tend to avoid, if possible, are the hotels, as I find that their rates are lower than the bank or CADECA.  But if this is your only option then exchange what you need at the hotel until you can find a CADECA or a bank.

  7. Can I use Credit Cards in Cuba?

    Many UK / European credit cards affiliated to US banks are still not accepted in Cuba i.e. Citi Bank, Capital One, Maestro, MBNA, AMX, any Mastercard from a Canadian Credit Union, Diners, Egg, Santander/RBS, Marks & Spenser, Alliance & Leicester, etc.  So you should contact your credit card supplier to confirm whether their credit cards are accepted in Cuba and to confirm what charges they will apply if used in Cuba.

    The following UK / European global debit and credit cards can be used in Cuba; Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Nationwide, Post Office, Yorkshire, Tesco, HSBC, Halifax.

    If you are traveling from Canada you are able to use credit cards from the following credit card companies; Royal Bank, TD / Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, PC Financial and Canadian Tire mastercard, as well as Quebec’s National Bank mastercard and Desjardins visa.

  8. Can I use ATM machines in Cuba?

    Don’t expect to find ATM machines on every street corner in Cuba.  Cuba is not like back at home. Off course, you can find ATMs but they are few and far between, especially outside of Havana, so I wouldn’t rely on just my credit card when travelling around Cuba.  If you do want to take your credit card with you, I would suggest that you withdraw money when you find an ATM, do not leave it until the last minute as you may not be able to find one when you desperately want one.  Also it might be better to take out large sums of money each time you make a withdrawal rather than taking out small amounts every couple of days; to save you money on the transaction charges from your credit card provider.  

    Hence, if your credit card is accepted in Cuba, you should be able to use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM machine in Cuba.  Most reports I’ve read on the lonely planet forum have been good, it appears that most people have been able to make withdrawals, unless the machine is out of money.  In any case, you should check with your credit card provider before you travel to see if it is accepted in Cuba and to find out how much their transaction fees are.  If you experience problems with using an ATM machine in Cuba, then your other option would be to go inside the bank and ask them for a cash advance.

  9. Where can I find more information about Cuba and money exchange?

    Check out the following article on the Lonely Planet forum.

Exchanging Money in Cuba
CADECA Havana
Queue at CADECA
Queuing up at CADECA
Street Vendors Havana
Street Vendors Havana
Havana Cuba
Paying with CUP in Havana

Havana, Cuba
Eating Ice-Cream at Coppelia, Havana

Sunday, 18 August 2013

8 TIPS - DRIVING IN CUBA

After spending 1 month in Trinidad, learning Spanish, I went back to Havana to meet a friend from London and one of the items on her list of ‘things to do in Cuba’ was to hire an old Cuban car; a Ford or a Chevrolet dating back to 1959.  She thought it would be cool to drive ourselves around Cuba!  Well I could just imagine what my family in Trinidad would say, ‘estás loca?’

She had read in the Lonely Planet that you could hire an old Cuban car, but in fact they were referring to the ‘Grancar’.  We soon discovered that these cars weren’t for hire for us to drive, neither within Havana and certainly not to take with us on the road on our great Cuban adventure. So we headed towards the Hotel Parque Central, we paid 30 CUC for 1 hour and we sat back and enjoyed the experience of being in such a wonderfully maintained old car whilst seeing another side of Havana.  The car was immaculate and sparkled inside and out, the owner very proud of how he had managed to carefully maintain such a beautiful car. 

A couple of days later we hired a car.  Our plan was to go to Viñales then onto Maria de La Gorda, Soroa, Trinidad, Camaguey, Santa Clara, Caibarien, Cayo Santa Maria and back to Havana in about 10 days.  We felt so excited to be leaving Havana, driving down the Malecon in our little hire car.  We were heading towards the Autopista Este-Oeste for Viñales, however two hours later, instead of being close to arriving into Viñales we were still driving around the outskirts of Havana.  The last road sign we had seen for the motorway was way back at the Plaza de Independencia.  We stopped a couple of times to ask people for directions, but the directions never lead us to the motorway and we could not even begin to figure out where we were on the map. 

Finally by pure luck, we arrived onto the motorway, only we had no idea whether we were heading back to Havana or towards Viñales.  We drove in one direction, but since there were no signs we soon got nervous, thinking we were going back to Havana and there was no way we wanted to go back to Havana after spending 2 hours trying to get out.  So we decided to get off the next junction and try getting back onto the motorway going in the opposite direction.  The only thing was the junctions we came across seemed to head into the unknown distance; there was no evidence of a road crossing over or under the motorway.  The motorway consisted of 3 lanes in each direction but there wasn’t a barrier in the middle of the motorway; just a grassy causeway.  We had laughed when we had seen other cars crossing the middle of the motorway but now it seemed like our only option. So like naughty school girls we thought we would ‘break the rules’ and we carefully drove across the middle of the causeway and onto the other side.  ‘Did anyone see us?’  Who cares, we are in Cuba and anything seems to go!

Even though we had crossed over the motorway we were still in doubt as to whether we were going towards Viñales.  We had passed a police control point but it was on the other side, so we drove a safe distance away from the police, crossed the motorway again (we were experts now) and we drove back to the control point.  Mr Policeman was friendly enough and informed us that Viñales was in fact in the opposite direction.  I asked politely if it was ok to cross the motorway and he told me to go ahead!  So what should have been an easy 2.5 hour drive to Viñales ended up being an adventurous 4 hours!

That was the first of many adventures whilst driving through Cuba, but generally some of the things you need to consider when driving in Cuba are:

  1. Having a map does not necessarily always help when you are lost.  We could never identify where we were on the map.  For example the map did not help us when we wanted to take the exit off the motorway to go to the Yumuri bridge when we were driving back to Havana from Caibarien.

  2. There are no or few road signs.  We often had to take chances and hope for the best especially when having to make quick decisions as to which way to go.

  3. Things take longer in Cuba.  Journeys always took longer than expected because we either kept getting lost and going around in circles or the distance was longer than we expected.   This often meant that we sometimes didn’t do everything we hoped to do as we never made it.

  4. You can't rely on local directions.  Asking for directions from people on the street was fun as the Cubans we met were very friendly and seemed quite helpful, but in all honesty I did question whether they really had any idea what they were talking about.

  5. Having enough petrol is a must.  Fill up before you start a journey or stop to fill up when you do actually see a petrol station as there is no guarantee you will find one during your journey.  The biggest scare for us was realising we didn’t have enough petrol to get back to Havana.  It became obvious to us that we weren’t going to find the Yumuri bridge, we were driving around in circles in a rural area so we got back onto the motorway hoping to find a petrol station along the way.  We came across a restaurant first so we stopped and asked and luckily for once we got some reliable directions from someone and they directed us to a small town off the motorway and we were able to fill up before getting to Havana!

  6. Driving in Cuba is relatively easy and safe.  We found it easy as there was little traffic, but we had to dodge the pot holes, the people walking on the motorway or waving you down with money in their hand, cyclists, people on horses, tractors, cattle etc. 

  7. Driving in Cuba at night can be tricky.  We did't find it so easy purely because of the unusual traffic we came across.  I found myself tensing up as visibility was difficult, you only have your car lights to rely on, as you often find yourself on roads with no lights or they are very poorly lit.  We came across cars, motorbikes, cyclists with no lights.  People walking or riding horses wearing dark clothing, they do not have bright yellow arm bands or tops to help spot them on the dark roads.  So you do have to concentrate and drive slow when driving at night in Cuba, which can be exhausting.

  8. Hiring an old Cuban car can be a challenge.  Thinking about it now, I think our original idea to drive an old car in Cuba was a bit optimistic.  We had no idea of the legal implications at that time, neither of the practicalities i.e. how to handle the gear controls.  We wouldn’t have known what to do if we broke down or if we had a punctured tire, as it certainly did happen to us in Piñar del Rio.
I suppose one thing I did learn from our little adventure is, never assume anything and expect the unexpected!

Cruzing Cuba

Driving in Cuba

Grancar Cuba

Old Car in Cuba

Saturday, 15 June 2013

ON THE VIAZUL BUS CUBA

The first time I took the Viazul bus in Cuba, I didn’t know what to expect.  I had planned to spend a few days in Havana before going to Trinidad and I was keen to buy the bus ticket to Trinidad on my first day in Havana.  At the Casa Particular in Havana, they told me it wasn’t possible to buy the bus ticket in advance and that it would be ok to turn up 1 hour before the bus departs and buy the ticket on the day.  Off course I worried that the bus tickets would be sold out and that I wouldn’t get to Trinidad as planned, but I decided to put it to the back of my mind, to enjoy my 3 days in Havana and hoped for the best.

Even though I was staying in a Casa Particular in Vedado, the Casa recommended that I take a taxi to the Viazul bus terminal, it’s not within walking distance and I had no idea whether I could get a public bus to the terminal.  When you ask a local about bus services in Havana they usually screw their nose up and tell you to get a taxi! 

I got to the Viazul bus terminal at 7am as I wanted to get the 8am bus to Trinidad, so I queued up patiently and waited for the cubicle to open.  It wasn’t totally obvious to me whether I was waiting in the right queue so I asked someone and they assured me I just had to wait.  

Eventually the lady in the cubicle started selling tickets, it was a slow process, it felt like the Assistant had to make a telephone call with each customer to confirm something, I could hear a lot of paper shuffling and banging around.  There was no air-conditioning at the ticket office and even though it was just after 7am the temperature was rising, I could feel drops of sweat running down my back where I was still wearing my small back pack on my back.  I really wanted to get rid of all my bags, but I didn’t want to leave them unattended so I had left my large back pack resting on my legs, awkwardly having to shuffle it further towards the ticket office as each passenger bought their ticket.  

When it was finally my turn I was relieved to find out that the tickets weren’t sold out.  I had a clear view of the ticket office, there was no computer system instead there was a scrappy piece of paper with a list of names written illegibly, she added my name to the list, took my money, 25 CUC, and gave me a small piece of paper; this was my ticket!  I couldn’t decipher whether I had been allocated a seat or not or from which gate the bus would be departing from. It amazed me how they could maintain some sense of order and organisation between all the various bus terminals and ticket agencies.  This is probably why they had to make and receive frequent telephone calls between each other.

Once I had my ticket in my hand I went to look for the departure lounge and I was told that I would have to check-in my luggage.  Part of me was glad to be free of my luggage, but the other part of me was nervous of letting it go.  Would it be put on the right bus?  Would I ever see my luggage again?  Oh well, yet again I had to have faith and trust.  My luggage was weighed, it was given a ticket and I was given the other half of the ticket, so I could collect my luggage at the other end.

The departure lounge wasn’t so busy, it was air-conditioned, there were a couple of stalls selling souvenirs / books in Spanish and there was a cafeteria upstairs where you could buy food and drink.  About 15 minutes before departure I could see our luggage being loaded on the bus and we were called to board the bus shortly after.  As it turned out seats were not assigned, so you could sit where you wanted and surprisingly the bus wasn’t even half full and it left on time.

The journey was pretty smooth it took around 5 hours.  Before departing Havana the bus stopped at the Astro bus terminal near the Plaza de Independencia and picked up more passengers, it stopped half way through the journey for around 30 minutes where we could buy food and drink or use the bathroom facilities and it stopped for around 5 minutes in Cienfuegos to drop-off or pick-up passengers.   It was like the Arctic inside the bus, the air-conditioning was a bit full on, but luckily I had plenty of layers.

The journey between Cienfuegos and Trinidad was beautiful, the Sierra de Escrambay mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.  When Trinidad came into view I couldn’t help but feel excited, finally I had made it to Trinidad.  My first impression was as I expected and more, bumpy cobbled streets and beautiful brightly painted colonial buildings, I couldn’t wait to get to know Trinidad.  As for my luggage, there was nothing to worry about, it was on the bus, I paid 1 CUC tip to the guy pulling luggage off the bus and I headed to the crazy crowds in search of my host family.

The bus departs daily from Havana’s bus terminal to Trinidad, at approx. 8am and 1pm.  Viazul do have a website but I have never attempted to book a ticket online, my faith hasn’t extended that far!  But if you want to check out where the Viazul bus travels to, it’s departure times and prices you can check out their website at http://www.viazul.com/.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

BUENA FE EN TRINIDAD


Compradas las entradas, pasé todo el día en casa pensando en el concierto, trabajé duro y rápido, feliz porque finalmente después de dos años volvía BUENA FE  a mi terruño, después de su ultimo concierto, una serie de eventos inesperados evitaron su presentación en la añeja villa, los jóvenes y los no tan jóvenes no veíamos el momento de que comenzaran.

Ya sobre las 11:30 salieron a escena, Que maravilla! Israel siempre irradiando ese aire de gente sencilla y noble, carismático y complaciente con su público, comenta entre canciones, hace bromas, complace peticiones, no está muy feliz con los problemas de audio pero aun así es un profesional con un corazón de universidad, Yoel, con esa timidez que lo caracteriza  sonreía al escuchar al publico cantar,  recibo una llamada de casa y debo regresar ¡que pena! tendré que volar sin ti, a pesar que pidieron acompáñame y me pregunto, de quien es la culpa, la maldita culpa? La vida pone tropiezos en el camino, es una novela y en ella  todo lo que pasa es lo que parece, quedo con ganas de escucharlos, me voy triste y pienso si yo fuera Favelo, aria de ellos mis amigos, para conocerlos de proa a popa y gozar de su eterna amistad.

Domingo 5 am, estoy camino a Camagüey (urgencia de familia)  busco en el dial de la radio su música con esperanzas, pero es muy temprano y solo escucho noticias, alguien comenta de las elecciones de este domingo y recuerdo, la política Buena hembra mala sangre, siento añoranza de la noche anterior, y pido que siempre tengan el papel en blanco en sus manos para que sigan haciendo esas maravillosas canciones con las que nos sentimos tan identificados. El auto avanza por la carretera ojeo el periódico del día anterior, guerras, manifestaciones, el mundo al revés y ¿nuestros problemas?, cuando hablarán de nuestros verdaderos problemas?, en fin, vuelvo a mis recuerdos. Se que volveré a verlos, tendré otras oportunidades. 

Gracias Buena Fe por alimentarnos el alma, hacer pensar a los más jóvenes y motivarlos a amar su Isla, procurando siempre que una tormenta nos acompañe en el camino. Para ustedes un Abraso grande cargado de las mejores intenciones, mucha buena suerte para su música y  su vida.   

GRACIAS

Misle

Misle with Buena Fe

Note:
Most of the highlighted words are names of Buena Fe's songs from their CD Dial.  Check out the links to listen to Buena Fe's music or to watch interviews.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

HOW TO PAINT A MASTERPIECE IN CUBA


I always enjoyed Art at school, especially painting and chalk drawings and I always thought I’d keep it up after I left school, but here I am many years later faced with a blank canvass and oil paints wondering where to start!

I had walked into Studio 16 a few days ago hoping to say hi to Rances and find out more about the Painting / Art lessons and I ended up signing up for a 2 day mini course.  Well the best way to find out is to give it a try!

The gallery located in the heart of the historical centre in Trinidad, near the Plaza Mayor, boldly displays a number of his and his fellow Artist’s pieces.  Rances is a Lyrical Abstract Artist, influenced by Impressionism, whom enjoys using vivid colours, however he explains that doesn’t stop him from teaching various techniques and styles.  Rances appreciates that each student has their own vision and style.  The lesson is all about you and your experience and it is his role as the teacher to guide you and help you reach your own personal artistic style and objectives.

So he when he asked me ‘what is your artistic objective?’  I already knew, completely enticed by the abstract art all around me that I too was a follower of the same artistic movement.

Walking through the cobbled streets of Trinidad to the studio for my first lesson, I was a little apprehensive, ‘do I have what it takes?  Will I respond to Rances and his guidance?’  He had asked me to think about colours.  Orange had been my new favourite colour for a while and I knew I wanted to paint a sunset over the ocean; influenced by my Pacific beach days in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, where I had been blessed with many marvellous sunsets. 

When I arrived at the Studio, timid and uncertain, Rances was there waiting for me, he gently took me through the foundations; the size of the canvass, the position of the horizontal lines, primary and secondary colours, mixing of the colours, light and dark shades, brush techniques on the canvass.....and then he left me alone and allowed me to make the first bold moves without feeling like I was in the spotlight.  ‘Where do I begin?’

Rances would come and go always inspecting the way I was working and giving me additional tips; how to hold the brush, how to mix the colours on the canvass, how to give the perception of distance.  He was an endless source of encouragement.  My insecurities had been forgotten, I became absorbed in my art, still feeling hesitant at times, but not letting it stop me go with my instincts.  By the end of the day I had managed to fill the canvass with colour, I had finished the foundation of my painting.  Rances assured me that the following day I would begin to paint the details of the painting.  Surprisingly pleased with what I had accomplished after a couple of hours, I took a couple of photos so I could show everyone at the casa.

End of Day 1 - Painting Workshop - Cuba

The second day I arrived a little late at the gallery, the English inside of me was trying to rush so as not to be too late, but when I got to the gallery, Rances was nowhere to be seen.  A little while later he strolls into the gallery, completely oblivious of time.  Off course, why did I even think about rushing, this is Cuba!  We picked up where we left off and he explained how to give the painting more definition, making the colours even bolder than the day before.  He told me that a tourist had passed by the gallery after I had left and had enquired about the painting, he proudly told them that it belonged to one of his students!!!! With my new sense of confidence, I continued to follow Rances’s guidance and began to put definition and a sense of distance into the painting.  I was inspired by the sound of passing tourists on the street, the Cuban traditional musicians playing on the street, listening to their beautiful harmonies and was pleasantly greeted by tourists and locals popping into the gallery, having a quick chat, it’s certainly a relaxed atmosphere.

A couple of hours later my master piece was finished.  Even though I had felt nervous at times and unsure of myself and what I was painting, Rances had a calming influence, which gave me the confidence to believe in me and my painting.  Trinidad is certainly an inspiration to me, I only wish I had more time to stay in Trinidad and paint more.  Maybe next time.


Me & My Lyrical Abstract Masterpiece

Donated to my amiga in Trinidad.


Friday, 1 March 2013

COFFEE IN CUBA

CAFE DON PEPE - TRINIDAD, CUBA

It has become our custom to escape the kitchen sink at least a couple of times during my visits, so we can wonder around the cobbled streets of Trinidad and enjoy this beautiful colonial town (now a firm member of the family I too take part in some of the cooking and cleaning activities when I am in Trinidad).  We like to look our best, so we dress up a little and then we head out, stopping now and then to gossip in the street with other 'Trinitarios'.  We visit one of the museums that Trinidad has to offer and then sit and have a heart to heart.  We always seem to have a lot of catching up to do, no matter how long it has been since we last saw each other.

Over the years we have regularly gone to what is now known as 'our bar', but as we were re-exploring the streets of Trinidad, looking for a new restaurant in town, we came across a place that caught our eye.  Instantly we were enamoured with this beautiful courtyard, curious to know what it was, never having seen it before.

Upon entering the place we were instantly hit by the luscious green garden, with lots of tall trees providing welcome shade, plants and flowers dotted around, tables and chairs inviting you in to take a break, it was like a mini heaven, 'I would love to have a place like this' I sighed.  Then I noticed how tastefully decorated it was, antiques, coffee pots, brewing instruments etc hanging on the walls.  We were both seduced by its gorgeousness and decided not to go to 'our place'; time for a change of scenery. 

We sit down at one of the beautifully carved wooden tables and admire the menu and the gardens simultaneously.  It has an extensive menu, coffee made in a variety of ways, both hot and cold, with or without alcohol.  The coffee is grown locally at a farm in the Sierra de Escambray mountains, it is freshly ground in the bar and the bar even sell bags of the aromatic Cuban coffee for you to take away. 

The service is friendly, the toilets are amazingly clean and the music traditional.  The music, a C.D., plays at a tasteful level, not too loud, so we can hear each other speak and actually it is a relief not to have a live band playing for once, so our ever so important heart to heart is not disturbed by a man with a cap in hand, asking for a 'propina'!

We both choose a cold coffee, with a little rum, ice-cream and cinnamon, and it is divine.  The prices for the coffee drinks, around 2-5 CUC. 

We both enjoyed this new little hideaway by the side of the Plaza, near the Museo Contra los Bandidos.  It is ideally located but it can be easily missed, if you don't know where it is.



Café Don Pepe - Trinidad, Cuba

Café Don Pepe Bar - Trinidad, Cuba

Antiques on the wall, Trinidad, Cuba

Luscious Gardens, Café Don Pepe

Enjoying a chat and a coffee

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

MISSING CUBA

Snow here in Wales and I am missing Cuba - the sun, the dancing, friendly people everywhere, and especially everyone at Experience the Real Cuba. Gustavo, Misleydis and all the family were so welcoming and helpful, wonderful food, joking and very interesting conversations and insights - wish I could have understood and communicated better! The en suite room was comfortable and the roof terrace lovely to relax in the shade of huge avocado trees. 

I spent a month there with Spanish and salsa classes and both were excellent. Juani and Yordani were great teachers and really friendly and fun as well. I learnt so much! In Spanish I went from near beginner to discussing politics and writing my own fairy tale. In salsa I  mastered lots of really nice sequences and turns and Yordani also made sure I got out dancing in the evenings, when I was there on my own and feeling a bit shy. All the family and people involved in Experience the Real Cuba went that extra mile to make sure the experience was really good - it is more than just 'a business' and a fascinating way of seeing Cuban life. I thoroughly recommend it.

And Rena, you were so helpful and thorough in all the planning stages for my trip - thank you so much. It was your personal touch and good organisation that made me choose Experience the Real Cuba and I am so glad I did. It was a really rich experience and wonderful insight into Cuban life. I miss you all!

Barbara

Thank you very much Barbara for your amazing review.


Saturday, 26 January 2013

TRINIDAD CULTURAL WEEK 2013


CULTURA EN TRINIDAD

499 años de fundación de la villa La santísima Trinidad

A pesar de que este año se ahorraron recursos para celebrar en grande los próximos 500 años de la ciudad, con mis expectativas bien bajas me fui a la calle, ¡esta ciudad me sorprendió!, arte por doquier, música, pintura, artesanos de la Habana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara se acercan a la añeja villa para vender sus variados artículos, zapatos, ropas, bisutería hechos a mano por experimentados artistas, animando a los oriundos a comprar sus bellezas. Eventos que atraen a la juventud y a los no tan jóvenes, body art, música rock, en el patio de la casa de la cultura y en su plazoleta ensayos para lo que será en la noche el espectáculo afrocubano, en la plaza cultural música de los años 60/70 y en la calle Borrel Reggaeton y Salsa para los mas jóvenes, comida, piña colada, cerveza, una gran fiesta!!!

Otrora villa que abre sus brazos a Foráneos de todas partes de Cuba y del mundo, que vienen a disfrutar de esta semana cultural, mezclando las palmeras de las playas con la salsa y espectáculos nocturnos, noble, vieja y hermosa ciudad que no discrimina en raza, color, ni sexo; para ella, todos son bienvenidos. Disfrutemos entonces de sus bondades y cuidémosla para que nos reciba majestuosa y orgullosa otros 500 años más.  

Enero 2013

EXPERIENCE THE REAL CUBA 

CULTURE IN TRINIDAD

499 years of the founding of the town's Holy Trinity

Although resources were saved this year in order to have a big party to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the city, with my rather low expectations, I ventured out into the streets, and the city surprised me!  Art everywhere, music, painting, artisans from Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara came to this old town to sell their various items; shoes, clothes, handmade jewellery by experienced artists, encouraging the natives to buy their beauties. Events that attract young and the not so young; body art, rock music, in the courtyard of the Casa de la Cultura and in its square rehearsals for the evenings events; Afro-Cuban music, in the cultural square 60s/70s music and in Borrel Street, Reggaeton and Salsa for the young; food, piña coladas, beer, a great party!

A former village that opens its arms to outsiders from all over Cuba and the world, who come to enjoy this cultural week, mixing the palm trees on the beaches with Salsa and evening shows.  This noble, old and beautiful city does not discriminate against race, colour, or even gender, everyone is welcome. So let’s enjoy all of its marvels and take care of our beautiful city so that it can continue to serve us majestically and proudly for another 500 years.

January 2013

EXPERIENCE THE REAL CUBA






Sunday, 20 January 2013

BODY ART TRINIDAD 2013


Hoy estuve en lo de Body Art, con la música rock muy fuerte y la calle del Casco Histórico tiene mucha vida, hay buen ambiente.  Esta noche tenemos un grupo que toca salsa de La Habana, “Alexander Abreu y Habana de primera” comienzan a las 12 de la noche, y en el cine/teatro estará para los niños Pentaklaos Habana, payasos, magos, malabaristas, para hacer reír.

Mañana son las premiaciones para el mejor tatuaje, hoy es la conferencia a las 2 de la tarde y un sorteo para un tatuaje gratis hecho por Francisco (uno de los mejores tatuadores) que también es jurado.  Los nombres de los artistas:

Livan, Carlos, Adrian, Guillermo, Yilber, Jose Francisco, Yoel, Victor, Odelky, David, Gabriel.

EXPERIENCE THE REAL CUBA
18 de enero 2013

Today I went to the Body Art exhibition, rock music playing loudly, the historical centre was is full of life and an electrifying atmosphere. Tonight there is a group from Havana playing salsa, " Alexander Abreu y Habana de primera ", they begin at 12pm, and at the cinema there is a children’s show, Pentaklaos Habana, with clowns, magicians, jugglers, lots of fun, to make people laugh.
Tomorrow are the awards for the best tattoo.  Today at 2 pm there will be a draw for a free tattoo by Francisco (one of the best tattoo artists), who is also a judge.  The names of the artists are:

Livan Carlos Adrian, Guillermo, Yilber, Jose Francisco, Yoel, Victor, Odelky, David, Gabriel.

EXPERIENCE THE REAL CUBA
18th January 2013

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Ranses  y Michel ...Los chicos organisadores del evento - Trinidad, Cuba

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Tienes sueño? Pues a me me duele carajo.....

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Tierno y comico como Chaplin...

Body Art Trinidad Cuba
Exotica dama...

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Sin comentarios....

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Marilyn te amo, aunque me dueles hasta en la piel....

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Me encanta el pescao y las mujeres....

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Mi mas tierna fotografía...Mami te dolio?

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Trinidad en mi piel.....

Soy el terror de tus noches...jajajaajaj....muerete

Cargo la muerte a mis espaldas....

Trinidad, Cuba
Artista de tatuaje

Body Art, Trinidad, Cuba
Ni el lobo de crespusculo (Jacob) se compara conmigo

Trinidad, Cuba
Oye socio, no tienes anestesia pa mi?

Body Art, Trinidad Cuba
Si, si, si lo de internet me cuadra....