After almost a week in Havana, its once leisurely pace was starting to feel hectic… even the most die-hard of travellers get a little weary, time to take things down a notch. We were headed south to Trinidad, but decided to take a quick pit stop in Santa Clara– if for nothing other than to break up the tedious bus ride. This sleepy town is famous for being the site of Che’s final battle and resting place, with the gigantic Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara to prove it, and a museum for those really keen.
But that’s probably not what we’ll remember it for… More likely, it will be that unbeknownst to us, we had arrived during the ‘great toilet paper shortage of 2014’– we did think it was odd that our casa only had serviettes, and then one day every mercado in town was had lines out the door, with everyone emerging with a 4-pack. The news was clearly out- the shipment was in!
Or it would be that night we stopped into a local bar for a quick drink, only to stay for hours tapping our toes to a sprightly band of geriatrics. It seemed half the town had showed up for the party, and even we were compelled to have a spin on the dance floor. They were great; not tacky, not touristy, just there to have a good time- we even bought the CD. Oh and then there was the pizza- Cubans love it, they’re sold in street stalls everywhere, the one we had was memorable for being truly terrible!
A couple of days later, we arrived in Trinidad; a town which is undoubtedly easy on the eyes thanks to its Spanish colonial roots. Trinidad is compact- you could easily whittle the hours away strolling, taking in the beautiful buildings which are still bright and bold but somehow manage to look less gaudy than the ones in Havana. Once in the heart of town, the narrow roads turn into cobble paths for pedestrians and the occasional donkey, lined with lounge room art galleries and souvenir shops. Every guide book you read will describe Trinidad as a place ‘where the clocks have stopped’ but it has not been immune to the lure of the tourist game with its promise of prosperity. Get there before it becomes completely consumed…
Once the heat of the day really took its toll, we headed back to our casa, probably our favourite of all the casas we stayed in, to relax on the rooftop patio. If we weren’t reading on the sun loungers, we were spying on the simplicity of town life from the balcony, or just being cheeseballs who marvel at sunsets.
There were no drastic changes in cuisine on the other side of island, Trinidad provided us more of the same Cuban staples. Our best meals were probably the ones at our casa, Colonial Felix– hearty servings of bean soup, succulent fried fish still on the bone or braised chicken in a moreish broth, with the requisite sides of salad, rice, and fruit. Other notable mentions would be the fried chicken at Wakey Wakey & Shakey Shakey– a great recommendation by a friend, the roast pork sandwich at the place where a man sits there all day turning the spit with a steering wheel, and the tiny Palador Ache down the road where the food was that little bit better than your average but at half the price.
And what did we do when we were over exploring? Jumped in a taxi and headed for Playa Ancon with only a few things in mind- sunbathing and daydreaming.