Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Cuba: Santiago

I have mixed feelings about Santiago.  I was really looking forward to visiting it thinking that it would be another Havana, in fact, even older.  Maybe it was the false expectations that made it a bit of a disappointment.  There were historical buildings but I was sad to see them in disrepair, even the special museum sites looked like they just got a layer of cheap paint that didn't go on very smoothly.  The Hotel Casa Granda which we would have stayed at were we to do an overnight trip looked like it was barely held together, the "roof" over the internal courtyard dilapidated.  Yet the view from the rooftop garden was spectacular and the building still retained an aura of past splendour.  While Havana was bustling with a sense of renewal, Santiago city centre was filled with people begging and hustling, giving an impression of a city in decay.  Maybe it was just a misconception over a short visit of just a couple of hours whereas we were in Havana for three whole days - I hope I'm wrong.  

A "classic car" jam viewed from the rooftop garden of the Casa Granda

The Cathedral in the Parque Cespede in the city centre

The gracious outdoor dining room in the Casa Granda

The internal courtyard of the Casa Granda (note the roof)

Rooftop garden - Casa Granda

View of the city from the rooftop garden

This building was boarded up - a sneak view through the hoarding but it doesn't look like any work is being done on it.

Another part of the same building possibly the Casa de Cultura is being used as some sort of display gallery.

Museo de Ambiente Cubano, the oldest residential building in Cuba (wish we had time to visit)

Detail from the attractive front of the Ayuntamiento or town hall, originally the site of the governor's house.

Some street life near the city centre

Museo Emilio Bacardi Moreau (see what I meant about the paint?)

Our favourite - the Casa de la Trova

Duo los Cubanitos invited us in and played for us.  We bought their CD - it is extraordinarily good!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Cuba: El Morro, Santiago

El Morro is a fortress strategically located on a promontory at the entrance to the bay going into Santiago.  Built in the 17th century to guard against pirates, it was subsequently used as a prison.   It was one of our first stops on the day trip to Santiago and we got there before the crowds so it was great for picture taking.  Stunning view of the Caribbean.

Many handsome angles and curves to be found on the grounds...

A chapel on the grounds

Conveyor for the cannon balls!
Some kind of lizard? (interesting tail) - well-camouflaged against the stone

This model gives you an idea of how the castle is situated

Next post:  Santiago

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cuba - Shopping

We dropped by this store on the way to Holguin.  This would be typical general store in rural areas, open 7 to 11 am, 2 to 5 pm, leaving plenty of time for lunch and siesta.  Take a look inside, merchandise is in pesos (not the convertible kind).  A baseball costs 60 pesos, about the equivalent of $2.50 Canadian, quite expensive in Cuban terms.  A young man on our bus bought a baseball and on the way back, gave it to a boy going home after school.

One happy kid!

This is the shopping street in Holguin, which seems to be a relatively well-off town.  Department stores are bigger and there are even specialty stores.

Where tourists shop...

The butcher

The magician...?

 ....pulling out one rabbit after another - it's hard to decide which one to take home!

Granizado looks like it might be slush - probably welcome relief on a hot sunny day, but no one had the nerve to try it!

 Next post: El Morro in Santiago

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Cuba: "Coming out"

On our day trip to Holguin, we were given an hour to wander around the town centre.  The Iglesia de San Jose was a destination a few blocks from the centre.  Unfortunately, it was closed and we only got a glimpse of the baroque interior through the locked gates.  But we came across an unexpected find in the plaza in front of the church - a 15 year old debutante's "coming out" ritual.  The public part of this started with her laying a bouquet at the memorial to dead revolutionary patriots (the irony of it!) in front of the church and then she was put in an open car and shown off to the whole town.  This seemed to be such an incongruous (not to mention capitalistic) ritual in the Cuban setting, that it caught us by surprise and on the way back on the minibus, I brought this up as a question about its compatibility with the rest of Cuban society.  The youthful Canadian tourists on the bus held various viewpoints about this, sparking a debate about communism and socialism - an unexpected bonus for us on what would have been just another touristy day trip in Cuba!

Iglesia San Jose

A glimpse of the interior through the gates

Here comes the debutante supported by parents

A carefully rehearsed and recorded offering of the bouquet at the memorial to patriots who died during the revolution

Walking carefully on the uneven stones

The exchange of glances between the debutante and the worker comrades

Poised and confident - obviously well-schooled

The parade through the streets

Where debutantes shop...

Next post:  The "general store" - where everyone else shops