Santiago de Cuba

In the morning we left to Santiago de Cuba. The road became narrow, with horse carriages, bicycles and the occasional truck that made driving more challenging, so it took five full hours to reach our destination including a half hour stop in Bayamo, a beautiful town, especially around Plaza del Himno, where the Catedral de San Salvador de Bayamo is built. It proved impossible to find a restaurant that could serve us and we got a bit irritated.

On the way to Santiago de Cuba
On the way to Santiago de Cuba
Class Break
A goup of students in Bayamo
Bayamo Central
Bayamo Central
Returnig from School
A girl in Bayamo, returning from school
Waiting for the next customer
A bici taxi in Bayamo
Blue
A lady walking in Plaza del Himno in Bayamo
Santisima San Salvador de Bayamo
Plaza del Himno abd the Santisima San Salvador de Bayamo Cathedral at the back

An hour later, we arrived at the Melia Santiago de Cuba to discover that our room was not ready yet. I was tired from the 5 hours of driving and got a bit upset again until we finally settled. From now on we did not need the car as the plan was to stay here for a couple of days and then fly back to Havana.

Food seems to taste good in Cuba, if you choose the right places and once more we followed Lonely Planet’s advise and enjoyed a great dinner at the nearby El Baracoa restaurant. Then we went to Plaza de Marte and joined the Patio los Dos Abuelos club, where a 7-man band was playing traditional cuban salsa. The narrow terrace was mostly empty, us and 5-6 more parties. The half hour walk back to the hotel was pleasant and despite the fact that the smaller streets off the main boulevard are dark, we did not feel insecure.

Patio los Dos Abuelos;America;Cuba;people;Santiago de Cuba;travel

The band playing in Patio los Dos Abuelos

We woke up with a pouring rain. Boy, it did not look good and the forecast was gloomy for the next three days. The hotel was leaking water and the lobby was full of buckets and a large pool of water. We took a taxi to Cayo Granma, 20 minutes away for the town, only to find out that the ferry would leave at noon and return at 4pm. So we decided to get back to town. Fortunately the taxi driver was around so he dropped us at Tivoli.

Santiago de Cuba is the capital of the Orient, with a dominant African population from the slaves that were brought to work in the sugar plantations. It is also the hometown of many famous Cubans, like Antonio Maceo, Frank Pais and Compay Segundo. Supposedly the spirit here is very different than in the rest of Cuba, but honestly, we failed to recognize it. the city was established in 1528 by Diego Velázquez and received a big influx of French immigrants from Haiti in the late 18th century that created a Spanish-African-French cultural mix. The house of Velázquez is the oldest house in Cuba and Latin America and was renovated in the 1960s, but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance during our stay.

Old Plymouth
Old Plymouth parked in an alley in Santiago de Cuba
Cleaning on a rainy day
A lady cleaning her house in Santiago de Cuba
Raining
Raining in Santiago de Cuba
Viva Fidel
A street in Santiago de Cuba
La Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
la Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
Diego Velázquez's house
Diego Velázquez's house
Limousine
Limousine
Taking a break
Taking a break
The guard
A guard of the Velázquez museum entrance
La Nuestra Señora de la Asunción interior
La Nuestra Señora de la Asunción interior on a rainy day
La Nuestra Señora de la Asunción interior
La Nuestra Señora de la Asunción interior on a rainy day
Rainy Day
A rainy day in Santiago de Cuba
Rainy Day
A rainy day in Santiago de Cuba
At the door step
At the door step
Back Street
A street in the center of Santiago de Cuba
A street in Santiago de Cuba
A street in Santiago de Cuba
Rainy Streets
A rainy day in the center of Santiago de Cuba
Rainy Streets
A rainy day in the center of Santiago de Cuba

We walked through the narrow streets of Casco Historico and got soaked by the pouring rain but the diffused light and reflections on the tarmac helped me get some nice pictures. Sadly three of the museums we attempted to visit were closed and the city cathedral, la Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (1528) was is in terrible condition and full of buckets to hold the rain water pouring from the roof. It is evident that there is very little money to maintain and restore the full cultural heritage of Cuba. After a mojito stop in the beautiful Hotel Casa Granda, we went to lunch to a nearby paladar and walked all the way back to Melia.

Chevy
A green Chevy
Green Chevy
Green Chevy in Santiago de Cuba
Limousine
Limousine
Siesta
A man sleeping at the entrance of a building in Santiago de Cuba
Casa de la Trova
Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba
Blue and Yellow
Strong colors in the streets of Santago de Cuba
Yellow Chevy
Yellow Chevy
Yellow Chevy
Yellow Chevy
Pink Shirt
A man wearing a pink shirt on a blue backdrop
Red Pontiac
Red Pontiac
Purple Chevy
Purple Chevy
Red Pontiac
Red Pontiac
Blue Ride
Blue Ride
Blue Ride
Blue Ride
Three yellow jackets
Three yellow jackets
Blue
A man and his bicycle on a raining day in Santiago de Cuba
Museo Del Carnaval
Museo Del Carnaval
Streets of Santiago
A street in the center of Santiago de Cuba
Inside the bookstore
A second hand bookstore in Santiago de Cuba
Chatting
Two locals chatting in Santiago de Cuba
Wise Guy
A local guy in Santiago de Cuba
Raining
A rainy day in the center of Santiago de Cuba
What is his story?
A old guy sitting in the center, not a beggar
Yellow Chevy Truck
Yellow Chevy Truck
Smiling
Smiling at me form the window
The girl and her umbrella
The girl and her umbrella
Cuban Guy
An old guy killing time in Santiago de Cuba
Beaten Up
A car traveling the rainy streets of Santiago de Cuba
Red Taxi
Red Taxi
Red Taxi
Red Taxi
Queing to shop
A long line of Cubans queue to shop
Go Left
Pushing a cart on a rainy day

We chose el Madrileno for dinner, a walking distance from the hotel. It has a nice terrace and simple but delicious dishes. Three of the neighbouring tables were occupied by elder Italians with local escorts, quite a sad spectacle otherwise the place is really great.

Despite the fame of a never sleeping city, Santiago seems to go to bed early. We walked to the center in empty dark streets and we entered Casa de la Trova. The band was ok, but the joint was full of tourists, not quite what we expected. After some more mojitos we walked through the darkest possible streets to Tivoli to visit another club, but at midnight it was already closed. Very disappointing after all the things we had read about the nightlife here.

Despite the gloomy forecast, the next morning the skies were clear. We took a taxi to el Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a 17th century castle turned into prison in 1800, located at the entrance of the gulf of Santiago de Cuba, with great views of the city. The castle was designed by 1637 by Giovanni Battista Antonelli and took 62 years to complete. By 1775, when the fear for pirates attacks was gone, it was converted to a prison for political prisoners.

The gulf of Santiagode Cuba
The gulf of Santiagode Cuba viewed from the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
At the top
Efie posing in the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
The Flag
The Cuban flag in the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
Inside the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
Happy Tourists
Efie and yours truly in Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca

The Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia is a wonderful necropolis where some of Cuba’s greatest lie in peace, among which Emilio Bacardi and Compay Segundo. The most important tomb is of course the mausoleum of José Martí, Cuba’s national hero, a huge cylindrical structure with an ever burning fire in the center. Every half hour, around the clock, takes place a ceremonial guard change, tribute to the great poet, philosopher and symbol of Cuba’s bid for independence.

The Guard Squad
The guard squad at the mausoleum of José Martí
The mausoleum of José Martí
The mausoleum of José Martí
The tomb of Compay Segundo
The tomb of Compay Segundo
Cemeterio de Santa Ifigenia
Tombs in the Cemeterio de Santa Ifigenia

We spent the remaining day walking in the Casco Histórico to profit the good weather and see what we missed the previous day. In Mirador del Tivoli, a vantage point with excellent views to the port we met a beautiful girl with a wonderful smile. She was happy when we gave her some candies and pens and her mother who was watching from her house invited us in for some coffee. It seems that Cubans are indeed hospitable, although they rarely break a smile unless you make the first move.

A view from Tivoli
A view from Tivoli in Santiago de Cuba
Happy
A girl smiling at me in Tivoli
Young Beuaty
A beautiful girl in Santiago de Cuba
Vinyls
A house decorated with vinyl records in Tivoli
Bananas and Onions
Street vendors in Santiago de Cuba
Fruit Salesmen
Fruit Salesmen in the streets of Santiago de Cuba
The Barber Shop
A barber shop in Santiago de Cuba
The Center
A street in the center of Santiago de Cuba
Yellow an Blue
A yellow Chevy in the center of Santiago the Cuba
Chevy
Chevy
Phone Call
A girl calling from a public pay phone in Santiago de Cuba
Siesta on the street
Siesta on the street
Rasta Cuban
Rasta Cuban
Cool
A parking employee with a cool pose
Cuban Street Musician
A member of a street band
Salsa
Salsa dancers
Street Musicians
Street Musicians in the venter of Santiago de Cuba
The Old Cehvy
The interior of a Chevy
Another Time
Another Time in Santiago de Cuba
Trumpet Man
A young Cuban in a music school in Santiago de Cuba
Green Chevy
Green Chevy
The Teacher
The teacher of an elementary school in Santiago de Cuba
Yellow Chevy
Yellow Chevy
A green beauty
A green beauty

The flight to Havana was supposedly leaving at 20:25 so we walked back to the hotel and killed some time by the pool, where a local band and dancers were performing. It turned out that the plain left with 3 hours delay and nobody at the terminal could share any information. The great Cubana de Aviacion! By the time we landed in Havana we were exhausted. After a half hour drive through the empty streets of Havana, we arrived at the hotel and dropped dead. Next: Havana.

Santiago de Cuba