Ellen and Tim's Epic Adventure travel blog

fort in Santiago de Cuba (note the bullet holes)

view from top of a posh hotel across city

cuban cigar shop (no we did not buy any)

main cathedral in the square opposite the hotel

local band really good

coffe plantation house in the mountains (not used now)

getting supplies in the mountains

locals catching lunch

taxi rank (note the old Fiat we went out in that one!)

Santiago De Cuba:

Up early but worth it for the sunrise was spectacular over the pool. Flew over on the same sized plane as to Grand Turk (a 19 seater prop). Met another couple from Australia living on Parrot Cay (NE of Provo), called Sharyn and Peter who were also stopping at the hotel Casa Granda. The flight included a tour at the other end with an English speaking guide who told us a bit about the history of the island and the about the Revolutions. He showed us the tourist areas like: where Castro had his first battle and the monuments to his success; the big tourist hotel where everyone goes to take photos from the 15 storey viewing platform (and have wedding photos in the gardens); the Havana cigar shop and bar. Then we drove further out of town passing people taking their wears to market on donkey and mule carts. Loads of trucks packed full of people as there is no main bus service. We went to a harbour and sailed over to an island restaurant for lunch. Food not brilliant(except for Tim's tasty beef stew translated as "old clothes") but great setting and we sailed around the island to see the houses afterwards. Some of the buildings looked like they would fall into the sea next gust of wind but were still lived in! Then back to the fort on the entrance to the harbour. This fort was built to protect the city from pirates but took so long to build that pirates did not exist by then so it was used as a prison. Very hot by then and only shade in the rooms of the fort, up into the high 90s, so grateful to watch a cigar maker under a tree and pop in and out of the souvenir kiosks on the walk back to the air conditioned coach. Back to town centre where the day trippers got an hour in the centre and we were shown to our hotel on the main square. The 5th floor had a terrace restaurant that looked over the main square so you could people watch from above. Ther was also a bar on the 1st floor that over looked the street but also had live music each evening. The next day we managed to arrange for a guide to take the 4 of us up into the mountains surrounding the city. We stopped half way up at a small village and brought bananas from the road side and spoke to the teacher at the school who showed us around her tiny classroom for the whole school of 5 children, with a view down the mountainside to the sea miles away (rather distracting I would think). Then up to a recently restored coffee plantation that showed the history of the area and how coffee was produced. There were some great flowers in the garden and Sharyn and I were discussing what they looked like and the guide said "that's a don't forget me plant" a literal translation of "forget-me-not", we thought this was lovely and when she went on about the noisy "carpenter bird" we realised that must be the "woodpecker"! On the way up a snake crossed the road in front of the taxi so we backed up to see it as it tried to climb a concret upright on the barrier at the side of the road protecting you from the cliff edge it fell over the drop!. We all gasped and the guide said "good I can't stand snakes"! We then climbed up 450 steps to the top of Mount Piedro (looking out for snakes in the dense undergrowth) to get the view but the cloud came down, so could only glimpse that we were a mile up from sea level. Drove back to town through the suburbs were the Russian design of prefab apartments was very apparent. All over the side of the roads were animals grazing from horses and cows to pigs and goats, the fields were enclosed to protect the crops of fruit and vegetables from the animals and everyone has agricultural lessons in school. Got back to town and went to a non tourist restaurant for late lunch which was even later as it took 2 hours to come! (may have been partly to do with our bad Spanish). Wandered back through the streets and managed to find our hotel (good job it was next to the cathedral with tall towers to spot). Next day we only had the morning do decided to see some of the many local museums and art galleries, but ended up in just one, the oldest building in Cuba, now a history of life, furniture and architecture. We were shown around by the curator who was so passionate about his work that you could not fail to be sucked into the feeling of the place. Cuba was very interesting talking to locals gave the good and bad sides of the regime, but generally everybody was happy and although there was poverty everyone had a roof and food.

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