Sancti Spiritus- UNESCO Missed Out on this Gem!

Published: June 9th 2016
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And greetings from Cuba once again. After 11 days in Cuba, most of my clothes smell weird, I have read 6 books, I am in my fourth town Sancti Spiritus, and my Spanish is AMAZING.

Ok, the last point may not be completely true, but I think I am getting pretty close to fluent.

After I left Trinidad, I moved 90 minutes northish to Sancti Spiritus, a small town that is 500 years old, the same as Trinidad, but does not have the UNESCO heritage distinction, nor the amount of tourists that come with it. Talk about red headed step child. Being a fan of both gingers and underdogs, I figured it for the best to give Sancti a try of my own. And you know what? I loved it!

Arriving in Sancti Spiritus, I was seemingly the only tourist to get off the bus that was going on to more popular places, which I took as a good sign. And this proved to hold true as I only saw a spattering of other foreigners in my two days there. I walked from the bus station to the centre of town, which didn't seem as lofty a goal when I thought the bus station was in a certain place, but then turned out to be in a completely other place. What I thought was a 250 metre walk was more like 2500 metres. Hmm, ok, whatever, sweat washes off! I eventually found the main plaza, and the casa I was aiming for, which, due to the lack of tourists, had a room. Yay!

Why was I aiming for this specific casa? Well, as hinted in the title, I love rooftop terraces in Cuba. They MAKE the casa in my eyes. If I can sit on a roof and read my book, well, I'm a pretty happy gringa. And the Lonely Planet said Estrella's casa had a rooftop. Plus, Estrella ended up being the nicest lady ever. So nice, at one point I thought she was drunk, but figured she probably wasn't, as it was 8:30am. She also told me I was pretty many times. So yes, I pick my accommodations based on rooftop terraces. Easy. To get in touch with Estrella herself, here’s the link to the Lonely Planet bit for Casa Estrella!

Sancti Spiritus is a small town with a hopping main square, old colonial buildings skirting all edges and a few dramatic churches. It has the typical Cuban battery of old American vintage cars and white marble busts of revolutionaries, plus some horse drawn carriages with hooves and wheels that click along the cobble stone in a tres rustic kind of way. From the rooftop I could look west and see a mountain range and then come nightfall the wide open sky of stars. Sancti had a couple nice hotels, plus a boulevard that was pedestrian only and verging on hip. It has a small English country side style bridge crossing across an at-this-time-barely-there river. And that's about it. There isn't really anything to do, per se. I went into the tourist information office and asked if there as anything going on, like tours or shows. The lady said "No". Ok. Told you my Spanish was getting good.

So I just enjoyed the ambience. I wandered the streets, ate really great fried chicken, and then of course, sat on the rooftop terrace and thought thoughts. I also read, a lot. I attempted to watch tv, but my Spanish isn't that great, especially through a filter of static. Estrella invited me several times to watch tv with her, but I had enough hours of watching tv in a language I couldn't understand in Kyrgyzstan, so I politely passed most of the time. The second day I was in town I sat on the terrace reading until I got hungry at 1pm. Yes, I was wearing sunscreen.

But all in all, I liked Sancti Spiritus, and I think it deserves more credit than people give it! Some random waiter in Trinidad asked where I was going next and I said Sancti Spiritus and he actually said "eughh". Charmer. He's probably like those people who live in Vancouver and have never been to Langley. Wrong.

After Sancti Spiritus, I had to head back to Havana for a night to then connect with a bus to the western past of the island. I was sad to leave, Sancti was super easy and chill. Everything was within 400 meters, so incredibly perfect for my inner fat kid. I haven’t had a thigh gap in years, so really in that heat the shorter the walking distance, the better! I also really liked that fried chicken (again, says Emily's inner fat kid). But with only three weeks in Cuba, I couldn't rooftop lounge indefinitely, sigh, if only.

Island Insights

On the bus ride back to Havana I had a super weird lady sitting beside me who kept reaching over me and touching the window (I was in the window seat), or holding onto my handle, or taking my garbage out of the pocket in front of me and playing with it only to put it back later. Multiple times, at this obvious infringement of bus seat personal space and traveller etiquette, I was baffled, thinking, what is going on?!? At the rest stop I was standing with my head phones on watching the dogs forage for scraps and she came up beside me, said something very loudly abruptly in Spanish, stood really close to me and then walked away. Again… What is happening?!?!

My last night in Sancti I was tipped off about an awesome local cafe. A full plate of food for $1. Doesn't get better than that! Even the beer was cheap!

As I was searching for the casa, I thought it was further on the road I was on (not yet realizing how close everything in Sancti was). By a stroke of destiny, Estrella opened her front door the exact moment I walked past it and said Ola! Wonderful woman.

In Cuba, people don't really knock on doors, they either enter houses directly because the doors are already wide open, or they stand in the street calling people names. Who needs a door bell!?

Following up the previous point, conversations and entire afternoons/days are spent with one person standing in the street and the other on the inside of the wrought iron gate that is keeping the open door or window actually secure. I'm sure the conversations are intended to be brief, but hey, what's a good chin waggle that doesn't last for two hours? Problems arise when it rains, oh well! Que sere sera!

My second night in Sancti I awoke at around midnight, knowing something was off. Then if felt a tickle on my arm, which was above my head. I reached for my phone and with the flashlight saw it. A COCKROACH!!! IT WAS ON ME!!!!! IT WAS SO CLOSE TO MY FACE!!!!!!!! Unlike the last three phrases, I very calmly went to the bathroom for some toilet paper, and grabbed the vermin as fast as I could and pulverized it with everything my midnight self could muster. I didn't sleep again for an hour. UUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Think that's all from me, from the very uneventful though totally endearing town of Sancti Spiritus. I'm a fan. And telling everybody!


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9th June 2016
The Boulevard

Cute, colorful streets
I've duly recorded this charmer for my trip to Cuba--my favorite places are often these small, untouristed ones. But when you told of those conversations, that must be a bit loud since they take place inside and outside of a house, it rather confirms what I've heard of Cuba--constant noise, constant music. Ok for three weeks, but yikes--somewhat intense.
9th June 2016
The Boulevard

Choose your rooms wisely...
Yes Tara, you're right about the noise. I really noticed those conversations, hence writing about them, in Sancti Spiritus because my bedroom was right off the street. I wanted to be that close to the centre, so put up with it, but I'm normally a peace and quite kind of gal myself. I therefore spent a lot of time on the rooftop! People all live very close in these towns, add in the animals, children, very loud diesel engines from ancient vehicles, and it can get loud on the street. Thats where the quieter rooftops come into play!
12th June 2016

We may need to return to Cuba
We didn't go to this town and it sounds like you have discovered a gem. Although I will say we loved Trinidad. In part due to the people we stayed with, as you know that makes all the difference.

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