Edit Blog Post
Published: April 20th 2014
Trinidad is the gem of the Sanctus Spiriti province. It is a small and relaxed town with cobbled streets and beautifully preserved and restored Colonial buildings. There are two picturesque bell towers, both painted bright yellow, from which you can see over the town and its surroundings: to the North, old sugar plantations and the mountains beyond, and to the South, the Peninsula Ancon, a glorious 7km stretch of white sand and glittering green sea. There are a few colourful leafy squares where you can six and read during the day, listening to local musicians playing Buena Vista Social Club classics.
The area around the main square, Playa Mayor, comes alive at night with several live music venues, numerous Paladars – each with a waiter in the doorway who will try to lure you inside – and lots of people milling around drinking cocktails. The hub of activity is the Casa de la Musica, essentially a broad flight of stone steps with a stage and seating platform halfway up (although most people sit on the steps). A series of top notch Cuban bands play every night until the small hours. Some we saw had a more traditional folky
vibe while others seemed like the Salsa equivalent of a Big Band. In front of the stage, there's a small space for dancing and if you sit up high enough, you can watch a mixture of locals and Cubans getting sweatily tangled up with each other while displaying varying degrees of rhythm and coordination. It is also the perfect vantage point from which to watch rather tragic middle aged tourists attempt to hit on lithe young Cubanos: Ben and I became rather obsessed with identifying these individuals and watching the tragicomedy play out. I only hope that our frequent cries of 'Sex tourist!!' were drowned out by the music…
We stayed for a full week and filled our time quite happily, exploring the town and taking a few day trips. A couple of times we cycled the 12km to the beach – getting outrageously sunburned and risking life and limb on the Cuban roads. We also went ‘hiking’ (Ben wore deck shoes) in the nearby national park – a sort of mountainous forest with several waterfalls and natural swimming pools. We stayed in a lovely casa run by a laid back and friendly Cuban couple, Ariel and
Yahima (whenever we asked for anything in our apologetic British manner, Yahima would assure us that ‘Here, ANYTHING is possible’). Their twelve year old son Michael hid his amusement at Ben´s sporadic attempts to learn Spanish from a cartoon book we found lying around. The house itself was beautiful and we spent a fair amount of time lazing about drinking beer on the roof and reading in the shady courtyard under the leafy canopy.
After several attempts, I finally convinced Ben to do a Salsa class with me at the Casa de la Musica. Our teacher, Bernardo, was a stout elderly man in jeans and a t shirt who seemed to have wondered in off the street. We asked for a lesson at around 11 but he looked a bit worse for wear and asked us to come back at 1. The class was not a riotous success – Bernardo spoke no English although his distraught exclamations at Ben’s lack of rhythm and co ordination were fairly easy to understand. After about half an hour, Ben gave up and went off for a beer while Bernardo and I shuffled around in a more or less convincing imitation
of Salsa. Before we finished, he insisted that we take a video of him performing the basic steps so that Ben could practice – as yet, he has not.
Given our limited Spanish, our relative wealth and the cultural gap between Cuba and Britain, most of our experiences were fairly ‘touristy’ ones. One exception was Ben’s games of drafts with a Trinidadian local. The man, about 60, spoke no English and lived in a pretty spartan house with bare walls, a few rickety chairs and a tiny TV set. His drafts board was made of cardboard with the squares drawn on and the pieces he used were red and yellow plastic bottle tops. Ben had seen the guy playing in the doorway, and when his partner moved on, Ben went over and took his place. He went back the next day and the day after that and would play several games over a couple of hours, always under the eye of the local ‘protecíon’ (a sort of Cuban community support officer) who would get involved as and when he deemed necessary and gesticulate wildly with his truncheon to express his delight or despair at the previous move.
I went to watch once and it was both hilarious and touching to see the game progress (with serious faces and passionate exclamations all round) despite each player being entirely incomprehensible to the other.
On our last night we chatted to a new guest in the casa over a bottle of rum. Francesco was a Sicilian based in Clapham and spent four months of every year travelling around. He was extremely entertaining on his experiences in South and Central America and gave Ben plenty of tips for Columbia including great beaches, places to stay, safety tip etc. My favourite piece of advice was as follows: ‘Look I don’t buy coke in London, it´s not my thing. But, you don’t go to Naples and not eat the pizza do you??’
Tot: 2.407s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 13; qc: 54; dbt: 0.043s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb