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Published: July 13th 2015
The bus bounced along Trinidad's cobbled streets and deposited us at the station. From there we jumped onto four bicitaxis
and were pedalled in various levels of discomfort to our hotel, the Trinidad 500
, named to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city in 2014. Our drivers raced each other through the streets which at times was exhilarating, but often felt rather dangerous! The hotel is in an old colonial house, beautifully restored, on the edge of the city. After unpacking and relaxing a little, the plan had been to eat at the hotel then go out to experience the nightlife, but torrential rain put paid to that idea. Instead we ate and drank at the hotel then had an early night!
The next day was glorious. Our group split up so everyone could do their own thing. We walked into town which wasn't as far as we thought it would be. Finding the historic centre wasn't difficult, and it's easy to see why it is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every corner brought new delights for us as we are fans of the Spanish colonial architecture which is all over South and Central America. At times
it was like stepping back at time as a horse and cart rushed by on the cobbles, heavily laden with goods from the nearby fields. It was great to listen to live music in the streets or explore the art galleries hidden away in restored colonial houses. There are some very talented artists around. The museums were good too, especially the one on the ground floor of the San Francisco convent whose tower dominates the skyline of the town. In there we saw all sorts of Cuban history including one of the boats which provided arms for the revolutionaries as they battled for freedom in the Bay of Pigs.
Exhausted after a day of exploring, we galvanised ourselves to go out late in the evening. By the cathedral in the centre is a wide flight of stairs. Halfway up is the Casa de la Musica where musicians play late into the night and if you're feeling brave, you can join the multitude dancing next to the stage. It does get very busy so if you see a free table and/or chairs, grab them!!
The next day our group took an excursion into the nearby mountains. The Topes de
Collantes park is a lush paradise with open fields alongside the hills and a wonderful riverside path which takes you through thick jungle. With a good guide you'll see lots of birdlife. We were lucky and saw a few trogons
, Cuba's national bird because of it's bright red, white and blue colours. We managed a refreshing swim in the cool waters underneath a waterfall and even found a cocktail bar deep in the trees. Changing out of our wet swimming gear, we were greeted by a snake who popped out to say hello. Emerging from the path into the open landscape where our transport awaited, the relatively fresh air made us realise just how hot and humid it had been under the canopy. Another evening enjoying the open air music and dance finished off our final night in Trinidad.
The following morning, on our way out of town on a private bus, we stopped off in the Valle de los Ingenios
where the sugar mills and plantations used to be. Climbingup the plantation tower took a bit of doing because the stairway is steep and narrow and we came across an awful lot of rude tourists who thought their
right to go up or down was far more important than our right to go the opposite way. The view from the top was worth the hassle as we looked down on the vultures and cowboys. In the plantation house Ramiro showed us how a sugar cane press worked by moving the heavy press arm round in circles while we all watched on. The market was wonderful too with locally produced handicrafts which almost tempted us to part with some cash. Interestingly we also saw the steam train which brought tourists through the countryside from Trinidad. It's interesting because when we asked about it in Trinidad we were told there hadn't been trains for years. People thought we were mad even asking!!
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