Day 4 – Trinidad, Tat and Salsa

18 Mar

A respectable sleep in our homestay finished with the prearranged breakfast cooked by mama of ham and cheese omelette, strong coffee and guava juice.  Every piece of bread here is lightly toasted and crisp. There was a sacrificial teddy bear in the breakfast shack at the back of the house.  Obviously no marmalade was available – just honey. My Spanish is being put to use as the couple have even less than me.  We left with “cena a siete” – dinner at 7pm ringing in our ears. We better not disappoint mama!  Chicken it is.

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Trinidad, Cuba

We then joined the group for a walking tour of Trinidad with a lot of conversations from Ernesto regarding the slave trade and living conditions in Cuba today. It doesn’t appear to be very far removed from life in the UK. Except that they still have shops where rationed goods are distributed. This to ensure that everyone has enough to live on.  Everyone pays taxes on private enterprises, but not if you work for the government. I like that idea.

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Ration shol

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Low supplies in the ration shop

Only about 15% of Cubans are practicing Catholics. A lot of churches are falling down or complete ruins, but they are trying to preserve as much as possible for historical purposes and I’m sure with an eye on future tourist dollars.

We continued the walking tour with Ernesto pointing out the bullfinches kept in cages for the illegal fighting. They were everywhere. Small enterprises selling fruit and veg or beans, or cakes, shining shoes or repairing cars. Lots of horses / mules being used.  Some with traps, as taxis, or hauling all manner of items. Tractors – noisy and dirty with not a polished John Deere in sight – were used to transport rattling things over cobbled streets creating a humungous din. Also saw a sword sharpener plying his trade in the street.

Some of the cowboys were kitted up as real caballeros with the chaps, spurs, hat and all that. Lots of people just sit in the windows looking out on the world from behind iron bars, smoking cigars or holding their cock rooster in their hand. Rocking chairs are everywhere.

Worth mentioning that all the ladies here wear tights of a heavily patterned black nature. Most disturbing – would be reserved for the sleeziest prozzer in the UK, but perfectly normal here.

Arriving back in the main square we found a donkey with a sign tied to its head asking for 30p per photo.  Blackpool it was not. The man with the spurs on its back didn’t understand the concept of zoom lenses and seemed to be wandering forever without getting paid.

Even the 15 year old female, dressed in all her finery didn’t go near him.  It is tradition for these girls to be photographed at popular places on their birthday and to create a family album that they obviously then use at their wedding to embarrass them.

A quick trip into the cathedral was a bit disappointing.  Painted all in white, with any statues covered in purple cloths as it was Lent meant there was very little to see. On the plus side it was an escape from the searing midday heat.

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Back with the group, Ernesto had arranged a tour of the romantic museum next door. This showed a lot of “priceless” French, Italian and some British house furnishings. The thunderbox had a well ventilated room to itself. Opportunites for tat buying galore. Settled on some postcards and stamps. Overly optimistic I suspect.

After a group lunch, which for me was a pork sandwich and chips, we headed our separate ways, with Mick and I heading to the bank.  Efficient service was provided for cash, although it was more difficult for cards – especially Mastercard.

An ice cream on the way back helped chill the insides – Fresa y Chocolat – not to be confused with the Brokeback Mountain type film of the same name.

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1 2 3, 5 6 7

Ten of us had signed up for a Salsa dancing lesson, thankfully 5 and 5. Loads of laughs but not sure we are ready for public performance. Juliet was unlucky enough to be paired with me but took control of the driving!  Sue was accused of having a murderous look about her, which Nick will be reminding her of on a daily basis. Mick and Dave were at contrasting ends of the ability spectrum and remedial action was required. A video was made of the steps so that we can practice at home.

Left to wander ourselves, I braved the tat stalls and succumbed only twice – once for a fridge magnet and once for a cocktail recipe board. Don’t ask.

Met up with Mick in the main square and managed to find the time for a couple more rum based drinks.  Heading to the mountains tomorrow, so need to keep the blood alcohol levels up just in case of scurvy setting in.

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Too many choices

Getting back to our “casa particulares” proved more problematic. Four taxi drivers standing in the middle of a busy crossroads examining our address cards – which contained a full address and map, complete with arrows, showing the exact route to take – unable to make a decision as to how to get there. Not exactly rocket science my friends. Eventually one thought he’d give it a go – so we drop off Mick. As he goes to reverse out of her uneven road a police car pulls in. Our car stops – the driver not keen to move at all – and didn’t move again until the police were out of sight.  Either he was an illegal taxi or he wasn’t allowed to reverse onto a main road. I’m hopeful it was the latter.

With another hot shower I was then ready for the meal.  Disappointingly, the family didn’t actually eat with us. Chicken noodle soup followed by a huge fried chicken with rice, salad and some yuca type thing. The quantity was so big that none of us finished – not even me.  But more was still to come – dulce  – sweet. Can’t describe it more than that.  And coffee.

Mama thankfully wasn’t up for the promised salsa dancing but we did entertain 4 year old Dina with paper,  pens and some origami (black belt I am), whilst Ray sampled his first Cuban cigar, and tried to teach her some bad words.

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