Rachel, Day by Day
In my last blog post, I wrote about the first half of my trip to Cuba last June. Here’s the second half of my Cuba journal for you!
Day 7: Cienfuegos, Escambray Mountains, Trinidad
In the morning we left Cienfuegos and headed to the Escambray Mountains. The best Cuban coffee is made in the mountains. Once we reached the top, we went on a walking tour, saw the coffee plants, and saw how the coffee is made. At the end of the tour, we got to try the coffee. It was strong, but good! Then we stopped and met the coffee farmer and his family. He explained the process to us and invited us in his home. I bought some coffee beans, too.
After that, we all ate lunch together (pork, potatoes, rice and beans). The potatoes were delicious! We then stopped at the lookout point and I walked up the 142 stairs to the top! The view was incredibly beautiful. Something I’ll never forget.
On the way to Trinidad, we stopped at Azariel Santander’s home. He makes pottery and showed us how he does it. He’s so fast and great at it! He made a lid to go on top of the pottery without even measuring it. We then went to a paladar for dinner and ate delicious seafood paella. Yum! Some of us played with the band, too. Then we went to our hotel in Trinidad (Las Brisas Trinidad del Mar) and had a drink before bed.
Day 8: Trinidad
This morning we did a walking tour around Trinidad. We stopped at the home of a local family and visited a local artist. He makes art carvings out of shutters and things. Gretel took us to the ration shop where families get their monthly allowed food using their ration booklet. They get rice, sugar, oil, etc. We then went in the church of Trinidad, visited shops, and had a mojito at one of the local restaurants. Then we went back to the hotel (Las Brisas Trinidad del Mar) and had lunch at the buffet. We later played dominoes with Mary and Gretel for a while! We had drinks at the bar and walked to the ocean. We went to El Dorado paladar for dinner. We had vegetable soup, a welcome cocktail, and I ate grilled shrimp. We ended the night with a drink at the hotel.
Day 9: Trinidad, Cojímar, Havana
After breakfast in Trinidad, we had a longer bus trip back to Havana (4-5 hours). We stopped in Cojímar and had lunch at Café Ajiaco with local fishermen. We had soup, chicken, rice and beans, ropa vieja, etc. One of the fishermen named Charlie showed us the photo of the biggest shark ever caught in 1945 in Cuba. There are 188 fisherman boats.
After lunch, we went to the marina and saw their boats. Ernest Hemingway would visit this area in the 1950s. They told us about their fishing trips and we saw a boat destroyed by the hurricane.
Once we arrived back in Havana, we saw El Cristo de Habana statue, The Jesus Christ of Havana. The view of Havana was beautiful. We also saw a statue dedicated to those who helped during Hurricane Irma, and we saw Che Guevara’s headquarters building.
We then had free time, so we all went to the Hall of Fame bar. We later had dinner at Paladar al Carbon. We ate arroz con pollo, lamb, fish, appetizers, and flan. It was delicious! We sat at a table with Marlys and Charlie and had a great time with them. Then we got drinks at the Hall of Fame bar and went to bed.
Day 10: Havana
This morning we drove one hour to Las Terrazas, a small community and nature reserve west of Havana. We had a welcome cocktail and talked about its history. The village was created in 1971 and 970 people live there. We visited the school and saw the kids in their classrooms. We then stopped at Ariel Gato Miranda’s studio. He makes recycled paper using discarded office paper and turns it into art.
We then had lunch at El Romero, a Cuban ecological restaurant with vegetarian cuisine. It was good! Then we took the bus back to Havana. We had some free time, so we walked around to the liquor store and souvenir shops. Then we all had a drink at the bar and sandwiches in the lower level café at the hotel for dinner. We ended the night with a drink at the Hall of Fame bar.
Day 11: Havana
We started the day driving to Ernest Hemingway’s house. The house was very well maintained and big. Everything is still original, and there’s an original Picasso in the dining room. We saw the guest house, pool, boat, etc. We weren’t allowed to go in but could look through doors and windows. Then we saw Malpaso Dance Company perform. They were amazing and toured the U.S. in early 2019!
After this, we drove to my dad’s old neighborhood. We walked around a bit and actually found his house! I immediately burst into tears. The people currently living there let us in and walk around. We took a group photo and talked for a bit. Then we took photos outside the house. I touched the building before leaving, too. This was an experience I’ll never forget.
After that, I went to the Revolution Museum with my brother, Marlys, and Charlie. It was very interesting to learn about some of the history. The museum is housed in the Presidential Palace where all Cuban presidents used to live. Behind the building is the Granma Memorial, a large glass enclosure that has the Granma, the yacht that took Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Raúl Castro along with dozens of other revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba for the revolution. There are also many vehicles and tanks used in The Revolution displayed outdoors. We then had a few drinks back at the hotel.
Gretel surprised us before dinner and we all took convertibles there! Our driver went slowly so we could take in Havana. It was a beautiful experience. I will never forget that drive. At dinner we had our own private room at a restaurant called Habanera, a 1930s home. Gretel gave a speech about our nice time together. I ate ropa vieja, rice and beans, and flan. I had a mojito and some wine, too. Back at the hotel, we said goodbye to Charlie and Marlys. Then we had a drink at the Hall of Fame bar before bed.
Day 12: Havana, Home
We had our morning free, so we slept in, packed, relaxed, and had breakfast. I then walked around the hotel by myself and found a path that led to a big, neat Cuba sign. It was a beautiful view! Then we left the hotel and said our goodbyes to Peachy and Gretel.
What an amazing, educational experience that I will never forget! It will be in my heart always.