Havana to Cienfuegos

First day of the tour in Cuba, most of the group met up in the Casa in Havana to go for dinner. It was a nice group of nine of us plus the guide and the driver, mixed age and gender. We headed for dinner at Mesón de la Flota for some Cuban food and flamenco entertainment. It was a nice dinner but I was far to jet lagged to enjoy it as much as I should have. I’m gutted I didn’t make it out to the carnival afterwards, put on especially for Fidel Castro’s birthday – I’m sure it would have been even more special given this was the day the American flag was raised in Cuba for the first time in decades! Alas, you can’t do everything, particularly after about 24hours of travelling..maybe next time?

With no time to explore Havana (that would have to wait until the end!) and straight into the tour, we met up in the morning and headed to the (thankfully!) air-conditioned minibus with our luggage. It was a 4-5hour drive, which sounds horrific but wasn’t too bad.

We stopped off along the way for lunch and a small roadside cafe-restaurant. We spent some time looking around small enclosure and made friends with the resident tortoises, deer and iguana! We didn’t order lunch, but were served with a buffet of amazing food: rice, beans, prawns, pork, fish, salad and fresh juice and told to each as much as we could.

After that, it was back on to the bus for the rest of the journey..via a swim in the Playa Girón or The Bay of Pigs. The Bay of Pigs is most famously known for the somewhat disastrous attempt by the Kennedy administration to invade Cuba in 1961, we instead when for a lovely swim instead. The water was beautifully cool and it was nice to get refreshed in the sea and the nearby waterhole for an hour or so before continuing on our way.

A lovely place to stop on the road for a refreshing dip.
A lovely place to stop on the road for a refreshing dip.

We reached Cienfuegos in the early evening, took a short orientation walk and met Benny Moré on the main street with his trademark cane. We then headed for the Palacio de Valle – a grand building with beautiful and details decoration which Batista planned to convert into a casino. It is now a restaurant with a terrace bar and a view. We headed up for our first Cuban drinks and watch the sun disappear behind the grey clouds as the rain came! It was a great place for a view and due to the latest weather change, rather refreshing!

Terrace Bar - view as the rain clouds loom overhead.
Terrace Bar – view as the rain clouds loom overhead.

Dinner was in a small local restaurant, on another rooftop with a view. The great thing about Cuba at the moment is that there are so many new places to eat springing up everywhere – most don’t have names but the food is locally sourced and made and it tastes great!

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