Today was a full day in Camagüey which was pretty much all to ourselves. We started off with a bicycle tour of the city, so another early start. Initially, I wanted to walk the city but when we actually got there I realised that it was a lot bigger than I thought, despite scoping it out in the Lonely Planet on the bus journey the day before. I was exhausted, but I also really wanted to see the city – it’s so different to the other cities in Cuba. It has winding streets that were built that way to confuse the pirates back when it was first built and there was just a different, more buzzy atmosphere across the town. Probably because it was a lot bigger that the other cities we’d visited (other than Havana of course) – or at least it felt that way. There were definitely a lot more people.
Anyways the tour, it was nice to be cycled around – it gave us a chance to take in the atmosphere and look at our surroundings. It was also nice to be in a different mode of transport – I mean yes, I am very glad that our long journeys through the day’s heat were in a comfortable air conditioned bus, but being in an open bicycle trailer thing was nice when exploring the city. Really it was like walking, but a bit faster and less effort!
We got off at various places on the tour – we started with the only road in Cuba that is dedicated to the film industry, the road was made to look like the negatives of a film strip! We also headed to a local market: there were two distinct sections to it: the fruit & veg and the meat! I loved it – the place was full of locals, we were the only tourists in site. There were people milling around attending to their daily lives without a care in the world that we were there to have a look. To one side was huge fruit/veg piled up and to the other was meat hanging from the roofs of the market shacks. Not good for the squeamish but an interesting experience nonetheless.
We also ventured to some different squares. My favourite one was Plaza del Carmen – a beautiful old square which only a decade ago had been derelict and ruined. It was restored to it’s original beauty and has been populated with four unique life-size sculptures of ‘camgüey-anos’ (people of Camagüey) going about their daily lives. There was one of a man pushing a trolley with an urn, a group of three women gossiping (with a spare chair if you wanted to join them with a promise that you would have good luck in the thing you spoke about – I think?!), a couple where the guy is definitely trying to get lucky and an old man reading his newspaper. What was amazing, is that the REAL old man with his newspaper was there next to his sculpture. He was obviously very proud of it and wanted us to take a picture (for a small fee!) but it was really surreal seeing the actual person that it was based on – same pose and facial expression and everything!
We finished in another square with a beautiful old church, a craft market and some art shops. The artwork for sale was so varied: from landscapes, to Che’s face, to abstract! We even visited a sculpture shop with some rather rude little moving sculptures outlining different ‘exercise’ positions – I have to say, took me a while to realise what was going on in front of me!
The tour was only a couple of hours so we were back just before midday and by this point I was absolutely shattered! We had been on the move/busy for a while now. The jet lag and humidity were draining my energy and I hadn’t come straight into this adventure from work so no time for a break! We spent a couple of hours in the hotel room reading/sleeping and then headed out a couple of hours later to find some lunch. We ate in a local Peso place full of locals, the food was average and the service slow but it did what we needed it to: keep us full for a low cost! We then had a slight wander around and headed back to the hotel for another nap and a shower before dinner.
For dinner tonight we headed to Restaurante la Isabella, for a movie themed Italian dinner. It was good – I shared a ‘trio’ of food with my boyfriend which was pizza, lasagne and a creamy pasta dish. Again, food was alright but not wow. However, this was one of the few places we’d been to that did a decent wine! At home, there are times where nothing is better than a glass of red wine and some pizza. This was one of those times! The rum is nice and all, but nothing goes better with pizza than a good glass of wine – so at least I was happy haha
After dinner we headed to a live music place (but it was shut!), I think this was the Casa de la Trova of Camagüey – in fact we went there the night before also. It obviously didn’t really wow me because I forgot to mention it! It was nice enough – some live music (and not just the tourist classics of Bailando and Buena Vista Social Club!) and also locals who genuinely loved being there. Granted they were a little drunk (at least I think they were) but they were happy and friendly. They asked all the girls in the group to dance and though most of us said no, were happy to sit and chat with us. They were even friendly with the American in the group! I really do love interacting with the locals in places they genuinely enjoy being..makes you feel welcome in their country and get a feel of what they do in their spare time.
Instead we went to the cocktail bar on the top of the Gran Hotel, which as the name suggests is the posh hotel in the area! It was nice to see a view of the city at nice and the cocktails were the same price as everywhere else, despite the posh location. It’s really nice to see as you can rarely go to fancy places without paying an extortionate price for what you can get elsewhere!