Santiago de Cuba – an afternoon and evening of leisure and dancing!

That afternoon, we had to ourselves. I was pretty exhausted, but I knew if I went back to the room I wouldn’t make it out again until dinner. So, we went on an adventure to the (and this is where it can be argued that this is cultural also) Museo del Ron, which as you may have guessed is in fact the rum museum. A few of us from the group went and our guide came with us – which, when we got there, realised was a stroke of luck given that it was a Sunday and no guide was available to help us navigate all the Spanish descriptions. It was a small museum and a bit of fun, whilst be interesting too. We learned about how rum started in Cuba and how it’s made. There were lots of different contraptions for rum production which would have been in the factories. There was also a free (Cuban size!) taster of neat rum whilst we looked round cabinets of rum dating back through the past hundred years!

Museo del Ron
Museo del Ron

After that, we did head back for a shower and a nap, but soon got restless and headed out for a walk around the local market and craft market. It was nice to just walk around and discover the city, we didn’t venture far but were out for an hour or so. It was cooler now and was nice to just absorb the atmosphere. We then headed back for another shower before dinner.

Dinner was in a small, well hidden little restaurant. According to our guide it was pretty new, there was lots of food and it was cheap! He realised that quite a few of us were on a budget and had overspent a little that day – to be honest, on any day it seems like a great combination to me. The restaurant was just down the road from our Casa and if you didn’t know it was their you would never have found it – it was through a door that could have been the entrance to any other Casa and up some stairs. What’s nice about many restaurants in Cuba is that you order your main meal which gets given to you, but the beans, rice, banana chips and salad are all just put in the middle and there’s enough for everyone plus more! Most places will do refills of the communal parts of the meal too if there isn’t enough to begin with.

Group photo at dinner
Group photo at dinner

After the meal it was out for some dancing – having spoken to my mum before I came out and having read around, this was THE place to learn some Salsa and join it. As part of our tour, we had a Salsa lesson included at one of the local bars. We got to this small, relatively quiet place with a band sorting out their instruments for the night. We got to the end of our first drinks and nothing had happened….turns out there were technical difficulties and we had to move. We weren’t too unhappy about this for two reasons: 1) it was ridiculously hot and stuffy and there were no fans of A/C 2) we were moving the the Casa de la Trova for free, though that night it was a 10CUC entry! Win win really – free entry to a place with fans and, to be honest, it had a more buzzy atmosphere. Our two Salsa teachers came along too.

There was a stage and some microphones and instruments set up and shortly a Cuban-African version of the the Spice Girls crossed with ABBA appeared (I’m not kidding!) They were good, they didn’t play the tourist classics and there was a nice mix of locals and tourists in the audience. As with most venues in Cuba, there was an area at the front for dancing.

Casa de la Trova
Casa de la Trova

I am not a fan of dancing, let alone in public, let alone sober, let alone to music I don’t know! But, we were there to dance and when in Cuba, right? I slowly got the hang of it…kind of. Well, the more I did it, apparently the less my face looked like I was concentrating on the world’s most difficult maths problems and the less the guy I was dancing with (the teacher) had to tell me what to do. So I guess after 3/4 dances I got there a little. At least I wasn’t as bad as I was when I started.

It was a late night at the Casa de la Trova with lots of dancing and music and fun. Though, I was glad to get to bed afterwards – it had been a very long day (despite the nap in the middle!) On reflections, it ended up being a pretty expensive day, but it was well worth it to visit the different sites and really piece together the history of the country. It was only on this day did everything start coming together in my head, which was nice. It was a nice split between a history filled morning and a more relaxed and leisurely afternoon. A really great day 🙂

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