Walking in Colourful Cuba - 20th November – 5th December 2011
This is an excellent holiday, stuffed full of fascinating things to see and do – so what do I include in this short blog? Or leave out, without writing a 16-page epic?! On this holiday you will cover the island from end-to-end, from the Atlantic to Caribbean coasts, and back again. So here is just a sample.
The Beach Walk – Baracoa
A splendid walk today, along easy tracks through tropical forest, past pretty farmsteads, ending at an Atlantic beach. We walked beneath examples of trees and shrubs that we are more used to seeing at home as small pot plants, including breadfruit, mandarin, mango, coconut and cocoa. Some trees were festooned with epiphytic bromeliads, which grow in great profusion, even on telegraph wires!
At one pretty farmstead we passed, the lady of the house was selling unbelievably delicious home-made chocolates, which naturally we all sampled! This was just one of many “treats” we enjoyed on this amazing holiday.
The beach was white coral sand with the forest right down to the edge, where some in the group enjoyed a swim in the warm water, whilst others beachcombed. There was quite a bit of seaweed washed up in places but this held a treasure trove of interesting things, including pieces of fan-coral.
Another “treat” this day was a picnic lunch, of fresh coconuts, grapefruits, bananas and plantain chips fried in olive oil, laid on for us by a local farmer.
After lunch we walked back to the coach by another route, to visit a small primary school. Some of the group had thought to bring pens and pencils as gifts, which were graciously received by the head teacher, so this is something for future travellers to Cuba might want to think about.
Trinidad is an absolute gem and high on my “favourite places” list for the holiday. Founded in 1512 by Diego Velázquez, its cobbled streets and pastel-coloured houses give the impression that time has hardly moved since Colonial days.
From 1600-1800 it was the centre for trade in both sugar and slaves, and became hugely wealthy. The Spanish land and slave owners fled with their wealth following the uprising in the 19th Century that led to independence from Spain, and the city was virtually isolated for the next 100 years, until the 1950s, protecting it from any major new buildings, leaving the original layout largely unchanged.
The hotel is situated above the town, with views over the coastal plain to the Caribbean coast, especially from the swimming pool terrace, where the spectacular sunsets can be enjoyed whilst enjoying a Mojito, Cuba Libre or Daiquiri cocktail!
Music and dance is everywhere in Cuba, and a pleasant way to spend the evening is to stroll down into the town, and watch (or maybe even participate in!) the salsa dancing, or the excellent live bands at the open air café. This starts from about 9:00 pm, so get there early for a table, or sit yourself on the stone steps, where waiters circulate and take your drink orders.
This blog wouldn’t be complete without including Havana, which comes at the end of this exceptional trip, staying in the hotel where Ernest Hemmingway lived for many years.
Once the capital of Spain’s vast empire in the Americas, it was to Havana where the riches of the area came, to be loaded into galleons and sent to Spain. If English pirates didn’t catch them first, that is! Consequently, Havana was fabulously wealthy, and still has many grand buildings and streets, churches and fortresses.
You will see many different types of unusual sights in Cuba, but Havana is especially famous for its many old American cars, still in use today, as taxis.
A must-see part of Havana is the promenade or Malaçon, which is an enjoyable couple of hours stroll on the last day. And if you have ever wondered why Ramblers Worldwide call this holiday “Colourful Cuba”, here are a few clues!