Saturday morning after an early rise, and I mean early. The pick up was at 7:30 at a neighbouring hotel. I departed for Vinales via a Cubatur bus at a cost of 55 C.U.C.. There was a lady waiting outside the hotel when we arrived and then a gentlemen join a few moments before the guide arrived. My friend and I were leisurely talking about the tour when the man interjected, asking if I was from Canada. Easily this time I could tell he was from New Zealand. We just exchanged names when the tour guide arrived and we were off.
Our first stop was a coffee-house, juice bar and souvenir shop. This is a nice model for tours, as people generally like to get off a bus to stretch their legs for a few minutes. As there were many people, I grabbed a table. As I looked onward, there was our New Zealander that we met at the hotel. I extended a smile and waved him over. He came to join in and we started talking. The discussion first started with music, but changed to community gardens and development. I boldly made the statement, you must be a community activist! He smiled at me and said he was a Member of Parliament. He enlightened me on the proportional voting-system they have adopted versus the Canadian first past the post system. We got to engage in some interesting conversation. Before too long we realized we were well overdue and hoped our bus did not leave without us.
The second stop was a Rum Factory. Since it was Saturday, there were no actual production workers on site. Instead the guide explained the machinery and production. She gave us some sort of berry to taste which formulated into the equation of the tasty liquor we later sampled. I purchased a bottle and some coffee as my brother-in-law instructed me to bring him back a bag.
The next stop, a tobacco farm where cigars were being manufactured. We saw workers preparing the bundles of dried leaves. The smell of molasses and tobacco filled the shelter. After a brief presentation we moved outside and later the group was given a demonstration on rolling a cigar from raw materials.
The views were breath-taking. Once more we stopped and had the option of purchasing the sugar cane juice with or without rum, pending an individual’s taste.
As we climbed the stairs to the limestone caves, there was some reprieve from the outside humidity. The interior was cool, with drops of water falling on occasion. We walked through little crevaces to emerge to a larger opening and a small stream of water.
A small motor boat would take use through the little canal. We were told there were animals and other images to be seen. I guess it is like looking at the clouds or stars, sometimes there is something that just pops out at you.
There was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Outside, the sunshine poured down once more. There were tables of wooden souvenirs, Cuban artwork, beads and mementos. I try to refrained from purchasing souvenirs, as I am a frequent flyer and these things can certainly add up if you have to bring gifts back to your entire clan of family and friends.
We were told we would see a wall mural from the 1800’s. I imaged something not quite so extravagant. This piece of art dominated the hillside. Alas, my camera battery was near the end of its life and the photos from this point on were limited. We had a delicious meal and further discussion with our MP acquaintance. We found out we were staying at the same hotel, thus continued our chat until the lobby and said farewell.
I liked the creativity the housekeeper had when she put together this swan and basket with a special note. It sometimes are these little things that makes a stay quite memorable. Have you had an experience at a Hotel, B&B, Inn, Hostel or Cottage where the owner/operators or employees did something to wow you?
Stay tuned for one final part of my Cuban vacation and the journey back to Rural NL…
Christopher C. Mitchelmore
I’ve left my readers in suspense long enough and owe it to you all to finish the stories of my Cuban vacation. In Cuban Vacation….Part V, I ended with a teaser with the hope of meeting two wonderful women at Casa de La Musica.
After leaving the pub, Umberto took us to visit his mother and little brother. His mother had made some lovely fabric dolls that were quite colourful, which his brother watched cartoons in Spanish with a friend. It was different to see the way the locals lived in Cuba. At 20:00 a large meal of pork, black bean rice, fried bananas, fruit, side salad served with coffee and ice-cream for dessert. We hurried to eat our meal, get decked out and swing by Casa de La Musica.
We climbed the stairs and who would be highly visible but the two wonderful women I met earlier from Birmingham, who turned out to be Kate and Alice. We had found out that we were heading in different directions in the morning, but still enjoyed each others company. We had hours of storytelling and laughter with the playful music continuing in the backdrop before receiving a goodnight kiss. It was like a midsummer’s night dream.
In the morning, Kate & Alice noted they would leave for a waterfall. Tobias and I decided we would give them a send off; unfortunately we were unsuccessful finding the departure of the tour company. Alas, we left Dr. Suerez after writing a nice comment in their book and taking the long ride on the Viazul bus to Havana, some 300+ KM away and more than 6 hours of driving.
I slept most of the way and was quite happy to arrive at Hotel Los Frailes, which was a former monastery. The rooms had towering 14 ft ceilings, with wooden furnishings and was poorly lit, partly due to the fact there was no window. One can only imagine the life of a monk several hundred years ago, living in this room – it was quite the masterpiece.
The key was quite heavy and had a little figurine of a monk. It was a nice feature. Maybe an idea for local accommodators to incorporate something culturally significant to their operation for a small cost, but will get people to notice and keep them talking. Local ventures like Fisherman’s Landing, Torrent River Inn, Sea Echo Motel, Tuckamore Lodge, Mayflower Inn, Vahalla Lodge, Viking Nest and others may be able to utilize this tactic.
The towering doors had a peep-hole, which had a latch and several drills. It made me think of time that was more medieval.
The hanging chandelier looked like it required a stepladder to climb and light the candles. It was a very good knock-off and I was pleased they had upgraded to electricity, even if it took a while to light the room.
Dinner was at a nearby restaurant that had a platform with a band and two dancers that made great use of the floor to vibes of Cha Cha. I ventured into the wine cellar to pull out a Spanish Chardonnay. The Big Sword was my order, filled with a variety of grilled seafood. Believe me if was quite the feast….if you do not, the photo below will speak for itself.
My friend Tobias had a little sword (a skewer). The baby version more or less. The meal was quite enjoyable and I was quite eager to explore the Old Town of Havana in the early AM, after getting a taste of the flavour during the evening.
Part VII will be posted soon. Don’t miss a post by subscribing to my blog by entering your email at the top of the page. You will get an email telling you of a new post.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher C. Mitchelmore
The Tour Eiffel is synonymous with Paris, an a must see while visiting. It was meant to be only temporary for the 1889 Universal Exhibition. It was built by Gustave-Alexandre Eiffel. It weighs 7000 tonnes.
The light rainfall did not stop us from braving the hundreds of stairs to the first level. There was quite a line for those wishing to take the elevator up, but my mom and I certainly did not mind the exercise.
The view from above is marvelous. At the top you can see for 65 kms. There are great photo opportunities. We easily spotted the Hotel des Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb. The golden dome really stands out.