When you find yourself six hours into a supposedly five-hour journey and you’re nowhere near your final destination, you know something, somewhere has gone wrong. We were on our way to Cienfuegos and, crammed into the front seat of a 1970s Dodge with no end in sight, we were cursing our decision not to take the VizAzul bus.
We’d booked a ‘minibus’ from the official-sounding CubaTours in Viñales. Ruben, their loquacious salesman and possible owner, had assured us that not only would the trip be quicker than the bus, it would be door-to-door and would only cost €3 more. We were staying at the Finca la Guabina miles from anywhere so a pick-up from the ranch was ideal.
Our early morning pick-up seemed a lifetime ago as we stood in the shade of a tree by the side of a road just outside Havana. We were being ‘transferred’ from a 1980s Chevrolet Van driven by a certifiable lunatic, and were waiting for a car to show up that would take us the rest of the way to Cienfuegos.
This was how six random travelling acquaintances and their luggage ended up like sardines inside a 1970s Dodge for five hours on Xmas Day. Tired, irritable and with a new appreciation of what entrepreneurship in the new Cuba looks like, we finally made it to Cienfuegos nine hours after setting off. Not to worry, we had a reservation at a really nice casa particular recommended by our hosts in Viñales.
After driving around Cienfuegos for 45 minutes trying to find the casa, we arrived to discover our room had been given away to someone else. This happens a lot in Cuba. This final (bale of) straw landed heavily on the camel’s back. We were shown to a different casa a short walk away, the dark clouds of frustration gathering with every step.
It turned out that our new casa hosts, Hector and Ilia, were wonderful. Helpful, knowledgeable, opinionated and very friendly, our time in Cienfuegos was greatly enhanced by staying with them. Their casa didn’t do food, but in Cienfuegos there are plenty of options for eating, including the new Big Bang Cafe on the Paseo el Prado. It does a good breakfast and has very friendly staff.
After our delayed arrival we just had time to walk to the magnificent Plaza de Armas in the historic centre of Cienfuegos before nightfall. Just this short walk took us past beautiful streets and colourful houses. The plaza itself was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen, and was busy with young people and families strolling around and using the public wifi. It felt like an easy-going place to spend a few days.
It was still Xmas Day and we decided that we needed to celebrate, even if it was just to celebrate the end of a long day sitting in decades-old American vehicles. On one corner of the square, next to the theatre, was a bar with an outside space. We ordered up a couple of mojitos, some cold beers and bought some peanuts from a passing woman (all the major food groups). Finally, we could relax.
Where we stayed in Cienfuegos:
Hector and Ilia,
Ave 54 no. 4314 e/43 y 45.
Tel. (43) 517006
10 thoughts on “Cienfuegos, a neoclassical city by the sea”
This may strike you as an odd comment (with so much beauty): the streets of Cuba appear to be sparkling clean… A rare feat in Latin America. Am I right or is it just an impression?
I can honestly say, Brian, that Cienfuegos is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to. I think it is partly because there is very little litter (no fast food take-aways, very few plastic bags, etc.) thanks to the state of the economy, and there are very few vehicles so air pollution is negligible. Remarkable really, but doubtless that will change soon.
We were lucky enough to spend 25 days in Cuba, not enough to go everywhere we wanted but good enough!
Hope all’s well,
Almost a month then. Good enough to get the feel of any place. About cleanliness, I thought as much. Litter can be associated with “middle” poverty, when there is just enough to buy “junk” food, soft drinks and the like. It’s would the inverse of the Tub curve of luxury goods. Tot Ziens.
PS, start getting your working permit in NL in case of Brexit. 😉
A few months ago I would have laughed at the Brexit nonsense but sadly I actually fear it will happen. Idiot politicians feeding people xenophobia and a overgrown sense of Britain’s importance in the world, while asset stripping the welfare state, pensions, health care, etc. I could go on!
Luckily, with Scots and Irish roots I might find myself with a new country.
Hope all’s well?
I wish I could still summon my international contacts to do a world-wide study with only one question: “How satisfied – or not – are you with your country’s politicians?”. 5-point scale. My “guesstimate” would be 60-70% unsatisfied, worldwide. 😦
Very true, a supplementary question would be “Do you think your politicians are working for you or for their own ends and those of their corporate donors?”
For their own ends. Definitely. (Or the French economy would be a tad better)
PS. Scot and “Airish” roots? My, my. Do you roll your “R’s”? 😉
Reblogged this on Concierge Librarian.
That’s very generous, thank you.