Saturday, 18 March 2017

Guaimaro Hacienda, Cuba

The drive between Sancti Spiritus and Trinidad has several interesting stopping points to check out.

If driving in a foreign country is not for you, most of the casa particular owners in Trinidad or Sancti Spiritus would be able to put you onto a driver that you could hire for the day to visit several of the sites dotted around the Valle de los Ingenios (valley of the sugar mills).

Near the village of Caracusey is a hacienda built in 1859 by Jose Mariano Borrell y Lemus. 
Borrell was a wealthy sugar merchant who lived in Trinidad with his family.
The Guaimaro hacienda was his 'bachelor pad'.
It is said that he had over fifteen illegitimate children with several of the slave women on his property. Little wonder, perhaps, that his wife and eldest son, plotted to kill him at one point!

Their family tree was full of early deaths, curious marriage arrangements (including one aunt and nephew pairing off) and crazy children. 
Lots of wealth and power did not a happy family make!

Borrell commissioned Italian painter Daniele Dell'Aglio to paint the stunning frescoes that adorn the main rooms here (as well as his home in Trinidad).

Guaimaro was recently restored (2014) during the 500th anniversary celebrations in Cuba.
Prior to this, the hacienda was home to several families that had been relocated there after losing their own homes in a hurricane. The frescoes had been painted over when they moved in.

The restorers did a tremendous job, to bring them back to what we can see now.

The chapel (below) is the only one of it's kind in Cuba.
It is attached to the side of the main house and contains an original jewel-encrusted book stand and bible. Only in Cuba would this amazing relic be allowed to sit out in the open with no protection!

Various remnants of the sugar making industry are dotted around the yard. 

Our guide only spoke Spanish but a very helpful German couple translated the guide's spiel into English for us (how useless did we feel?)

A sheet with an English version of the guide's talk was provided (that we found out later was translated by our Australian host in Trinidad) which was useful, but basic. It was obvious that the guide had much more to say about the house & it's history than was on the notes.

It was a fascinating glimpse into Cuban life past and present.

The power and privilege of the Spanish landlords and their use of slavery to make it all possible. Followed by modern Cuba commandeering these spaces for practical purposes, until the promise of tourist dollars and a growing sense of pride in their own history prompted renovation and restoration.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Sancti Spiritus, Cuba

We picked up a car at the end of our time in Camaguey so that we could drive ourselves around.
Having heard many stories about Cuban roads (how bad they are) we only planned a small trip for the first day to get a feel for the conditions.

The roads were okay, the car was great, but all the other types of vehicles also on the road were the challenge - new hire cars, pre-1959 cars, Russian lada's, tractors, motorbikes, bicycles and horses and carts. Mr Seasons and I have written a travel piece about driving in Cuba here.

Our first stop with the car, was a lovely town called Sancti Spiritus.
It was founded in 1514 and recently beautified for its 500th anniversary.

The main square was Parque Serafin Sanchez.
The yellow building (below) is the newly restored Hotel Perla de Cuba - now a three storey government run shopping centre.

The green building seemed to house more shops or a bar - we didn't go close as there was loud music being pumped from a CD player and government 'sales' people hanging around a table spruiking the glories and wonders of solar panels. None of the locals payed them any attention, so we didn't either.

On one eastern side of the square was the Hotel Plaza (blue).

Looking back through the Parque towards Perla
We didn't have long to explore Sancti Spiritus - just one afternoon. But we made the most of our time and strolled around the cobblestone streets (many were pedestrian only). The houses were single storey buildings with shingle roofs.

Houses lining Plaza Honorato with a glimpse of the beautiful blue church steeple.

Sadly, the photo (below) of Puento Yayabo, does not do justice to the rather god-awful smell coming from the river. It was built by the Spanish in 1815 and is the main route to Trinidad - our next destination.

Puento Yayabo over the Rio Yayabo

Next to the bridge is a decent bar called Taberna Yayabo where we picked up an afternoon beer along with a plate of olives and cheese to snack on. Fortunately the breeze was blowing most of the god-awful smell in the other direction.

The beautiful blue Iglesia Parroquial Mayor del Espiritu Santo claims to be one of the oldest churches in Cuba (the original wood structure was built in 1522). The present stone building was erected in 1680 and the bell tower was added in the 18th century.

Serafin Sanchez himself - a local hero from the war of Independence.

Evening in Sancti Spiritus & Parque Searfin Sanchez
This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Cameguey Architecture

Architecture of Cameguey, Cuba.

We did a lot of strolling around Camaguey. 
With it's narrow, winding streets and new pedestrian malls, it's made for leisurely sight-seeing. The variety of buildings and plazas was also a boon for amateur photographers!

The cool change that blew in overnight was also a welcome relief.
Corner of Plaza de la Solidaridad and Av Agramonte

An example of 19th century Neo-Classical architecture

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad - an example of Baroque architecture

Streets of Camaguey

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced on the corner of Plaza de los Trabajadores.

Banco de Credito y Comercio in Plaza de los Trabajodores

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Holguin, Cuba

The reason we were in Cuba at all was thanks to somebody turning 50!
Mr Seasons felt that 50 deserved a special adventure.
And I couldn't disagree (especially since my very own 50th birthday (and therefore, 50th birthday adventure) is only one year away!

After our (rather long) car trip (see previous post) from Santiago to Holguin in a 1958 Oldsmobile, we enjoyed what turned out to be the very best shower we had whilst in Cuba!

We then went for a stroll to explore the town.
It was a lovely evening. It was Saturday night and the people of Holguin were ready to party.

We passed a bookshop...

and stopped to admire the Mural de Origen (below) near Parque Peralta. 
The mural shows the history of Cuba from indigenous times to the end of slavery. It was created by 14 local artists in 2005 and features the central figure of Captain Garcia Holguin.

Parque Peralta (Parque de las Flores) is named after General Julio Grave de Peralta who led an uprising against the Spanish rulers in 1868. His statue now graces the centre of the plaza.

Sadly the lovely looking Museo de Historia Natural (Carlos de La Torre Natural Science Museum) was closed by the time we walked by, but the evening light reflecting off the yellow and cream paintwork was charming. 
Built in 1926 as a meeting place for the ruling Spanish land owners, it was converted into a public museum in the 60's.
Two marble lions protect the entrance.

Like much of Cuba, beautifully restored buildings sit side by side with those still to be renovated.
And like much of Cuba, that renovation is happening now.

I loved our brief stay in Holguin.
As the sun set and the lights came on, the Saturday night vibe kicked in.
Music pumped from various venues - the happy sounds of singing and dancing followed us around the streets. And we wished we'd planned a longer visit.
Next time!

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Driving to Holguin

 Our trip from Santiago de Cuba to Holguin was done in a 1958 Oldsmobile.
Our casa particular owner arranged the taxi for us.
Private Cubans are not allowed to drive foreigners around without a proper licence.
This is policed, so it's not worth anyone's while to do otherwise.

The day was very hot and humid.
The car had no air conditioning and old vinyl seats.
Thank goodness I always travel with a sarong - on this day it was useful as a seat cover, so our legs didn't stick to the vinyl.

The exhaust smell was also pretty over powering.

The trip was fun to start with, but I confess that I quickly got tired of the heat, being buffeted by the hot air & fumes coming in through the open windows and the poor shock absorbers that had no chance of easing our way over the many, many potholes (baches).

It was an adventure, best enjoyed in the past tense!

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.