Hola! Welcome to the Cuba blog! I just want to start out by thanking Auburn for such a wonderful trip as well as Tiffany Sippial and our many tour guides! It would not have been the same trip without the wonderful group that we had!
Day 1: lunch at Porto Havana
We ordered ceviche, fried stuffed plantains, garlic shrimp, and ropa vieja. Before our meal, Camilo (professor at university) and Cuban diplomat talked to us about Cuban relations with United States and how Cuba sustains their economy through places like china. Then we walked around old Havana and talked about the cathedral and various architectural structures. At night we had a great time at the sangri-LA club. We met members of the band and got to experience dance and night life as the Cubans know it.
Day 2: woke up and had breakfast and then left the casa around 8:30 am. We took a long drive and ended up at the national park that is known for the bay of pigs. Once we got there, we took speed boats out the the old Asian villiages and got to learn about why they created the project and the reasons for the sculptures lining the edge of the land. We also go to learn about how to tree relates to the mix in religion between African traditional and Roman Catholicism. Then we went to a restaurant where I got super sick, so I don’t remember the name of it :(. I then went to Ernesto’s aunts house (Teressa) and she let me sleep in one of her guest rooms. We then went to our cases to check in and out to dinner at casa prado restaurante and had such a wonderful time.
Day 3: we woke up and had breakfast downstairs at the little porch. After that , we loaded into the buses and headed to the Santa Clara City. We saw the memorial of Che and walked around the city. After that we went to lunch at a buffet and enjoyed good food and then headed to the baseball stadium to see the Cienfuegos elephants! We got signatures from the team and got to learn a little bit about their team and the baseball culture. After that we walked around the city and got to shop around more and then we went back to the casa to relax. After that we went to dinner at Florida blanco downtown!
Day 4: we woke up and chilled until around 12 trying to get wifi and then we went to the hotel Jagua and had lunch (cubano sandwhiches) and we went to swim at the pool and got to jump off the dock. We also got to go to the rooftop of the bar Terraza. After that we drove to Trinidad and walked around the city for around an hour and went back to our casa to drop off our things. We then went to dinner at El Galleon and had various palleas and mixed fruit cups for desert. The bar tab came in a treasure chest. We went back to the casa and got ready for bed. Some people went back downtown, but some of us stayed in.
Day 5: we woke up and had breakfast on the casa patio. After that we went to iznaga tower and climbed up a lot of stairs. 40 meters. After that we got a few crafts and I got postcards to send and mail out. Then we went back to the casa to pick up Maddie and check on Kate. We then proceeded to the beach at the hotel where we got lunch at a buffet, checked wifi, swam, and relaxed on the beach with an open bar. After that we went back to the casa and got ready to go out for the evening. We went back to the pottery workshop and had the experience of trying chenchachara, a local drink. After that we went to dinner and sat up stairs on the patio and listened to live music while we ate great seafood. Last but not least, we got to club at the disco ayala which was an underground “cave” club. Which was absolutely amazing.
Day 6: we woke up and had breakfast at our casa in Trinidad and then loaded in the taxis to go to the mountains. We had the experience of sitting in the open air jeep which was super awesome because we got to feel the breeze as we went up and down the mountain. We first stopped at a coffee house which was awesome because we got to learn about the different ways they roast and grind coffee, we even got to try a cup! When we got to the visitors center, Luis gathered us all around the map of the area and explained the trail we would take on our hike. We then ventured out on our hike and it was definitely difficult and strenuous. We had so much fun, but my legs were definitely jelly at the end of it. I think going up was much harder for me just because I forgot my inhaler, but going down the hill was tougher on the knees. Once we got down we had the opportunity to jump into the fresh water spring under the water fall and all I can say was it was freezing! But definitely a good way to cool off. After we dried off, we started our way back up the mountain. After we made it to the top, the cars picked us up and we went to the restaurant. After lunch, we headed back to Cienfuegos and had the chance to take a nice nap before we left for dinner. At 7:45 we went to dinner at an international style restaurant and got to try both Italian and Caribbean style food. After dinner, we went home and chilled the rest of the night.
Day 7: we woke up this morning and had breakfast in Cienfuegos at the same place we did the last week. It was great! Then we loaded the buses and had a two hour drive back to Jovellanes. We had the opportunity to visit a local community church and sit in on their service for a little while. After we sat in on their service, we went to the farm where the farmers taught us about organic farming and the difference it makes when it comes to local produce. We also ate lunch there which was prepared by the women in the home. After that, we went to go see those who were underprivileged and disabled. This was the hardest part of the day because of how sad it was and how struggling the families were. After visiting, we went to the beach in Valadera and had a beautiful and wonderful time! Although security tried kicking us out, I did connect to their wifi for a little bit! After the beach we went back to the church center we were staying at and had a home cooked meal. When we were done, Allison, Sarah, Kaitlin, and I went to Fresca y chocolate, a local ice cream shop which was so awesome! We ended up ordering 21 scoops of ice cream because we couldn’t understand the menu, so needless to say, we were stuffed. On the way back, we took a horse carriage! Once we returned we got dressed and headed out for a musical evening on the town.
Day 8: we woke up this morning and had a breakfast in the community dining room. After that, we loaded the buses and headed to Havana. On the way, we stopped to take pictures at the tallest bridge in Cuba! They are also a great spot for tropical drinks, which came in big pineapples. Our next stop was the revolutionary museum in Havana, it was really interesting to see the spot where college students stormed the president’s mansion. You could still see the bullet holes in the wall. After that, we took a car ride in the old fashioned cars to the national grand hotel of Cuba which was built in 1930. My favorite part of visiting the hotel was seeing all of the famous people who visited on the wall. Their pictures were displayed in chronological order which was super cool because you could go by decade to see if any of your favorite movie stars, singers, of political figures visited too. We then went to lunch at Ajiaco, which was delicious! Very traditional, family style Cuban food. After lunch we went to go visit the artwork of a local artist, who transformed a neighborhood into an amazing art project! He used different glass pieces and painted pieces to create a story among the different houses and elements of the street. Then we went to check into the casas with Sylvia. This was the first casa we stayed in on our trip, so it was really nice to be back in Havana! Then we went to dinner at El Classico and spent a good time talking and chatting among each other about our days. Then off to the social club in downtown Havana for a nice of traditional Cuban dance and song! I felt like I was on an episode of “I love Lucy” watching Ricky Ricardo at the Tropicana club.
Day 9: Today was full of exciting things! We started off the morning with salsa dancing lessons at Casa Del Son which was such an incredible experience. We definitely got our work out in for the day! After we finished our lessons, we went to an art museum near by to get drinks and walk around for around an hour. It was a very interesting experience because we had the chance to see all different, cultural pieces of art. Next, we had lunch at the Starbien restaurant which was by far my favorite meal of the whole trip!! They had lettuce for salads, which was a big deal let me tell you! After lunch Tristan, Allison, and I went to Havana Libre and had a nice time swimming and eating snacks before we went to Opera for dinner. This was an Italian restaurant that had wonderful food and even better deserts! They were a reservation only place and used only organic and locally grown products.
Day 10: we woke up this morning and had breakfast on the porch at Silvia’s and then loaded up the busses to head to Orquideario Soroa. This is a botanical garden that is run by the environmental agency of Cuba, but is headed under the local university (Pina del rio). It was first built in honor of Spanish man’s daughter who died giving birth to her child. There are beautiful orchids and many different plants and flowers along the route that we walked. We took a tour from the guide at the park. The most interesting thing I learned from the park was that there are around 35,000 species of orchids around the world. We also learned that this is area is one of the most humid in the world having anywhere from 85-90 percent humidity during the summer. After we left the park, we went on a little bike down to the waterfall. After spending around 30 minutes dipping in the water and taking pictures, we made our way back to the top to head to lunch. When we were done eating, we headed to La Terrasas, an ecotourism hotspot and environmental restoration project. Included in La Terrasas is La Moka, the small reforestation community. This was my favorite part of the day because I had the opportunity to zip line across over 1600 meters of canopy and see some amazing sights. Then we headed back to Havana to get ready for the party tonight with Los Boys.