So, I understand that my last post seemed to shed a more negative light on Cuba and that is my truth. By that time, we had spent almost two weeks on the road, had some digestive issues from eating a lot of different food and just plain exhausted from traveling. Richard will and is having a much different experience here as he is excited about seeing new places, challenged by trying out his Spanish by arguing with the parking guy and feels energized after a day of meeting new people, even if they are hustlers.
Some of the best moments have been eating at a rooftop restaurant called Miruador, in Holguin. It was the best food I have eaten in a long time, in all of the Bahamas and so far in Cuba. We had ordered spaghetti for the boys, thinking that would be a safe option for the kids and it was delicious, sautéed with peppers, tomato and onion. I ended up eating most of that with Ethan. There was brown rice with beans which James and Matthew like, shisk-kabob which I had ordered but that all of the boys ate most of and Richard got a beautiful looking plate of pork, plantains and veggies that he made short work of and some kind of fruity ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately, it was our last night in Holguin otherwise we would have been back for a repeat meal, it was so good!
The casa that we stayed in in Santiago was fabulous. Carlos, the owner and host took very good care of us, enjoyed the boys and made us truly feel the old adage, mi casa e sous casa. He spoke excellent English and we were able to converse easily with him, get good directions and he was most knowledgeable about sites to see and things to do in his city and the surrounding area. We could talk with Carlos and his wife, Isabel, about their life in Cuba, buying houses, going to medical school as Isabel is a doctor, and about life in Cuba in general. We learned a lot. One of the reasons why we stayed at casa particulars was to live as Cubans live, eat what they eat and experience life as they live it.
From Santiago, we took a day trip and drove to Boconoa Park which has a prehistoric park with larger than life cave men, dinosaurs and all things prehistoric. It was built in the 1980’s and I am sure there is nothing like it in the world. We wandered around for an hour and the boys loved it! We also went to an antique car show, but all of the cars are antiques in Cuba so it was a little redundant, but the boys could actually crawl inside, ring the bell of the old fire engine and they all picked a favorite to pose with.
Then went to the Acuario, the Aquarium, which was a bit of a disappointment, but they did have a dolphin show that we watched. It turns out the aquarium suffered some serious damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a bunch of fish died and they were still rebuilding part of it, so we missed some of the exhibits. They have eight dolphins in captivity and after seeing them and swimming with them, wild and free in parts of the Bahamas, it is sad to see them in little tanks here in Cuba. We still enjoyed seeing some fish and liked the sea lion and dolphin show. The boys also got to hold and handle a small crocodile which was kinda cool.
We stayed for almost a week in Santiago de Cuba because of the excellent casa, fabulous host, Carlos and his family and a lot of things to do and see.
The trip to Baracoa was wild and winding with hair pin turns and a climb up and then down a mountain to get there. The views were incredible and Richard had fun driving our manual rental Peugeot, but it was a little stressful and we were glad to get to our new casa.
I would be remiss if I did not boast about the chocolate to be had in Baracoa. As many of you know, I love chocolate. Richard managed to find some milk chocolate in Santiago which we enjoyed as an evening treat and it was made in the province of Guantanamo, well, Baracoa is renowned for cacao which is what is used to make the chocolate. Three of the boys got Cuban haircuts and after that we went to a house of chocolate for some Baracoan dark chocolate. Yum! Our host, Ramon, gave each of the boys a chocolate bar as well, as a parting gift.
We ended up back in Santiago for a lovely rooftop meal with Carlos and his family and another night there just to break up the trip, then back to Viatori at Puerto Vita.
Everyone was glad to be home again, back on the boat. The boys were reunited with all their Lego and other toys, we all got to sleep in our own beds and we could just reset ourselves again, after the busyness of being on the road for almost two weeks.