A Travellerspoint blog

January 22nd 2019

Santiago de Cuba

sunny 70 °F
View Cuba 2019 on carolinea's travel map.

We started out the day visiting the roof terrace with some views of the city, followed by a delicious breakfast.

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After breakfast, we arranged for a taxi to take us around for the afternoon, and then walked over to Parque Cespedes. First we visited the Cathedral, Santa Basilica Metropolitana Iglesia.

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Then we climbed the church tower for the beautiful views.

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We visited a house turned into a museum near the church tower, Casa de Diego Velazquez.

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La madre from the AirBnb arranged for us to have a taxi with a driver for several hours to drive around and see some sights. Our first stop was a church known as El Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, or El Cobre (the copper) for short. This was the one place that Patricia absolutely insisted that we visit.

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On our way there.

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El Cobre is a popular pilgrimage for Cubans, even many Cubans who do not consider themselves to be particularly religious. Many visitors leave gifts, and in particular leave behind crutches and medical braces that they no longer need.

After visiting El Cobre, we drove over to the Monumento al Cimarron, a monument to runaway slaves at the top of a large hill.

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After visiting the Monumento, we drover over to the Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia, the main cemetery of Santiago de Cuba, where Fidel Castro is buried, as well as Jose Martí.

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The Jose Martí tomb is large, central and quite beautiful. The casket is at the center draped in a Cuban flag. The mausoleum is designed so that the casket always has sunlight hitting it, based on a famous Martí poem. "Do not bury me in darkness / to die like a traitor / I am good, and as a good man / I will die facing the sun."

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The rest of the cemetery is quite beautiful.

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Some members of the Bacardí family are buried here.

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Castro's "grave" is just a big rock with his ashes inside. Security was tight, so we kept our opinions to ourselves.

They also have an extremely elaborate "changing of the guard" ceremony every 30 minutes, complete with goose-stepping soldiers and terrible music blasted over loudspeakers.

After the cemetery, we hopped back into the car and drove over to the Castillo del Morro, an impressive 17th century fort located on the Santiago de Cuba Bay. The weather was perfect, the late afternoon sun glinting over the water.

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We even discovered a long lost relative, Tomas Abella Estravis, who died in the Spanish American war, or as it is known in Cuba, La Guerra HIspano-Cubano-Norteamericano.

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And stumbled upon some decidedly modern lighting.

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For dinner, we headed over to the Plaza del Marte area, a bustling part of Santiago de Cuba, where we were planning on eating dinner at a popular restaurant called St. Pauli. Unfortunately there was a problem when we go there and they didn't have any room available for us. We were very lucky Patricia was there, because whatever was going on was quite complicated, but in the end they weren't able to seat us for dinner. We wandered around the area for a while trying to find another restaurant, but eventually we decided to visit the Hotel Meliá which has several restaurants. We searched for a cab for a while, but it was worth the wait, because we ended up finding a cab that was a cross between an antique car and a jeep. We couldn't even figure out how to get inside at first, until we realized the door was in the back.

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The Meliá was reminiscent of the Meliá in Havana, and it clearly caters to tourists, so it was kind of fun, but the food was pretty terrible. We opted for a pizza place on the ground floor, and everything we ordered was missing crucial ingredients. We argued with the waiter for a while, he kept protesting that he just didn't have the right ingredients, and eventually he brought over a plate of shrimp (nobody could figure out why) and we gave up and ate what we had.

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After dinner we headed back to Plaza del Marte and stumbled upon a jazz bar. Unfortunately it was late and we were pretty tired, but we stuck around for a drink and some music before heading back to the casa.

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Posted by carolinea 04:08 Archived in Cuba

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