Sunday, January 17, 2016

angels sing in Cienfuegos

so finally - LOL- we get to Cienfuegos.  The trip from Havana takes several hours because there is only one main road across the island and then we have to drop down to the southern coast via secondary roads.  I think I may have mentioned this before but Cienfuegos is the sister city of Bordeaux, France- many of its' settlers came from that area of France.  It is also a developing city - in that it has a working port and support for substantial population growth.  Raul, our guide spoke at length about how this could easily become the second city of Cuba because it is within the middle of the country and on the coast and the infrastructure of roads supports transportation to/from here and Havana in a way that Santiago de Cuba cannot. (It is a 17 hour journey from Havana to Santiago de Cuba overland and the flights are not reliable.)

We arrive in town and are sent off for lunch on our own.  We choose a paladar across the street from the hotel and are very happy with our lunch.  The dining area of the paladar is in the former living room and dining room of the family home.  An upstairs living area has been built and the downstairs now houses their restaurant business.

After lunch we meet up for a walk around the shopping/pedestrian street to see a CUC department store and appliance stores etc. and to learn about how long it takes a working Cuban to save up for any of these items for sale (microwave/washing machine etc..) at their average wage of the equivalent of 34 CUC a month.  Then we gather in the hotel bar area and get room keys and get settled in. While waiting Phil and I order guava batidos and enjoy them (our first of the trip even though I have been looking for them.)

this first photo is from the bathroom stop on the road - the typical touristy rest area with a souvenir shop and toilets and a bar which offers Havana Club Rum... and some ice cream and cigars LOL

at the paladar the family had birds in the entrance hall-

the menu outside was helpful-

a lot of tourists come here obviously because they have the diet TuKola - not always easy to find...

they made their own crackers and they were terrific!

there were three tables in the front room and four tables in the dining room holding a total of about 22 people and they were quickly filled at lunch-

back at the hotel there were two inner courtyards that the rooms encircled- one with the bar and tables and the other with a lovely fountain-

the public rooms of the hotel are very nice but the sleeping rooms are less so- pillows are strange flat brick like things and so we use toss pillows to elevate our heads at night... LOL

Our first stop for the early evening is the museum - which is where we hear angels sing.  In my last trip to Cuba there were many terrific moments but the most vivid memory I have of the trip was hearing the Cantores de Cienfuegos choir sing... and they did not disappoint us this time either.

here is the choir in a photo and then a clip of a video so you can hear them too...

and since there was a limit to the size of the clips on the blogger app I will post a few longer ones in my public drop box folder and link them here - the first is a more traditional choir song and the others have a bit more variety- they do everything well!

We went on to dinner- actually both our Cienfuegos dinners were in the same area down along the water and both very nice...

The next morning we were up and over to UNEAC (the Artist's and Musician's Guild) to meet with some artists and tour their studios.  One the way we stopped in the Jose Marti Park and learned more about the town and its development.

the head of UNEAC discusses changes they have been able to effectuate- Raul looks on ready to ask another question...LOL

we head off to the first gallery- perhaps more "marketable art" LOL-

on the way to the second gallery-

side street dwellings - despite what the exteriors look like they usually are occupied-

in the second gallery- some interesting and more avant-garde works-

then on to the print making shop where we learned how they get creative with how they make their prints due to difficulty in finding equipment and materials - (spoon press!)

metal sculpture using "found" materials were common throughout the parts of Cuba we visited.

another gallery - this one in a muraled home - was full of photographs and was the location of one of the items I had purchased on my first trip to Cuba...

the photographers gallery was located along the Cienfuegos Malecon-

and I did not mention it above - but since my last visit - the Choir Director, Honey, has married and had a baby! Here she is the adorable Sarah! (who also by happenstance is the daughter of the Choir's Manager/Promoter and our very own guide- Raul!!!)

We got to see Sarah in the afternoon dance recital of the youngsters- which was held at the gardens of UNEAC (which doubles as a community center) and we also returned to UNEAC for the evening Son performance and dancing after our dinner.... 

the location of UNEAC just across the Jose Marti Park from the hotel meant we could back and forth as we wanted...

Raul introduces the band - which was made famous by the movie Buena Vista Social Club... it has been in existence as a band since the twenties - obviously with personnel changes...

the next morning - after two nights in Cienfuegos we move on - heading out to Trinidad- here are a couple of photos from our way out of town from the bus...

I loved the shadow this gate cast on the wall of the casita...

I liked it so much I made it into B&W to highlight the shadows-

so on we go- our next stop is the Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos on our way toward Trinidad so stay tuned... this should not be as long a delay as the interruptions of this week...

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