Around the World a Bit at a Time

Travels: Past, Present and Future


Posted by Leanne on January 20, 2011

It was an earlyish start for me and Paul this morning, but we felt that it was a welcome start, as we chewed listlessly on the worst breakfast yet. Hotel Lincoln reached new lows with their soggy aubergine and cheese surprise, so much so I had to spit it out.

The bus picked us up shortly after 8am and proceeded to drive slowly around Havana for the next hour, picking up other people from outside posher hotels than ours. Rather than lamenting the lost hour of sleep, I stared out of the window, contemplating my surroundings. Outside the Hotel Inglaterra, a policeman moved on a barefooted local who looked like he could have been homeless. In a society where everyone is meant to be given a home, but where there aren’t really enough homes to go round, I was unsure as to whether this could be the case… yet it seemed that anything was possible in this less-than-perfect reality. Nearby, another local was chatting to some tourists while his accomplice stood away from the scene and quickly sketched them- I wondered if they were aware of this, or whether they’d be taken by surprise when they were pressured into handing over cash for the rapidly scribbled likeness. Around the corner, a Che look-alike paced up and down like a big issue seller, peddling copies of the propaganda-filled communist newspaper, whilst sucking authentically on a big fat cigar. More tourists piled onto our bus until it was almost full.

Finally, we drove out of Havana through untouched countryside (well, apart from the big fat road running through it). Clusters of locals appeared sporadically at the side of the road, often accompanied by an official, whose job it was to enforce the ‘you have to pick up hitchhikers if you’re Cuban and there’s room in your car’ law.

As the morning wore on, my thoughts turned to the fact that we hadn’t booked any accommodation for the evening, so I looked to my guide book for comfort, which assured me that, with over 400 casas in the small town of Trinidad, we’d be spoilt for choice.

“Do you know what the casa sign looks like?” I asked Paul, referring to the sign I had read that casas have to display on the door of their house by law.

“No,” he replied unhelpfully, leaving me to nervously hope that we’d recognise it when we saw it upon arrival in Trinidad.

We stopped briefly in Cienfuegos, about an hour away from Trinidad, and as we were driving out of the town to take on the last leg of our journey, I spotted the numerous blue anchor signs displayed on the doors of the town, just as Paul stated “I think I know what the casa symbol looks like now.”

“Me too,” I agreed.

Arriving in Trinidad is like driving into a painting. We rumbled over ancient cobbles, behind horse drawn carts amongst peeling pastel painted buildings. The Lonely Planet suggested that it would feel like we’d been transported back in time, but Trinidad delivered one step further by transporting us into an artist’s fantasy.

After securing a casa for the next few nights from one of the aggressive touts who wouldn’t leave us alone until we agreed to go with them, we explored the cobbled streets with a bounce in our steps.  In spite of the scores of people offering us cigars, taxis and chances to take photos of a man with a chicken on his head, it felt like the weight of an aggressive Havana had been lifted, and we had finally landed in a place where we could enjoy our time on our own terms.


We headed back to the casa in time to watch the sunset from our private rooftop terrace.


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