Those damn cockerels woke us up again at 5am!! Every time I hear that sound now my hair stands on end. However, it was an early start anyway to get the bus to Cienfuegos, which is only an hour or two north of Trinidad. We drove through it on the way to Trinidad and it didn't seem like it had much to offer a tourist so we got quite a surprise when we started to explore.
The homestay we are in is palatial! It is owned by two sisters Miriam and Gladys and a husband, though I am not sure which sister he belonged to. Miriam is a hard woman to explain. She rushes about the place like a very excitable little bee with a million things to do and always has something to say. She is like an incredibly cute, Cuban whirlwind and we were exhausted after she had explained and showed us photos of the entire city!
We walked around the city for 8 hours in total. The first stop was the boulevard and central squared. Most of the city is typically Cuban; rows of slightly run down, 19th century, brightly coloured terraced housing. The city was originally founded by the French and you can immediately tell when you are in the original section of the city as you are suddenly surrounded by very grand, extremely ornate buildings that look like they could have been picked up from an old French city and set down here instead. The main plaza is extremely beautiful, and very well restored. Though Cuba does appear occasionally in the form of a 1950s lada or a horse drawn carriage.
Cuba is about as close as you can get to going back in time. Most cars are from the 40s and 50s, most of the buildings are from the early 1900s or even older, the interiors of the bars don't look like they have been changed since 1900. Many artefacts like a cash register or occasionally shops look like they have been taken straight from a black and white movie. It is one big history museum and I love it!
After walking around the plaza, we headed down the broadway to the tip of the city. Once again the landscape changes in quite a dramatic way. We felt like we were somewhere in California as we walked down the broadway, then it seemed like we were in colonial southern states of the USA. This area of Cienfuegos was where all the rich Americans settled when they were allowed to and they built a lot of very grand, mock colonial buildings.
Don't worry, the British had their turn at changing the landscape too when they ruled Cuba for 12 months (before Spain wanted to swap Florida for it!). There is what looks like a Scottish castle (with air con units), and a very posh looking building which is the sailing club, complete with tennis courts and union jacks in-bedded in the surround wall! We decided that was our only input in those 11 months. Cienfuegos is certainly a very eclectic, interesting place.
After thoroughly exhausting the area we headed back to the house, but not before a quick stop in the plaza to retake all the photos we had taken in the morning, because "the light is better"...I am beginning to dread those words!!