Fiesta Fuego means Festival of Fire and luckily for us, we arrived just in time for this famous Santiago de Cuba festival in early July.
We had rough directions of our Casa (home stay) and after driving around the block for a bit we parked the car close to where we thought it was and took the streets by foot. Lots of small one way roads that we didn’t want to have to keep looping around. Remember there were not many street signs or numbers on the buildings. We asked for directions from two guys who were trying to persuade us to eat at their Cousin’s restaurant. Yup, heard that one before. We paid them a few CUCs when we were sure we had the right place. We were a street out but still only a few blocks from Hotel Casa Grande overlooking the famous Parque Cespedes. Hotel Grande was our afternoon watering hole and found it a wonderful place to just chill & people watch. A great recommendation from @helen_lo, thanks.
We used our Lonely Planet guide again for restaurant suggestions despite so many locals touting a place. Even our two guys who gave us directions to our Casa earlier in the day. We were a bit tired of everyone’s offers and brushed them off. I have to admit it does get tiring after a while.
This part of the holiday we chilled a lot more. Spent one day in a local five star hotel’s pool and met an Australian girl. Laurie lives half of the year in Cuba was holidaying and chilling out by the pool too. She recognised us from our Australian twang yells to the kids in the pool to not drown each other. A day by the pool was a godsend. The kids loved it and we enjoyed nattering to Laurie, wish we met Laurie earlier in our holiday she explained so much about life here and the Cuban way.
Finally it was the Festival of Fire parade time. Because Parque Cespedes was one of the main areas of the festival and was so close we stayed there for the duration. So many groups of dancers & musicians from all parts of the world. I kinda wanted to join them with an Australian collective only problem was I don’t have a musical playing bone in my body. I was so busy watching the crowd and the parade I didn’t take too many photos. Please enjoy my more 2nd unit style photos of the crowds enjoying the parade like us. On the roof of the Hotel Grande for our daily sun downer we had a fantastic vantage over the parade as it was finishing up later in the afternoon. The next day we watched Caribbean music in the morning at Casa de Caribe (Caribbean music house). I loved the music and this venue and got some great ideas for waste as art. Won’t show any pictures else the idea might be taken. 🙂
Casa de la Trova was a music venue that we only stopped briefly at to listen to the music flowing out of the doors and windows. Unfortunately most of the music happened later at night when we were resting after getting the kids to sleep. I heard this is the venue where Buena Vista Social Club started. My regret is we didn’t get out without the kids to visit this and any of the other music venues at night.
Enough of the fiesta time for another castle and this time we visited the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro (I’ll nickname Castle de Morro) which is just outside of Santiago de Cuba about 10km & past the airport. I’ll blog about it a bit more in my next post but I’ll say now we spent several hours there but could have easily spent a day. So many displays, so much history, so many little rooms here and there to discover. We even spied a rather large lizard on the wall looking out over the ocean. We ate in the restaurant on the approach to the castle and past all the tourist shops. Luckily we missed the two tour coach buses too. We had already finished when they arrived.
We visited the Antonio Macaeo statue who was one of Cuba’s greatest heros of the Independent War. Saw with great delight a truck broken down full of cabbages. The kids and I hoped that would mean no cabbage at dinner that night. Alas they got the truck moving and we had cabbage again.
We had enough self-driving by now and was happy to drop the car off and spend some more time in the five star hotel’s pool. Felling like old timers to the pool, we knew the drill, hire your towels and get a discount on the cafe for lunch. Met up with Laurie our local Aussie gal and got rained on. Well actually it was a huge storm and I dashed inside the hotel for an internet fix. OMG mum has contacted the Canadian Embassy in Cuba because she hasn’t heard from me in two weeks. More to the point I hadn’t updated Facebook in two weeks and she panicked. Our dog being looked after by friends had escaped twice but the world had not come to an end.
We loved walking around Santiago de Cuba, we came across kids doing dancing lessons & on a Saturday. We visited Casa dev Diego Velazquez the oldest standing building in Cuba. I couldn’t understand too much of what our Spanish guide spoke to us but I got the general gist. It was then that I realised we had not seen enough of Cuba but it was too late. We were flying back to Havana that day & back to Paris for the long trip back to Australia.
I guess it was only fitting that our Cab ran out of petrol on the way to the airport. We had heaps of time and I just sat there lapping what little time left we had in Cuba.