2011/03 – Cuba 2011 – Trinidad – Valle de los Ingenios – Torre Iznaga

13 Mar


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Trinidad – View from my terrace

Trinidad – Valle de los Ingenios – Torre Iznaga

We got up early and finally enjoyed a fantastic breakfast in Cuba at the Trinidad Iberostar – fresh juices, fruit, real coffee, fluffy omelettes. Outstanding service and really tasteful décor.

Best Hotel in Cuba, hands down.


Again, a Charlotte would give us smoke signs while we sipped a café con leche and prepared the day’s activities.

Not much planned for the day, just get lost in the old colonial town and get the feel for it.

Trinidad was founded in 1514 by Diego Velazqeuz and declared a World Heritage in 1988. It is very colonial with the cobblestone streets and all the medieval Spanish houses and architecture.

The thing is that while it certainly impressed my friends and all the tourists, it was more or less quite familiar, not to say usual, to me from the old medieval towns in Castille, Andalusia and elsewhere in Spain where I grew up.

I mean, nice to see, but kind of déjà-vu and a coming home experience for me. Just that the Spanish villages and towns are not as overflowed with masses of all-inclusive tourists invading for half a day from the beaches to be impressed that :  “My Gosh Stevie-o, even their toilets are twice as old as our country”. If this is how it is now, with all the Canadian and European masses, I for one very much hope the travel embargo stays in place for another half century.


The fascinating thing for me is the variety of the Cubans themselves, from blond blue-eyed Spanish Galician celtic to pitch black Nigerian Yoruba and all other colours and flavours in-between. All having fun, joking and getting along without frictions.

We passed lots of “artisans” selling painting and souvenirs, street musicians doing the Buena Vista number – and being composed by real-life old musicians that still swing.

My knees feel seduced by the rhythms here and it happened here and elsewhere that I would start dancing to the tune.

We went ( or rather, I danced ) up Calle Javier to the Plaza Mayor, over to the Iglesia San Francisco and down again to the Palacio Cantero tower.

It is a small town and quickly covered, so we decided to rest a bit at the Canchanchara, a 18-th century “Casa de Infusiones” again crowded with day-trippers in from Varadero and other all-inclusive ghettos to have their day of culture.

Well, after a few Canchanchara coktails, I’m not sure they’d have much eyes for culture. It’s a very sweet concoction of rum, lime, honey and water, the right stuff to start on a hot and sunny day.

The music was deafening but good and we were surprised as the band leader greeted us – we had generously tipped him at the Hotel bar the previous night.

After another stroll of Trinidad old alleys, we searched for a good place to have lunch and, declining the touts offers to share it with busloads of tourists at the Plaza Mayor, we found a charming old house in a side street with incredible antiques ( and a live crocodile in a well ).

There we had a lengthy and very relaxed lunch well into Siesta time and found out that the ancestors of the owner had been the owners of “La Nueva Era”, a cigar factory in Central Cuba. The restaurant is named “La Nueva Era”.

Directly opposite was another fantastic house filled with antiques and the owner invited us inside the patio for some aged rum – who can decline a rocking chair smoke in a cool patio.

Another few hours were spent there, relaxing in the shade, climbing the stairs up to the look-outs over the city, talking to the owner Cesar and his cook “Toledano” about their plans. They want to restore the house to its former beauty, have a few rooms for rent and offer the best food and show in Trinidad.

Not there yet but encouraging to see progress and energy – so we decided to have dinner at Cesar Esquerra’ place after a short digestive walk that took us again around the old town.

The pork and fried rice was good, the challenge of a fresh lobster sushi was accepted, and while not completely achieved, the interest and the joy of preparing something unique was certainly present.

The show was OK and I was again waltzing to the son, salsa and whatever rhythm they threw at me with a stunning young Mulata, or as the Cubans say : another great Spanish invention after cigars and rum …

We walked back to the Hotel past the Casa de la Musica and the Casa de la Trova, but decided to call it an early night as they were mostly crowded with tourists – the locals being in the band.

Certainly I couldn’t complain – on this trip, for the first time in Cuba, I’ve been in bed before midnight and slept more in one night than on previous trips in a week ( 8 hrs in one night ), both a first for me in Cuba.

So well rested and better “breakfasted” we had a café con leche and a Charlotte before hopping into the van again to see the famous Valle de los Ingenios or Sugarmill valley and the Torre Iznaga.

Outside Trinidad, about 6 km into the valley is the Mirador La Loma, from which we had a glorious view over a valley of sugar cane interrupted only by towering royal palms.

The whole area has a surface of 270 sq km and more than 70 ingenios. These sugar plantations, like Manaca Iznaga estate that we were to visit, help visitors to understand the social structure of the time, with slave quarters, the owners house, the belltower, etc.

We visited Manaca Iznaga with its famous tower, a 19-th century plantation where 350 slaves laboured in the mid 1800’s.

The famous Torre Iznaga is a monumental seven level, 45 meter high tower built in 1830 by the owner A. Iznaga in rivalry against his brother Pedro, another major landowner and sugar baron.

The view from the tower is spectacular and at the foot of the tower, near the owner’s mansion is the huge bell that once dominated the daily life on the plantation.

We refreshed ourselves with fresh Guarapo juice, sugar cane juice, before turning back and bidding farewell to Trinidad on our way up the coastal road to Cienfuegos. The road that we had “flown” over in the night following the Caballo Loco.

We passed the rivers flowing down the slopes of the Sierra del Escambray and the beaches before getting inland and, after a short ride getting into the cleanest and most picturesque city of Cienfuegos.


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Jimmy – working new age
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Nino – working old times
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Buenos Dias Trinidad !
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Giving the old man and his rooster some business
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Sneaking a picture


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Trinidad – Evaluating the Lobster Sushi
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Trinidad – Infected by the Music again
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Buenas Noches Trinidad
Copyright Nino


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