The city of Cienfuegos is known as ” The Pearl of the South” for very good reason , it is situated around a spectacular natural bay and has some of the most elegant classical architecture in Cuba.
The city was founded in 1819 by a pioneering French emigre from Louisiana , Don Louis D’Clouet, who then sponsored a scheme to increase the number of whites on the island by bringing in 40 families from New Orleans , Philadelphia and Bordeaux in France. The settlement was initially named Fernandina de Jagua but after rebuilding the settlement after a hurricane in 1821 , it was renamed Cienfuegos after the then governor of Cuba.
With the arrival of the railway in 1850 and the arrival of sugar cane growers after the War of Independence the city blossomed as local merchants pumped their wealth into architecture that reflected the neoclassicism of their French forefathers.
The view over the Parque Jose Marti , the central meeting place in the city, taken from the Museo Provincial. The museum gives a glimpse of life (for the wealthy) in earlier times.
This grandiose building is the Palacio de Gobierno , where the provincial government operates and was not open to the public .
The Teatro Tomas Terry was built between 1886 and 1889 to honour the last will and testament of Tomas Terry Adams, a wealthy sugar factory owner and city mayor. The Italian-style theatre has a U shaped two tier auditorium with a large ceiling fresco. World class figures such as Sarah Bernhardt and Enrico Caruso have graced the stage.
It truly was quite magnificent.
Catedral d Nuestra Senora d la Purisima Conception , the original building opened in 1833, with expansion and improvements made in the following years .
Colonnaded single story buildings in many different colours were typical in the city, this is the Paseo del Prado where we stayed for two enjoyable nights in the El Colonial Guest House where we were welcomed by the host Julia.
A peek inside our guest house , unfortunately it was rather dark to keep it cool so my photos don’t do it justice. Julia was quite a collector and had many wonderful antiques and collections of many things.
There were two other guests , both nurses from Sydney on a photographic tour.
Julia was a most wonderful host , providing us with a very generous breakfast each day but also a welcome tamarind juice and coffee on a very warm afternoon. I sincerely hope that Julia and all of our kind and generous hosts survive the current crisis and the effect it will have on their incomes.
The morning of our second day saw us strolling along the Malecon , enjoying the glorious views across the bay, as we made our way to Punta Gorda on the southern tip of the bay. Punta Gorda was the aristocratic quarter of the city in the early 1900’s and there are many grand homes and buildings .
This pastel blue and white building is now a hotel . We stopped to enjoy a coffee on the terrace.
This elegant building is home to the Yacht Club . There are also tennis courts , a swimming pool and playgrounds for children.
We walked along the seafront past several attractive painted wooden houses, modelled on American pre-fabricated houses that were in vogue in the early 20th. century. I loved this pretty yellow one with its guard dog.
We chanced upon this sculpture park on our walk , quite a surprise as there was no mention of it in any of our guide books. Although not well maintained , there were many rather clever art works, the hammer and hands were my favourites.
Our final destination was the truly magnificent Palacio de Valle, built in 1912 for the wealthy sugar baron,Aclicio Valle. It was designed by Italian architect Alfredo Colli and employed craftsmen from Italy, Spain and Morocco. The building now operates as a restaurant and on the day we visited was extremely popular with tour groups.
We enjoyed a drink on the roof top terrace, along with a group of French visitors.
We spent our final evening on the Malecon , watching the passing parade while waiting for the sun to set over the bay.