After several enjoyable days in Havana we flew to Santaigo de Cuba, the islands second largest city.
This was an interesting experience in its self. We checked in at for our flight at the regional air terminal and were then caught a bus to the international airport to board our flight. We waited on the bus on the tarmac watching numerous people and after much discussion take place for about half an hour before we were able to board, at least we knew the plane was well checked always a relief. The other thing that took us by surprise , even though you are allocated seats , this is ignored totally and you sit where you please.
Arriving in Santiago we and our lovely guide took a taxi to our accommodation, Hostal Grisasol, where we were welcomed by our host Dana with a freshly made tropical fruit juice.
This was taken on the terrace were we enjoyed breakfast every day. We so enjoyed staying at the casa particulares (home stays) , so much more personal than a big government run hotel.
The photo below is a view of the street we were staying in.
After stopping for a quick lunch at a restaurant with balcony views over the Parque Cespedes and the Catedral de Nuestra we explored more of the city on a walking tour.
The parque is named after Carlos de Cespedes , a plantation owner who freed his slaves and kick started Cuban independence. A bronze statue of him, is in the park. It was a great place to sit and people watch.
The tall white building is a hotel , we sat on the balcony and enjoyed a snack and a drink on a couple of occasions. Usually a local Cristal beer for John and either limonade or tea for me .
The pretty Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion was extensively restored in 2014.
The church was originally built in 1522 but in the 17th. century a series of pirate raids caused so much damage that the church had to be rebuilt in in 1674, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1766.
The existing church was rebuilt again in 1818, followed by changes in 1922, when the bell towers and marble angel were added.
Casa de Diego Velazques was built in 1516-1530 for the islands first governor Diego Velazques is reputed to be the oldest house still standing in Cuba.
The ground floor was originally a trading house and gold foundry while the upstairs was the living quarters.
Today the rooms display period furnishings from the 16th. to the 19th. century. We were very taken with the beautiful dark Cuban mahogany furniture.
The day we visited a local orchestra was playing in the courtyard.
The next day we ventured out of the city centre to explore . The first stop was an area of Santiago that had been home to its wealthiest citizens before the revolution. The two pastel pink houses are side by side and if memory serves me correctly ( and it doesn’t always) the larger one was the home of the Bacardi family ( of Bacardi Rum ) and the smaller one was a present given to his daughter on her wedding day.
The next stop was the Plaza de la Revolucion to see the bronze statue of Antonio Maceo atop of his horse surrounded by 23 machetes, representing those used by slaves to cut sugar cane. Maceo was a local son and war hero, second in charge of Cuba’s Independence Army in the wars against Spain.
The view from the top overlooked the bus terminus , this was our first sighting of truck buses that are seen throughout Cuba.
A typical service station , we loved the signage, more service stations should be your friend for 24 hours.
The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Cobre is a most important church in Cuba where pilgrims gather to pray to the Virgin of Charity.
Dotted along the road are stalls selling these sunflower bouquets to the many pilgrims.
We then visited the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia , the second most important cemetery in Cuba , final resting place of many of Cuba’s national heroes. A round the clock guard changes every thirty minutes and was quite something to witness for the ceremony of it all.
This is the mausoleum of Jose Marti, a poet, writer, jounalist, an important Cuban hero because of his role in the liberation of the country.
The very simple last resting place of Fidel Castro.
One of the many grand family monuments in the cementry.
The next stop was to visit Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, a UNESCO Worls Heritage site , since 1977. The castillo sits overlooking the entrance to the Santiago harbour and was built in the late 1500’s to protect the city from pillaging pirates.
One of the very ornate French cannons at the entrance to the Castillo.
The view over the bay were quite breathtaking, well worth the climb.
This speaks for itself , you have to don’t you.
At this time my thoughts are with all the lovely people we met in Cuba .