Susan and Norman's Cuban Odyssey
page 4

The Beach at Club Bucanero

We fall into the pool again, or at least I do. This is when I notice that one side of the pool is connected with the bar, and there are underwater bar stools. Ooooh, decadent.

I remain undecadent, however, and join the gang on the landward side (Donna, Emily, Lynn and Janet) for preprandial drinks. Emily is knocking back Rum Collinses (the blender is broken, so there are no Piña Coladas today)before going to her specially ordered lobster lunch down at the beach café. Even after she heads off, the Rum Collinses keep coming. We have to cope with them.

After lunch, down at the beach in a cosy cave, out of the sun and away from the crowds, I sleep and read and we all reconvene at the beach bar for another sunset viewing.

A Few Beach Notes

There seems to be very little in the way of tidal activity.

Every day the Iguana comes by to thrill the visitors. This one is real, not just a model in the dinosaur park.

One of the non-attractions at the beach is Mr. Thong Man (no picture) a thoroughly tanned, somewhat beefy guy who, we all agree, shouldn't be seen in public in a thong (possibly not even in private). The view from the front is, well, what you'd expect, and from behind, especially as witnessed by those who have followed him up the steps from the beach, is unforgettable.

Supper includes a band called (or dressed in) Red Shirts. They are a lively group and by the end of the session people are actually dancing, including me and Norman, who have inadvertently dressed alike. How embarrassingly like a middle-aged couple from Don Mills. The band plays Guantanamara and I go for a third white wine, which has the expected effect. Norman walks me back to our room, where I crash out, and miss a dreadfully bad cho.

Tuesday, Jan 20

Bad news. I'm hung over and suffering from an internal bug. The rest are off to Santiago for the big day in town. I am disconsolate. I will never get to see Santiago.

However, between half a dozen variations of taxi logistics, it's nearly ten before I decide to take a chance and go into town, armed with a supply of Imodium.

Parque Cespedes
house of Diego Velásquez

I have a wonderful day and require only one pit stop, early on, in the Oldest House in the Western Hemisphere. Fortunately, it is not the oldest bathroom in the western hemisphere, but there is no water. The guide who brought me is waiting outside with a bucket of water. I tip her what must be half a week's wages. ($1)

This house is the house of Diego Velásquez, the first conqueror of Cuba. It was built around 1516-1530. He lived there on the top floor. It is now the Museum of Cuban Ambient History (at least, I think that's the translation--Casa Museo Ambiente Histórico Cubano). It looks out onto the main square, Parque Céspedes.
Other sides of the square are bounded by the Cathedral, Santa Iglesia Basílica, (first built 1522 but rebuilt a few times; this may be the 18th c. version), a large municipal building and the Hotel Casa Grande, dating back to ca. 1916.

Hotel Casa Grande

Janet, Jamie, Darrell at the Casa Grande
Santa Iglesia Basílica
Hotel Casa Grande is posh. I get the impression it's the Raffles of Santiago. We head up to the 5th floor terrace for a drink, and we get a good view of this sector of the city. I take a ton of pictures.

Click here for the Panorama view from the Terrace
Norman and I wander through the streets a bit. The fumes are appalling. I can't believe everyone isn't dead of lung cancer at 30. But then, the sheer numbers of cars aren't what they are in Canada, so maybe it all evens out.

We poke into some artisans shops and then we hit upon a tiny hole in the wall, a narrow shop with no apparent front wall, but the two side walls are thickly lined with an eclectic collection of posters, postcards, photos, old old books and thingummies, much of it Revolutionary items. The shop lady spies the pins on my hat and is sure that I need a souvenir Che pin for only $3. It certainly is large and colourful, and Norman asks if I'd like it for my birthday.


santiago street
Speaking of Che, Norman's beard has evoked many delighted cries of Che! from some of the people, and more of Fidel! It's like being with a celebrity. Beards seem to be in very short supply on the Cuban men, at least the ones we've seen. Norman tells me that when he was first here 30 years ago, a beard was an indication of homosexuality. Except on Fidel. (And presumably on Che.)

Back at the little shop, however. The big attraction is the 3 old men sitting on the stairs playing guitar and bongos and singing in a relaxed style that I find totally enchanting. After a couple of songs, I buy their CD and they insist we sit down and listen to several more, and the shop lady offers me the pin for $2. Two more players join them, with sticks (don't know what they're called--you knock them together) and maracas.

I could spend all afternoon here, but... On to page 5

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