Trinidad, Cuba

The song accompanying this post is Hasta Siempre Comandante performed by Dúo Real, a guitar duo we listened to while dining on the outdoor deck at La Ceiba in Trinidad.

After Havana and Santiago de Cuba, we venture to Trinidad on another long ride through the countryside. Acres and acres of corn and sugarcane fields surround us on the road to the west coast. A few stops for lunch and coffee along the route allow us to see a way of life still rooted in the last century.

After experiencing the magnetism of Havana and the enthusiasm of Santiago de Cuba, venturing to Trinidad brings the chance to see another identity within this island full of personality. In the context of these three Cuban cities, we find Trinidad is the introvert — less inclined to chat us up with life and music on the street; more inclined to leave a lasting impression through quiet color and beauty.

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad feels subdued, almost suburban, with mostly single-story shops and cobblestone streets that are easily explored on foot. The town is a UNESCO world heritage site with well-preserved architecture on a smaller, simpler scale than Havana. Trinidad is a big draw for tourism and it seems like we see more tourists here than we do anywhere else. This is good and bad — it may feel slightly more crowded than other towns, but Trinidad is accustomed to entertaining guests so there are lots of shops and restaurants to explore.

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

The heart of Trinidad is the Plaza Mayor and the Church of the Holy Trinity. A wide stone staircase next to the church feels like Cuba’s version of the Spanish Steps — a social meeting point where you can grab some shade under a tree or a mojito from the bar on the corner.

The Church and Monastery of Saint Francis draw people up to the bell tower to have a look over Trinidad. As we discover on a morning walk, there are other, less crowded places to see the town from up above. We wander into a gallery where a volunteer guide shows us to the roof.

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

Exploring Trinidad is less about what there is to do and more about what there is to see. It is one of the most visually expressive towns I’ve ever been to … where the color of a classic car may match the color of the home where it’s parked. Every photo is a postcard and the color combinations of the buildings enlighten my opinion of what goes together and what doesn’t. Everything here just seems to work. It even seems like the people who live here have subconsciously adopted this unique color blocking in the way they dress. Their shirts and pants give an extra dab of tertiary color to the streetscape.

We explore the markets around town, with embroidered tablecloths, woodcarvings, fans, jewelry and ubiquitous Che Guevara t-shirts for sale. We make a trade at one of the stalls — two carved wooden hummingbirds in exchange for J’s sunglasses.

We’ve come to realize that hats, sunglasses and pens — especially pens — are sought after all over Cuba. Here in Trinidad, I pass a home on a morning walk and the two elderly residents look at me from their front door while emphatically gesturing as if they’re writing on paper. I reach in my bag and give them a pen. They are elated with this simple gift. On an afternoon walk on the outskirts of Trinidad, a man asks J if he can have his hat. Sure! We have more hats. You take this one. Thumbs up and big smiles all around.

Trinidad, Cuba

Morning music in Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad has music, too. We are in Cuba, after all. The music here is a little more country, a little less rock and roll. The act of getting together to play and enjoy the time seems almost more important than the music itself.

Trinidad is a coastal city and in our research of it we find a few suggestions about visiting its outer-lying beaches. One beach is near town and the other — Playa Ancón — is a longer taxi ride away. We go to both. As with everything in Cuba, there isn’t much information about what we’ll find at these beaches. But as with everything in Cuba, the adventure is usually worth it. Here’s our discovery at Playa Ancón. I’ll let you decide whether or not it’s worth it. In the meantime … hasta luego, mis amigos! I’ll be in the water.

***

Next post: The View Over Guantánamo

62 comments

  1. AAAAhhhh Kelly – I think I will love Trinidad. We have finished making all of our reservations now and also have booked places to stay….I am playing my Gipsy Kings music 24/7 along with my mother’s favorite songs Begin the Beguine (Julio) and Besame Mucho ( Bocelli)…although these are not Cuban songs, they are close enough until I get there. It seems that a lifetime keeps providing the missing puzzle pieces as we go along; the things that stir our souls, and why…..

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      1. I cannot wait to see what you find in Molokai! That island has always been a little mysterious and attractive to me since it’s less traveled than the others. Safe travels, and have a blast! P.S. Alison and Don are going to Cuba later this year or early next year….see her comment below. You could meet up again!

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  2. I’m dying here Kelly. Gorgeous photos. I can’t wait to get there. And oh good lord the colours! I know I will immediately fall in love with this town. I have already! We’ve booked our flight to Mexico Oct 31, return Mar 1. Sometime in there we’ll go to Cuba. Yay! Back into Van sept15 – time to get together and pick your brains. Oh and it will be nice to see you both too 🙂
    Alison

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    1. I am SO jealous of you already knowing your next date of departure! I love the way you two live life. Happy to hear Cuba is casting its spell on you through my photos. Looking forward to seeing it from your perspective. See you later this month. Can’t wait to get together, catch up, swap stories and talk about what’s next!! 🙂

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  3. Love all the posts with the fabulous pictures 😊 So many places I can see/hear and enjoy that I most likely will not be traveling to! Have been loving all your travels since you first started your awesome blog ❗️Your Mom is my very special friend since high school😍

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    1. Wow! Considering that I’ve heard stories about Steve & Sharon for much of my life, I think I know who you are! 🙂 Thank you so much for your thoughts. I love knowing that I can transport people around the world through my words and images. This is why I love blogging. And I’m so flattered and thankful that you’ve been reading from the very beginning and have stuck with me the whole time! I would love to know what trip or which destination has resonated most with you and why. Thank you for reading and getting in touch, Sharon! I’m not sure where we’re going next, but there are definitely more stories and photos to come! 🙂

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  4. Reading this makes me feel very relaxed, Kelly. Despite the bright colors, Trinidad seems to have this soothing ambiance. Oh and look at that gorgeous beach! I hope the recent influx of tourists to Cuba can be managed in a sustainable way so the nascent tourism industry will benefit as many Cubans as it possibly can.

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    1. I hope so too, Bama! We’ve been to so many places where tourism has taken over and stripped away the authenticity, and residents are living a life of meaningless work for generic hotels. I think it’s really interesting that in Cuba, homestays in casa particulars have actually had a headstart over hotels (because there are so few) so tourists are sort of forced to stay in locally-owned accommodations which end up enriching their travel experiences exponentially. It’s an unusual but great situation for all. Many families are reaping the financial benefits of renting out their rooms and homes, while getting to know visitors from all over the world (and getting a lot of referral business). I hope this continues to be the case but the country is so beautiful — especially the beaches — that the luxury resort experience can’t be too far off. Thanks for your thought provoking comment!

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  5. Another evocative post that is giving me a good kick in the pants to research my own trip to these places. There’s something about this locale that reminds me very much of Granada, Nicaragua, where I spent some time this past January. Languid places are good for me. I’m not a slow mover by nature, so being forced to chill out is of great value on occasion! Trinidad will go onto the Cuba destination wish list!

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    1. I totally agree that a languid place can be a great reason to stop and smell the roses. After all the transport we experienced around Cuba, Trinidad was a much needed change of pace and I would have loved another day or two at the beach. The water was SO warm and wonderful. Yes, you must visit Trinidad. It’s so easy to get to from Havana it would be a shame to miss it. Always great to hear from you, Lex!

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  6. Great musical tastes yet again, matches the mood of this post Kelly, and you bring the feel of Trinidad with your writing and photos. The way you engage the locals, and this great quote “thumbs up and big smiles all around” is the spirit of travel, which is why I think you have such rich experiences 🙂

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    1. That’s such a sweet comment, Randall. Thank you! All of us travelers never know what we’re going to find in all these foreign places, but everyone in Cuba was so fun to engage with — lots of stories, questions, laughter and fun between English and Spanish. I would go back for more in a heartbeat. 🙂

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  7. Hola senorita! Every time I think, yeah, ok, maybe I’ll do Cuba later, here you come with 53 Chevys and mojitos al fresco. I hate you. But I love the look of this place. It’s my kind of place. I could maybe just hang here the whole time in Cuba, not move, not travel. And just smoke cigars all day (no, but I would have to try just one…jeeez, it’s Cuba).

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    1. Hola, senor! I’ve missed you! Please don’t hate me! 🙂 Yes, I think you would love this place. Kind of like a Bali of Central America, maybe? But the food won’t be as good. But the beach will be better — you can float all day instead of fighting the rip currents and flag warnings (in Seminyak, anyway). The cool thing is, Trinidad is pretty easily reached from Havana, and there are other cool places within reach of Trinidad (like Sancti Spiritus; we drove through it; wish we would have had time to stop). Yes, you have to try a cigar!! For sure! I tried three or four — all very different. Some light, some too heavy. Very interesting differences. When in Rome… or Cuba. Where are you right now? Hope you’re barefoot and blogging. 🙂

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      1. OK…we’ll just have to see what the future brings?? I do love following you places. And I don’t know why I didn’t just go there last summer. I like going places they speak Spanish, as I (used to be able to) speak it a bit. Una cervesa, por favor. I will try a cigar, and a mojito (which I’ve never tried).
        I am in Abu Dhabi now, back to the grind. And I am barefoot and blogging.

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      2. Boo is right. But “plan more trips”…really? Plan? Really? But right…travel cures everything. I’m thinking of Vietnam in December. There, or Madagascar (where I wanted to go in summer but didn’t), but it’s rainy season. Or maybe…drum roll…Cuba. I only have three weeks though, and would have to stop in Netherlands to get the visa thingy. Is two weeks there enough? How long were you there?

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      3. By plan, I mean buy tickets. That’s really the only necessary thing, right? Vietnam sounds nice — better than rainy season in Mad. Two weeks is plenty for Cuba (I was there for 12 days), although you may leave wishing you had more time. What do you mean… stop in Netherlands and get a visa thingy? If you fly from anywhere outside the US, you won’t need a thing.

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      4. HA! yeah…by plan…buy tickets. That’s the problem. Maybe the visa thingy is just for Amuricans…I called their embassy in Rotterdam, and they said I had to go there to get it. Has that changed? Are you Amurican (I like Jeff’s spelling)? You didn’t need anything…just show up?

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      5. Yes, I’m Amurican. I flew from Toronto. All I did was board the plane, fill out the visitor card on the flight (just like everyone else) and breeze through immigration on arrival. No visa necessary. The only time a visa is necessary is if/when you depart FROM the US. It’s the US’s way of regulating/restricting travel to Cuba by Americans. But Cuba has no restrictions on US citizens coming into their country which is why, if you travel from anywhere outside the US, you won’t need a visa. So, yeah, just show up!! 🙂

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      6. Well, see…that just proves you can’t trust anyone, especially in a consulate, eh! But if I show up and they lock me up, I’m calling you and you’ll have to fly down and rescue me, you know…

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  8. I haven’t been to Cuba Kelly (as you know, it’s not so easy for Los Americanos), but I know the feel of these small villages from our travels in Mexico. From your wonderful photos, I can see that Trinidad has the same relaxed and inviting small town feel that’s makes them the perfect place to wander. I find them particularly appealing during siesta. The houses and shops are closed, but the windows are open, fans spins quietly and the pace of life slows to a trickle. Great post and photos. ~James

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    1. James, you’ve captured it perfectly with your words: …the windows are open, fans spins quietly and the pace of life slows to a trickle. YES. Exactly. A friend of mine who lives in Mexico said the same thing (comment above) about Trinidad reminding her of small villages there. (Sounds like I need to experience more of Mexico!) One of my favorite things about Trinidad was walking the streets around dusk. Everyone had their lights on, windows open, families hanging out together and we could see some of the incredible interiors of the homes in this town. Such a treat. Thanks for your comment. Hope you and Terri are well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, dynamicstasis! Nice to hear that your memories and my post are similar in character, and that Trinidad hasn’t really changed much in 15 years. It’s such a charming, colorful town — then and now. Thanks for your comment!

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