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January 29-30, Havana

We managed to get our bikes and everything else onto the Viazul bus and made it to Havana on time -- before 6 pm -- despite a bus tire that blew on the outskirts of town. Somewhat surprisingly, everything worked on the bikes, and we rode down 26th to Ana and Pepe's casa, no problems.

We spent most of Monday getting organized to take off again for Central Cuba. Among other things, we tried to book seats to Santa Clara for the next morning, but every bus was full. Eventually we arranged a ride in a private car.


January 31, Santa Clara

Our car to Santa Clara showed up on time, but it was much smaller than we’d been told, and with no roof rack! Fitting our bikes and that of a third cyclist in the trunk of a small, old Peugot was impossible; the photo at right shows how they were carried. With all the panniers, there wasn't much room inside, either!

The driver was a nice fellow. We stopped for lunch at a small farm that had set up a very simple paladar — it was good — and we made it to Santa Clara in early afternoon.


There was time in the afternoon to visit the Che monument, which was once again a moving experience for us. Che's remains, what could be recovered years after his murder in Bolivia, are interred here, along with those of some of his companions. It is a secular shrine for many Cubans, and others, who still revere Che's memory.

Back in the center of town, Barbara and I enjoyed an amazing free concert on Parque Vidal. The concert took place in the lobby of Santa Clara's beautiful old theater, Teatro la Caridad. We'd been there once before, years ago, for a ballet folklorico, and it's a memorable building.

Performing this time was a combo of drums, base, clarinet and piano, accompanying a singer named Vionaika Martinez. She and the entire group were simply wonderful. It was also wonderful that the concert was in late afternoon, from 5:00 to 6:30 -- much better for tired geezers than the typical late-night performances.


Santa Clara's Parque Vidal. Teatro la Caridad is the building on the right.

Left, interior of the theater, beautifully restored.  Right, Vionaika Martiniz performing. Sadly, she's famous only in Santa Clara.


The casa particular where we stayed in Santa Clara, Hostal Florida Centro, was amazing. It was Lonely Planet's top pick, and we could see why. Extraordinary antiques, a plant-filled courtyard, delicious food. It's both a casa particular and a public restaurant, and it supposedly has the best food in Santa Clara. We had lobster and shrimp in a mild tomato sauce, very good indeed. The owner, Angelito (Angel Rodriguez Martinez) even gave us a nice bottle of Spanish white wine when we left — we think because of the book we wrote. He's a promoter, a good one, and no doubt wants all the rave reviews he can get of his excellent place. And he deserves them.

Left, formal front room of Hostal Florida Centro — more antiques than a museum!    Right, with owner Angelito


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