Cuba: Casa Particulares, Trinidad
From honeymoon trip, April 2009
Well by golly miss molly, this is where it’s at. Trinidad was a nicely packaged little bundle of tranquility mixed with the charm of old-school Cuba stuck in a time warp. As the kilometers rolled by on the ride from Havana (a pleasant 5 hour trip) it mostly just looked like the innards of any tropical island, but from time to time we’d see a snapshot like the one seen above.
Upon arrival into the dingy bus terminal of Trinidad we were quickly able to determine how much of a tourist destination this was, due to the number of friendly locals ready to pounce as soon as we walked out. The bus terminal had the waiting area cordoned off from non-passengers, but eventually you had to wander out into the chaos. They were mostly offering rooms and paladares for a bite to eat (restaurants that generally are “off the books.”) I really didn’t want to deal with the mob so I stayed put with our bags and Luis ventured out to find us a nice room to stay. This was a part of Cuba I thoroughly enjoyed…the casa particular principle. There are very few conventional hotels in Cuba and instead people rent out rooms in their home as a very affordable option for accommodation. In Havana we had decided to stay in a hotel, so this was our only chance to try out the home stay. Many are run just as a business would be and are recognized by the government, but many also function under the table. A lot of it seems so hush, hush as I suppose there are hefty consequences for running an unauthorized casa particular. We ended up in a really great casa particular owned by Enma Julien Morejon. We had a room towards the front of what was a really big home with many years under its belt. The bathroom that was to be exclusively ours was bigger than our bedroom and offered an interesting way to shower.
With only two days to spend in Trinidad, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the house or in our room, but it was a small town and the casa was centrally located so we would stop in throughout the day for some respite from the heat and to freshen up. Luis really enjoyed chatting in the morning with Enma and Orlando and probably could have spent the whole day listening to them share stories of their lives living in coastal Cuba, had I not dragged him out each day to explore. As part of the fee paid to stay there, they offered breakfast each morning and that gave us yet another glimpse of the lack of quality food items found in Cuba. Many items are issued as rations or allotments, and I felt as if we were consuming what they would have normally ate themselves, but perhaps they get a higher allotment when they run an authorized casa particular.
One aspect of our stay in Enma’s home was that it was right next door to small live music venue in an ancient-looking building. We stopped by one night on our way home and enjoyed a cocktail while listening to the band. When we went next door to call it a night, we could hear the music including the song “Yolanda”. The next morning, Enma told us that she hears them play that song almost every night and loved it. We decided we did too. It has become the song that reminds Luis and I of our honeymoon.