Monday, 9 April 2007

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is home to many of Cuba's most famous musicians, like Compay Segundo. We were told that in Santiago you can't walk around the old town without hearing live music being played or practiced. It's completely true. Within minutes of being there we heard what sounded like a scrummy salsa band playing acoustic salsa in an old methodist church hall. We'd just been taken to a paladar for lunch - a private restaurant run in the home of Cubans.

Unlike Hotel Sevilla in Havana, our hotel in Santiago was a modern chain hotel - the Melia, catering mostly to tourists from el mundo latino. Very comfortable, lots of attentive staff, delicious sandwiches and cocktails by the three pools. It reminded me of being in Acapulco or something, but with old Cuban music piped everywhere. Boleros sung by Beny More by the pool during the afternoon - lovely.

There were no taxis at the Viazul bus station, but a couple of bicitaxis were quick on the uptake and had our cases loaded precariously on their old rickshaws before we could protest. What the heck, we thought. The hotel was just up the street. Up being the operative word - the poor cyclists were dripping with sweat by the time they got us up there!

"I'm Daniru," the boss of the three told us. "She's my niece," he said, pointing at my five-year old daughter. "We're your family here in Santiago. We'll take care of you, make sure you have a good time."

Right on, companero. For a price, I'll bet...

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