A Tour of Cienfuegos

Tuesday May 14, 2013

5.14.13

After Matt and I had gotten checked in yesterday, we were so excited to go see the town that we never waited for Brian and Stephanie to finish the process.  They had arrived about three hours after us, and as soon as we had the ‘OK’ from the Guarda Fronteras, there was only dust in footprints as we ran out to explore the town.  Sorry guys, a tourist has to do what a tourist has to do.  Don’t worry.  We made it up to them that night when we went aboard their boat and had them serve us their Jamaican rum with real Coca Cola.  We’re such selfless people, I don’t know why we keep on giving like we do…..

So, since we were a-holes the previous day, although I don’t think Brian and Stephanie minded a little time exploring on their own either, we all teamed up to take on the town once more.  After sleeping in on Serendipity like we were sixteen years old and it was Saturday morning, we finally pulled ourselves out of the boat in the early afternoon to do a little exploring.  Brian and Stephanie showed us a very nice sculpture park right outside of the marina that the had found the previous day on their way to the ginormos hotel/resort next door where they had exchanged their money.  Some of the sculptures we admired, and some of them we played on, although the searing heat from the day made them almost too intolerable to touch.  Next on the list was to find Rode Trip some ice cream since they hadn’t encountered any themselves the previous day.  It was a long walk to the soft serve shop and our stomachs were already growling, so we stopped at a more upscale, serve by the scoop, ice cream parlor.  Although the only issue was they served one flavor, naranja.  Orange may not have been at the top of everyone’s list, but it was cold, it was sweet, and we didn’t mind parting with the dollar each to get it.

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Senior picture day!!

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Now that we had our stomachs somewhat full, Brian and Stephanie decided to show us something we had missed the previous day, the pedestrian walkway.  The street was paved with gold, ok, so it was actually more of a glossy brick, and a wide variety of shops lined the sides while benches situated under planted palms lined the center.  Window shopping, we peered in through each glass door to see what was for sale, and found out that it was mostly either clothes, appliances, or photo processing.  A little further down the walkway we came across a soft serve ice cream shop, and although we had just put down about two scoops each, couldn’t turn down one of the strawberry/chocolate mixed cones that were once again going for only five pesos.  Digging into the sweet coconut based milk, we continued down the promenade, admiring all the brightly colored buildings and vibrant life of the area.  After being forced to eat my ice cream at a cruely fasted pace, Matt and I tucked in to an internet shop where we paid 6 CUC for a one hour internet card so we could alert family back home that we had made it safely and were not trapped in any kind of US or Cuban prison.

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Jessica & Stephanie

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

The four of us met back up a short time later, now beginning to wander through the side streets and let ourselves get lost in the city.  There wasn’t a road we could walk down that didn’t have some kind of amazement and beauty.  Even though the buildings were becoming run down with the paint fading off the side, they still had a charm about them that was enticing and hypnotic.  I could have stood on one corner all night and never gotten sick of the views in front of me.  So many of the areas were like a step back in time, with classic American cars lining the sidewalk and mothers walking their uniformed children home from school.  Vendors would be selling fresh fruits and vegetables off a stand on the side of the road, and little old women would wheel their produce home in tiny metal carts.  No one seemed to be in a rush and almost everyone was wearing a smile.  The children would be out in the empty streets playing games with sticks while the mothers stood in doorways, watching and taking shade from the afternoon sun.  Even though I’m sure their lives are far from simple, they made them seem very much that way.

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Getting ourselves back to the prado and crossing to further side streets, we were seeing much of the same thing of kids and families out enjoying the evening.  There was something about this side that seemed to feature more animals though.  A happy dog, wagging it’s tail and chasing a girl down the street in roller skates.  A cute little cat, snuggled up in the open door of a building to take an afternoon nap.  Plus, plenty of birds in cages.  Some were chipper little parakeets, and others were chickens, possibly that night’s dinner.  Wandering in front of a very large and old cement church, we poked our heads inside to see if it was ok to look around.  The woman sitting at a small desk in the corner waved us in with a smile, and we spent a few minutes ambling through the pews and admiring the stained glass perched above our heads.  We felt bad that as soon as we walked out the door she began to close things up, it was now after 5, and it was time for her to go home.  Which also meant that it was time for us to start looking for dinner.  Besides a measly breakfast, the only thing I had eaten was more ice cream than a person should ever have in a day, unless they’ve just had their tonsils removed.

Having heard there was a burger place back by the marina, I didn’t even mind that I’d have to walk the two miles back there before getting anything in my stomach.  For some real beef patties, I think I would have done almost anything at that moment.  We entered the very crowded restaurant and pushed our way through the throngs of people milling about to make our way to the counter.  Pulling out a menu I saw exactly what I was looking for: hamburgesa.  Looking at another menu next to me, Brian noticed they served a beer tower and asked if I wanted to go in on it.  How could I possibly not want a draft beer with my hamburger?  Getting in line to place our order I found out that, sadly, the towers were all in use.  That should have come as no big surprise since there wasn’t even an open table to sit in.  They could still pour me a tall draft of Bucaneer into a glass though, and that seemed good enough to me.  When our food came out, no tables had opened and we ended up standing up at a candy display counter to eat, our ‘hamburgesa’ turned out to be made with chicken, and what we thought were going to be a side of fried potatoes came out as sliced hot dogs covered in ketchup and mustard.  I did the only thing you could do in a situation like this.  I laughed, and dug right in.

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