Sat on the bed in our new Casa and waiting for Gemma to finish in the shower, I read about Trinidad. First I read about Trinidad in the Lonely Planet, then I read about Trinidad in the Rough Guide. Then I read some of ‘Death and the Penguin’ because that was what I was reading at the time, and then, as I heard the shower turn off I went back to the Lonely Planet and looked through the pictures of Trinidad so I can show my favourite ones to Gemma.
We hadn’t gone outside our room yet, all we’d seen of Trinidad so far was what our taxi driver had driven past; some cobbled streets and a few attractively run-down buildings. Oh, and our Casa was a beautiful high roofed colonial building with huge arches and climbing plants in the courtyards. So far it seemed pretty good.
As the shower door opened I immediately start talking:
“The lonely planet says there’s a museum about Cuba’s history, but it also has, get this, a load of taxidermy in it. AND we should climb the bell tower for the views! Oh, and there’s a boat that Ché captained in one of the squares in town. Look at the pictures. Gemma? Look at the pictures.” Gemma’s a very lucky lady to have a husband so ready with facts and pictures, and her face shows it, but we don’t leave straight away. You see, Gemma’s got this thing where she doesn’t like walking around outside with wet hair, so I waited whilst she dried it. She’s weird like that.
We stepped outside and headed north for no particular geographical reason. Later we’d probably go south. Pretty much instantly we’d left tourist Trinidad and entered what seemed to be suburbs. There were a few local people chatting at their front doors, and a man was washing his family’s clothes in the street. A couple of tourists nearby looked at a map clearly lost. We gave them a nod as we walked by, our heads in our map already clearly lost – we were kindred spirits.
We moved further north by only a few meters before Gemma stopped in her tracks.
“Tim” she said, and pointed. A man was sat on a horse brandishing a lasso – he was a genuine cowboy. “It’s a genuine cowboy” she said, unaware that my last written sentence would explain that before her verbal sentence could. We decided that this would probably be the coolest man we’d ever see. He became even cooler by comparison when we tried to take secret photos of him from around a corner.
Were we to go any further north we’d have ended up in the hills, so instead we headed back to town to see that dead animal museum. Every home on the way back into town was a different pastel colour which looked incredibly striking on the light brown dusty road, and each one looked run-down in that beautiful way that only colonial buildings seem to manage.
The museum was odd to say the least. First we looked at a dead beaver. Then there were some old kitchen implements and a stuffed bird. A little bit of information about the Revolution later and we were face to face with the bones of a deceased fish. Hugely enjoyable, and totally recommendable, but ultimately not very informative or coherent. The bell tower (and the museum within), along with Che’s boat were much more educationally productive, but in all honesty, one day, when we look back on all of this, we’re probably more likely to remember the dead beaver.
After enjoying a hog roast in an outside courtyard we walked south for no particular geographical reason, other than we’d done north. Pretty much instantly we’d left tourist Trinidad again and entered what seemed to be a basic shopping district. There were supermarkets without any stock, pharmacies with only a few miscellaneous bottles on the shelves, and a few fully stocked tobacco shops. Cuba’s economy is genuinely fascinating, and the effect of socialism was clearly visible here. We did find some insect repellent there, and that’s all we needed, so I guess it works?
In the evening we went to an ‘outside nightclub’ as it was billed. It was actually a salsa show on some of the town’s steps, which was actually much better as we’re not really ones for nightclubs anymore. The show was pretty spectacular. After the show the dancefloor filled up pretty much instantly with locals dancing with flare and talent. Tourists were also dancing but with less flare, and what they lacked in talent they made up for in stiffness and overt uncomfortableness.
Back at the Casa, absolutely shattered, slightly tipsy and in hysterics from Gemma’s attempts at singing a Kid Rock song, we looked back through the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. We’d ticked off everything we’d intended to (although there are enough museums in Trinidad to keep you entertained for a fair few days), but it wasn’t the bell tower, or Ché’s boat, or even the national history/dead animal museum that we’d remember the most (although they’re all pretty cool). Trinidad is stunning just to walk around; the colourful run-down colonial buildings, the musicians playing Cuban folk songs on empty streets, and ACTUAL COWBOYS!!! You leave Trinidad with a feeling, and although the museums are worth a visit, it’s the gentle Cuban town life that sticks.