The second half of our Cuban Research Trip finds us in Santiago de Cuba. Geographically it's in the southeast corner of the island due west of Guantanamo Bay, about 6 hours by bus from Havana, or like we did, a one hour flight to Holguin and then a 2-hour taxi ride to Santiago! It's the final resting place of Jose Marti and Mr. Fidel Castro, something we thought we should see.
It wasn't planned this way, but when we got to the airport at 4am (!?!) our flight had been cancelled. ALL flights to Santiago had been cancelled. None of us were in the mood for another day in Havana. Then we noticed Holguin on the departing flights list. This is the airport we would be using to get home in a couple days, so we thought, 'Lets see if they'll route us there and we'll take a taxi to Santiago, thus not losing a day of the trip'. The airline thought we were nuts, but agreed to book us on the flight.
The 2-hour taxi ride was actually beautiful. Miles and miles of sugarcane fields, fresh air, crazy scenery. Settled in our next AirB&B, we ventured out to see the town.
We encountered very similar cuisine to Havana, with the exception of a vast variety of street food like churros, cakes, pizza, ham sandwiches, hot dogs, pastries, cookies and funnel cakes. It was like a State Fair of food. The amazing thing was the cost, everything was basically under a dollar, sometimes only 30 cents (pizza) and a hot dog and a beer was $1.50!! Now, it was very basic and not the culinary epiphany I was hoping to bring back to the USA.
However, we did have a couple of our best dining experiences on the trip in Santiago. The first was at Roy's Terrace Inn, a a roof-top restaurant and B&B. We decided to make a reservation for dinner and it did not disappoint! We scoped out the location on our first stroll through the city. The view was amazing and we were so glad we came during the day as we would not have seen the view at dinner.
The next dining experience that really left an impression was our final dinner in Cuba. We had walked by this place so many times and it always looked interesting, so we decided to give it a shot. Great decor, solid drinks and wonderful food beautifully presented. Everyone was happy!
OK, back on track. Street Food. As mentioned above it ran the gamut. Check out the photos below for a taste of what we sampled:
Yours truly probably sampled a bit too much of the street food and paid for it, but no one was taken ill during our trip, and overall the food scene was a solid experience, nothing off-the-charts fantastic, just good, simple well-prepared food. Remember that?
In closing, GO TO CUBA NOW! Don't wait, don't make excuses, GO NOW! In no time at all it is going to be over run by chains and conglomerates. Get there before this happens so you can experience the True Cuba. Immerse yourself, save the beach for some other swank Caribbean island. Don't have a real rigid itinerary, go with the flow, and most important, leave the Smartphone OFF. We used ours for photos only, it stayed in Airplane Mode the entire trip.
For all you history buffs out there, I leave you with a couple shots of Jose and Fidel's tombs.
Eat Well. Live Fit and by all means....HAVE FUN!
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