Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


From Trinidad we took another bus to Camaguey, the third largest city in Cuba and another Unesco site.  The city has lasted somewhat longer here than it did in its first location.  When established in the early 1500s, it was called Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe and was on the coast.  However a never-ending barrage of pirate attacks meant that only about fifteen years later they moved the city to its present site with a new name.

As well as dictating an inland site, the history of pirate attacks influenced the layout of the new city.  To confuse any potential marauders it was built with  winding alleys and irregular street patterns.  There was only one way in or out of the city so if pirates ever got in this far inland they would be trapped, lost and therefore easy prey for the residents.

Apparently a lot of visitors find the layout a problem but we quite liked it.  I guess that in many countries, especially in the Americas, the streets are laid out in a grid pattern which is very easy to get around, so this is probably a bit confusing.  However having been used to the UK and London's maze of streets in particular, this felt far more natural for us.  In fact it made us realise that we had rather missed the haphazard layout and had found the grid system a bit sterile.

Piracy may have been the first problem for Camaguey, but the city later suffered another difficulty with a lack of water.  To solve this the residents made large clay pots, called tinajóns to capture rainwater.  This gave the city a new nickname, The City of Clay Pots. We heard that there is a story that if you drink water from a girl's personal tinajón, you will fall in love with the girl and never leave her.  Another version is that you will fall in love with the city and one day return.

We spent our time in Camaguey wandering around and watching Cuban life go by.   It was interesting to see the main shopping street with its mix of a few more modern looking shops alongside the more traditional old fashioned counter shops, where you are served your goods rather than helping yourself. We went into a small supermarket to check out what was available and were amused to see that in the drinks section the racks had exactly the same bottles of drinks in exactly the same order on all of the rows, creating neatly identical columns of alcohol.

A definite thing to do in Camaguey is to see some of its great squares.  Plaza de Agramonte is small and cosily formal square with a great bar called Bar El Cambio on the corner.  Opened in 1909, this tiny bar has slightly eccentric decoration, including a mural by artist Oscar Lasseria.  There was also Cafe Ciudad, built in 1878 which looked quite nice, but played 80s classics the whole time which, though we do like the music, just seemed wrong here.

Plaza San Juan de Dios is a rather more modest square that looks like something out of a western.  When we were there there were kids playing football until the rain started belting down when they scattered and we ducked into a place for lunch.

 But I think that my favourite square was Plaza del Carmen.  While tourists certainly come here, it was in a less obviously touristy area.  The buildings are pretty, whether well restored or endearingly ramshackle, and the square still looks traditional despite the craft shops and restaurants that are springing up around it.  The added interest comes from the statues depicting people in their daily life.

There is someone with a tinajon and a group of ladies sitting having a chat, with a spare place on their bench for you to join them, and a man reading his newspaper.  As we looked at the latter one, an old man on a nearby bench came of to us.  He told us that he was the person who modelled for this statue years ago.

Initially we were cynical and thought this was just a way to start a conversation that would eventually lead to a request for money, but as it was at least a more original ploy, we were happy to go along with it and would have given him some small change.  But I am pleased to say it seems we were wrong to doubt him.  He never asked us for any money but just had a nice chat with us.  And when he sat next to the figure on the bench, the resemblance was quite striking, so we like to think he was telling us the truth.

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