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.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Santa Clara

Our next stop in Cuba was Santa Clara. Our Casa Particular was a bit disappointing here, but it did have a lovely Chow dog that must have found it incredibly hot in the Cuban weather.
Santa Clara is a student town. It isn't the prettiest of places, and the cigar factory that we planned to visit there no longer did tours, but it has a reasonable central square, and an interesting wall of murals.
The murals have been painted by Cuban cartoonists 'declaring war on war', which theoretically suggests they are about a desire for peace, but there is a definite anti-USA theme running through them. Some of them were really very good, though I imagine our friends from the States may not be too amused.
One space has been left just shaded out, saying that it is kept until the artists that are currently imprisoned in the States are released.

There are quite a few references to political prisoners held in the US, with official signs, posters and graffiti all calling for them to be released. Clearly while the Cuban/US situation is softening a little, there is a long way to go before the two countries could heal the rift.
We did have a few encounters with people who wanted money or clothes, soap etc from us. The first happened as we were sat in the square one evening watching a man who was very drunk as he tried to dance and ended up tottering backwards out of control until he fell over. He was helped up and didn't seem to have injured himself much, and he was soon staggering off elsewhere.

The man that sat down next to us started off easily enough, telling us about his job and the town. We did become dubious when he said that his son was ill, but he simply said that the state provided great treatment for him and didn't try to ask us for anything. Eventually though, the conversation drifted around to how expensive things were, how little he was paid, and how some people give home clothes or soap or other goods. He never actually asked us for anything, but we took the hint and gave our (genuine as it happens) reason to move on.
The later guy was somewhat more direct and less interesting to speak to. We had no hesitation in saying no and walking off.
Lots of people tried to sell us things, some quite reasonably, others more irritatingly so. There is a definite feel here that tourists are to be seen as a money making opportunity. It can be a bit annoying when people accost you when you are in a bar or restaurant, and it does lead you to view any contact with a hint of cynicism.

So when we were sat in a bar playing cards, and a guy came up to us and asked if he and his female friend could join us, we agreed, but were cautious. We took care that we all bought our own drinks and we're careful with what information we shared with them.
But gradually we became more satisfied that they were just looking for people to talk to.  Evelyn was Costa Rican and here studying medicine.  Julian was from Mexico. They both knew that people here often want something and were at pains to show us they didn't. And the women on the toilet door, who seemed to have taken quite a liking to me, and had shooed off some of the annoying sellers, indicated to us that they were fine.

So in the end we enjoyed a few hours of their company. They tried to show us a card game which after many attempts at the rules appeared to be a bit like snap, but you lost if you had all the cards. Confused, we gave up. It was nice to have met people that just wanted to be friendly and we may have spent longer with them, but she had got really quite drunk, and we figured it was best to leave them to it.
Having said our goodbyes to them, we found a great little peso restaurant called *********. A peso restaurant is one that takes local currency, so is intended for residents rather than tourists. If you go to one, and don't have local currency, you will need to check that they take the convertibles, and it is best check the prices they will charge you. This place did take them and didn't whack on a lot of extra 'exchange rate' so we had a great meal at a very good price.

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