This was a full day to ourselves so we planned to spend the day exploring Cienfuegos. Following a delicious breakfast we headed out of the house into the sun that was already getting horribly hot by 10am. We started walking down to the little beach at the end of our street where there were children playing in the water and a gentleman snorkelling and trying to catch fish close to the shore. After a lit while there we followed the Malecón into the town, spotting a wide variety of fish in the bay as we went by.
In Cienfuegos we had a general explore to get a feel for the place with its busy but laidback town centre, including a buzzy little shopping street. Then we walked down to the beautiful town square where we sat for a while to relax in the shade. This was also where we spent time talking to a pleasant young guy who was happy to meet someone from England who spoke Spanish – an uncommon occurrence in his experience. He taught Spanish Literature at the local high school. His mother had a Phd in the same subject and worked at Santa Clara University. Once again a general sense of melancholy came across as to how tough his life in Cuba actually was. He also helped us learn some more informal ways of saying “hello” in Cuban Spanish. The we exchanged a UK £ coin for a 3 NP note – it was at times like this that I wished we had bought some more small change with us as it was nice to be able t make this kind of exchange with people.
After talking to the teacher we had a look around the local theatre which was built in 1889 and which is one of the most beautiful and oldest theatres in Cuba. So beautiful that when we found out that there was a dance performance that evening that we decided that we had to come back to see the theatre in action.
One thing that was noticeable in Cienfuegos is that there is much more begging for money, soap and pens than I had seen anywhere else. I don’t know if this was because the location of tourist drop offs and spots is much more concentrated but the level of begging was certainly much more noticeable than in Havana.
Lunch was another peso pizza from a guy on the main drag who had a really slick set up on the patio in front of his house, Including a great little oven he had rigged up and a couple of benches where customers could wait for their food. We order two pizzas with onion and he also threw in two free glasses of deliciously refreshing lemonade.
When it was time to head back to the casa to clean up before our show we decided to take a bici-taxi. Rather bizarrely the drivers will not give you a price for this but instead make the suggestion that you pay what you want. Slightly frustrating to say the least, as you aren’t quite sure how generous or tight you are being. We have tended to pay 2CUC and haven’t been blacklisted by the drivers so am assuming this is (hopefully) reasonable enough.
Following a freshen up we walked back into town to watch our contemporary dance matinee. A small but appreciative audience were treated to a surprisingly good quality of dance. It was particularly special to see such a glorious old theatre in action. When the show finished we walked out into the refreshing Cienfuegos evening and strolled back along the Malecón, which was now full of people out enjoying the evening in typical Cuban style. People of all ages out to savour the cool of the evening and the company of their friends and family. Such a lovely, sociable way of doing things that hardly exists in the UK at all anymore.