Thursday 7th July- the Virgin Mary flashes her lights at me all night

In the night when I woke our room glittered with the virgin Mary’s shrine with its flashing disco lights. Such a contrast to my upbringing where the church was always austere. 

I have no idea what day it is and wake to look across and see Ren has gone early as she said she might. It is dark and silent within, but our room is internal so I have no daylight to gauge the time from. I shower again and go to greet the day on the outdoor patio and as soon as they know we are awake, they lift the covers off the six or so bird cages who quickly begin to sing their hearts out. Ren returns and another family come down for breakfast too. They are English but she had come in the eighties while at university, married a Cuban and had a daughter to him before they parted, so returns here regularly for her daughter to spend time with her grandmother in Havana. She has Spanish from that time that she says is more local and not perfect, but she gets by. She tells us the places to go and what prices to pay. That Havana is hotter and busier and she recommends to stay here longer rather than dash to Havana. All great advice and after they go we book to come back there for dinner, begging them not to give us so much as we couldn’t eat half of it last night. Tonight we will have longcosta…lobster with salad.

We pack our bags and leave for our new digs two doors up. It’s bigger, more refined and I’m under no illusion that everyone here lives like this. Some have very tiny, dark and dusty homes shared by many. 

Like most along this strip, this house is around 300 years old, being built in 1700’s. His Grandfather bought this house in 1932 and he is an only son. His wife is Spanish and they have a son and a daughter. Many families stay together and a household can comprise many layers of generations.

The main theme here seems ‘no hurry’ and the other two often tell me to slow down into Cuban time. I’m so used to rushing everywhere I have to be reminded. There are bicycles with carts to take tourists around the streets, or you could ride a donkey, or take a 50’s chev, or a horse drawn cart. Take your pick. There is one on every corner. We like to walk most places however and I’m hoping the weight from the mojitos is falling off me. It’s so humid the sweat is dripping off us all. Constantly damp and it’s hard to get used to but we are acclimatising gradually. We would find it extremely difficult though to sleep in this heat and are glad of the shower and aircon. Very very glad! We just wander and while centre of town is obviously the better area, the outer edges become dustier, dirtier and the people are obviously poorer. We come across the bell tower of a previously wealthy landowner who owned sugar plantations. Story is told that he poisoned the one who was the biggest landowner and then married his widow so becoming owner of it all, before his new wife then died under questionable circumstances. The bell tower of this beautiful building allows us to see the whole surrounding area. 

I’m looking for the church of St Francis of Assisi. But where I think it is, is a church closed to the public and I can’t find out why but we do find another square that looks interesting. 

This square is full of music with lots of people wandering. It’s not a huge place and we run into the same people we saw in Varadero, or on the bus, or on the train. Dinner is a bean soup starter, lobster with greens, chocolate sorbet. After more chatting with the English family who tell us about their trip to the beach that day and then also her trip to visit her friend in Nelson NZ about three years ago. We ask her where the dancing is. She starts explaining when Ren realises she knows it and we head there. Everyone is our friend. 

Ren with our drinks provider. The Cuban boys are inviting the girls to a cave for dancing that starts at midnight. Ren is invited but she says she has her Mum with her smiling and he says that’s ok you can take her home first. What!!!! Haha! Nah. I missed my afternoon siesta and I am absolutely buggered and my tummy is not feeling 100%. I’m debating whether to leave Ren and make my way home myself but I’m pretty sure I will get lost in this rabbit warren. I can’t seem to find my bearings. Ren decides to call it a night and we are soon home safe n sound together. Awwww…thanks Ren. 

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