Day 01 01/28/2020 Departure from France. Air France flight to Havana.

The pleasant side: we leave at 2.30 p.m. and arrive at 6.30 p.m. thanks to the jet lag (6 a.m.) while there is a 9 a.m. flight.

A representative of the agency awaits us on arrival and entrusts us to David, a friendly taxi driver, who takes us to the casa particular in music, first contact with Cuba: Sarandonga.

The banks are closed. Fortunately we had a little money left from last year to go to dinner.

  1. Puce Dinner at the Van Van which is near the casa. A good, friendly restaurant with fair prices. Their menu has been reduced, but the quality is still there. Good music groups.

  2. Puce Accommodation: Azul Habana, calle Habana 54. We chose it because it is comfortable, decent and well located. This year a little noisier than the previous year. The tourists slam the door of their rooms instead of closing them and speak loudly whatever the hour. We are in the era of incivility and self-centeredness.

Day 02 01/29/2020 Havana - Camagüey about 550 km Departure at 10:30 am, arrival at 6:20 pm

After a pleasant breakfast on the terrace, meet Yadira, the agency's representative, for a briefing before leaving for the Oriente.

Verification of the program, possible update. Delivery of a telephone with the concierge number, an emergency number and that of the driver. A small credit is granted for calls or sending SMS. Delivery of a WiFi credit card.

We discover that in Havana there are activities that the French representative did not tell us about: Social Havana and Havana with a friend. Two activities that are a bit out of the classic tourist circuits.

We want to change money. Impossible, no time, the road is too long.

It is true that when we see the queue in front of the banks, we imagine the time it must take. We will see on the way.

The car is a spacious and comfortable Morris Garage sedan (Chinese license) belonging to the state taxi company (yellow).

We meet Luis Enriqué, the driver for the whole program. A young man of 41 years, correct, drawn to the nines, jaws and shoulders tense, good eater. He only speaks Spanish.

If we always wonder what type of driver we will be dealing with, some of them may also sometimes wonder which customers they will come across. This presupposes a period of mutual observation the first days.

Autopista from Havana to Sancti Spiritus and Carretera Central from Sancti Spiritus to Camagüey.

Unlike last year where the tiny car that we shared with the driver and the guide was traveling at 60 km / h this year we drive at 100km / h. Except on certain routes or in anticipation of numerous police checks.

The driver stops to buy a grilled pork sandwich. It looks so appetizing that we take one too.

  1. Puce  Lunch stop in a highway restaurant: Tarapi, at km 140.

Nice buffet (12 cuc) and good bochadillos (3 cuc). The waitress is having a fit because I have finished Nadia's plate which was no longer hungry. She wanted to count this as two buffets, whereas I had taken another dish.

Next time, it's better to stop at km 143 at the Los Martinez highway restaurant. Cheaper and very correct.

Arrival in Camagüey. We are welcomed by Félix, representative of the agency, and Dolores who will be our guide the next day.

Felix is ​​a surprising young man of efficiency. He suggests withdrawing money from the ATM and changing our euros at the official bank rate. What the representative of Havana should do. He takes care of our reservation for the social Havana activity, he inquires about timetables, prices and the availability of a forest guide at the Hacienda de Belen. He visits us several times a day to make sure everything is fine.

In 40 years of tourism career this is the second time that we have encountered this.

Dolores explains the program for the next day. We ask if it is possible to add a visit to a market. Last year the guide avoided this kind of visit, this year the French representative told us that it was not possible to modify the established programs and that we could make these visits in our spare time.

For Felix and Dolores it is entirely possible to adapt the activities to the specific expectations of customers. It's good to know.

  1. Puce Survival dinner (freeze-dried meal) it is late and the casa is quite far from popular restaurants.

  2. Puce Accommodation: Casa Eduardo y Geraldine. Ok, clean, simple. An ordinary house.

Day 03 30/01/2020 Carmagüey otherwise

After breakfast on the terrace overlooking the city skyline, under a soft morning sun, Dolores takes us to the Mercado Hatibonico.

Stands, huts, displays. Two parts: a public part whose products come from state cultures, sold at prices fixed by the state, a part where the products come from private cultures sold by private people at slightly higher prices for a quality that would be " better. "

Accustomed to the Asian markets which are full of fruits and vegetables, with mounds of fresh products, extremely varied, colorful, abundant and appetizing, although the standard of living is not different from that of Cuba, we are struck by the monotony of displays, lack of choice and appearance of products. Lots of onions and garlic, tomato stalls, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, cassava tubers, different kinds of dried beans, old-fashioned bananas. A fish stand, a stand of aromatic and medicinal plants.

People seem parsimonious. Is it a lack of choice, or a habit of sobriety imposed by circumstances?

We discover that the Cuban people still live with ration books giving right to a certain amount of rice, coffee, oil, etc ... per person and per month, the milk being reserved for children and the elderly. The basic products are guaranteed to all at a price fixed by the state, even to the better-off!

If people want more or better, they can buy from private stores at much higher prices.

Dolores says that food cannot move from one region to another. The vegetables and fruits sold in Camagüey must come from the Camagüey region. It does not seem possible that another variety of fruit or vegetables grown elsewhere on the island will be sold at the Camagüey market!

This market opens our eyes to very different realities of Spanish palaces, colonial houses, gleaming cathedrals, exotic beaches.

We leave the market to visit the Company of classical and contemporary ballets (sede del ballet de Camagüey) Carretera central Este, between 4TA y la Vega, reparto Garrido, directed by Mrs. Regina Maria Balaguer Sanchez.

This school was founded by Fernando Alonso (1914-2013), renowned Cuban dancer, founder of the national ballet of Cuba with his brother Alberto and his wife Alicia Martinez.

He settled in Camagüey, founded and directed this Company after stays in the United States and in Havana. He and his brother, his ex-wife are at the origin of the classic Cuban style: mixture of Western, Russian and Latin style.

We are greeted by public relations officer Biana Aguiar Barrueto who takes us to a classroom. Dancers warm up and rehearse choreographies for the next performance. They are supervised by Professors Lila Martinez and Maria de los Angeles Valera.

If I like certain contemporary ballets, I am fairly resistant to classical dance, which I find rigid, stuck, repetitive. Printing style exercises and cabotinage.

I realize by attending these exercices that classical dance is much more stirring to watch in training than in performance.

We are literally captivated by these young women who concentrate, tirelessly recommencing movements until reaching the perfection of the gesture and the approval of the professor. I am impressed by the level of concentration of these young women. I have only met this level of "being in oneself" in dance academies in India. A conscious presence, an interiority of exceptional power. No smile for an audience to conquer, no head movements or catchy looks. The right effort and a deep presence in what passes in them, from the top of the skull to the tips of the fingers, hands and feet. They are in what they do and not in what they show. Sublime. Thank you for this unexpected sharing.

We then visit the workshop where Aurora Martinez and René Hechemendia are made to measure, the dancers' slippers and their stage outfits. Unlike other academies including the Havana ballets which buy imported dance items at high prices, this company makes everything it needs, for the sake of economy.

The school presents a dance performance for the city's birthday on February 08, we will be there.

After the Ballet Company we reach the house of the Ballet Folklorico de Camargüey (Callejón Finlay, Nº 4. entre República y Lope Recio), founded in 1991 by Reynaldo Echemendia Estrada. Reynaldo is a musician, composer-arranger, choreographer, folk singer and music teacher. He is general and artistic director of the Ballet Folklorico de Camagüey of national and international renown.

While we were supposed to attend rehearsals of folk ballets, we are witnessing the rehearsal of a very moving song-based performance. A group repeats a scene associating songs and texts, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in Yoruba (language of slaves) under the direction of Reynaldo, impressive charismatic character. We were captivated by the polyphonic songs of this group and the voice of Géraldine Gallando Munaz. We didn't want to leave.

Small stroll in calle Republica, very commercial with the plaza del Gallo, the park Ignatio Agramonte its typical bar El Cambio, calle Cisneros, calle Paco Recio.

Refreshing break on the terrace of one of the café-terraces in San Juan de Dios square.

Visit of two art galleries: that of Magdiel, painter-sculptor with complex works: assemblies of forms which are sometimes articulated to make room for surprises, that of Jose D. Gutiérrez Cabrera dit Pepe, very creative leather sculptor at which you can buy leather creations at very affordable prices.

Direction El Carmen square, with its church with two steeples Iglesia de Nuestra Seniora del Carmen and the bronzes of the artist Martha Jimenez Perez. Characters seated, immobilized in what they were doing, as if time had stopped.

  1. Puce Lunch at El Paso restaurant, one of the best restaurant of our stay. It's fresh, it's good, it's hearty, no music at last.

Visit the gallery of Martha Jimenez. Too bad we can't take photos to share the creativity of this artist. She has a very personal vision of women.

Back to the city center, visit the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, and the native casa of Ignacio Agramonte (1847-1873), one of the figures of the first Cuban "revolution" during the Ten Years' War.

Large colonial house, where you can see the splendor in which the Spanish lived, including those who revolted against the system.

We did not have time to see the panoramic view of the city from the terrace of the Gran Hotel or the cathedral tower, or to visit the Church of La Merced and its catacombs planned in the program.

The day was full, it will be for next time.

  1. Puce Dinner at the restaurant La Meson del Principe. We must reserve the risk of waiting a certain time. Surprise: unlike the majority of even popular Cuban restaurants, the price of the dishes only concerns meat or fish. If you want rice it is extra, if you want vegetables it is extra, if you want salad it is extra. Knowing that the price of non-garnished dishes is identical or even higher than the same garnished dishes in other restaurants.

When paying the server presents the bill stating that there is a choice between 3 tips indicated on the invoice: 10%, 12%, 13%. The invoice being 21.55 cuc, this gives 2.15 or 2.58, or 2.80 of your choice.

Not having enough change to top up, we give him 25.55 cuc. It is supposed to give us 4 cuc. We are waiting for the change in order to leave the tip that we have chosen. Nothing. He put 4 cuc in the office pocket! We had to claim. Estafa! Never!

  1. Puce Accommodation: casa particular Eduardo y Geraldine. Ok, clean, simple. An ordinary house.

Day 04 31/01/2020 Camaguey - Bayamo. 240 km Departure 08:00 am - Arrival 6:15 pm

Having read positive opinions on the forums about the Sierra del Chorillo and the hacienda of Belen with its sentero de las aves, as it is close to our route we negotiated, from the start, the possibility of add this visit to our route.

Although it is 37 km from Camagüey, it took us a long time to get there and back. Half an hour on the right track and an hour and fifteen minutes on a completely broken track where only harnessed carts or heavy goods vehicles pass on the outward and return journeys.

The environment is interesting, old dilapidated villages, very poor. The hacienda is flowered and green. If we haven't warned you before (which Felix did) no need to show up. 5 cuc the entry + 10 cuc of bird path per person + tip to the forest guide (Camilo). The hotel is not attractive, the swimming pool does not make you want to bathe there, the nonchalance of the staff is disconcerting!

As for the sentero de los aves, we walk half an hour on a stony path between two pastures where sick horses, particularly infested with ticks, are quarantined, under veterinary treatment. We finally reach a bushy forest where we hear some birds more than we see them. The forest guide shows us on his mobile the photo of the bird we hear. Thanks to his lazer pointer we were able to glimpse a few birds against the top of large trees.

The next day I notice that I am bitten by a tick (chinche), which will be worth a consultation in parasitology and blood tests as soon as we return to France to verify that I am not contaminated by borreliosis (Lyme disease) or other unwanted bacteria. This visit is really without interest and does not deserve the positive opinions of the forums.

  1. Puce Lunch in a small popular restaurant on the track. There are only 5 tables, all occupied by passing premises. Simple and good. Only fairly fatty pork and rice with fresh vegetables.

Road to Bayamo with a coffee break in a road restaurant in Las Tunas: the Rancon de la Rotoda. The only place where toilets were free! We observe in petrol stations that the majority of Cubans who get off local buses, rush behind the bushes for "los banios" so as not to pay.

Last year we gave 0.25 cuc to the lady "pee" placed in front of all public toilets. Today they display their price: 1 CUC.

Arrival in Bayamo, where we are greeted by Alain the guide who will show us around the city the next day. As in Camagüey, the guide accompanies us to the casa particular, He introduces us to our guests and checks the room.

He gives us a little briefing for the next day and accompanies us to the restaurant for dinner.

We discover a special personality: Alain is a radio and television host for Bayamo and a host in a cabaret. Like Dolores, he is also a French teacher. He is very well known in the city, many people stop to greet him.

  1. Puce Dinner at the San Carlos, a crowded restaurant popular with locals, with a thunderous singer. Although the meal and the prices are correct, it is impossible to have a conversation and unpleasant to eat in such an noisy atmosphere.

After the meal, Alain takes us on a little city tour, recounting the historical facts which have enamelled the various places. We discover that following a defeat against the Spanish army, the inhabitants of Bayamo burnt down their city completely before fleeing so as not to abandon them.

Plaza Carlos Manuel Cespedes, plaza del Himno where the Cuban national anthem La Bayamesa was sung for the first time written by Perucho Figueredo.

Unforeseen meetings with former French students, including Celis Cordoza Sanchez, a self-taught carpenter, gifted at sculpture. He created furniture and decorations of great creativity for individuals but also for the largest hotel in the city.

We are amazed to discover how gifted the Cubans are for the arts.

  1. Puce Accommodation: Villa Leone. Simple, correct, clean. An ordinary house. The first evening we were in the room which overlooks the street which is not noisy. On the other hand the air conditioning which dates from the middle of the 20th century was very noisy. There was also a freezer in the room. The owner offered to change rooms the next day.

Day 05 02/01/2020 Bayamo otherwise departure 9:00 am return around 4:00 pm

Small city tour in a carriage, which is not a folklore for tourists, but a means of transport widely used by locals as in many small cities in Cuba. All the more appreciated during this period of oil shortage due to Donald Trump.

A little long visit to the Torre de San Juan Evangelista, ruins of the church destroyed during the fire of 1869 and of the Retablo de los Heroes with the statue of Francisco Vicente Aguilera accompanied by 33 portraits of independent men and women from the region who followed him in his attempt to fight the established system.

The carriage then takes us to its place of birth: the Fabrica de los Coches. Horse-drawn carriages were brought to Cuba by the French like barrel organs.

State enterprise, not yet a museum and no longer entirely a workshop, it does not seem that carriages are still being made there, apart from the miniatures which will be sold in tourist shops. Two carriages under construction and a finished carriage give the impression that the activity continues. Lack of raw materials, lack of orders, the main activity would be to repair and attract the few tourists who pass through Bayamo. What this Cuban site confirms:

Head to the Nico Lopez museum park. A barracks that looks more like a life-size sand castle from our childhood than a military fortress. The museum housed in the former officers' mess is dedicated to Nico Lopez, another independentist in the region. Without much interest.

The carriage takes us to the Plaza de la Patria where Castro gave his last speech in July 2006 before handing over power to his brother Raoul. In front of this immense square which resembles all the immense squares of Cuban cities, we cannot help thinking of the thousands of people who sometimes stood for 8:00 hours listening to the leader make his endless monologues. A monument dedicated to Cuban heroes (Cespedes, Maceo, Maximo Gomez, Perucho Figueredo, Fidel Castro) houses a museum which tells of Castro's journey.

In each city we visited we were treated to repetition of Cuban history, the guides not knowing what the others told us. History often limited to the heroes of independence and the Castro revolution.

The horse-drawn carriage drops us off at the entrance to Paseo Bayames (Gral.Marcia), a pedestrian shopping street that goes up to the Cespedes park. An original street where the posts are transformed into trees or tubes of paint. There are most of the city's restaurants where there are impressive queues (city Cubans go to restaurants a lot) and state and private shops where there are so many queues.

It is in this street (Gral.Marcia) and the lanes which are close to it that the famous Fiesta de la Cubania takes place every Saturday evening.

Visit the Museo de Cera, the Grévin museum, or the Madame Tussauds Cubain: wax statues represent different Cuban personalities from the artistic or sporting world. We were afraid that we would still be dealing with the heroes of independence or the revolution. El Gabo, Hemingway, Rita Montaner, Maximo Francisco Repilado Munoz, Nicolas Cristobal Guillen Batista, Benny Moré, Sindo Garey, Teofilo Stevenson (Pirolo) and many others. Only Marti and Cespedes represent the political category.

We rediscover the Cespedes park this time under the sun. A pretty place. Visit to Casa Natal of Carlos Manuel De Cespedes.

Unlike the other "casa" that we visit in Cuba, here the photos are paid. There is nothing special, however: the same style of furniture, crockery, as in all casa natales. Only a few personal items differ. Not wanting to pay, we keep our cameras in our bags: we will be followed throughout the visit by lady-guards to make sure that we don't take photos or steal dishes ! Cool !

  1. Puce Lunch at the Meson de la Cuchipapa. Very popular with tourist groups, long waits, simple, decent meals. Deafening musicians.

After the restaurant, visit the casa de la Trova Bayamesa! A spectacle for tourists with musicians more concerned with "economic solicitation" than with traditional music. It was more like a "vacation club" for the elderly, invitation to dance, cheeky humor, record sales and a quest.

We continue our visit alone: ​​the iglesia Parroquial Mayor of San Salvador rebuilt after the fire of 1869, where a ceremony took place chaired by a bishop. Very beautiful Cuban songs.

The area along the Bayamo River is less interesting.

  1. Puce Dinner in a building entrance transformed into a miniature restaurant on the go, this is the only place this Saturday evening where there is no queue and where prices have remained reasonable: bocadito de jamon y queso, of Chorizo y queso, special sandwich, flan de leche.

In all the streets, restaurateurs and opportunists, with tables and presentation of dishes at high prices. Meat and fish barbecue. All the Bayamais are out, it's party time, we dance everywhere, we eat everywhere, there are street shows. The girls have made up and wear clothes that are even sexier than during the day. We also drink a lot, Bayamo gets drunk.

To discover: traditional Cuban family nightlife. This reminds us of the village and small town festivals in France before the big "upheaval".

We meet lots of people with whom we interact thanks to Nadia's knowledge of Spanish. A chess player, a national sport after baseball, a doctor Alberto Rosales Infante and his biologist friend who returns from a mission in Congo where he did research on Ebola

  1. Puce Accommodation: Villa Leone, the owner kept us the second bedroom, more comfortable than the first, with a modern air conditioner.

Day 06 02/02/2020 Bayamo - Santiago de Cuba departure 10:30 am arrival 1:30 pm

Before leaving, Alain wanted to show us around the iglesia Parroquial Mayor de San Salvador, thinking that we had not been able to visit it the day before because he is convinced that it was closed.

By the way we visit the Batiste church with a warm and friendly welcome, even during the service. The faithful of this church seem much more open and welcoming than those of the Catholic churches. Besides, at the iglesia Parroquial Mayor in San Salvador, we were aggressively taken out by a "good Christian" because Alain was translating in a low voice what the priest said. A ceremony was organized in tribute to a Dominican from Bayamo.

Visit the Royalton hotel to discover the sculptures of carpenter Celis Cordoza. This somewhat dated but comfortable hotel has a special character, with a pretty patio. We can imagine meeting old backpackers there. Which was the case :

unforeseen exchanges with Alain Geffroy, a Frenchman who lives in Bayamo most of the time, former audiovisual producer who, according to him, was behind the Baux de Provence quarry show (a little thought for our friends Hélène and Arnold). Restaurateur in France (Biobuffet de l'Agenais) teacher of cooking and service in a school hotel in Cuba.

Before leaving Bayamo, we discover typical products: Rosita de Maiz, Rosquita, Rosca Blanda, made by Eliberto who gave us a bag for the road.

Green road with in the distance the first reliefs of the Sierra Maestra which will intensify up to Baracoa.

In Santiago we are greeted by Jenny. The guide planned for the next day's visit. She takes us to the casa particular, visits the room and gives a short briefing on the interesting visits to do, the interesting restaurants, and the next day's visits. It confirms that our driver is available for the visits we wish to make during free time and for the program for the next day. She will not be able to come, she is suffering. It will be another guide.

  1. Puce Lunch at the San Francisco restaurant: very pleasant, good, generous and inexpensive.

Quick tour of the city center. The first impression that jumps out at Santiago is the proportions of people of color compared to the rest of Cuba. It seems that people of African origin are more numerous here than elsewhere. Second impression Santiago has streets that plunge towards the sea, a little like those of San Francisco, with vertiginous slopes. However, we did not find that there was more music here than elsewhere or that people were more welcoming there than elsewhere.

As in all Cuban cities, a pedestrian street crosses the center offering all the shops, from the curtain store to the ice cream parlor (Cubans are big consumers of ice creams), passing by fashionable clothing stores and essential boutiques of mobile phones.

Parque Cespedes is in turmoil, a group of musicians is preparing the scene to celebrate this evening the awards it has just won, in front of the imposing Ayuntamiento facing the cathedral. Building built in the 1950s on the balcony of which Castro announced the success of the revolution on January 1, 1959.

We ask Luis if he can take us to Castillo de Morro (entry 4 cuc per pers.)

The fort is well preserved, and offers an exceptional view of the city, the port, the ocean.

We discover there the name of the pirates who barely scoured the island: John Hawkins (English) Francis Drake (English) Piet Heyn (Dutch), Henry Morgan (English), Roc "el brasiliano" (Portuguese), Francis Nau ( French), Alejandro Selkirk (Scottish) whose story inspired that of Robinson Crusoe.

  1. Puce Dinner at the casa particular which offered different meal formulas. A complete and tasty meal (vegetable soup, pork roll with cheese and sautéed chicken with vegetables + rice + tomato-cucumber-cabbage salad, green beans) dessert ice cream and custard, delicious homemade lemonade.

  2. Puce Accommodation: casa particular Ritomar. A beautiful large house with a narrow interior patio. It is run by two brilliant and nice employees, very attentive: thanks to Yanaira and Sanisbel Mendoga, the bosses passing by to see from time to time if all is well.

Day 07 03/02/2020 Santiago Popular Religions Departure 09:30 am End 15:00

Breakfast at the height of the previous evening's dinner. This casa is quite different from all the others in terms of quality of service.

When we get in the car to start the program, the new Maité guide goes into crisis: "get out of the car." She does not want our driver to provide support. She arranged for another driver. Luis tries to explain to her, she doesn't want to hear anything and speaks to him unpleasantly. We stand up for Luis and refuse to go with another driver. It is planned from the start that the driver and the car are at our disposal during the tour. She phones someone and eventually capitulates.

We are going to Cespedes square to visit the catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion. On the parvi of the elderly do tai chi. Inside a beautiful organ case. Quick visit, nothing extraordinary.

In the square a group of musicians starts Guantanamera as soon as tourists approach. Everywhere in all cities and restaurants as soon as tourists arrive it triggers among the musicos a Hasta Siempre or a Guantanamera.

Walk in calle Jose Maria Heredia, look at the casa de la Trova, visit the native casa of José Maria Heredia. Very nice house with interior courtyard. It was good to live there. An exhibition of naive art is organized there from works produced by peasants gathered in a cooperative. We are in awe of the talent and creativity of the Cubans. Difficult to resist, we buy the table of the Siesta. According to the director of the museum, Laritze Martinez Diazdevillalvilla, from primary school all children are pushed to experiment with artistic techniques, to develop and express their creativity in a discipline that suits them: music, plastic arts, writing, sport.

We meet a renowned professional photographer in Cuba, especially for his naturalistic shots: René Silveira Toledo.

Like all the Cuban artists we met, a simple, humble, open man.

We then go up the pedestrian street to join the car which takes us to a place where we are supposed to discover popular religions: santeria?

It is not the house of the Caribbean, because the facade of the house of the Caribbean does not correspond to what we visited.

We visit a house with photos, statues, objects of worship, a guide who vaguely explains what santeria consists of. Nothing more. Without interest in these conditions.

Road outside the city to visit the Basilica of the Virgin of Charity: Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre or Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. The church is high up against the backdrop of copper mines and a small gold mine.

The driver, who had to wait for this moment, took the opportunity to make an offering. People offer bouquets of sunflower flowers and buy statues.

According to legend, the statuette of the Virgin was found floating on the water by three young slaves, a black and two Indians, in the waters of Nipe Bay (northeast of the island), around 1612 At the request of veterans of the War of Independence, Pope Benedict XV agreed to make her the patron saint of Cuba in 1916.

The Virgen de la caridad del cobre, which the Cubans call "Cachita", is the patron saint of the nation, celebrated on September 8. However, religious syncretism, predominant in the Caribbean, identifies him with Oshun, a deity of the pantheon of Yoruba origin (Nigeria)

The basilica, inaugurated in 1927, has become a place of pilgrimage where believers ask for the help of "Cachita" to obtain a pardon. Among the ex-votos who show their gratitude, we find words from relatives of political prisoners.

Between August 2010 and December 2011, the Church carried the statuette of the Virgin of Charity across the country. The procession traversed each city, each locality of the archipelago, each of the 700 parishes. At each stage, crowds prayed, sang and cried. Since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, Catholicism has never had such a display of popular devotion - knowing that "Cachita" symbolizes "santeria" as much as the Catholic faith.

Pope Francis came to celebrate a mass there in 2015.

We have not seen the House of Traditions, the guide says that it is closed.

  1. Puce Back in town for lunch at the Thoms y Yadira restaurant. Very correct meal taken on the balcony overlooking the Cespedes park. End of the guide's service.

This activity is the only one to be disappointing during our entire stay in Cuba in 2020: it does not correspond to what it suggests, the discovery of popular religions.

Visiting churches is what we do in every city. Nothing special !

Discovering the difference between Catholics and Baptists (who are numerous in Cuba) would have been interesting. Finding out how Cubans associate "official" religion with "traditional" religion would have been interesting. For example understanding why the Cubans give such an important place to San Lazaro. Since we hear so much about the revolution, find out what was the impact of the revolution on religious practices, ranging from prohibition to a certain tolerance. How the people reacted, knowing that everything that is forbidden gives rise to secret practices.

Meeting practitioners or attending a santeria ceremony like we did at Sancti Spiritus last year would have been interesting. Visiting the street and the santeria market with explanations of the practices and rituals would have been interesting:

In the afternoon, we visit alone the Padre Pico district with its stairs which everyone is talking about and which is really nothing exceptional. The life and the houses in the adjacent streets are more interesting. We meet people with whom we interact like the cook of an unknown little restaurant who speaks excellent French because he worked in France.

  1. Puce Dinner at the San Francisco restaurant. On the terrace. Always as pleasant. Super friendly service.

  2. Puce

Coming back to our accommodation, we are attracted by songs and the sound of drums. We meet Leonar who invites us to enter this neighborhood house to discover young people who repeat a show sung and danced on their Yoruba roots. The choreographer, a fairly special individual came to Noyon (40 km from our home town) in France to give salsa lessons. He set up here the company Compania.K-Biosile which he directs in a very "authoritarian" way. Young people seem very motivated.

  1. Puce Accommodation casa Ritomar

Day 08 04/02/2020 Santiago de Cuba - Baracoa 260 km departure at 9:00 am arrival at 3:30 pm

En route Luis wants to go to Guantanamo to refuel. Compared to other Cuban cities, the city of Guantanamo is not really attractive.

We turn for an hour in search of a petrol station that has a little oil. Because of Trump and the American embargo, all the pumps are almost empty. To obtain a maximum of 20 liters of petrol, we are obliged to go to a state office in order to obtain a ration voucher. The shortage seems to be felt most crucially throughout the east of the country.

This impacts road transport and the movement of goods. When a store is finally supplied it gives rise to unimaginable queues to buy a chicken, a box of detergent, a tube of toothpaste.

On the way to Baracoa, Luis offers to stop at the viewpoint which has become a tourist attraction with a bar, toilets, souvenir shops. The viewpoint allows you to see the bay and the entrenched American city of Guantanamo, famous for its penitentiary where terrorists are locked up.

In the foreground, salt marshes. Then a Cuban military camp with its watchtower facing an American military camp and its watchtower. An American airport on each side of the bay.

For 1 cuc, Odeilis shows us photos on the life of the American base and shows us the places where is the residential area with supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants, schools and colleges, the factory that treats seawater for the make the power plant potable. The Americans live in complete autarky, without any exchange with the Cubans. Space of abundance and luxury which is for me an insult to the Cuban indigence partly imposed by their imperialism.

The road is winding through the wooded and green reliefs of the Sierra Maestra, covered with mist. Along this route, families sell "homemade" chocolate, "cucuruchos" sugar and cocoa cones, and mangoes, although everyone says that it is not the season. And yet we bought and ate them. When we arrived in Baracoa it was gray and it was raining.

Welcome by Keren Perez our guide. She leads us to the casa particular, and checks the room. After a briefing for the next day, she accompanies us for a little city tour. The center of Baracoa is tiny and full of charm. Too bad it's raining. Casa del chocolate, casa de la Trova, shops, restaurants. We are surprised by the number of tourists.

There is so much contradictory information on this small end of the world saying that there is no road or that they are in very bad condition, that there are no tourists or so few, that 'there are no decent accommodations. All this is entirely false.

Visit the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion where the original cross is located, implanted by Christopher Columbus during his first landing in Cuba. It shines so brightly that we can hardly believe that it is the original.

Small stroll in town where we discover "miserable" streets with many houses in poor condition: Baracoa keeps scars from Hurricane Mathiew, one of the most violent in decades, of which it was the victim in October 2016.

  1. Puce  Dinner at El Buen Sabor restaurant, recommended by the guide. A nice place, where you eat well, with very reasonable prices. Meals include fish soup, chicken nuggets, fried bananas, vegetable salad, and a dish of your choice with white or frozen rice. You can ask for a local vegetarian dish based on vegetables cooked in coconut milk called "calalù", delicious.

The manager and the waiter speak French. Rayco is a tour guide during the day and a waiter at night.

Room and terrace. The must: a duo of musicians who do not "yell". They play guitar with finesse and make very soft vocal harmonies. No wonder they are called "Voces del Miel". We can talk to each other while they play and they sing lots of other songs than Hastia Semper and Guantanaméra.

  1. Puce Accommodation: Casa Grande. A big house. Very spacious room with private balcony. Large dining room on the terrace. Everything is impeccable. César is kind, warm and welcoming, Ronny a little less.

Day 09 05/02/2020 Baracoa Cacao otherwise

Torrential rain overnight.

After a very pleasant breakfast, Keren takes us in the rain towards the cocoa path, at the exit of the city. As we move away, the sun begins to shine. Great weather.

Luis drops us off at the entrance to a stony path. Short hike in the countryside.

Flower gardens, swamps, wooden huts and authentic peasants. We finally meet the Cuba of the fields.

People live on almost nothing, crops (bananas, coconuts, cocoa, etc.), livestock (goats, pigs, horses), fishing, of which they must leave a large part in the state (80%). Their houses are reduced to a plank hut, with little furniture (a bench, one or two wooden armchairs, a bed), sometimes a very old television set, more rarely a rusty fridge that dates from another age. They often cook outside on a brazier in a cabin.

They cultivate a little coffee for their personal consumption which they roast and put on socks like our grandmothers.

Keren makes us discover the different wild or cultivated plants used in local cuisine.

We meet Eidis Hernandez Lones fisherman with whom we exchange. It prepares reinforced hooks because it sometimes falls on small sharks.

We realize how much his survival and that of his family depends on the weather, and the catches he can make. Even if the school is free, if the care and a certain number of other services are free, when the fishing is not good and he has given what he owed to the state, he remains nothing to live for. And yet he seems happy and confident, unlike the French who always complain of not having enough.

We meet children and visit a primary school. Distribution of pens and candies. We know that here it will not turn children into beggars like in Africa or Asia.

We visit Omar Cantillo Hernandez and his wife Eda Telico Hay, peasant fishermen who welcome us with delicious fruits from their garden (guavas, oranges, bananas) and a cup of coffee. They are very supportive of their children who help them in their work.

Small refreshing swim on playa Carjuajo, far from the beaches for tourists.

I spend a long time chatting with Armel, a local peasant, who lives from farming and from his coconut plantation. Like all the others, he owes part of his coconut harvest to the state and when one of his mares gives birth to a foal, he must have it registered by the administration, which closely follows the evolution of his herd.

Armel takes us aboard his cart harnessed to Rafael, a personality in the region.

Raphael is a descendant of the Tainos, the first inhabitants of the island, probably from Venezuela, decimated by the Spanish during their invasion. He is part of a community of 300 people who still have Taino traces in their DNA.

Indeed his face, especially at the level of the eyes and cheekbones is quite different from the majority of Cubans, it recalls the face of certain Central American Indians. Raphael is a musician from Nengon and Kiriba.

  1. Puce His family runs a small restaurant that only serves traditional dishes. We discover these dishes unique in Cuba, presented in small calabashes called güira, we eat with spoons cut from the same calabashes.

Okra, green beans, chard, broad beans, fried cassava, rice with crab meat, fish, squash all cooked in a coconut milk sauce colored with roucou or achiote seeds (Bixa orellana ) reduced to powder.

For dessert delicious bananas much better than those found in the markets. As a drink, mineral water or a medicinal herbal drink, and chorote, a traditional drink made from cocoa, coconut milk and green banana flour.

After the meal we are invited to take a few dance steps on the Nengon y Kiriba. Older sounds that are the origin of salsa. It is more swaying, more languid, less excited than salsa. I found accents of maloya and sega, other dances of African origins practiced in the Indian Ocean.

We can experience this meeting as a folk attraction for tourists. In the course of our day and thanks to Keren, we lived this as an experience, a discovery, an enrichment.

We are visiting Daisy Pelegrin from the cocoa casa. It is Annabelle who makes us discover the secrets of the cultivation of cocoa and the making of chocolate.

After 5 years, a mature tree bears around 800 pods. Farmers must donate 80% of their harvest to the state that manufactures chocolate itself industrially.

The cocoa tree needs shade and humidity, which is why it is grown away from other trees, here the banana tree. We discover the different stages of maturity of the pod, the extraction of the seeds, the fermentation of the seeds, the drying in the sun, the roasting, the peeling of the sheaths, the grinding which makes it possible to obtain the cocoa mass which contains l oil (with which we will make cocoa butter).

If you mix this dough with sugar and cinnamon if you want, you get chocolate that you just have to let it harden in the fridge. This gives the raw chocolate or raw chocolate which is sold so dearly in Europe. It has not been heated or mixed with fats other than those it contains. It is 100% raw dark chocolate. 2 chocolate bars 1 cuc, a wooden jar of cocoa butter 4 cuc, 325 gr of coffee 2 cuc.

Return to Baracoa. We take advantage of the dry but gray weather to take a last walk in Baracoa.

  1. Puce Dinner at El Buen Sabor. During the meal, the sky loosens and soaks the city again.

  2. Puce Accommodation at Casa Grande.

Day 10 2/6/2020 Baracoa - Holguin 258 km departure 9:00 am arrival 5:00 pm

Long road and great detour that passes by Guantanamo and a few kilometers from Santiago de Cuba. The coastal road from Baracoa to Holguin is reported to be in very poor condition.

Fields of sugar cane as far as the eye can see. Cuba seems to have forgotten the rules of biodiversity in favor of monoculture.

  1. Puce Lunch in a nice local restaurant: at the Finca de frutales Tierra Santa, Santa Rita de Burene. The waitress Keilan looks like a twin sister to a French friend of which we had a photo, this gave rise to a funny exchange.

Road to Holguin. This part of the island seems very dry although there are sometimes sugar cane plantations.

Before arriving in Holguin, Luis asks if we want to see the native village of Fidel Castro.

Direction Biran. A quiet little village in the middle of a cane plantation. The village has been transformed into a museum. Closed. A guide (Disnardo) agrees to take us around without being able to get inside the houses.

Fidel's father is an illiterate Spanish immigrant who has become a wealthy landowner and a sugar planter. He owns practically the whole region. History does not tell how an illiterate immigrant could have become so wealthy in such a short time.

He abandoned his first wife with his 5 children. Fidel's mother was the father's cook, of Spanish origin, but born in Cuba with whom Angel Castro will have 7 children out of wedlock. Some died, others fled the revolution in the USA.

We can see the family grave where those who died in Cuba are buried, except Fidel, buried in Santiago de Cuba. The primary school where Fidel started his classes. The post office. The father's house, which burned down completely due to an ill-extinguished and later rebuilt father's cigarette, his first car, an old Ford. The house that the father had built for Fidel in which he never lived.

There is also an arena for cockfighting and palm-leaf huts decorated with hammocks for "farm workers" who are no longer called slaves, but "Haitian immigrants".

Fidel left his village very young to study in Santiago and elsewhere. He has rarely returned to his native village.

Arrival in Holguin where we are welcomed by the agency's representative: Ariane. Small briefing on our stay in Holguin, without guide this time. We want to visit the barrel organ factory that everyone talks about on the forums, she doesn't know.

On the other hand, she shows us good plans to do in Holguin such as the "bulvar", this pedestrian and shopping street found in all Cuban cities, but also a printing house where paper is still made, particularly from sugar cane leaves.

There are also plans to visit Gibara and Loma de la Cruz.

Quick visit on foot of the "bulevard", located between the two churches: Catedral St Isidoro and the iglesia of San José and three park or plaza between which beats the heart of the city. It's late, it's dark.

  1. Puce Dinner at the Aviles restaurant. Pleasant setting, open kitchen to the room in a patio. The dishes are correct. The service is very long, The waitress is unfriendly, not honest in the return of change. She sets her tip at 20% herself. It is the meeting place for Canadian sexagenarians accompanied by young and pretty mulattoes 35 years younger.

It is a recurring phenomenon in restaurants in Cuban cities, elderly men, even very old, Cubans or foreigners, accompanied by young and pretty mestizos. Love is beautiful anyway!

  1. Puce Accommodation Hotel Caballeriza. Beautiful establishment in the city center which takes on the decor of an equestrian center: bronze horse, cart wheels, double doors, etc. Having learned that it was a state hotel, we were a little worried knowing how disappointing such establishments are in many communist countries.

On the contrary, everything is taken care of, the staff, the premises, the room, the linen. The staff are efficient and cheerful. Exceptional breakfasts.

Day 11 2/7/2020 Holguin - Gibara - Loma de la Cruz departure 10:30 am Return 3:00 pm

We go on foot to visit the printing works suggested by Ariane: Casa Editora Cuadernos Papiro, calle Morales Lemus n ° 162. Behind the hotel, exit to the right.

We are greeted by Boris Dorrego and Ruben Zaldivar, two employees of the company. A real leap in time. Boris shows us how to make paper from anything that contains cellulose. Today it is recovered paper: books, newspapers, scrap cardboard, packaging, a huge red book written by Kim Jong (pale imitation of Mao's little red book) etc. Everything is put in water in order to soften the material and dissolve the inks and fibers. The material is transposed in a simple washing machine provided with a propeller which stirs everything until it gives a sticky paste.

The dough is extracted and placed on a sieve to drain it. When the sufficiently drained dough can come off the sieve, it is pressed, then air-dried, in the form of a sheet of paper.

On the printing side: there is the Gutenberg technique still in use: we select metal or wooden letters which we place on supports in order to make sentences. These supports are fixed on a press whose rollers are coated with ink and the press is operated by hand (a motor has been added), changing the sheet of paper with each pass.

The highlight of this visit is an old American typographic machine of which there must only be a few models in the world of Linotipo Mergenthaler Lynotipe Co which dates from 1892. A keyboard of more than 90 characters allows you to select shells representing letters and punctuation to arrange them in rows. A bottom case of lead which is sunk in these shells. When the lead is dry, the word bar goes down in order to be placed to complete the sentence or the text on a support that will go to the 1816 Chandler & Price Co American printing press.

The printing works only with these machines. When they break down, the know-how and creativity of those who use them allow them to be repaired either by manufacturing parts or by exchanging with other printing houses that still have this type of device in the world.

This printing house receives Cuban schools which come to see how it was printed two hundred years ago. Some schools come to learn how to make paper and make decor papers with flower petals, herbs, sand.

Departure for Gibara. On the way we stop to visit the barrel organ factory: fabrica de organos de la famillia Cuayo, which we talk about on different forums.

As with carriages, we no longer make barrel organs. The workshop is a carpentry that manufactures doors and windows. An ill-intentioned employee takes us to the back of the workshop to mount a barrel organ wrapped in a tarpaulin. We say that we are not interested, that we wanted to see the manufacturing as in the photos found on the internet. He claims 1cuc each for the visit! We refuse and leave.

Road to Gibara. What a beautiful little town. What a pretty beach. Although well known for its Cuban cinema festival, there is nothing special to see in Gibara other than a very special atmosphere so different from the rest of Cuba. The marks of Hurricane Irma which devastated the city in 2017 are still very visible. Old hotels that date from another era seem to be inhabited by ghosts waiting for customers. Rows of rocking chairs oscillate downwind on deserted terraces.

The city seems drowsy, maybe it is due to the heat quite exceptional for the time.

We walk through the heart of the city on foot, taking advantage of all the opportunities to capture moments of Cuban life: the bakery and its warm breads that embellish the atmosphere, the very busy hairdresser, the state store that sells everything from the mattress to work shoes, including light bulbs and polystyrene pipes, the pharmacy, the old colonial hotel and its old woodwork that smells of wax, the hairdressing salon for ladies which looks more like a salon where people chat than a salon where they do their hair, the merchant of churros with cream, the cigar factory where you can take all the photos you want provided that it is by the windows, the small fishing harbour. The feeling of being in Remedios, same atmosphere, same nonchalance, same decor, same welcome.

A look, a smile can trigger peaceful exchanges.

  1. Puce Lunch in a great little restaurant: El Coral, just behind the church on the left. Nice setting, varied menu, great fresh fruit juices, hearty and tasty meals, very reasonable prices. The waitress Lilianet and in the kitchen Daniel and Bibiana, do everything to satisfy the customers and they do it well. Thanks to them. A very recommendable place different from restaurants for tourists.

Return to Holguin via Loma de la Cruz: an elevated position which allows you to have a view of the city and the surroundings ... For those who love panoramic views! This is nothing extraordinary.

Luis drops us off in town, we do the "bulvar" in the reverse without trying an experiment: Cubans sometimes wait a very long time to eat ice cream. We put ourselves in the queue of the Guamá cremeria. Several Cubans try to cross and pass in front of the others.

Once inside, it feels like you are in a canteen. We are allocated a place with other families, while one of us goes to the checkout to place an order. A bowl of ice each: 15 pesos. The cashier refuses our cuc and wants to be paid in pesos. We have no more pesos. She doesn't want to know anything. Finally a chef arrives and orders him to give us the ice cream for free. An employee comes to serve us a bowl with ice cream scoops each. Impossible to recognize the perfume. They display pineapple and coco scent. Apart from sugar and milk, it has no particular taste. We observe that the locals love it and take several bowls. Before us a cup with two bowls of six scoops each, or twelve scoops of ice cream per person!

  1. Puce Survival dinner. I'm starting to have a fever, I don't want to go out.

  2. Puce Accommodation: Caballeriza Hotel

Day 12 2/8/2020 Holguin - Camagüey 220 km Departure 10:00 am arrival 2:00 pm

Luis does not understand why we were offered to take a new step in Camagüey. To change we could have made another stop in Trinidad, or Sancti Spiritus, or Remedios. He offers to contact the agency to request a change of stage, knowing that the hotel costs would be at our expense, which is not insurmountable. We tell him that he is right, but that it is too late: as it was planned to return by Camagüey, we accepted Dolores' offer to go to the dance school show at the Theater.

  1. Puce Lunch in a restaurant on the roadside El Cacique. Not terrible.

Arrival in the early afternoon at Camagüey. My fever intensifies and is complicated by flu symptoms. I hope this is not one of the symptoms of Lyme disease after the tick bite.

We are welcomed by Felix and Dolores who are waiting for us at the casa particular. We pay the theater tickets and make an appointment.

Walk to the plaza San Juan de Dios. We do not stop photographing these old houses with balconies with their forged irons. Shopping for a few things for friends. The Agramonte park, the pedestrian street ...

  1. Puce Survival dinner due to fever.

Dolores picks us up at 8:00 p.m. to go to the theater. We meet Manuel, another guide, with a French couple. Cubans dress to go to the theater as we did before the big "upheaval".

The show begins and confirms what I felt during rehearsals, the same young women whom I found so beautiful, so sensual, so authentic, during training, seem stilted, stuck in their tutus, their corsets and their white tights, displaying frozen smiles that do not leave their faces during the whole performance, as if they were drawn on their faces glancing at the public after each arabesque, after each entrechat, after each whipped pirouette, as if to collect approval.

Fortunately there are absolutely awesome contemporary dance passages. Bodies sneak into each other to tell a story to decipher. Faces and gestures express feelings. There is even a solo dancer who with great humor made a remarkable performance on a salsa.

Leaving the theater, Manuel introduces us to the choreographer Norbe Risco director of the Kentucky ballets, former ballet dancer from Camagüey, who occasionally returned to work with the company of his origins, accompanied by Kelsey van Tine of the Kentucky Ballet.

We have never encountered so much talent in all of our travels. Always simple, humble, affordable people despite their success, unlike French artists who almost always have the "big head" as soon as they are known.

  1. Puce Accommodation: casa particular Eduardo y Geraldine.

Day 13 09/02/2020 Camagüey - Havana 550 km departure 08:00 arrival 15:30

The road seemed longer to us on the return than on the outward journey. Carretera Central + Autopista. It is true that an intermediate stage would have been appreciable. Next time it is important to plan for it. My fever keeps me going all day.

Arrived in Havana, we leave Luis. Short walk in Habana Vieja looking for Evelio Leal to greet him and give him the photos we had taken the previous year. We had met him on the street several times and spent long periods of time chatting with him. We are going to his home, his daughter Danièle says that he has gone out and that he is walking around the park.

  1. Puce At the end of the day, dinner on the go, we test a little sandwich restaurant that is talked about a lot: La Bien Paga. It's really good, fresh, plentiful and inexpensive. Large selection of different sandwiches and breads. Gerardo and Andy are really nice.

  2. Puce Accommodation: Azul Habana, calle Habana 54

Day 14 10/02/2020 Social Havana

Guide Maylin Cabrera picks us up for a program that we chose at the last minute, Social Havana.

We expected a visit focused on less touristy Havana and especially on the way in which Cubans live, organize, join together, have fun in Havana outside the "shop window".

Although Maylin is interesting, cultivated and sensitive to certain subjects, the activity seems to have a hard time thinking outside the box.

We visited a day activity center for the elderly: La casa de Abuelos, Nueva Vida. The host insisted so much on the lack of means and on the objects that the elderly make to improve everyday life that the guide felt obliged to leave a "contribution" for us.

Then we went for a walk in Havana Vieja, that of the tourists. Randomly with a state store, a milk store, a small market, a playground for children without children, which gave rise to discussions on the Cuban way of life.

Then the new pedestrian shopping street, behind the Capitol, a little foray into Habana Centro, more popular and less touristy. Small distribution of pen in a primary school. The teacher wanting to give them herself, contaminated by the Cuban suspicion, we made sure that she did so by looking out the window. Visit too fast, too superficial.

This walk allowed us to ask a certain number of questions and to understand a certain number of things which we could not approach previously. But in terms of social discovery we remain on our hunger. The activity deserves to be deepened.

It would have been interesting to meet a family (yes, but this is the Havana activity with a friend), to discover craftsmen's workshops, a neighborhood cooperative, an association for helping young people, a meeting place. or exchange, a sports club or an arts school.

  1. Puce Lunch at the Art Pub restaurant. The menu has changed, and so has the cook, but the meals are still good and the prices reasonable. We love the small, very ventilated interior courtyard.

We go to Evelio Leal. He is at home, he is waiting for us. He lives in old Havana with his children and grandchildren. A shelter of a few concrete blocks built on the terrace of a building where other families live at the foot of a staircase in an interior courtyard with minimum comfort. Fabric obscures the windows and masks the misery of the blackberries. Social Havana as we imagine: families living on top of each other in precarious conditions.

We have a good time talking. Evelio is 83 years old. His wife 20 years younger than he left. He was a mechanic. Like many Cubans, he has a developed general culture. He knows the history of France and many French literary works. He is interested in everything. He likes to talk about everything seriously. He likes to sit on a public bench and read books he borrows from the library. He is proud of his family, which he considers to be united and happy. He is very keen that his grandson study.

This year he seems to have trouble moving around, he is a little more bent than the previous year. In thanks for the photos we brought him, he offers us a Paris Match from the 1950s with articles on General De Gaulle. A real collector's item. We refused, but he insisted so much. We will send him books in Spanish on topics he likes: George Orwell, Paolo Coehlo etc ...

  1. Puce Dinner at 5 Esquinas Trattoria restaurant. Salad and pizza. We are not fanatical about pizza, but we no longer want to eat chicken or pork. We are not used to eating meat every day, let alone twice a day. Vegetarianism is not yet practiced outside the big cities.

  2. Puce Accommodation: Azul Habana, calle Habana 54

Day 15 11/02/2020 Havana - Paris

We have an appointment with Tony at 9:00 am. An honest bici-taxi like never before, met last year with whom we became friends. We learn that his mother and his wife died in the summer of 2019.

We want him to take us to visit streets of Habana Vieja that were neglected by the guide last year, including two streets with very beautiful colonial houses: calle Oficios with the Mezquita Addalah mosque, the casa de los Arabes, museum ethnographic dedicated to Islamic cultures founded in 1983 with exhibitions of paintings, objects, furniture, ceramics, calle Obrapia with the casa Oswaldo Guayasamin, beautiful house from the colonial era having successively belonged to wealthy Hispano-Cuban families before becoming the museum dedicated to Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuadorian painter-sculptor with very tormented works, the casa de la Obrapia, former home of Spanish noble families (Don Antonio Maria de Cardenas y Zayas) restored in a masterful way where the guide (Minervi) and the labels say that the Singer sewing machines are American. Because all families have had them in France for a long time, we were convinced that Singer was a French brand ! Our apologies to Minervi, Singer is well an American brand and production!

Calle Mercaderes, one of the most beautiful streets in Havana Vieja with the Casa Simon Bolivar, a liberator for independence from Venezuela, Bolivia and Colombia against Spanish colonization. It is a museum installed in an old neo-classical house, dedicated to Bolivar and to Venezuelan artistic exhibitions. It is said that he stayed there in March 1799 during a visit to Cuba.

Nearby, the museum of Bomberos (firefighters) and the museum of chocolate closed for work.

All these places are free (free entry), guarded by women in blue uniforms who all end up discreetly asking for a "contribución", from hand to hand. 1 cuc each time. There is no small profit. This contributes to feeling like an ATM.

We rediscover, under the sun this time the Plaza de Armas with the Palace of the Governor (palacio de los Capitanes Generales), El Templete closed, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, closed for works, Plaza Fransisco de Asis, Plaza Viedja, Calle Tienente Ray (Brasil) with La Reunion farmacia.

Tony seems amazed by what he discovers with us. Apart from the names of the streets where he drops off his clients, he has never visited his city, nor the colonial houses.

  1. Puce We have lunch together at Art Pub. Although it is our invitation, Tony seems embarrassed by the menu prices, which are very reasonable for us, compared to the majority of restaurants in Havana, but very high for him. That impresses him.

After the meal he takes us for a ride in Habana Centro, once past the Capitol, the bulvar, the barrio Chino, Havana that we would have liked to discover on a social level, quite different and just as interesting as Habana Vieja if we knows how to ask, observe and exchange. Smashed streets, people tinkering with cars in the street, clothes drying, neighbors calling out to each other, kids playing baseball, shops where there is almost nothing to sell, schools that date from another era, but also painted walls, talented initiatives to make the decor more pleasant. Despite everything, we observe that people have nothing to do with their neighborhood: car carcasses, rubble, waste, very degraded buildings.

He makes us visit a restaurant which for him would have been more economical: "the same dishes at a very attractive price". They are young people he knows and he wants to help: Dos Pelota, calle Colon between Agriba and Crespo.

We visit Marisol, a former dentist, his best friend who has kept him alive since the death of the women in his life.

A representative of the agency comes to meet us to take stock of our trip. Precise and detailed questions, a real evaluation. Pleasantly surprised, this is the first time that we have witnessed this.

We regretfully take the taxi to the airport. We already miss Cuba.

Juliette, a representative from the agency, is waiting for us at the airport for the latest information, to accompany us until check-in. Never seen. We return the phone to her.

Day 16 12/02/2020 Arrival in France after a very eventful night. The flight suffered numerous violent turbulences for at least 04:00. It spoils the return a little.


Cuba "l'Oriente"

from 28/01/20120 to 12/02/2020

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