A Warm Welcome in Cienfuegos

Trip Start Sep 27, 2011
Trip End Oct 05, 2011

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Road Scholar really treats its participants well! Because we were the very first group to arrive at the Cienfuegos airport, we had the entire airplane to ourselves. After a short 60-minute flight, we arrived in Cuba.
The Cuban airport was an experience. There were absolutely no people in the airport, but many, many guards and guard dogs. And we had to go through security to ENTER the country, as opposed to most countries where you go through security only to leave.
A very nice air-conditioned bus met us at the airport and we met our driver Jesus and guide Raul who would be with us for the entire week. Raul did an excellent job of setting up each visit and explaining what we were seeing along with the political context, as many things in Cuba are political
Our first stop was to meet the Cienfuegos Youthful Gospel Choir. Only one of the students spoke English, however music is truly the universal language. Afterwards, we stopped to have a cool drink at the Parque Marti Plaza in the center of town. We then headed to our hotel, La Jugua.
The hotel really exceeded expectations of what I thought I'd find in Cuba. It had beautiful marble floors, magnificent views and well appointed rooms. Showers were a bit intermittent—there was always water but everyone in the group took at least one cold shower. Given the oppressive heat, it was a welcome treat! 
We ended the day with a simple dinner at a beautiful colonial building with fantastic views. Cuban food is not what any of us expected. Those of us who know Cuban Americans were expecting spicy, however the food was actually very simple—rice, beans, a lot of pork and chicken, and always cucumbers and tomatoes. All of the restaurants are government owned and most were fairly empty for lunch and dinner.
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