Cuba: Day 8

Urban sketching in Cuba.

A tree in the Botanic Gardens near Cienfuegos. The tree generates seedlings around it, which grow up and merge with the parent.

King palms, traveller’s palm and jurassic palms.


Cienfuegos is another UNESCO World Heritage city. Here are two of the buildings around the main square: the Teatro Tomás Terry and the Colegio San Lorenzo.

A roundabout

View of Cienfuegos from the top floor of the Hotel Jagua. You can’t miss the Royal Poinciana trees, also known as “Flamboyant trees” and “Flame of the Forest”. Look also for the chimneys of the oil refinery, and the baseball stadium.

Houses on the Punta Gorda

Palacio de Valle

A Moorish style palace built 1917, now a restaurant.

Cuba: Day 7

Urban sketching in Cuba.


A spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site: an entire town unchanged for nearly two hundred years. This is view of a corner of the main square, the Plaza Mayor. In the centre of the picture is the tower of the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco; in the fold of the sketchbook, the Palacio Brunet; and on the right, the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima Trinidad (Church of the Holy Trinity).

The tower of the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco. The monastery is now a museum commemorating the fight against the “bandits”, opponents of the Cuban revolution in 1959.

Trinidad: Playa Ancon

Come to Cuba and turn red!

Walking barefoot beneath palm trees that bend to kiss the white caster sugar sands caressed by the warm waters of a liquid sapphire sea...

Two minute’s walk from  the hotel complex, and you are in untouched swampland.
On the beach, a breeze keeps the heat down, but just a few yards inland the air is still and the temperature soars. The stench of stagnant water is so strong that you can almost taste it, and there are tracks of unknown swamp-dwellers in the mud.

Cuba: Day 6

Urban sketching in Cuba.


Early morning traffic on the main street in Camagüey, from the balcony of the Hotel Colón. No cars; just pedestrians, bicycles, and “bicitaxis”.

Sancti Spíritus

The church, Parroquial Mayor del Espíritu Santo, and a statue to Don Rudesindo García Rijo, a 19th century doctor who treated the poor for free. He was murdered by the other doctors in the town for taking away their business. The stall is selling papier maché cars and airplanes.

Cuba: Day 5

Urban sketching in Cuba.


Birthplace of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, leader of the first Cuban revolution. One morning in 1868, he rang the slave bell on his farm as usual, to tell the slaves that it was time for work. As they stood before him waiting for orders, Céspedes announced they were all free men, and called upon them to join him and his fellow rebels in the war against colonial Spain.

The Cuban national anthem begins:
“Hasten to battle, men of Bayamo, For the Fatherland looks proudly upon you.”

Bayamo: General García, the main shopping street

Somewhere on the road between Bayamo and Camagüey

Few cars, and almost no public transport. Hitchhikers like the road. The US embargo on trade with Cuba means that there is a desperate shortage of petrol. Cuba’s solution is government-organised hitchhiking. There are places along the road where you go to wait, and government employees (the “yellow people”) stop any passing traffic to find out where it’s going, and if it’s going where you want to get to, everyone piles in.

Cuba: Day 4

Parque Céspedes, the main square in Santiago, from the roof of the Casa Granda Hotel. From left to right: Cathedral tower; a modern bank building; the oldest house in Santiago; and the town hall, with the balcony from which Castro announced victory of the Cuban Revolution and the birth of the new republic on 1 January 1959.

Mausoleum of Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, at Cementerio Santa Ifigenia. The changing of the guards takes place every half-an-hour. Numerous streets are named after Martí, as well as Havana’s international airport, and every town has a Plaza José Martí with a statue.

Lighthouse at the Citadel of San Pedro de la Roca.

Streets of Santiago de Cuba

Cuba: Day 3

Valle de la Prehistoria

Cuba is a bit short of tourist attractions. Here’s a mammoth at the Valle de la Prehistoria near Santiago de Cuba. The mammoths are showing their age: the plaster is falling off, and you can see the chicken wire underneath. But perhaps that’s not surprising for a ten thousand-year-old animal.

National Motor Museum

Cuban music hero Benny Moré’s 1956 gold cadillac.

Santiago de Cuba

The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción from the roof of the Casa Granda Hotel.

Cuba: Day 2

Urban sketching in Cuba.

Guardalavaca: One of several places that claims to be where Columbus first landed on Cuba in 1492.
But even he was too late to get a sunbed.

Twenty-four hours trapped in an “all-inclusive hotel”... Armed guards patrol the boundaries... to keep the Cubans out, or the tourists in? Pool games: The overexcited compere exhorts the holidaymakers to “Scream for competitor Number Five!” I filled my water jar from the pool, and hid in the shade of the palms.

Guardalavaca harbour, looking south

Further along the beach, we reach the edge of the hotel complex...

Guardalavaca harbour, looking west

Escape! Past the guards, over the bridge, and into real Cuba. A last glance back at the hotel, now on the other side of the water.

Holguín, Parque Calixto García

So hot that even the cyclists need a sunshade.

Cuba: Day 1

Urban sketching in Cuba.

On the beach

8 o’clock the first morning. Straight down to the beach for a first glimpse of the Caribbean: the blue sea and white sands at Guardalavaca. The name means “Save the cow”, supposedly a common cry from the days when pirates haunted this coast.

House and goats

Chicken crossing the road

Circulo Social

Volcanic rocks on the coast

Taíno village

Reconstruction of a pre-Columbian Indian houses. The large circular buildings (bohio) are made from straw and palm leaves, and each was home to several families.

Shop and school and a chicken

A place in the shade