It felt as if we had well and truly left the countryside as we rolled through the grandiose gridded city of Cienfuegos. The heat rose from under our feet, and crept up our bodies quickly stifling our senses. This is the city of the sun, the city of a thousand fires.
Cienfuegos lacked Havana’s charm, it was less lively, there was no music. The main square was however beautifully done up, with gardens, large revolutionary symbols and drawings of Che and his slogans.
The highlight of the plaza, the Casa de la Cultura Benjmain Duarte.
The tuk-tuk sprinted down the main boulevard down to the sea. The heat made the lagoon air smell of the city’s sewers. Lovers sat under trees and boats glided motionless on paper still water.
Down the main boulevard we careered. Sat on the bicycle we gained a little height and so we were able to escape the heat emitted by the tarmacked road which had become overwhelming, especially when we were engulfed by the fumes of the cars spluttering past. Now we could enjoy glimpses of sea through gaps in the lavish houses with the wind in our hair.
The mansions were grand, their architecture fascinating but somewhat lacking in taste. The Only Way is Essex but on Mojitos. Although it is said that wealth can seldom be subtle, double exterior staircases cascading down pastel facades must be seen as a step somewhat in the wrong direction. Indeed, is a great social success not a pretty girl who plays her cards as carefully as if she were plain?
Past the yachting club and the double fronted domed house with tennis court and tropical garden.
We finally saw looming ahead of us at the end of the Punta Gorda, the diamond of the crown, the real gem, the Palacio del Valle.
Once a casino, this Palace now stands as a beacon of culture. Magnificent and towering, it is built in a style reminiscent of Spanish-Moorish art with influences of Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and Mudejar arts.
Spanish carvers made the gateways, mosaics and Spanish ceramics adorn the walls and stained glass taints the views. Beautiful crystal allegories are painted on the marble staircase. Cornices crown the entrance to the halls and doorways, the ceiling are high and the rooms spacious. The living room is Empire in style paneled in gold and pink marble with applications of bronze and white marble floors.
Palacios del Valle stands aloof at at the end of the Punta Gorda, a reminder and testimony of a golden age of Cuban opulence and wealth.
I feel that it is not worth spending a full day at Cienfuegos. It was though a great way to break the journey from Trinidad to Havana. We stayed at a really nice casa particular called Apartamento Independiente Eduardo & Odalys on Avenida 56 number 5306 (Altos)/ 53 y 55. We had our own little apartment with bedroom, living room and kitchen. The shower pressure was better than in the casa that we stayed in Trinidad but there was no air-conditioning. It was very close to the station so it was easy to get there from the bus on arrival from Trinidad.