Remedios – Home of the Famous Holiday Parrandas!

Osvaldo, the Casa owner in Remedios, met me at the Viazul bus station and had me climb aboard a pedal taxi while he rode his bicycle alongside us to his home just three blocks from the central plaza, Parque Jose Marti. His and his wife’s Casa is the nicest one I’ve stayed at yet. His wife, Lourdes, were exceptionally helpful during my 3 night stay. Their Casa is called Hostal el 1928.

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Osvaldo came with me to show me around the central part of  town and to help locate a tour guide/taxi driver for my full day trip out to the islands tomorrow. At one of the tourist centers I reserved a snorkeling trip and entrance to the hotel at Villa Las Brujo in the Cayo Cobos (Cobos Island).

A little later while on my own, I explored the well-preserved Plaza area, the Art Walk, and several of the old buildings.

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A restaurant called El Louvre served up a delicious pork steak with beer. Large tourist buses were coming and going, yet the entire town seems so calm and peaceful. It is absolutely the best preserved architecture I’ve seen in Cuba!

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Osvaldo’s son surprised me by popping his head into my dining area and asking me if I’d like to go see the floats that were being built for the upcoming Las Parrandas celebration – Cuba’s largest and most famous festival where two sides of the town square off against each other in competition with music, dances, parades and parades with floats. We walked the few blocks to where one of the district’s construction was underway. On the way there we passed school kids at an outdoor workout center and practicing hurdles, baseball, and soccer.

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When we arrived at the huge covered areas where the float work was taking place, I was totally blown away! This year’s theme is based around ancient Egypt with the eagle as mascot, and they even had a live eagle that they were training to be in their festivities. The floats take 2-3 months to build!

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Even fireworks occur at these events which last from December 4th to Christmas Eve. I was shown the different sizes of the fireworks sticks. Amazing!

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Later that evening I walked back into town and saw a long row of at least 15 of the hugest motorcycles I’ve ever seen – it’s a group tour called Edelweiss Bike Tours! After listening to an excellent 3-piece band play at Taberna Las 7 Juanes, I was shown their ultra-cool cellar where they store their wines, brandy and other delicious liquors from Spain, Italy, France and Chile.

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Hit the hay about 8:30 p.m….only to have Nature jolt me awake by the shrill cockadoodledo of a rooster at 3:30 a.m. that sounded like he was no more than 10 feet from my window! After about 3 shrill calls, he stopped…until 4:30 a.m. when he crowed again, then 5 a.m., and again at 5:30 a.m.! If I were on a farm I would understand this, but I’m three blocks from the city center of Remedios! There were no other roosters to be heard in the distance!

My Casa breakfast was huge and delicious!

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My taxi-tour guide – Osbul – arrived with his old car at 7:45 for my day’s adventure. As we headed across the causeway (called El Pedroplen) I learned it took 10 years to construct this road that attaches all the islands together. It was completed in 1955.

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We drove to almost the very end of the islands to Las Terrazas Town to see the silken white sand beach.

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After about an hour of exploring the east end of the islands we started to return to the west end of the islands to Villa Las Bruja, but we passed another taxi that was broken down, and being the good Cuban that Osbul is, he stopped to check that he had help coming – he did.

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Osbul dropped me off at Villa Las Bruja with the agreement to return for me at 4 p.m. The wind had picked up and whitecaps topped the waves, but it was still enjoyable to swim and lie in the sun.

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At the resort’s restaurant I enjoyed a dish of grilled Ahi and a natural Limonada.

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Walked over to the nearby Marina, met Carlos – the captain of the snorkeling boat – and the group of Canadian tourists that had booked this outing.  We had to sign a waiver on the way out that removed the boat and its crew of any responsibility for us while snorkeling. The underwater views  were quite stunning even though there was some surge that kept moving us back and forth. Visibility was about 30′ – not great – but the corals and fish were all within 10′-20′ and the depth was not much more than 12′. The variety of fish species was incredible – way more than I would have guessed! We spent close to an hour exploring the area.

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On our 15 minute return to the dock a large catamaran zoomed by us.

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Back on land at 3:30 p.m. it was great to see Osbul waiting for me. Headed back to the Casa in Remedios. What a lovely day!

That evening was a pleasure as well, as I was able to visit with the 3-piece band at El Louvre and then even SING with them some of the Golden Oldies favorites – they seemed to know them all! How much fun!

Back to bed at 9 p.m. only to be startled awake again by the shrill rooster crowings at 3, 4, 5 and 5:30 a.m.! Sadly, it’s not my Casa owners’ rooster, it belongs to the very poor people living right next door, and here in Cuba it appears you ‘live and let live’, so nothing ever gets said to the neighbors. At least, that was my perception.

Had another huge Casa breakfast and then napped awhile without the rooster making himself known!

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When I rose, Lourdes led me in a walk through the center of town to the other district that is preparing for the Las Parrandas event. What stunning floats are being built!

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Later, their son walked me again to another point of interest – this time a cigar factory in town.

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Had a delicious dinner at my Casa that evening, then their son wanted to join me as I headed to Taberna Los 7 Juanes where he was somewhat surprised to see my friendship with the band. Enjoyed a last interesting talk with them along with some wonderful songs. The son returned to his home and I stayed for one last round of songs with the band before they packed up and left.

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The next morning my favorite rooster started crowing at 1:30 a.m. and kept it up faithfully every half hour! He must have known I was leaving and wanted to wish me well as much as possible! Luckily, Lourdes and Osvaldo heard it themselves this morning for the first time. Their bedroom is further away and well-sealed off with a good door so they had not heard it before. They were greatly chagrined, dear souls. I’m sure they’ll get the problem sorted out somewhere in the future. Their place is really lovely and the neighbor’s rooster issue is the only drawback.

While waiting for my 6 a.m. pick-up from Osbul to take me to Santa Clara for my Viazul bus connection to Veradero, a friend of theirs stopped by and chatted with them on the open door front steps. Osvaldo walked over to the TV and turned it on – the announcement of Fidel Castro having died the night before was streaming live before us! What a shock!

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Another shock was that it wasn’t Osbul who arrived to pick me up, it was Osbul’s son and father! The son is rather young and was being trained by his grandfather on how to become a good taxi-driver. It was one rather scary ride to Santa Clara, but we made it and I caught my 1.5 hour-late bus to Veradero, the largest tourist destination spot in all of Cuba. Veradero is renowned for it’s incredibly long white gorgeous beaches, large up-scale marinas, high-end hotels and long promenade, but I had no idea what I was in for due to Fidel Castro’s death. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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