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Cuban Road Trip

With the police in tow, our European editor takes a tour of the historic towns of Sancti Spíritus and Trinidad
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Gene Hackman, Sep/Oct 00

(continued from page 1)

So how was the other town on my weekend excursion? Trinidad shouldn't be missed. It's a tiny bustling town, with about 6,000 people in the colonial section, located near the sea on the south side of the island (about an hour from Sancti Spíritus and four hours from Havana). There's not a lot to do there other than walk around the large historical square called La Plaza Mayor de Trinidad or down the handful of main streets. Nevertheless, the town is one of the finest examples in the world of Spanish colonial architecture and it isn't as overrun with tourists as you might think.  

Most of the roads are cobblestone and the colonial buildings are painted pretty pastel colors. Locals hang out chatting in their doorways or sit in their living rooms watching television, playing cards or entertaining friends. We dined at Sol y Son, a wonderful restaurant in a private home. It was full of hundred-year-old antiques, and the food was hearty.  

During the day, we stayed at the beachside Ancón hotel, about five miles from Trinidad. While the architecture of the Brezhnev-era hotel was rather stark, the gorgeous beach and the clear blue water more than made up for it.  

When we finally got rid of the police in the back of our rental car, they had the nerve to ask if a couple of their colleagues could ride to Havana with us. I had had enough at that stage and I said no and sped off towards the city just as they closed the door. Every 30 miles or so, more policemen tried to flag us down, but I kept going. If they didn't have cars, motorcycles or radios, they couldn't stop us anyway.  

I was pulled over one more time, a few miles from Havana. This time the cop had a motorcycle and a radio, but he let me off when I showed him my foreign passport and spoke my appalling Spanish.  

When I arrived at the Meliá Cohiba hotel in Havana and dropped off the Audi, I went straight to the bar, ordered a mojito and fired up a Partagas D4. As I drank the tart cocktail and puffed on my robusto, I thought how road trips in Cuba are always an experience--good or bad and with or without the Cuban police force on your tail.


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