Manzanillo – where tourists don’t go

True confessions, Cuban beer and supermarkets.

After the spill I took on the way to Manzanillo I really needed a beer.

You will mostly find three kinds of beer in Cuba: Cristal, Bucanero and Presidente (apparently, there is also Mayabe, but I hand’t seen any of it on any of my trips).

I can’t believe that three weeks in Cuba (2000 photos) and I hadn’t taken pictures of any of the beer bottles! That’s why I’m including links above…

Cristal is the most common one. It’s 4.9%, very crisp and perfect when you’re thirsty but not really all that much into the beer taste. It’s a bit like the Mexican Sol. It’s definitely very nice when it’s super hot out.

Bucanero is more full bodied. It’s 5.4% and has a bit more flavor than Cristal. I really liked it and would order it most often.

Presidente is a beer imported from Dominican Republic (5%) and you’d think that it’s fortified, but it isn’t. The reason why I say that is because this is usually the beer that the local town drunks will drink. I tried it once and found it wasn’t very memorable.

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So I sat down with my biking mates, ordered a beer and a perro caliente, and told them the story of how I learned to ride a bicycle.

Until then I’ve been holding on to this story like a dirty, little secret. I didn’t want to be rejected and told to pack my bags and go home, but I figured after two days on the road it was now too late for me to turn around.

I’m one of those rare people who didn’t learn to bike as a kid. For whatever reason, I just didn’t. I tried as an adult at one point, but wasn’t very motivated, so that went nowhere. Then, very recently, I watched my husband teach my daughter how to ride a bike (he’s an avid biker himself) and felt very envious. I decided it was time for me to learn.

This was…  two and a half years ago? Maybe three? I’m trying to get the timeline straight, but once I could balance on the two wheels I biked a total of maybe 20 miles that year. Then last year I decided to step it up. I made it a priority and was able to get about 1500 miles in! So now, in my third year of biking I took my bike to Cuba.

I suppose I should be proud of myself, but most of the time I feel out of my element. Especially around people like Nedene, Jo, Mtn Val and Stuart. These people have biked across continents and don’t need to sit their butt down on the seat before starting to pedal. They can signal with their hands! They drink water while on a bike! They clip in!!

I’m so clumsy still that my legs are permanently bruised. I have scars from when I ‘walked into’ my gears once. I’m constantly falling. So I figured my experience level showed and I didn’t want people to start talking about me behind my back. I really do think that it’s best to be upfront (or almost upfront; you can wait a few days) about these things!

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Luckily, everyone was a bit buzzed by this time and no one was mad at me for not coming clean about the truth sooner. We drank to that.

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And then we found our casa. Manzanillo, being not a town where many tourists go, does not have very many casas particulares. But there are a few. Mtn Val, Jo and I stayed in a really nice one right by the Celia Sanchez stairs and Stuart stayed across the street. We were able to communicate by yelling from one rooftop to another, Cuban style. Nedene stayed with her friends far away from the city center.

[I promise to gather up all the info I have on all the casas we stayed in and post it soon in a separate post. I’ll give contact information and addresses, so if you find yourself in a not-very-touristy spot like Manzanillo, you’ll know where to stay.]

Manzanillo is a coastal town, where you hardly see any coast. It does have its own Malecon, which we didn’t actually see until we were heading out of town the next morning, but for the most part the city isn’t really celebrating the water.

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Manzanillo, not being at the top of the touristy areas list, seems more run down than many of the towns we’ve visited.

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But it does have a charming center.

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And some pedestrians-only streets, which seem to be present in every Cuban city.

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That afternoon, convinced that I needed to replenish electrolytes, I decided to make my own.  (I will also do a post of my Packing Mistakes. There were plenty! I took too much of some things and not enough, or not at all, of other essentials).

I went to stores, looking for salt and sugar.

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In my travels (but, goodness gracious, not when I’m back in Seattle) I really enjoy going into supermarkets. I like to see what people are buying and what they can and cannot easily get. In Cuba there are nice supermarkets in the cities and the bigger towns. Their prices are listed in both CUC and CUP. And at first it seems like there’s merchandise. There is pasta and canned goods and pickled olives and mayonnaise. But things get complicated once you start looking for something specific.

The first supermarket I went into didn’t have any salt! It’s true. I even asked. But the second one did and so I bought the salt, I bought the sugar and the water and went back to the casa to make my very own electrolyte drink.

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I put 1 spoon (looked like a tablespoon) of salt and 1 spoon of sugar per 26 oz of water (before you try this recipe at home, read my next post in which I’ll describe how well it worked). I tasted it and it tasted pretty good.

Satisfied with my chore for the day, I walked around and enjoyed the town. Like (nearly) every other Cuban town, it’s walkable, friendly and has some nice plazas.

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The very Moorish looking gazebo in the main square.

One of the main attractions of the town are the Celia Sanchez stairs.

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Celia Sanchez was one of the leaders of the Cuban revolution (some say she was THE leader, with Fidel and Che joining her cause) and is widely revered in Cuba. She was born in Media Luna, a town near Manzanillo, through which we biked on the following day.

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The stairs are decorated with a number of murals and a little garden at the top. It’s a pleasant spot to sit down and relax.

It was hot and Jo, Mtn Val and I walked around well into the night, enjoying more quintessential Cuba, such as these men playing dominos! Dominos is the Xbox of Cuba. Mostly enjoyed by men, both young and old.

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4 thoughts on “Manzanillo – where tourists don’t go

    1. Thank you, Garry! I really enjoy writing, especially my Cuba posts. I feel like I’m still there, still reliving every day and anticipating the next. I really hope to go back sometime soonish…

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Garry… I am so flattered by your comments! 🙂 And I have no idea how to answer that. I just love to write. I keep a journal every day. Dave thinks that’s why it’s so easy for me to throw a 1000 word post together in an hour. Just write, write, write. It’s like talking, only easier.

    Liked by 1 person

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