| 7 min read
After the tranquility of Bayamo, we were looking forward to a place with a bit more of a buzz. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, Camaguey stands out among the other Cuban cities thanks to its maze-like structure, which brings to mind the medinas of Morocco. It was built like this to confuse the pirates that continuously attacked the city. Deliberately ignoring our maps, we put on our eye patch to explore Camaguey like the pirates would.
Although we aimed at walking from A to B, we ended up running in circles and finding ourselves repeatedly on the same small squares. I like cities with an obvious center, but in Camaguey, that’s not the case. We understand the pirates’ confusion now, as the city isn’t that big, yet large enough to get lost. Thanks to its large pedestrian center, it is nice to walk around through the maze of alleyways.
A few remarkable Spanish plazas:
- Parque Ignacio Agramonte: Locals love to hang out on this shaded plaza in the heart of Camaguey to gather with friends or use the public Wi-Fi. It is surrounded by gorgeous buildings, some of which are definitely worth checking out. We had a cocktail in the beautiful bar El Cambio, watched a live band in Café La Ciudad and checked out the Casa de la Trova.
- Plaza San Juan de Dios: Although it is one of Camaguey’s most picturesque plazas, it was surprisingly quiet when we visited, maybe because it’s slightly more remote from the rest of the center. I think it is especially enjoyable in the evening, when the restaurants surrounding the square fill up.
Plaza Del Carmen: Situated at the end of a narrow pedestrian street and lined with pastel-colored colonial houses, the plaza is home to the beautiful Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen church and several human sculptures.
- Plaza de los Trabajadores: Named after the workers’ movement that demonstrated here in the beginning of the Revolution, the plaza is still supervised by the large representation of Fidel who looks down upon you. The other main draws are the Iglesia de la Merced church and the house of Ignacio Agramonte.
As a catholic city, Camaguey is also packed with churches. When we visited, it was December 24 so the Christmas stalls were out. For us, it was quite amusing to marvel at the large elaborate Christmas installations while wearing sandals and Summer clothes.
Our random wanderings brought us to the little restaurant Blu Blu. At first, we were drawn in because the place was packed with locals. As we entered, we discovered a small open-air restaurant with several aquariums, a little fountain and many shells and other marine elements. When we saw the menu and its cheap prices, we had no excuse not to eat here. I felt like trying something new and ordered the tostones, which are fried banana slices stuffed with cheese. It wasn’t bad, but not mind-blowing neither.
Intersecting the city, Calle Maceo is a large pedestrian boulevard lined with souvenir shops, department stores and restaurants. Following the shopping street to the other side, we arrived at the (barely functional) main train station.
As we were intrigued by the vast green area on our map labeled as Casino Campestre, we walked over there in the afternoon. It turned out to be a large park that features a playground and a zoo, but it wasn’t really that cosy to walk around. Also, the river next to the park smelled horrible.
For dinner, we went to Mesón del Príncipe, which had been recommended to us by our host. After a series of cheap, Cuban meals, we started craving for something different. There was a large variety of options on the menu, and most of them even turned out to be available! The place is beautifully decorated and the food was nicely presented, which raised our expectations for the food. We ordered tomato soup, shrimps in garlic sauce and ropa vieja (litterally 'old clothes' in Spanish, but actually is slow cooked beef in a bell pepper sauce). Although we were happy to finally get a different flavor on our plates, it didn’t fully meet our expectations. The food was good, but I had hoped for more. At 12 CUC for a main dish (which is quite expensive for Cuba, given we usually paid around 3 CUC), I had at least expected fresh ingredients, better seasoning and a larger portion.
On our way back, we stopped at the bar Café Ciudad in the Parque Ignacio Agramonte. In a patio at the back, a five-headed band was playing Cuban salsa. We ordered a mojito and enjoyed the music.
Given that our bus to Santa Clara would depart at 3 AM, we still had some time to kill. After watching a live music performance at Café Ciudad, we headed to Calle Agramonte which houses several movie theaters. Having purchased tickets for the 3D-version of 'World War Z' at Cine Encanto, we joined the large line of Cuban youngsters. Following their example, we bought a bag of popcorn for next to nothing and installed ourselves in the uncomfortable folding chairs. Although the movie hall was equipped with a large screen in the front, they actually used a rather small, meeting room-like projection screen that had been put up in the middle of the venue. We hardly realized that the movie had started because the ridiculously small speakers didn’t carry far at all. Considering the movie was dubbed in Spanish and lacking subtitles, it is an understatement to say that the dialogues were hard to understand.
A little later, we returned to our casa, where our bicitaxi driver showed up to bring us to the Viazul bus station. Transporting two people and their backpacks uphill for 5 kilometers looked like a real challenge for the rather small bicycle, but our driver didn't seem to mind and happily chatted away while heading at 1,5 km/h towards our destination.
- The restaurant Blu Blu is situated on Independencia, 261. Price for a meal was 3,50 CUC per person.
- The address of Mesón del Príncipe is 7 Astilleros, Camagüey
- We stayed at Casa el Viajero for 10 CUC per night.
- The price for a taxi from the bus station to the center was 4 CUC.
- The price for the bicitaxi was 4 CUC.
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