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Santa Marta and Varadero

Saturday morning we all met in the marina lobby for our first walk into town.  The group was Laura and I  - D, Don and Bruce from Southern Cross and Debbie.  We walked down the highway for only a short way then across the field to the unused runway.  Across the runway and down another dirt path brought us the backway into Santa Marta.  Debbie kept up a running dialog as we went.

For example, there was a small store with many people standing in line outside.  Debbie mentioned that the store would have a security guard at the door and he would only let a few people into the store at one time.  When some of them left, he would let others in. 

Several people knew Debbie and came over to chat or say, “Hola!”  Their conversations were all in Spanish and we didn’t get introduced.  We walked about 10 blocks and entered the large open area with the market would be tomorrow.  There were a few vendors there – mostly selling meat which looked like they were there every day.  The meat vendor was cutting up chicken and pork on the wooden counter in front.  If you wanted a ham for example, you would walk over to the guy with a big pig leg hanging and point to the portion you wanted.  He would hack it off and sell it to you.

This is a bank on one of the side streets in Santa Marta.  Lots of people around and some street vendors including a horse-drawn cart with fresh vegges.

On the main street in Santa Marta were many shops and restaurants including a Tim Horton’s coffee shop.  Debbie called it, “Timmy’s.”  That was the only fast-food-like place we saw but there were several other small and medium open-air restaurants.  We didn’t stop anywhere but continued walking on the main street across the canal and into Varadero.

Many of the buildings in Santa Marta had fancy iron-work like this Bed and Breakfast.  We were told that all of the houses and buildings had windows and doors covered with iron bars because they had to be open at night to cool the place down for sleeping.  One tour guide said, "Cuba is very safe but there are still bad people...."

Varadero is a resort area and has many more tourists from all over the world.  The main draw is the low prices and beautiful 10 mile long beach.  We walked to a place Debbie called the Cafeteria.  It was a small, open-air bar / restaurant that had a group of Cubans singing Spanish songs.  For drinks, most of the places sell rum drinks, beer, soda and bottled water.  Everything is made in Cuba – they don’t import anything.  We had Cuba-Libre’s (rum and coke) that were about ¾ rum.

Click HERE to see my YouTube video of the band playing at this restaurant.  It's pretty good!

Here we are at The Cafeteria

After a couple songs and a few cocktails, we left the Cafeteria and took one of the horse buggies to a private restaurant Debbie knew and liked.  It also looked rustic but seemed nice and clean with nice table cloths and place settings on the few tables.  The owner was very happy to see us.  I had a ham and cheese Cuban sandwich (good) but Don had the cheeseburger.  On the menu there was a picture of a cheeseburger that you might find anywhere in the U.S. but the actual did not come close to the picture. 

The local Cubans eat almost no beef.  I’m not sure why but most of the beef in Cuba goes to the resorts for tourists.  Debbie said there was one restaurant in Santa Marta that served a real cheeseburger but this one did not.  What Don was served was a pork burger with ham, cheese and coleslaw on a soft roll.  He said it was good but not really a cheeseburger.

Our lunch with drinks was the equivalent of $8 USD total for both of us including tip.  The meal was tasty and service was excellent.

Debbie then wanted to visit a friend who had been sick and just returned to work.  Her friend ran a rum-shop a few miles away.  We took one of the horse-buggies which cost us about $2 each.  Pedro ran a small rum shop on the main road just off the beach.  It was an excellent location as many folks walked over from the beach and ordered drinks. 

Drinks were $2 for a Cuba-Libre or Mojito which were excellent.  We stayed there for a couple hours watching the world go by (and the pretty girls from the beach in bikinis…).  There were several of Debbie’s friends there and we talked for quite a while about Cuba.

We visited a few other places by horse-buggy and eventually took a cab back to the Cafeteria.  Earlier in the day we had gone to a resort near there to book our 2-day bus tour on Tuesday.  They had wi-fi access and I wanted to go back for an updated weather report.  Debbie told me the procedure.

As we were not resort guests we did not have a wristband that the security men would be looking for.  Debbie said we should go to one of the security men, tell him we knew Debbie and ask if we could sit outside the lobby for 10 minutes and use the wi-fi.  After using the wi-fi, we should go back to the security guy and thank him with “Gracias” and $1.

As far as we found, there is no free wi-fi in Cuba.  There are places that have wi-fi available but you have to buy 1-hour access cards.  In the resorts, these cards cost $2.  Debbie bought them from the telephone company for $1.50. 

Laura and I walked about 1 block to the resort and tried to talk to one of the security guards.  He didn’t speak any English and didn’t understand what we were saying.  Lucky for us, nearby was a resort manager who not only spoke a little English but was also a friend of Debbie’s.  He agreed to our sitting outside to use the wi-fi and, when we left, we tipped the security guard $1 (basically for good will as he didn’t really do anything for us).

Back at the Cafeteria, we again met up with all our new and old friends.  After a short while Laura and I decided to head back to the boat.  Choice was $5 for a taxi or walk a couple miles.  We were feeling pretty good so decided to walk.  By time we arrived at the boat, my iPhone said we had walked over 7 miles that day.  We were pretty tired and went to bed early.

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