We arrived at Cienfuegos just after lunch and the streets were roasting under our feet. Unsurprisingly at that time of the day many people prefered to stay in front of a fan rather than touring the town like us, so we mainly found homeless people resting under Parque José Martí trees or venturing towards us to ask for money. By the way, this was the first time I remembered someone begging me for money in Cuba; Havana would be much different.

Cienfuegos, was settled in 1819 by French immigrants. Being an important trade location it soon developed a flourishing economy and got the nickname of La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South) for the elegance of its architecture, still well-kept and admirable nowadays in the ample cluster of neoclassical buildings.

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One of the many colonial buildings in the centre of Cienfuegos.
Parque José Martí in Cienfuegos offers a beautiful view of buildings dating from the late 19C and early 20C with European architectural influences.
Parque José Martí in Cienfuegos offers a beautiful view of buildings dating from the late 19th Century and early 20th Century with European architectural influences.

Continuing walking towards ‘La Punta’, a strip of land that stretches Paseo el Prado towards the bay, we visited the Palacio la Valle. This is a wonderful palace, richly decorated and with a terrace view to the ocean. The entrance was a couple of CUCs with a drink on the terrace included. Totally worth it.

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Palacio de Valle
Darren having some time alone with his mistress.
Darren having some time alone with his mistress.
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Terrace with an ocean view.
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Some really good street art in Cienfuegos.

Looking at the Teatro Tomás Terry (theatre) we got to know that just that evening the Ballet Nacional de Cuba was going to perform Giselle and that although all the seats were booked we could still buy tickets for extra chairs in the gallery. That seemed a great way to absorb all the elegance and velvet the town had to offer.

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We went to have a shower and changed clothes in the casas particulares (B&B) we had been allocated then took the minivan back to the theatre.

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Darren’s accommodation in a Casa particular. Again, pink is never enough.

When we went back to the theatre the scene was totally changed; there were plenty of people gathering around the entrance, dressed in their finery. The show was outstanding and emotional. The only distress was caused by the heat, the theatre didn’t seem to have any aircon and all the windows had be kept open. The choreographer of the ballet was the legendary prima ballerina Alicia Alonso, who went on the stage at the end of the show and was received with a long standing ovation and so much commotion was in the air that we were all fighting back the tears.

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Interior of the theatre, pre-show excitement.
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Darren found these ballet dancers playing ‘pelota mano’ during the interval. And I thought they would be behind the stage getting some rest and sipping water.
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Giselle performance.

We dined out in one of the restaurants on the Paseo El Prado and, after a couple of aborted attempts to find some evening entertainment on a mid-week night we decided just to chill with a nice walk along the ocean embankment. Sometimes they organise parties at the yacht club or live music and dance at the nearby Club Cienfuegos, but people-watching can be just as intriguing.

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Night with a beer and a walk along the malecon in Cienfuegos.

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