Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2007

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Saturday, February 3, 2007

Our return cab drive from Remedios to Santa Clara is literally the difference between night and day. The morning light reveals a rolling countryside of coffee and tobacco plantations. The highway of death from our night time adventure assumes its Dr. Jeckle alter ego, a well-maintained (for Cuba), sign-posted route we watch benevolently from our AC'ed and seat-belted Toyota.

Santa Clara is a pretty city. Its vast central square, Parque Vidal, thrives with families, domino games, lovers. Lucy joins Cuban kidlets for a ride in one of the goat-drawn carriages that circumnavigate the square. The impressive buildings the goat passes include a vast theatre, a library with special collections (it's a university town) in the old provincial palace and a fine arts museum. We weave north in the shade of the huge columns to the pedestrian walkway along Independencia.

Unlike central and old Havana, peso and convertible stores nestle side by side here, and the rum-drinking gentlemen beside us at lunch turn out to be Cuban. In fact we seem to be some of the few tourists in this convertible restaurant. We spot a satellite Coppelia's here, Cuba's legendary ice cream experience. Unfortunately, we never make it there, as it looks more easily penetrated than the vast complex in Havana, where security ushers tourists into the convertible-only section.

We've been shuffled into a different casa than arranged, and it's one too many changes for the family on a transitional travel day. I get back from the Che memorial (trying to reconcile the rugby-playing reader of Mark Twain with the insurgent of the revolution) to a room of grumpy kids and stressed out wife. We hole up for most of the day.

This is the worst casa we've been in, but it's not actually that bad. The family is nice, we open our door into a leafy open-air patio and a television with English-language channels keeps Lucy absorbed for a few hours. However, we have little space of our own and, when we close the doors to put on the AC (a device which sounds like an asthmatic tractor), no natural light. Knowing our host family can hear Johnny's screams and Lucy's freakouts just adds to the stress.

I sleep fitfully, worried we'll get no wake-up call (how could I have
not brought an alarm clock!) and fretting that the driver won't be there
at 7 am.
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