We had a relatively early lunch (we noticed that later that night when everyone was ready for dinner an hour before it was ready for us) and drove straight from there to Cienfuegos. We probably got there around 4:00.
The bus pulled into the parking lot of a beautiful hotel we wish could have been ours. Ornate wirework, stunning mosaics, stained glass (it wasn't anything special, but I think it was the first time I'd seen stained glass in Cuba) and just an overall gorgeous building. We ogled the outside and took pictures like the tourists we were, then we ogled the inside and took as many pictures as we could, ideally without disturbing the people eating, and then we went up to the rooftop balcony and ogled the views (and took a lot of pictures, including a few too many selifes and one group picture.)
We enjoyed a drink there, and then we left. We got back on the bus and were dropped off in another plaza near the center of town. We got to look at a house that used to be the governors, though if forget its current purpose.
Then we were set free. For forty-five minutes. Once that time was up, we would get back in the bus to drive “twenty minutes” (really 40) and never return. Possibly ever. (Ceinfuegos only has two hotels, and we'd just seen one of them, so even if we could travel freely to Cuba, price would be a huge issue.) So off we went to explore as much as we could in 45 minutes.
Cienfuegos was more commercial than any of the other cities we'd been in. I mean, Havana was its own kind of commercial, with the “you have money. You know capitalist. You give us money for good/service.” Cienfuegos had the most non-tourist stores in a compressed space that I'd seen.
We walked into a few of them. Some sold goods from U.S. companies, others sold off-brand versions of that. I'd gotten used to the taste of Tukola (basically a mix of Coca Cola and Pepsi, a product of Ciego Montero, the state company that sells all waters and sodas and can therefore be found everywhere) but I'd only once tasted Ironbeer (cream soda crossed with root beer that I'd seen in Havana and nowhere else) and wanted to find it again. I couldn't, which meant I'd need to wait the extra day or so until we were back in Havana, because I remembered where I could buy it there.
While other people bought cookies in one of the stores, I noticed how expensive potato chips were. One of the adults on our trip had already made the comment “you should go into the store [attached to our hotel.] A can of Pringles is more than a bottle of alcohol, It's funny,” so I knew that they would be high. But even off-brand potato chips were expensive. I started musing both about the lack of potatoes at meals and the kind of climate that potatoes grew in. It makes sense, but it's a little sad. They probably had potatoes when the Soviet Union was helping them, which would have made their absence hurt even more.
After we left the store, Ian offered me a chocolate and strawberry cookie, which was good enough to make me forget how much I miss potatoes.
After that we went to a “craft fair” that sold the same products we'd been seeing in tourists shops all over Havana and Trinidad. I found myself studying the materials that went into the products. Some of them were made of real sea shell. Others sparkled with cheap glitter, or had as a focal point a glass bead that are probably literally a dime a dozen in the States. I know less about wood, but just feeling the materials, some of them felt to be noticeably higher quality than others.
Ryan noticed how unwilling they were to barter. At Trinidad, he'd gotten several people great deals with craftsmen and artists. Here, they would either say they couldn't set the price lower (because they weren't the creators) or make a fake deal. (“Tell you what. You buy two of these, 1 CUC.” The bracelets in question were .50 CUC each.)
And then we left. Probably never to return. Well, Cienfuegos, it was nice to see you, I guess.