There was a riot when we arrived. We were immediately set upon by jabbering, screaming crowds of jineteros, or hustlers. “Stylo, stylo!” cried one woman, swinging a dirty cloth bag above her head73151;as if asking an English tourist for a pen in French were a perfectly normal request. “Casa – casa particular!” they cried hopefully. “Taxi! Taxi!” “Playa! Beach! Good price!” Small children tugged at our legs, pleading for candy. The bus conductor dropped our bags and fled.
It wasn’t the best introduction to the town, which is a shame because Trinidad has a lot more to offer than the usual day-trip destination. The historic part, if you can bear the hustlers, is a sleepy swathe of cobbled streets and dilapidated houses whose extravagantly patterned floor tiles and ornate ceilings recall the town’s one-time sugar wealth.
Peek into one of the crumbling pink, mint green or turquoise houses around the Plaza Mayor and discover (surprise!) it’s an art gallery or knick-knack shop. Or it’s a paladar (a private restaurant). I recommend Estela, behind an unmarked door off a dark alley above Plaza Mayor. Glance around to see terraces set with café tables for Mojitos at sunset, guitarists strumming Guantanamera while a little girl makes the rounds with a cap, and a man who has trained a cock to pose on his head in the hope of swapping tourist snaps for pesos.
And this Disney city comes complete with a tourist traina hand-me-down from an Eastern European theme parkwhich trundles its butt-bashing way down to the best beach on the south coast of Cuba.
Wait, what was that? Yes, the best beach on the south coast of Cuba. Playa Ancón, a slim swathe of pure white sand which remains strangely empty even in high season. There’s not much therethe beach, a couple of Soviet-style hotels and an ice-cream standbut that’s part of the beauty of Cuba’s beaches. There’s no-one there.
The only downer (nothing’s perfect) is the mass of sand fleas that appear out of nowhere around sunset. How romantic. But if it’s a toss-up between the sand fleas at Ancón and the hustlers of Trinidad...I’d rather be eaten alive by the former.