The Tennessean: Natural beauty, tranquility in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province
In August, travel writer Ellen Creager toured with the first Americans to visit Cuba legally under a new program. This week: Pinar del Rio province. Last week: Havana.
VIN ALES, Cuba — Waterfalls, mountains and the handsomest farmer in Cuba. Those are the top three sights in the western province Pinar del Rio, where nature provides a lush setting for peaceful moments. OK, there were a few not-peaceful moments, such as the 6-inch tarantula that swimmers found in the hotel pool. And the night my hotel room air conditioner broke down in a fit of rattling protest. And there were some treacherous missing steps at the waterfall and slippery slopes in a cave, so many that the motto of our group became “Don’t stumble.” And the food was fairly wretched at the hotel, with the dinner menu offering “pork steak, roasted pork, fried pork chunks, chicken.” But after four days in effervescent Havana on the first legal “people-to-people” tour for American tourists in years, I was glad for sweet Pinar del Rio province. Known for its national parks, it has tobacco farms, orchids, soaring limestone cliffs and picturesque towns. Out here, about three hours from the capital, there is little mention of Castro. However, many billboards feature Che Guevara, the Argentine doctor who was a co-leader of the Cuban Revolution in 1958-59. “To victory,” one suggests. Other than that, there are a lot of chickens, people out walking and small colorful houses. The local chapter of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution threw us a party, with cake. Many in the tour group ditched the hotel restaurant one night for an excellent private paladar restaurant, Villa Nene, stuffing themselves with lobster. There were lots of great old American cars painted in pastel colors. But the true major highlights, as I mentioned above, were three. Water falling: The Soroa waterfall is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Walk 292 steps down from the parking lot, then stand at the foot of the 66-foot waterfall that spills over rounded rock at the top……Read More
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