Well, I just got back from our trip to Baracoa and Santiago. I'll try to do a quick recap.
Baracoa was beautiful, quaint, relaxing, and we finally had some really good fresh sea food. Actually it was the first place in Cuba we had coconut milk used in the food we were eating. It was a pretty noticeable palette change. Definitely felt more Caribbean. But also with the coconut and shrimp it reminded me a little bit of Thai food. Needless to say, it was a welcome respite from the usual flavors (pork fat and beans).
Our hotel in Baracoa was an absolute dream, with a really nice pool and beautiful ocean views. The food was also excellent. I also had my first cuban piña-colada, and it was delicious. I sipped on it while I waded through the water.
Santiago is the second largest city in Cuba, after Havana. So it's definitely not quite like Baracoa (2,000 people). After such a great hotel in Baracoa, the one in Santiago was a bit of a let down. Our room was musky/smelly and pretty austerely decorated. But they had good TV! Lots of good channels. I watched a couple shows for the first time: Dexter, Weeds, The Big C. Julie and Julia was on late one night. I also liked Rachel's Getting Married. It was a good escape, watching all that TV. It was one of the first moments that I didn't necessarily feel like I was in Cuba. We all miss home terribly, so it was nice to have the TV connection. Oh, and there were great buffets at dinner and breakfast. Very fancy.
Things we did in Santiago: saw an amazing dance company, Ballet Folklorico Cutumba. They blew me away. Saw them perform twice. Went to a cemetery where José Marti is buried. Very ornate cemetery, very crowded. Water doesn't drain properly, so all of the tombs are above ground. Checked out the governor's mansion in Santiago, which I believe was the first original construction in town, dating back to the 1500s. Great antiques there. Visited "el cobre" a church dedicated to la Virgen de la Caridad (Virgin of Charity). And lastly, went to El Morro, a huge fort on the coast. The views of the ocean from the top of the castle were breathtaking.
Now it's back to real life. Or real life Havana style, which is still pretty unreal. We've passed the half-way mark for our stay here. On one hand, it's kind of hard to believe how fast things have gone. But on the other, we're all longing for home. That much is clear from my dreams. Last night I dreamed of my child-hood home, my block, my sister and her friends, a party at home, food. But I do think that Spanish has crept into my dreams, too. It's a funny mixture.