Imagine the city's public orchestra playing two free evening concerts each week from the large bandshell in the central park, beginning with the national anthem sharp at 8pm. Show tunes; classical; jazz-inspired; all with a Cuban/Latin influence. Families and young people gather and stroll through the park, sometimes after visiting the Boulevard pedestrian shopping street just two short blocks away. Popcorn vendors. Maybe a Cuban sandwich (ham, cheese and pickle) and a Cristal beer from the cafeteria adjacent to the hotel? A live quartet plays in the open bar across the street from one park corner. Small children enjoy a mule cart ride. Lovers - straight and gay. Then maybe a concert in the beautifully restored three balcony theatre at one end of the park. What is it today? A ballet troupe from the famous ballet school in Camaguey? A visiting tango band from Argentina? The annual song-writing contest featuring 10 finalists from the province of Villa Clara? $5 for tourists, 5 pesos (25 cents US) for Cubans. Be careful in the cheap Italian restaurant on one corner - it is priced in pesos but they will sometimes charge unsuspecting tourists in $. So much small-time corruption as people struggle with low incomes. Two hotels nearby - the newer "America" (small but with a pool and restaurant) or the basic and economical 10-story "Santa Clara Libre" with an unexceptional breakfast buffet but a beautiful view on the top floor.. This is just the beginning for exploring the city of Santa Clara and the unique culture of Cuba. Let us hope that new American influence will not bring American commercial values to such a beautiful place.
Location of the Revolution's most famous battle, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's victory is commemorated by numerous statues of the guerilla. While not as postcard-perfect as Trinidad, Santa Clara has some stunning architecture of its own, combined with gritty reminders such as the bullet-riddled facade of the centrally located Hotel Santa Clara Libre. In addition to cruising the sights, including Guevara's mausoleum, by the city's horse drawn public transport, take time to wander its streets, ducking into hole in the wall style coffee shops, and chatting to Cubans, who are particularly friendly here.
Home to the third-largest university in the country, Santa Clara is full of young people. It's also a bit gritty. Local life revolves around Parque Vidal, where the youth gathers in what becomes a lively Cuban scene. Due to the large number of students, Santa Clara has a vibrant and edgy nightlife. One example is the bohemian terrace bar Peña El Mejunje with its poetry readings and live performances. Santa Clara is also the place to pay homage to iconic revolutionary and martyr Che Guevara, whose memory is cherised at the Che Guevara Mausoleum and remains discreetly preserved in the Che Guevara Memorial, along with his 18 fellow fallen comrades.
A very nice town. The Che Guevara Mausoleum and Statue was my favorite part. So interesting was his life.