There are places you would not even think of going, you have never heard of them, the guidebooks hardly mention them and then for some reason you end up there anyway. In Cuba this turned out to be Camagüey.
The only reason we were staying here was to cut the long bus journey from Trinidad to Santiago into 2 roughly equal parts. But how glad we were to have done so!
As you can read in the Trinidad page, we did not really like the atmosphere there, completely artificial and full of tourists. But Camagüey we loved straight away. The town has beautiful buildings, several interesting art galleries, some bars and restaurants, not as many as in Trinidad but more than enough to keep you going. But the main thing about it is that the place is full of Cubans, real people, doing their shopping, having a drink, chatting to each other, going about their business.
There is a decent amount of tourists, there are a lot of “bici-taxis” but it does not feel like every Cuban is just there to make a buck off you. This is a place to sit back and relax.
Having said that, don’t push your luck too far, maybe after 2 days you have the impression to have seen it all twice over, but in the 24 hours we had there we certainly had the feeling we could have stayed longer. But then the bus tickets were already booked and a casa was waiting for us in Santiago…
We met some french cyclists on the bus to Santiago (their bicycles were in the boot) . They had had exactly the same feeling in Sancti Spiritus, another place that is not pushed by the guidebooks; and from a colleague who was there, I hear that Bayamo was very pleasant too.
We had lunch in the Patio, on the Calle Republica, halfway to the railway station. Decent food, not a culinary highlight, but simple and tasty, very pleasant in the patio (who’d have thought it?) and for a much more reasonable price than what you’d pay in Trinidad (did I mention that Trinidad was not our favourite place in Cuba?).
It does not look like much from the street, but you have to walk through a long corridor to arrive in the garden. Most of the people eating there were locals, you can pay in CUP if you want.