28 Mar 2014

My review of Casa de Noelia in Pilón

REVIEW: Casa de Noelia, Pilón, Granma, Cuba

Casa de Noelia entrance
gate, from the highway.
In March of 2014, I stayed for two weeks in a casa particular in a small town called Pilón, deep within the province of Granma, a rather rural region in southern Cuba.

This was the first time I had the opportunity to stay in a private home that is the Cuban equivalent of a “bed and breakfast” type of accommodation, so I was very curious to see what it would be like. It was lovely! The house itself was very nice and so were the hosts – Noelia, her husband Noel and her ex-husband David, who lived in a room at the back of the home.

Noelia and Noel, charming casa particular proprietors.
That’s the way it is sometimes, in Cuba; housing is at a premium and households are complicated. Even though Noelia and David had split up years ago, he still needed a place to live, and he continued to contribute to the workings of their shared home. When, for instance, on my first night there, I got locked in the bathroom because the doorknob was not working properly, he was the one who showed up in the morning with a screwdriver and attempted to fix it. He couldn’t, but it was not a big deal. Since I was not sharing the baño with anyone, I simply didn’t latch the door after that – no problem.

My part of the house was to the
left of the main entrance.
The home's main entrance and welcoming front porch.
The part of the house that I occupied, for 25 CUC (CUban Convertible pesos, which are very close to the rate of the US$) per night, included a private bathroom with a large shower, a big bedroom with an air conditioner and a fan, a living room with a television and multiple sofas, and a kitchen with a fridge, sink and table (but no other appliances or dishes). I also had my own patio at the front and an open invitation to join the proprietors on their larger veranda, or to make myself at home anywhere on the grounds. I often had lunch at a shaded table in the front courtyard and, in the cool and breezy evenings, sometimes climbed the steel stairs to the roof to admire the moon.

This private living room was included
in the section of the house I rented.
My bedroom - other rooms can be
rented in the main part of the casa.
Casa de Noelia is located on the main highway running through Pilón, about an hour and a half from Manzanillo de Cuba. It’s very near the town’s only gas station, the Cupet, which also has a small convenience store. The house itself is a charming yellow stucco and stone with decorative white pillars, marked only with a small sign at the gate that states: Room for Rent/Casa de Renta. 

It is set back from the road, partially hidden by trees and shrubbery, so quite peaceful and private.  The property is surrounded by chain-link fencing and protected by a friendly dog that knows his job and signals “Intruder alert!” at appropriate moments.
The adorable guard dog!

Noelia La O Machado is a good hostess and cook. Even though I did not eat many meals there, due to friends in the neighborhood who insisted on feeding me, I did sample some of her cuisine and can give it two thumbs up. She would have been delighted to provide food for me more often, at a reasonable rate.

I had been a bit concerned, at first, that we would have difficulty communicating because my Spanish is limited and my hosts’ English was non-existent but, ultimately, it was not an insurmountable obstacle. We did not have sparkling conversations about the world affairs, of course, but we got along just fine. And, on the day before I was due to leave, Noelia presented me with a beautiful floral arrangement she had purchased. Wow!

Before I left, we shared more than one big hug – abrazo grande – and I promised to visit the next time I was in the area. I also promised myself to learn more Spanish before then!

I enjoyed sitting at this shaded table for lunch or dinner.
If you want a pleasant, quiet place to stay in Pilón, I can recommend Casa de Noelia, at Carretera Granma #12. The phone number is (011 – 53) 23594959. Or, you can just show up at the front gate and call out, “Noelia! Noelia!” She will greet you, at almost any time of day, and do whatever she can to provide warm, friendly accommodation.