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23 April 2016 / leggypeggy

Cienfuegos and the one-night stand

Ferrer Palace lookout

Lookout on the roof of the Ferrer Palace

Park in front of Ferrer Palace

Park in front of Ferrer Palace. Teatro Tomas Terry is the light-coloured building on the left

Whenever a building or a town captures my imagination, I try to find out something interesting about it so I can share it here.

Together the Ferrer Palace and Teatro Tomas Terry in Cienfuegos created the perfect setting for an interesting slice of history.

Almost 100 years ago, Enrico Caruso, the famous Italian operatic tenor, came to Cienfuegos to perform in the theatre. The weather was blisteringly hot and, before the evening performance, Caruso spent the afternoon resting in one of the palace’s elegant and spacious rooms.

There’s no record of his opinion of the recently completed Ferrer Palace (finished in 1918), but he stayed only one night in Cienfuegos before returning to Havana to give a final performance in Cuba.

History says he was paid 90,000 pesos for his concerts in Cuba, which were, at the time, the most ever paid to an artist performing in Cuban theatres.

Sadly, after his time in Cuba, Caruso would perform only once again—at the Metropolitan in New York City—before retiring from theatre completely. He contracted pneumonia, which developed into pleurisy, and died in 1921.

Ferrer Palace ceiling detail

Ornate ceiling with chandelier

Ferrer Palace
The interior of this gorgeous powder-blue palace is being renovated, but it is still well worth paying 1 CUC (about US$1) to go inside for a long look.

Our homestay hostess took me there as part of our city walk (which Poor John missed because of his swollen foot, but more about that later).

She (our guide, Elodia) said this palace was one of her favourite buildings in Cienfuegos, and it is easy to see why.

Ferrer Palace sitting room

A sitting room, complete with smoker

Designed by local architect, Donato Pablo Carbonell, the palace was started in 1917 for landowner and merchant, José Ferrer Spanish Sires. It was completed within a year, but the family moved on to Havana in 1920.

The two-storey palace has a Catalan design with the ground floor originally being plain and used to store goods, and the upper floor being lavish in design, materials and space.

There’s also an elegant dome-shaped vantage point on the roof. I climbed up for the view (Elodia stayed on the roof because she doesn’t like heights) and was nearly blown off. The view is sweeping and takes in the park in front of the palace, as well as the harbour in the other direction.

One thing disturbed me greatly on the visit. A woman, who I think had some responsible role in the renovations or running of the palace, was sitting in a rocking chair on the upper floor—smoking.

Guess it will be awhile before the no-smoking-in-public-places policy reaches Cuba.

Tomas Terry theatre interior

Four floors of seating. Top floor is standing room only

Teatro Tomas Terry
This 950-seat auditorium was built in the late 1880s to honour a Venezuelan industrialist, Tomas Terry.

Terry had always wanted a luxury theatre that hosted famous entertainers, and this elegant structure has filled the bill.

In addition to Caruso, the theatre hosted actress, Sarah Bernhardt of France, ballerina, Anna Pavlova of Russia and many other stars well-known in the Latin world. Framed posters of the theatre’s most famous performers are hung in the ground floor hallways.

Showing French and Italian influences, the theatre is decorated with Carrara marble, hand-carved Cuban hardwoods and whimsical ceiling frescoes. The façade has three gold-leafed mosaics representing the muses of tragedy, comedy and music.

I thought it was a bargain to go in for 2 CUCs (about US$2) but was gobsmacked to see a sign that said an extra 5 CUCs for cameras. Of course you know I breezed nonchalantly past the cashier with my camera slung behind my back. I was a little restrained taking pictures (so I didn’t get caught).

P.S. About US dollars in Cuba. First off, most ATMs do not work in Cuba. They work for the Cubans, but not for anyone with a credit or debit card that has any connection to a US bank (so most other banks in the world). US dollars can be changed in Cuba, but they charge a 10 per cent service fee, so it’s best to take euros, British pounds or Canadian dollars.

P.P.S. It’s been a while since I reminded people to stop by my cooking blog. We had quite a few dinners in Cuba featuring shellfish so this garlicky recipe might tempt you.


Leave a Comment
  1. blondieaka / Apr 23 2016 1:23 pm

    Those beautiful. I hope poor John’s foot is on the mend .

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 1:34 pm

      I’m so glad you like the ceilings. I thought they were extraordinary. Thanks for asking about Poor John’s foot. It is all recovered.

      Liked by 1 person

      • blondieaka / Apr 23 2016 1:36 pm

        I am just always in awe when I see some of the old churches and house. Pleased his foot is recovered where are we without our feet 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. wfdec / Apr 23 2016 1:36 pm

    Thanks for taking me on the tour. They are quite beautiful buildings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 1:38 pm

      You are most welcome. I thought they were pretty special.


  3. Yvonne / Apr 23 2016 1:55 pm

    It’s good you have an enquiring mind and pass on the benefits to us!

    Off to read the garlicky recipe now.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Joanne T Ferguson / Apr 23 2016 2:22 pm

    The ceilings are gorgeous and it is like the whole building talks of remarkable history! Glad Poor John’s foot has recovered!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:37 pm

      It really is a magnificent building. I read that for a while the ground floor was a drug store. What a history.


  5. afterthelasttime / Apr 23 2016 2:30 pm

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing it all. A particular thank you for the 10% US Currency fee, not a very kind gesture for their closest neighbor who is just beginning to help mend fences though I suspect that will dissolve too with a bit more time.
    Luckily banks in major US cities generally can quite easily get at least Canadian dollars.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:40 pm

      The US has been pretty harsh in its treatment of Cuba, so the 10 per cent fee is not at all surprising. But yes, I agree that the fee will drop away in time. I think it used to be that US dollars were not accepted at all, but they are now.


  6. Brian Lageose / Apr 23 2016 2:45 pm

    Why do I have the feeling that you really, really wanted to give a magnificent performance on the stage at the Teatro, but you held back at the last minute so that things wouldn’t escalate into an international scandal? Just kidding. I really enjoyed your pictures and story, as always…

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:41 pm

      Oh cripes, I just realised I missed my opportunity to appear on stage. Bummer!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Suzy Barker / Apr 23 2016 3:51 pm

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. poshbirdy / Apr 23 2016 5:00 pm

    Stunning. What an amazing place. Love the ceilings, of course

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:43 pm

      The ceilings are so impressive. Not sure they’d work in my house, but I still love them. 🙂


  9. derrickjknight / Apr 23 2016 5:22 pm

    I love all those pastel shades. Your first line speaks of one of the benefits of blogging – it gets us out doing things so we can write about them 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:44 pm

      And I figure if I’m going to write about them, I have to say something worthwhile and informative (or sometimes just silly).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. gerard oosterman / Apr 23 2016 6:38 pm

    How beautiful the history. I forgive the smoking lady. I mean, the Latin passion would wilt without their cigarette. We all have to have something. Hope the foot of poor John is better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:46 pm

      I can deal with smokers; heck I used to be one. But I still think it is inappropriate in a landmark building that charges admission. The foot is much better.


  11. Midwestern Plant Girl / Apr 23 2016 9:13 pm

    Wow! You don’t get many indoor smoker photos these days… 😉
    Great photos! I also hope John feels better soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 10:47 pm

      It was a smoker in a tourist building that really surprised me. Poor John is going great.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Heather / Apr 23 2016 11:05 pm

    Hi Peggy. Heather from your recent cruise Trivia group. Loving the blog! I almost feel as if I am there seeing all the beautiful scenery. Safe travels, hi to John and enjoy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 11:28 pm

      Hello Heather, so great to see you here. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. Stay tuned for some posts on our cruise stops.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Yahooey / Apr 23 2016 11:50 pm

    For a while, I was wondering what the British actor Terry-Thomas had done to be recognized by the Cuban government.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. spearfruit / Apr 23 2016 11:57 pm

    Thank you for the tour Peggy! The architecture is beautiful and the history very interesting. Have a great weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Carol Ferenc / Apr 24 2016 5:37 am

    This is such an elaborate, beautiful building. I’m enjoying Cuba immensely, Peggy. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Vicki / Apr 24 2016 11:13 am

    That palace is certainly worth an admission fee, but sad to see someone smoking (as we all know what damage this can do to old interiors and furnishings, let alone human interiors and passive smokers).

    (BTW I spent several visits photographing the beautiful interior of St Paul’s Cathedral here in Melbourne in 2010 & 2011, but a couple of years ago, they started charging several dollars for those wishing to take photos. Needless to say, now I’m living on a frugal pension, I cannot justify paying entrance fees to take photos in any building. Sad to say, but I’m sure many people no longer visit one of Melbourne’s early pieces of spectacular Gothic architecture).

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 24 2016 12:40 pm

      I was so shocked to see the woman smoking in the palace and hope it something that doesn’t continue.

      As for charging for photos in St Paul’s Cathedral, that’s something that really annoys me. I can understand it in poor countries where money is in such short supply, but in Melbourne. Oh pleeze!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vicki / Apr 25 2016 7:16 am

        Seems as though even ‘religion’ is getting on the band wagon of commercialism.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Apr 25 2016 10:36 am

        I guess they ‘gotta’ make a buck when and where they can!


  17. Sharon Yvonne / Apr 24 2016 12:53 pm

    So beautiful! Ferrer Place looks well worth the dollar..

    This is looking to be a very cultural vacation.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. mukul chand / Apr 25 2016 12:05 am

    Great Post

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Curt Mekemson / Apr 25 2016 1:23 am

    Thanks for the tour, Peggy. Love the ceilings. Non-smoking will arrive. Remember, they no longer smoke in Irish bars. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 25 2016 4:32 am

      Smoking in Cuban bars and restaurants I can understand, but in an admission-charging tourist site? That’s the puzzle for me.


      • Curt Mekemson / Apr 25 2016 11:12 am

        Probably no regulations in Cuba yet. Fidel probably wanted to smoke his cigars where ever he went. We had the same problem with Arnold in California. As tourism increases Cuba will probably change. –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Apr 25 2016 2:20 pm

        Oh yes, Cuba will change. Fidel even stopped smoking his cigars quite a few years back. I think he even initiated a campaign against smoking, but I might be mis-remembering.


  20. sidilbradipo1 / Apr 25 2016 2:05 am

    Gorgeous Palace, magnificent photos!
    Interesting history 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  21. LaVagabonde / Apr 25 2016 4:55 am

    Love those ceilings. So, they’ve adopted the European habit of charging a ridiculous amount to take photos, but have yet to enact nonsmoking rules that are standard in most of the West. Just wait until the Americans arrive…

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 25 2016 5:52 am

      Oh yeah, that will bring heaps of changes—some good and some bad.


  22. chattykerry / Apr 25 2016 7:34 am

    Amazing architecture and photographs. In our county in Texas we still have smoking in bars and cigar bars… Welcome to the wild west.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Cesar Lardies / Apr 25 2016 8:11 am

    That island has so much to offer to the world. thank you for sharing with us a little piece of Cuba. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 25 2016 10:39 am

      Cuba does have lots of offer and I plan on sharing more! Thanks for stopping by and for following! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  24. voulaah / Apr 25 2016 5:46 pm

    Very great post, especially the park’s image and the four floor
    thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Lynz Real Cooking / Apr 26 2016 12:27 am

    Wow a gorgeous bunch of pictures Peggy! Your tours and history are always so exciting and interesting! Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Curious to the Max / Apr 26 2016 10:18 am

    Fascinating information Peggy.

    I hope your one-night-stand was with Poor John . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 26 2016 2:04 pm

      Too funny! Caruso stayed one night, but Poor John and I stayed two. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Stephanae V. McCoy / May 1 2016 9:49 pm

    This was such an enjoyable read Peggy. The building architecture is beautiful and I really like the history that you provided behind the structures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 2 2016 7:33 am

      Thanks so much. I’m always curious to know more about the places I see, so it makes sense to share what I discover.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. tots2travel / May 12 2016 1:06 am

    Beautiful work on the ceilings. How elaborate and elegant.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. milliethom / May 12 2016 10:07 pm

    A very interesting read, Peggy, with wonderful photos. The Ferrer Palace is stunning, and I fully agree with you about smoking in public places. As you say, it will probably be many years before smoking policies rare applied in Cuba.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 12 2016 10:33 pm

      I was very surprised by the woman smoking inside a monument. I thought Castro gave up smoking to set an example.


      • milliethom / May 12 2016 10:47 pm

        It takes a lot for most people to play ‘follow the leader’. It’s amazing how out of place smoking in public places is seen by people from countries where regulations are in place. I, for one, cheered when they were implemented here. I can’t tell you how many restaurants and things we’ve walked into straight out again because of smoking in there. I know…I’m faddy.


      • leggypeggy / May 12 2016 10:51 pm

        Australia is very smoke-free and has been for a long time. Cigarettes are in plain packaging (with shock photos) and cannot be displayed for sale. They are stored in cabinets. I think it’s illegal to smoke in a car if you are carrying children under the age of 18. Not sure about that.



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