Friday, March 19, 2021

Last Day in Puerto Rico

All good things must come to an end unfortunately, today is the last day of my stay in Puerto Rico and I wasn't up to doing much, but I decided to go back to the Old San Juan historic district and check out more stuff at my own pace. I got an Uber ride from where I am staying at and started my exploration from Plaza Colon which has now become a familiar landmark to me. By the way, lot's of tour companies also arrange meet ups at this plaza and there is a fruit stand at the plaza where you can also get the map of the city to guide you around. I grabbed one of those maps and started my adventure of the day. In no particular order, these are some of the sites that I came across.....

Altar de la Patria - This monument can be found in the capital district (the capital building is right behind) and represents the three ethnicities of Puerto Rico: Taino, Spanish and African.

Old San Juan Cemetery - located between Castillo San Cristobal and San Felipe del Morro, many prominent Puerto Rican figures are buried here. The view is lovely but this is as far as I got.

La Perla - Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi made this neighborhood famous when they shot the video for their song, despacito. The neighborhood once had a bad reputation and was considered dangerous but now you will find tourists flocking here to take photos. The community has been working hard to transform the neighborhood through various restoration projects and tourism.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) - Considered one of the largest fortifications built by the Spanish in the Caribbean.

Puerta de San Juan - It is the old entrance to the city of San Juan.

Plaza San Jose Church - One of the oldest churches in San Juan, it once held the remains of Ponce de Leon who was the first governor of Puerto Rico.

Capital del Cristo (Chapel of Christ) - Legend has it that it was erected to honor a miracle, I read that it is open a few times a year.

After all the walking I did under the hot sun, I decided to get some lunch so I headed to this one restaurant that had been recommended to me. It's called El Jibarito and it's located in Calle Sol. The restaurant serves Puerto Rican dishes and I had been told that a lot of locals go there, meaning that the food is pretty good and would be what you would find in a typical Puerto Rican home. I finally got to try out Mofongo which is fried green plantain mashed with garlic, salt and olive oil. I also included yellow rice in the mix since I had been told that it's pretty popular. The food was heavy! especially the mofongo, I couldn't finish it all.

After that much needed lunch break, I continued with my adventures.......

La Puerta de la Bandera - A bit tricky to find but it's located in Calle San Jose and was painted by a local artist named Rosenda Alvarez. It's pretty popular with tourists and is a symbol of national identity. It used to be red, white and blue but the color was changed to what it is now, white and black as a symbol of resistance to US austerity measures in the island.

I took other photos around the city before calling it a day. I was tired, sweaty and the sun had done a number on me.

That's it folks! It was a long and hot day and by the time I got back to my Airbnb the first thing I did was take a long shower to cool off and remove that sticky feeling you get when you have spent the whole day out in the hot sun. This trip was chill but trust me, there will be a do over. My husband wants us to take a trip to the the island for his birthday in May or if not in May then sometime during the year. I plan for us to do all the great adventures that I didn't get to partake in on this trip just because some things are more fun if we do them together. The great planner in me already has the perfect itinerary for us on my second trip to Puerto Rico so watch this space.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Although Spanish is the main language in Puerto Rico, English is also widely spoken especially around the touristic areas. With that being said, don't assume everyone you come across speaks it.

You need a covid PCR test taken within 72 hours before entering Puerto Rico, when entering the US from PR you don't need a covid test taken since the island is a US territory.

I heard that cops will fine you $100 if they catch you not wearing a mask and if it's not paid within 24 hrs then the fine goes up to $200. I don't mind wearing the mask but I have to say, it is tough wearing the mask while out in the streets with this hot weather. In crowded ares I wear my mask but when I am on empty streets or taking photos, then I take it off.

Speaking of photos I have to give props to all the people that I have met on this trip who helped take some of my photos. Sometimes asking strangers for photos can be intimidating but so far I have been lucky. I will go ahead and buy a stand for my phone just so that I don't have to rely on strangers to take my pictures.

Gasoline here is priced by the liter as opposed to the gallon so don't get too excited when you see 0.77 at the gas pump thinking it's too cheap.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Exploring San Juan

I had this nice long draft that I had written and was getting ready to post, then guess what happened? I accidentally deleted it on my phone!!!! like seriously, why??!! Anyway, I will go ahead and quickly summarize my day since I am tired and I don't have the same gusto I had when I wrote the initial draft. Here goes...

My second full day in Puerto Rico was dedicated to San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico. This city was founded in 1521 and is the second oldest European formed city in the western hemisphere, the oldest city is Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  Being the lover of walking tours, I signed up for one to go around the city and learn more about it's history and culture. In no particular order, these are the places I got to check out:

Old San Juan - historic district where you will find cute narrow streets with colorful buildings. There are various historic landmarks here that have been very well preserved and each has a story to tell.

The Capital - all made of marble and this is the back entrance which is actually the prettiest side of the building.

Condado Beach - popular public beach situated in the upscale Condado neighborhood. The beach is small but I heard it gets pretty full especially over the weekends.

PiƱones - situated in the town of Loiza where there is a huge presence of the Afro-Boricua population. Here you will find traditions and food with a heavy African influence. I really wanted to witness one of the cultural shows but they have them on Saturdays and that's when I am leaving. We got to taste some of the local delicacies and check out the surrounding beach.

Santurce - this is a hip neighborhood known for it's street art and is compared to Wynwood district in Miami. Nice place to check out cool murals, grab something to eat or drink. 

That's it folks! it was a long day and I am sleepy so I will end this post here. I am still mad about deleting the initial draft but it is what it is. Watch out for more adventures tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Turning 41 at El Yunque

A very happy birthday to me! I decided to spend my 41st birthday surrounded by nature so what better place to do this at other than El Yunque, a tropical rainforest that has a diverse ecosystem and abundance of natural beauty. Since it's very popular with tourists, I wanted to avoid the crowds so I chose to take an off the beaten path tour with this one girl that was offering very small group tours. Although El Yunque is considered one of the smallest rainforests, it's still quite large so there are tonnes of different routes one can take and still not be able to cover it all. 

It was only me and one other girl in the tour so we were able to develop a rapport amongst ourselves and the tour guide managed to give us a lot of information concerning the rainforest ecosystem. We were the only tourists in the spots that the guide took us to so we were able to mingle more with the locals who frequent these lesser known spots, lesser known to tourists that is.

I have to say this was the chillest birthday ever, I was just engrossed in my surroundings and being in the moment. I actually didn't even take many photos although now I kind of regret that because we passed by some very beautiful areas that I would have loved to capture in photos.

After getting our fill of El Yunque, our guide took us to an isolated beach that's not really known to many and we were actually the only ones there. It was very peaceful and we took our time walking along the shore enjoying the cool breeze from the ocean. 

After we were done at the beach I got back to my airbnb to freshen up before going back out again to look for food. I ended up at a cute Mexican restaurant where I had dinner, drinks and desert before calling it a day. That's it folks! It was a chill birthday and I have no complaints whatsoever, cheers to the birthday girl! and tune in for more adventures.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

It still feels strange saying I am 41, heck! I was still getting used to saying I am 40. However; unlike my 40th birthday, I am more calm as I have embraced this new decade of my life. Turning 40 had me panicking but I eventually came to embrace it, not that I had a choice in that matter anyway.

Turns out tourists have been wrecking havoc in this island. Our guide today was saying how Puerto Ricans have been protesting the bad behavior of tourists in their island. They are trashing hotels, acting a fool in public, disrespecting their culture and pretty much pushing boundaries. Apparently it's never been like this before but it started emerging during this pandemic and it's very unfortunate.

On the subject of tourists behaving badly, my flight into San Juan yesterday had a particular group that was rowdy and obnoxious. They had clearly been drinking and I just kept thinking, "I feel sorry for the hotel that they are staying in."

I do count myself very fortunate in a lot of things. 2020 taught me to be more grateful for the things that I once took for granted. It made me realize that I have more good going on in my life than bad and that's why my personal theme for 2021 is gratitude and not stressing about things that I can't control. 

El Yunque reminds me so much of Rio Ponce in Colombia and it's surroundings. Wow! seems like a lifetime ago when I think of Rio Ponce, I can't believe that was 7 yrs ago. Time sure time flies!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

That Time of The Year

Yup! It's that time of the year when I take a trip to a place that I have never been to before, for my birthday. This year I decided to celebrate my birthday in.............drum rolls please! 

Puerto Rico! I still can't believe that I have never visited this island before but hey! Here I am, ready to explore and have a good birthday while at it.

I landed this evening and once I got settled at the Airbnb that I am staying at, I decided to stroll around the neighborhood to get my bearings. After my stroll I had dinner at a nearby restaurant that was playing really good salsa, before calling it a night. Tomorrow is my first full day in Puerto Rico and of course since it's my birthday, I have something fun planned out so stay tuned and watch this space.