This was a trip was long planned, long saved for and much savored. A full week’s vacation. A true vacation. Sun. Sand. Booze. No cell. No email. No TV. Seriously. This amazing gift of a trip took us to San Juan Puerto Rico, Vieques and totally randomly… Philly. But more on that later.
To begin. We’ve found love. Old San Juan is where I will retire and live out my days. No joke. It will happen. The attraction was immediate and mutual. The city is beautiful, vibrant, alive and full of history. There are gorgeous fortress walls covered in jungle greenery, and you’ve got to love a people that turn the front acreage of a military fort into a lawn to fly kites. The only hazard we encountered were low-flying bats and ripe mango bombs, which could attack at any moment. There were also little lizards and cats everywhere. Both cute in their own way.
The meal we had on the night of our arrival set the tone. At Aguaviva, a stylish, cool and trendy seafood restaurant we had fresh oysters, a hearts of palm salad and ‘camerones gigante.’ This was no exaggeration. Each of these camerones were the size of small lobster tails!
We drank mojitos in alleyway bars. In fact we survived on rum and sangria, but there was nothing more refreshing than parcha (passion fruit) sorbet and pira aguas (shaved ice with fruit syrup poured over the top) bought from small carts on the street. Not a bad way to live.
As we walked around town we stopped wherever we found ourselves. At the National Gallery I found artists that I was riveted by like Myrna Baez and Rafael Tufino. At El Patio de Sam we munched on all sorts of traditional Puerto Rican fried snacks and met Maribel, a local waitress who took the time to talk to us candidly about political issues, excitedly about the culture of her people and to introduce us to the glory that is fried cheese with guava-rum sauce.
Our hotel, El Convento, was such a splurge and treat. I mean
how often do you get a chance to overlook a cathedral on a hill while swimming
and nibbling on cheese and grapes? One of the desk staff there sent us to
On the way home from dinner we accidentally ran into what is
an apparently a regularly occurring “Tuesday Party.” As we flowed along with the crowds that
filled the cobblestone streets, we found ourselves drinking shots of dubious
origins and dancing along to the thumping reggaeton.
When we weren’t roaming the streets and staring out to sea we were dozing, swimming and generally just enjoying the serenity that was our hotel. Our side trip allowed us quite a bit of time in the San Juan Aeroporto which was a wonder unto itself: a Cuban sandwich stand,Vienna wienies in the vending machine and Ms. Pac Man & Galaga machines everywhere. It was like when we stopped playing them in the early 90’s they all got shipped to the island. I also found a tostonera. It was souvenir I had been pining for but not picked up while in town.
Next on the itinerary… Vieques!