Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Few Of My Favorite Things ~ Other People's Vacation Photos

I'm sure that there are SO many as-yet-undiscovered places that will become favorites, but for today's installment of Other-People's-Vacation-Photos, we will visit a couple of our old standbys.  The close(ish) proximity to our home in Arroyo is a bonus as it means that I can pack in a lot more in a day without the long drive!  Today, we go to Ponce, just an hour to our west.

I wanted to go to the Art Museum but the tours in English were at times that didn't fit our agenda, so we'll save that for the next visit.  An easy stop to get us started is the Cruceta del Vigia perched high atop a hill overlooking the town of Ponce.

Riding up in the elevator...
This 100ft tall tower has survived the hurricanes and is even in better condition than it was during our last visit here in 2016.  Even so, the ride up in the elevator tickled my fear of heights so I stood back from the windows as we ascended to the viewing platform that runs through the cross section near the top.

From there, you can see forever!  The view is simply stunning.  We looked at the landscape through Bruce's binoculars and tried to pick out familiar landmarks and places we had been.

Our health conscious friends led us back down the hard way... via the many, many stairs!

It was a LONG way down this way!
While the Vigia Tower was built in 1984, it stands high on the hill in the spot where there was once an historic lookout that dates back to 1801.  The lookout was dual purpose, the first being to house the guards whose duty was to sound the alarm should invaders threaten.  The second was to identify approaching ships as friend or foe so that residents could get out their pocketbooks if a merchant ship arrived carrying goods from afar.

The signal flags
Although many of the tourist attractions in Puerto Rico are free of charge, there is a small entry fee to see this one.  We were happy to pay the few bucks it cost to keep this and other venues alive.  There is a ticket booth at the entrance to this property that sells combination packages to the several points of interest on this hill.  We picked the Vigia and the Japanese Garden for a nice stroll to reduce the stress of all this touristing!!!

Little turtle

There's a little Bonsai garden inside the grounds

We took a drive through the old city and found a good bit of devastation from Hurricane Maria still in evidence.  It's very sad to see these old buildings lying in ruin and typical of many historical "downtown" districts across the Caribbean and the US.  The money it takes to renovate and maintain these homes and businesses is just not there.  But the ones that have been brought back to life are beautiful to behold.  There is obvious pride on display everywhere we went, even in the absence of wealth.
Old Hospital looks like something out of a scary movie!
Beautiful old buildings just crumbling...
So all of this has been the lead up to my real favorite!  Next stop, La Soplaera Falls!

We took the winding climb on narrow roads out of Ponce and up into the clouds.  Literally!

This is our fourth trip to the falls and while we always bring our swimsuits, we've only gone swimming one time.  Down at sea level, swimming seems like a good idea, but when you get up into the mountains, the altitude and the shade of the forrest make it quite a bit cooler.  The same thing happened to us today!  We made the short hike up the river to see the falls and the pool below them, then returned to the car to have our picnic lunch before continuing on.

Even with today's rain, the falls that normally wet this wall on the right are dry.
Watch your footing... it's still slippery!
Cross this narrow wall then step across the rushing stream... almost there!

Ahhh, there it is.  Paradise!
There were cars in the parking lot across the street, but whomever else is here must be hiking to the falls further upriver.  We saw no-one on our hike in, but one or two couples arrived while we were there. I'm always amazed that we have this magical place to ourselves, and that it remains FREE of charge!

Getting to the pool is just enough of a challenge to make you think you've been on an adventure!
You have to scramble through the rushing stream and over and under huge boulders to get in and out.
Bruce awaits on dry land!
On the way out, we stopped to appreciate the minutia of the rainforest.
Where the Red Fern Grows

Parking Lot below the clouds
Some kind of seed pod
Mountain Flora

We enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and our picnic, then retraced our drive back down to civilization.  That's one of the things I love the most about Puerto Rico.  Inside of half an hour you can go from normal city life, to the wilds of the interior, just like that!  While we decided to forgo the swim in the mountain pool, we were definitely up for a dip in the warm mineral springs just outside of Coamo!

Modern facility that houses the mineral hot springs.
Soaking off ten years of age with our best buddies!

Ahhh the feeling of sitting in the natural mineral laden waters is lovely.  The heat melts away the weariness from our muscles and bones.  This touristing is tough!  I gave my injured shin bone the extra treatment, holding it beneath the piping hot stream!

This facility is lovely and they have almost fully recovered from the damages ravaged by hurricane Maria in 2017.  I'm so glad to see this place is up and running!  It's a secret little hideaway that's never too crowded and one of MY top favorite places to go!  I just wish it was a little bit closer to our home!

Complete with Sato dog in front!
We enjoyed a hot soak, then used the very nice changing rooms to get ourselves ready for one more stop.  All this touristing makes me disinclined to cook dinner after a long day travelling.  We picked a place for dinner off of Google Maps that turned out to be one we marked on the to-do list previously.

In fact, there are several restaurants along this little sand peninsula that forms the eastern shores of Los Jobos Bay.  We drove all the way to the end and picked the one that spoke to us, Donde Pica el Peje.  I have no idea what it said, but it did speak to us!

It's kind of like a beach bar on steroids!
The kitchen is housed in that screened corner!
We were greeted by America, the sweetest server on the island.  The restaurant is family owned and operated so service was top notch, but not fast.  Willie, the second generation owner, came over and sat with us for a long conversation.  His mom, Nellie was doing the cooking in that little screened off corner.  She even came out to inquire if we needed something when she saw us looking around.

The food was simple, freshly prepared when we ordered it and delicious!  The place is only open Thursday through Sunday evenings and is now a NEW favorite!

The drive home was only about 25 minutes and we got to show our guests another quintessentially Puerto Rican thing... the party bus!  Our day is complete!  What fun we're having showing our friends all the reasons we chose Puerto Rico as our new home!  And we're not done!  Other People's Vacation Photos... to be continued!

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