|Driftwood Octopus in a store window. I. WANT. THIS!|
Our plans for last evening were a wash. Reservations we had for a Sunset Sail were quickly rescheduled for our second evening, which meant we needed to juggle a dinner date with friends... but with a new schedule, we set out to check off some more things from our bucket list.
Our morning started with a nice breakfast at a place June scouted for us. We followed growing sunny patches through the narrow streets, as long shadows of night gradually disappeared. Colorful buildings almost seemed to glow with a new warmth. One of those colorful buildings was our destination!
Don't let the unremarkable name ~ 352 Food and Drink ~ put you off! Inside these doors is a cozy, inviting atmosphere with a decidedly European civility. Quiet music set the mood as we were offered local and Venezuelan specialties. Simple, yet new to our palates, we all tried something different.
The owner of the restaurant was born in Venezuela, and she told us about her family's struggles to land on their feet after the collapse of their country's economy. What a success story! I was happy to hear it and happy to support their continued success.
And the coffee was delicious!
Newly fortified, we set off toward Castillo de San Cristóbal!
Each time we go to El Morro, the Rangers tell us that THIS is the better fort to visit. Well finally, today, we get to make that determination for ourselves.
Word is, that the long tunnels and dungeons make this the better of the two. After wandering through the tunnels and exploring the grounds thoroughly, I tend to agree with what "they" say. But it might just be because it was new to us today.
Either way, come see for yourself! This site is a part of the US National Parks system. That means that if you have a Lifetime Senior Pass, you and your party enter FREE!
Or if not... you can just scroll on down and enjoy my photos!
I'm not going to bore you with a lesson in history. If you want to know more about this site, you can start with Wikipedia!
|We briefly enjoyed the museum pieces inside, where it's Air Conditioned!|
|Not many people out and about this morning!|
For sure, the thing that makes this site stand above El Morro has got to be the series of very long and very old tunnels. It's amazing to think that something built in the 1600-1700s, can withstand the ravages of time, when so many buildings going up in recent history have not aged as well.
|These are said to have been done by a Captain detained here to await sentencing.|
|Not a great photo, but I liked it!|
|I think between June and I... tunnels are kind of "Our Thing"|
|La Perla and El Morro in the distance|
|Peek through the gun slot!|
|Seriously thick walls!|
|Not every day we get to play with a pile of cannonballs!|
|Yes, we climbed up!|
|It cracks me up that there is no Caution Tape here!!|
|El Garita del Diablo|
The aforementioned brilliant sky had not been in the forecast, and was now raining heat down upon us. We made a stop for a quick rest and wardrobe change at our hotel...
|Final days of this Canadian's visit include soaking up as much sun as possible before returning to winter!|
|Our rooftop view of the harbor.|
|Streets full of color! Our restaurant is the blue awning on the left.|
|Evidently sharing pitchers of Sangria is another "our thing"!|
No visit to this city is complete without a look at the Cathedral San Juan Bautista. This structure holds the title of "Oldest Cathedral in the United States", and is the second oldest in the Americas.
The current structure was built in 1540, replacing the original wooden structure (1521) that was destroyed by a hurricane. The Cathedral will celebrate its 500th ANNIVERSARY in 2021!
Inside the Cathedral, you'll find the Tomb of Juan Ponce DeLeon, and other religious relics. While we aren't particularly "religious", I do enjoy the history and longevity of these places, and the architecture, and the beautiful art cross all borders.
|Tomb of Juan Ponce de Leon|
Standing here admiring the huge Puerto Rican flag stretched above Calle de la Forteleza, the people of this island once again showed their welcoming nature.
A man struck up a conversation with us and welcomed us to the island. He joined the long list of people delighted by June, and her Canadian-ness... And then he joined the long list of people delighted with the fact that Bruce and I have made this Paradise our home.
Before a small group of "Ugly Americans" shooed us out of their way so that they could get that perfect photo, Eddie gave us his phone number and invited us to visit him in his mountain home in Morovis!
Capilla del Santo Cristo del Salud.
The story goes, that this chapel was erected here at the end of the only long, straight street in the city, to commemorate a near-death experience.
The street was once used for horse racing, and when one of the racers lost control of his horse, he ended up flying toward a cliff, and certain death, at the end of the street where it abruptly dropped off.
He prayed that if his life was spared, he would build this chapel.
Just around the corner is La Casa Estrecha, or the narrow house. Unfortunately, we did not call ahead to arrange for a tour, so a look at the outside was all we got this time.
This was the end of our exploration for today. I think we showed June the highlights, as much as one can in a city where there is something awesome at every turn. But we had an appointment to keep with a sailboat!
We went back to our room to change for a sunset sailing adventure! As we sat, ready to go in our sailing garb, I got a text message once again cancelling the trip for weather.
The woman told me that it was "blowing a gale" out there. I quickly checked the weather and found NOTHING showing any such thing. In fact, the entire day had been sunny with a light breeze. Lazy saps were just trying to get out of taking us!
I called back and told her that we would like to try it if the Captain would consider it... and they told us to come on out. We took an Uber and arrived at the San Juan Marina, only to find that, indeed, it was blowing like stink. Furthermore, the sunshine we had enjoyed all day long, was melting away to a huge pile of threatening clouds. Literally as we stood on the dock, trying to decide if it would pass or not, the weather conditions continued to deteriorate. We had to admit it. No sailing for us tonight.
|Crazy cross current. We wouldn't take OUR boat out in this!|
We blew across the street to claim our table at Triana, and were taken to a spot in the far back of the dining room. I was a little disappointed about it, until I realized that there were two very long tables set up for cruising shippers, and it was much better to be away from them! We welcomed our friends Vicki and Burton, residents of San Juan and much missed friends of ours. While we came for the dinner show, I missed much of it because we were so busy trying to catch up with one another's lives! I was a little ashamed for having suggested this place, because this night, the service was SUPER slow! But after the show stopped and the tourists returned in one sweep to their ship... we had time to really chat. That is, until we noticed the wait staff eyeing us as if we were keeping them. In fact, we were! It was awesome to get to see our old friends, but we said our goodbyes outside so that they could get back to their work-a-day lives.
Back at our hotel, Bruce and I crashed, leaving June to venture back out on her own. I'm not sure what she got up to, but she was still alive in the morning when we met for breakfast. Yet another fabulous find goes onto the list!
Cafe Mallorca is like stepping back in time. They've got an old time soda-fountain counter, and diner type seating. Everything is old and the wait staff are dressed impeccably, just like yesteryear! The menu is varied, with local and American favorites, and they have an enticing pastry cabinet that whispered my name, diet be damned! After we had a healthy(ish) breakfast, June and I took a trip with our server to peek behind the counter. We each chose one treat! Mmm light and airy pastry goodness!
|I love this man!|
We asked a guy about it and he told us that it was closed because of the high seas. It wasn't safe. But, he said, the other gate would be open!
Off we went to the other gate! But when we got there, we found it barricaded as well. Well darn! Peering outside the huge gate in the wall, we could actually see that a bunch of stuff along the walkway was tumbled by the waves. The water must have come all the way up and over the walk to hit the wall last night! Crazy! Ok, well, there are plenty of places to walk in this town! Off we went!
We had to budget our time and get in as much bang for our buck as possible... so we took June past El Morro and straight to.... the Cemetery! If you only had a few hours left in town, wouldn't the cemetery be on your list???
We strolled a bit, and then I remembered that the last time we were here, we were promised a tour. We found Daniel and followed him on a very odd, and questionably informative stroll through Creepy-Town! The thing that strikes me the most about this cemetery, is that even though it is in one of the oldest cities in the world... the graves here are all relatively new.
Sure, they have the "patina" that time gives them, and some are merely crumbles, but the dates are not older than the 1800s for the most part. How can this be?
|Stunning works of art.|
|Time's not up for this one. Daniel will cover it back up!|
Many of the graves have two, six, or even more(!!!) bodies in them. Furthermore, when a grave becomes forgotten by the family, and falls to ruin... Daniel gets to decide if it's time for the remains inside to go!
|Admit it. You've always wanted to look inside of a grave!!!|
With the Crypt-Keeper's eerie words still bouncing around inside my brain, I stood at the end of an open grave... and peered down inside. Inside the concrete box were the crumbling remains of a coffin. A. FREAKIN'. COFFIN!!
Looking more closely at Daniels prompting, I could make out some bones, and a SKULL!! I did not show that in the photo out of some shriveled scrap of decency I have left! You'll just have to believe me!
Daniel led us onward, explaining that a similar policy is applied to the ashes and urns left in these structures scattered throughout the graveyard. After a period of time, they call the family to come claim them, and if nobody comes, they either move them elsewhere or throw them away!!!
|Short term storage for your ashes!|
As we walked through the cemetery today, and on our last visit here as well, I remarked that so many of the statues were 'dirty'. I remember the very first time we came here, back in 2004 or 2005, these monuments were scintillating white! Snowy and sparkling in the brilliant tropical sun! I wondered why that was and why they seem so neglected now. Well, it wasn't the hurricane, as I suspected. Although much of the disrepair and broken monuments are attributable to that, it's because the monuments are periodically cleaned, and they're just getting started with the project now.
|Not yet cleaned! BIG difference!|
I think Daniel would have led us around all day as he remembered stories about the inhabitants of his domaine. Some of the residents HAVE been here for a long time. Famous people, rich families, anyone who keeps watch over their deceased. But don't turn your back on them, or some poser will pluck your grandma out of the ground and replace her with his uncle Chuck!
When I could see an opening, I thanked Daniel for his time, passed him a $20 and told him that we had a plane to catch! Which was totally TRUE! Today was June's last day in Puerto Rico, and we still needed to check out of our hotel and show her one more Puerto Rican icon!
|Off to our room!|
|Endlessly frying and flipping...|
Just outside the reach of the heat from a pallet-wood cooking fire, we sat under a palapa on bird-poop covered stone patio furniture. Immediately, two Satos took up residence at our side. Their rheumy eyes stared listlessly at us in an attempt to subliminally persuade us to feed them. We stood firm.
A man at another table took a plateful of meat to the edge of the patio, and one of the dogs went over to make short work of it, but then she returned to Bruce's side, impossibly un-sated.
I know it sounds BAD! But it's like a train wreck... but we just can't help loving this place!
We filled our tummies, and with a light rain falling, crossed the street to take a look at one of Puerto Rico's northern coast beaches. We never made it over to this side of the island for a beach day, but maybe that'll make it to the agenda on June's next visit!
We love having guests. But I've gotta give June the award for Most-Stuff-Packed-Into-One-Week! We hiked. We climbed. We floated. We explored. It was all such fun for Bruce and I, but especially for me, since I had a chance to do some things with just us girls! It's been a long time since I've had that, and it was a real treat.
We took June to the airport and in a moment, just like that, our lives returned to their normal, much slower pace. Practically within hours of that moment, the world turned on its head. June had to self-quarantine (term of the times) upon her return to Canada... but that's another story.
Thanks to June for being game for anything, and probably the most easy-going and laid back guest we've ever had. The bar is set! Please come back!