|Orchid Tree Flower|
A friend from the US called a few weeks ago to say that he and his girlfriend were passing through Puerto Rico, and would love to stop in to see us for a couple of days. With the closure of other Caribbean islands, and the fact that Americans are currently unwelcome anywhere... their plans changed. Puerto Rico became the destination, instead of just a stopover.
With the situation in Puerto Rico being very uncertain, we made some tentative plans... hoping that things would open up before the date arrived. But instead of improving, the government of Puerto Rico closed down public beaches, and limited use of all beaches to the singular activity of exercise. I passed all of this along to our guests, but they accepted the limitations, and came here anyway.
My unofficial work as Island Ambassador was cut out for me! We would show our friends as much of the island as the current policy would allow... After one night at our place, we were off to the southwestern corner of the island to check into two separate B&Bs.
Ours was called Estudio Heliconias. With all of the extra Covid rules in place, we felt very safe and comfortable here. The little efficiency apartment is tucked back behind the host's home, with a jungle backdrop full of our beloved Coquis! It was very clean, and had everything we needed to make a home for a couple of nights!
San Germán, the second oldest town on the island.
There were a few things there that I wanted to see... a drive through the town was a pleasure in itself. The homes around the old part of town are quaint and unique. There's almost a "New Orleans" feel to it! I love these old towns, and can just imagine how it was back when they were built, bustling with trade and without the graffiti and decay...Ceiba de la Libertad.
The tree was planted in 1897 to commemorate Spain granting autonomy to Puerto Rico. Although freedom did not last long, the tree still remains - now 122 years old - and symbolizes the stalwart nature of the Puerto Rican People.
Iglesia San Germán de Auxerre. I'm not a religious person, but I appreciate the history and longevity of these beautiful old churches. We parked along the side of the building, and I followed Bruce inside through two huge wooden doors reminiscent of a castle. Inside we found the hushed peace that spoke of so many blessings bestowed through the ages, I almost felt that we could deserve such blessings ourselves.
The ceiling was painted in the illusionistic method called Trompe-l'œil style to LOOK like intricate, three dimensional tiles, when in fact, it is the mainly flat surface of a slightly curved ceiling.
Hanging from the center, with it's own illusional collar, is an ornate, if slightly dingy, chandelier!
We wandered quietly, curious about why there was nobody else around... These beautiful relics displayed simply for us to behold unaccosted. We drifted back out through the enormous side door, and went around to the front to take a look at the facade out front. These doors are even larger than the ones along the side, and they can be thrown open to greet the plaza that stretches eastward from the sweeping steps. We have been told that all churches in Puerto Rico face to the East!
Time to leave this little town, and go pick up our sleepyhead friends from their treehouse.TREEHOUSE! They were lucky enough to snag this reservation, and there wasn't another available for us to stay these dates. Add this to our list for next visit as well!
How cool is that??? This property was about 8 minutes up the road from ours, and as it turns out, is owned by a friend of a friend. There is no internet, no television, and the "room" is open to the air. At night, there were no mosquitos, as they are kept under control by the BATS!!! Our friends told us that it was cool and pleasant for sleeping, and even in the middle of the day, the forest is cool and quiet. There are dirt paths through the beautiful flowers to explore.
It's all very natural, and the treehouse is built in the boughs of another Ceiba tree. This one was planted by the owners some 25 years ago, with just this in mind.
I'm envious! Just imagine, being completely unplugged and having nothing to do but enjoy one another, and maybe read. Maybe these voices in my head would cool it long enough for me to enjoy the peace and serenity of forced calm. Who am I kidding???
There are two legends that for some people, compete... and for others, they co-mingle to make one grand miracle. Basilica Menor Nuestra Señora de la Monserrate is the only church on the island that has the town built around a miracle.
We waited outside while the Mass finished, and were in exactly the right place to see the priestly procession as the Holy Men left the church and disappeared into the back room to wait for the next Mass. We were then able to go inside and take a look around. This church is 400 years old. That's 4.0.0 years! Amazing.
|Unknown artist - this is said to be the oldest painting in Puerto Rico (1564-1625).|
|One of some 400 paintings by artist José Campeche|
What a treat it was to participate, even in our small way, with one of the Island's historical events. Pandemic be damned! While gatherings are supposed to be seriously limited, we joined the local people in dutifully wearing our masks, and had our hands sprayed with disinfectant before entering. Puerto Rico is no-nonsense about this Covid thing!
|An Oriole chases a lizard|
The Salt Museum and viewing tower were closed. The salt pans were full of new water, so our friends couldn't see the salt layers growing. The road in to the lighthouse was gated. Dang it!
But our friends were not upset at all. Through my apologies, they assured me that they were prepared for closures, and had already been able to do more than they thought they would. Such gracious guests!
We went back to our B&Bs and retired for the evening. Turns out that this was good for us. We're not used to this level of activity! We were tired!!
The next morning, we were up and out by 9am and on our way to see some beaches along the west coast. Again, our plans were thwarted. The public beaches were closed and locked down so that we couldn't even drive out and take a good look. We wandered through some of the little coastal towns. Totally touristy in a local's way, if that makes sense. I made mental note to bring my kids here next time they visit us!El Bohio. Good thing! We were all starving!
We went out on the dock over the water and found primo seating - all alone - with the nicest view! There's a tiny island that intrigued us... and the coast looked somewhat like the Florida Keys. Kind of made me feel nostalgic for our early cruising days!
After a delicious lunch, we loaded up once more for the final destination of the day. Our next B&B in the northwest town of Rincon. This was a different thing for us. We each had a room rented for four days in a single condo unit at the Punta del Mar Beach Resort! It's a gated condo community and our building was just a short distance from the beach.
It was nice to land in such a relaxing place where we could just sit and watch the setting sun behind Desecheo Island. It doesn't seem like we've done much this day, but we were all pretty travel-weary. Soon after sunset, we all retired to our respective rooms, eager for the next three days exploring a new part of the island! To be continued...