Published: February 22nd 2012February 21st 2012
Looking out around 5:30am just after getting in
It's certainly been a while, but saludos from Puerto Rico! Last night just before ten we headed to Logan where we found it deserted, the one perk to our red-eye. Only our flight and another to DR were still leaving that late. We were slightly delayed, but ended up landing around 4:45am after an uneventful flight during which we hardly caught a wink. We sat on the tarmac for quite some time, but once off the plane we quickly got our bags and headed to the taxi stand. At this point it was 530am, pitch black, and check-in was at 4pm...
Getting to the hotel was quick, and we were greeted by a very nice concierge woman who helped us leave our bags, told us where we could freshen up, etc. We did a bit of hotel exploring - the pools, casino, and whatnot, and before we knew it the sun had begun to rise. Straddling a lagoon and the Atlantic ocean, the hotel's location was gorgeous, and we were excited to eventually return and just relax. At 7am, however, there was no time for relaxing - we were out the door and over the bridge to Old San Juan.
Walking El Morro
1.5 mile trek around the fortified walls of Old San Juan
In a nutshell, the maps we have are deceiving, and it took maybe an hour to get to the heart of the city. We passed through some questionable industrial and dilapidated areas, not to mention tons of construction, hoping all the while that we were on the right track. It was also getting HOT, adding to the unpleasantness. Finally we saw a dome in the distance, which ended up being the main government building, making us feel better.
We started out more or less surveying the scene, heading down the Paseo de la Princesa and looping up along the fortified walls and through the steep, narrow streets full of gorgeous colonial-style buildings in vibrant colors. We needed breakfast badly and luckily enough stumbled upon La Bombonera, a cafeteria dating back to 1902. We each had what they are famous for, their Mallorca sweet pastries. Essentially a sweet bun with powdered sugar, the mallorcas are then filled with meat, egg, and cheese to make salty-sweet heaven - we split one with ham and one with bacon. By this point my Spanish was back to being functional - all that time with Catalan really did me in!
Fuerte San Felipe del Morro
Atop the fort with the American, Burgundian (Spanish Empire, and Puerto Rican flags)
we continued our meandering and decided to do the 1.5 mile walk around the Morro, the 16th cenfortis all around the city. It's important to note that for as breathtaking as the structure is, the cat infestation is out of control - they were literally everywhere, even just lying basking in the sun blocking one's path! After the walk we headed up through the Spanish gate that once guarded the entrance to the city and over to the 16th century Catedral de San Juan. Rather quaint, it houses the tomb of Ponce de Leon as well as the scary body of Padre Pio under glass.
We then continued on up and over to the Morro, itself, the Oldest Spanish fort in the New World. At 6 levels high, it has quite the presence overlooking the Atlantic at would-be conquerors. At this point I was dripping sweat and wanted to die, but we kept on moving to explore the various levels, garrisons, etc. Finally we have up and boarded a trolly toward Calle San Francisco, where our lunch spot, St. Germain, was located.
Lunch was delicious and refreshing and just what we needed. We started with "aguas frescas", a
Delicious mahi-mahi and shrimp with fresh peppers, red onion, cilantro, and pears
generic term for soft drink, which ended up being basically fruit water, with the day's flavor being cantaloupe. Chris went with the soup and quiche special, with a potato spinach soup and a veggie quiche with mushrooms, olives, and other tasty things. I went with the ceviche - citrus-cured shrimp and mahi-mahi with red onion, cilantro, fresh peppers, and more.
After lunch we popped into some shops in search of art, laid eyes on some small painted plaque-type things we may come back for, and began making our way back toward the hotel, praying that we'd be able to check in (it as at this point 2pm). After the 45 min-1 hr hike (a slightly different, less-scary way back) and ready to pass out from feeling so dirty and tired, as luck would have it we had a room!
The room itself is great - very spacious and modern. The shower is essentially a glass cube in the middle of the room, so slightly awkward but fun! Our view overlooks the other tower of the hotel, not the ocean, but that's ok. Anyway, we relaxed a bit before heading down to the pool area to catch some rays
Mofongo de bacalao
Tasty mofongo at Café del Ángel
- there are at least 4 pools, one being saltwater, one with a swim-up bar, etc. I look forward to actually taking a dip tomorrow!
Once we'd had our fill we picked up some some local specialties - Medalla light beer and snack mix, and chilled until dinner at Café del Ángel, a Puerto Rican restaurant just down the street. We were quickly seated but then bombarded by a high school group of maybe 30. Gross. Had to suck down my passion fruit mojito that much faster! Chris ordered a chicken and rice dish with plantains and beans, while I went for the mofongo de bacalao. Picture molten chocolate cake, but with fried mashed plantains instead of cake, and with chunks of cod in lieu of melted chocolate. That's the delicious, unpretentious hearty food I had been waiting for!
After dinner it was back to the Hotel Condado Plaza where we were to relax before bed. After being up for some 36 hours we needed a good night's rest!