Published: March 25th 2012March 25th 2012
Supper with Juan Pablo
Because of Juan's help, our experience with Spirit became an adventure rather than a disaster. Here we are at dinner before he drove us to the metro.
Friday morning, March 9th, we were walking out the door heading for the airport in Toluca, an hour and a half away, when the phone rang. Spirit airlines informed us that due to mechanical failure, our flight to Puerto Rico had been cancelled. We had two options: receive a credit for another flight with Spirit or fly with them on the following Tuesday to Puerto Rico. We responded that neither option was acceptable! We had a flight booked with American Airlines from PR to Saint Lucia on Sunday, and that we had to get to PR to make that flight. We were told we then had to go to the airport in Toluca to discuss the matter with the staff at the ticket counter.
At 11:15 we were standing in line with other irate Spirit customers at their ticket counter. A supervisor with limited English once again offered us the 2 options. Once again, in our poor Spanish, we explained that the ptions were simply unacceptable. A young man waiting behind us kindly offered to help us, as he was perfectly bilingual. He was on his way to Atlanta, Georgia and was in the same predicament as we were.
Puerto Rico, between the 2 forts
We tour through historic old San Juan between Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Using his cell, he called his travel agent who informed him that the airline had a legal obligation to get us to our destination as quickly as possible, regardless of cost and including flights operated by other airlines. With his Android phone as a hotspot, and our iPad providing Internet, we were able to search for available flights right there in the airport. Spirit kept saying there were no flights available. However we would show them available flights with competing airlines. 4 and a half hours later, we were booked with Copa Air and Juan Pablo, the young man that helped us, was booked with Delta. Both flights were for the following day which was acceptable to all of us. What an experience!
Juan Pablo, accompanied by a friend, had driven his car out to Toluca and offered us a ride back to DF. Traffic was horrendous as we entered DF, so Juan Pablo suggested he drop the car off at his parents and then we go out for supper, seeing as none of us had eaten since early morning. What a kind, gentle and interesting young man!
Juan and a couple of friends started a company building
Castillo del Morro
Two main forts protected the natural harbor from invaders during the 16- 19th centuries. The forts and the wall took 250 years to complete.
and selling robotic limbs to the health industry at half the cost of their competitors.
After dinner Juan dropped us off at the metro, and we were back in our apartment by nine in the evening with stories.
Saturday morning we went by metro to the DF airport, caught our Copa flight through Panama City and arrived at the Hotel San Jorge in San Juan, Puerto Rico around 9PM.
On Sunday we visited the forts in Old San Juan and learnt about the history of Puerto Rico. As we checked out Sunday evening, the hotel informed us that because we had arrived a day late, they would honor us with a one night credit. Whawho! We booked with them for the following Friday night, when we would return from Saint Lucia, and Evan and Jolene's wedding.
We enjoyed a smooth hour and a half flight to the smaller Saint Lucia airport located near the Wind Jammer Resort, a short 15 minute drive away. We arrived at 11:30PM. Jolene, Evan, his parents Dwayne and Janice and other wedding party friends were there to welcome us. After much visiting we closed down the bar and took
These cannonballs were too heavy for any of us to lift. Imagine one of these coming at you!
a shuttle up to our lodging, which we hadn't seen yet.
Despite having booked a Lily suite like most of the other wedding party guests, somehow we ended up being in a "Villa"! Wow! What luxury! We had a completely equipped kitchen, formal dining room set for 6, a sunken living room complete with 2 sets of patio doors leading to a wrap around deck with a sunken, private pool of our own, 4 large lounge chairs, and a patio set for 6. The deck connected with the master bedroom which was furnished with a mesh enclosed king size bed, another smaller balcony, a full bath, walk-in closet, and dressing area. We also had the use of another large bedroom connected by a set of stairs which had 2 twin beds and a full bath.
Because we were half way up the side of the mountain, we had spectacular views of the Caribbean. We could see the water lapping on the fine sand beach fronting the resort and the bay busy with activity. Very impressive! Because of the steep climbs, the resort used shuttles to transport guests to the main buildings which housed small shops, restaurants, bar, pools
Castillo del Morro and grassed area infront
In Old San Juan, this area in front of the fort provides a busy play area, great for kite flying, family activities. The breeze keeps a person cool.
and beach access adn back to their rooms. What glorious surroundings! The 2 docks and adjoining beaches were where we met some of our group. We enjoyed the sun and saw many human lobsters on the beach before we headed back to our villa to rest, shower and dress for a group dinner at the Upper Deck. The service, food and company were excellent!
Tuesday we were treated to the Endless Summer Catamaran experience compliments of Jolene and Evan. 24 of us were on the beach for our 8:15AM departure across the bay to Soufriere. After relaxing and enjoying the sun, a good size wave hit us and all people on the front mesh and deck were soaked! That was our group! We docked later, got on shuttles and were driven to and guided through a tropical garden which ended at a mineral waterfall and thermal baths. Then it was back into our shuttle and over to a nearby sulfur volcano. We took time to walk by the boiling black water pools. It was scary and very stinky, they wouldn't let us get too close.
We were hungry by then and were taken to a chocolate
Children Playing across from the grassed area of the forts
What fun on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The waters dance at varying heights, at varying times. A good way to keep cool.
estate where a traditional Saint Lucian lunch was served. It was then time to snorkel and swim. Aw! The warm gentle waters were great! Later, we dropped off some of the 75 passengers at Marigot Bay (beautiful and quaint) and then sailed back to the Wind Jammer at a pretty good clip.
Our group once again met for dinner, this time at Papa Don's. Yep, it was another terrific day!
Wedding day for Jolene and Evan found most of us up and at breakfast early. The excitement was everywhere. The male members of the wedding party used our villa to shower and spruce up for the 4PM wedding at "The Gardens". The venue was perfect! Perched high on the mountain overlooking the bay, the resort had a gazebo surrounded by foliage, flowers and shrubs. Though the gazebo provided a bit of shelter from the blazing sun, the groom and groomsmen were wiping the sweat from their brows as they awaited the bridal party.
The groom and party were dressed in black slacks with white, long sleeve shirts. The males waited patiently till the gorgeous girls arrived wearing black, strapless, short dresses. They advanced
Wind Jammer Resort, Saint Lucia
This was our view of the bay from our Villa's balcony. Sounds rise so we got to hear laughter and music from our balcony.
to the gazebo walking over petals of bougenvilla flowers. The bride looked stunning in her white, flowing, strapless dress decorated with white flower petals that matched the bougenvilla petals. Naturally beautiful, Jolene absolutely radiated as she made her way towards Evan with the wedding singer's melodious voice providing soft background music.
Evan, their three sons, and groomsmen met her at the gazebo with similar smiles. The service was nothing short of enchanting! Tears, smiles and cheers followed as the newly weds strolled down the path while the well wishers threw bougenvilla petals in the air before them. After many photos we met down on the dock for a sumptuous dinner under yet another gazebo decorated with Jolene and Evan's fabulous blue and purple orchid bouquets. We were treated to champagne and a gourmet buffet served on fine china. We watched the bride and groom open the dancing and we all followed suit until 10:30PM. What fun! Joren and Mathew, Jolene's two younger sons, kept us hopping to the end! After yet more visiting we called it a fantastic night and all headed to our suites.
On Thursday we sent Evan and Jolene off for a couples'
Our Wind Jammer Villa
Complete kitchen, formal dining room set for 6, sunken living room, and our own private pool on the wrap around deck! We are not sure why we were upgraded to this luxurious villa, but we really enjoyed it!
massage while their kids enjoyed the rest of the guests and games on the beach. Later we headed into town to learn more about Saint Lucia and the people. Instead we learned that shopping was the only thing we'd see that day. We did learn that the island covers a land area of 600 square kilometers and has a population of 174,000. Tourism and agriculture are the main industries, with bananas being the main export. There is close to 20% unemployment and many of the youth leave the island in search of better opportunities, mostly to England and US.
Evening found our group on the deck for a casual last dinner together. Most headed up early to pack and sleep because they were to leave the resort by 5:40AM. We just couldn't see wasting the evening on trivial stuff like packing or sleeping, but we didn't shut the bar down either.
Friday found us in our shuttle by 7AM and off to the airport. This airport was about 50 meters from a beach. We sat in the shade by the Caribbean and enjoyed our last few hours in Saint Lucia. We boarded the plane and were
Wind Jammer Beach
Beautiful calm water, no undertow, very fine sand, with great scenery. It was glorious laying or walking out here in the cooling breeze.
told that we'd be flying to Martinique to pick up some stranded passengers (about 20) and then head to Puerto Rico. We arrived by 12:30PM, caught a cab to our hotel and our free room. We decided that cabbing was too expensive and that we would be limited in what we wanted to see and where we would be able to go. Maurice went on line and booked a car for Sunday. The rest of the day we spent catching up with family, friends and emails. Dinner out was at a karaoke restaurant just down the street. The singers and food were fantastic!
We spent Saturday exploring more of old San Juan. After brunch at Abracadabra restaurant (goat cheese and spinach omelette, yum!) we caught the bus like old regulars. NOTE: In Puerto Rico we have the heat of the day, VERY HOT, but as soon as you enter a building, the air conditioning causes INSTANT FREEZE. People walk around with jackets... so did we, only because of the air conditioning.
We visited a store called the Butterfly People (all art made with REAL butterflies), San Francisco Church (ABC, another bloody church) and San
The Wedding Group
The wedding group all gathered together for dinner. Dwayne and others thought a group picture would be nice. Here we are.
Juan Cathedral (ABC), San Juan Gate (1 of 5), the Governor's Mansion, Don Q rum factory and learned how rum is/was made, San Juan Museum (history from 4000 BC to now), walked the El Morro trail then caught the bus back for a rest. A full day!
Next morning, Sunday, we were up early and off to claim our rental car. We were on a freeway headed out of town by 11AM. We only had to readjust our course once before we got out of San Juan. Maurice IS/WAS an amazing driver! Our first stop was just outside Arecibo (the southern tip of the Bermuda Triangle), to see the Caves of River Camuy. There are over 2000 known caves in Puerto Rico and only 550 have been explored. At one place in this particular cave a 7 story building would fit inside the cavern. Imagine the water volume that must have flowed through this cave at one time!
Next stop was in Quebradillas to see a place called Noah's Arc. This place must have been something to see in its' prime, but we found many empty enclosures that at one time housed couples of
Evan and Jolene's Catamaran Treat
Evan and Jolene booked a catamaran tour for all of their family and friends who joined them in Saint Lucia to celebrate their wedding. What a fantastic day both on and off the water.
various types of the most unusual birds as well as some animals. Thus Noah Arc. The patrons, however, we very elderly, and obviuosly were no longer able to maintain the facility. So sad!
Onto Aquadilla and a sign on the side of the road caused a diversion to Crash Boat Beach, a beach we had read about. It is a beach where hundreds of locals go to spend free time, especially on weekends. We were greeted by SUPER loud music; must be a concert! As we got closer we found that the music was coming from a speed boat .... with a very serious sound system. The locals were dancing on the sand, playing on the beach and in the water, skiing, wakeboarding and all the other things that you do at the beach on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Yep, it was a local party! After walking on the beach enjoying the fun and the crowds, we decided that we should find a hotel and stay put for the night.
Hotel Villa Forin, right in the town of Aquadilla worked for us. The next morning, we enjoyed our large patio overlooking the pool, the
At the Tropical Gardens
Various unique plants were found at this tropical garden next to the thermal baths.
sun, fruit, fresh pastries and coffee before heading off to Mayaguez. Our goal today was to find and drive the scenic route through interior PR. After only one request for help, a man guided us through the city of Mayaquez and onto the correct road. It would have been a challenge trying to find the road on our own. This road was the most hilly, curvy, twisty and turny road that we have EVER been on! After 3 hours of intense driving, Maurice and I needed to bail out. So at the next junction, we headed south to the town of Yauco. We were then on an expressway that allowed us to cross the remaining half of Puerto Rico in about an hour.
We had crossed the island from east to west. Driving time East to West was really about 3 hours and North to South maybe 1 hour ...but not including the scenic route which follows the contours of the top of the mountains through central PR. Now continuing onto the extreme east side, through Ponce, past Juana Diaz, Caguas, Juncos, another scenic route to Naguabo, and ending at Fajardo where we found a guest house for a reasonable
The falls provide the water for the thermal baths, guaranteed to make you look and feel 20 years younger.
The next morning, we were up and off to the ferry heading to the island of Vieques. After purchasing our tickets, we found seats in the terminal and enjoyed a breakfast of cheese, granola cookies, fruit and fresh coffee while we waited for the ferry to leave. As the lineups grew and grew, we got in line to be sure we made it on this ferry. We surged onto the ferry with the throngs of other people and found that there was capacity for over 1200 people and maybe only 2-300 passengers. Obviously, there had been no need to stand in line.
During the ride we noticed some unusual waves and were not sure if it was a rock sticking out of the water, or strange currents...... however, the locals informed us that it was whales fighting, we figured mating was more likely! That was our first whale sighting experience. After an hour and fifteen minute ride we arrived at Vieques. We caught a cab to the south side of the island and the town of Esperanza, checked into a great guest house called the Trade Winds, changed and proceeded to walk the
Endless Summer Catamaran
A view of the catamaran as we board for the upcoming swim.
gorgeous beaches, starting with the one right in front of the guest house.
After walking quite a ways it began to rain. We pulled out the umbrella, covered the backpack and jumped in the ocean until the rain passed. After the rain passed we walked back for dinner and a nap. Then it was off to the bioluminescent bay. At 9PM, we piled into the most wrecked vehicle that we have ever been in, drove a few miles down the highway, then onto the roughest dirt trail complete with huge pools of water that we managed to crawl through and finally arrived at Mosquito Bay. We then donned life jackets, got into kayaks and paddled out into the bay.
Now a bioluminescent area needs to be surrounded by red mangroves. The red mangroves release tannins that are rich in vitamin B12, one of the important nutrients for light emitting dinoflagellates. The bay must be relatively free of pollution. It must contain enough size and depth to enable the water to stay relatively cool in the daytime but it must be warmer than ocean side. It also requires a restrictive channel to the ocean. Mosquito Bay possesses
Wind Jammer Resort
From a distance, this is what our resort looked like. Our villa was about halfway up.
all of these characteristics, and does so better than anywhere else in the world. It has the highest population of dinoflagellates per litre of water and therefore the most illumination.
Our kayak paddles enter the water and an eerie neon yellowish greenish light becomes visible with every stroke. As anything causes movement in the water, it scares the dinoflagellates and they light up. The movement in the water makes the water glow. It's freaky! Fish jump up and out of the water creating light from the microscopic creatures. We put our hands in the water and were told to lift them up so the water flowed down our arms. It was like having diamonds run down your hand and arm! Because the bay is only 4 to 5 feet deep, whenever we disturbed fish, they would swim away leaving behind a trail of colour below the surface! What an incredible experience to be able to view this. We had purposely planned our visit to Vieques to coincide with the dark of the moon because the colors are so much more visible when it is darkest out. Awesome!
We are not allowed to get into the water for safety
Inside our Villa
The dining area of our villa. The light behind Linda makes her look like she has angel wings.
and ecological reasons. Just under a year ago, a large shark (6 to 7 feet in length are the largest in this bay) was in the water and bit a woman. It won't happen again. We were very impressed with the experience!
We checked out of the Trade Winds next morning and caught a cab to Isabel, the town where we would catch the ferry to PR later that day. We walked around the town and decided to find a beach and enjoy time soaking up the sun. A very short ferry ride got us to our rented car by 4 in the afternoon. We headed to Luquillo and its' beautiful beach, then back to Fajardo for the night.
We woke next morning to clouds but, hey, we were off to El Yunque Tropical Rainforest anyway. The rain held off for several hours until we decided to hike 40 minutes through the jungle to a waterfall. Yep, about 20 minutes in, the rain became torrential, sliding off and between the trees and soaking us through our jackets and under our umbrella. We were well into this hike already, so we finished the hike to
At the Gardens
Kody and Linda just before the wedding at the gardens.
La Mina Falls. There we watched crazy people under the fire hydrant force water pouring out from between the rocks! Frightening!
The rain was warm, so getting wet was not an issue, there was just so much rain. Once back at the car we stripped down and got dry. 2 cups of coffee with warmed milk, fresh buttered bread and two lovely young ladies showing us maps and definete things to see while in PR helped lift our wet spirits.
We had a very interesting drive back to our hotel, what with the rain (people go very slow), the one way streets and their crazy numbering system. Yep, we got lost ... again. But with just one stop we got to where we needed to be. The staff at our hotel dried our clothes in their dryer... but not our shoes. From our hotel we checked on our flights with Spirit Air once again, and then went out for a fantastic dinner of fried chicken and local beer (Medella).
When we got back to the hotel we checked our email, and sure enough, Spirit had sent an email informing us that our Fort
Evan and Jolene looked fantastic and so happy during the touching service. Standing under the gauze covered gazebo provided them a little shade!
Lauderdale to Mexico City leg of the trip was once again cancelled due to mechanical failure. How frustrating!
This was the second time that Spirit had cancelled this leg of our trip. After only 3 hours of restless sleep, we headed to the airport in blinding rain, enhanced by lightning and thunder. We couldn't even see the huge green road signs directing us to the airport until we were very near to them. Whew! But we made it ... it was 3:45AM!
The supervisor at the Spirit counter was very helpful (a nice change from the last cancelation) with making necessary changes, and within 40 minutes we were set to return to Mexico City (DF) but on a different flight with our favorite airline, Interjet. Best part was that we would arrive back at our apartment at about the same time as originally planned. Super! We even got to see some of Florida as we had to shuttle about 40 minutes from the Fort Lauderdale airport to Miami International Airport to board our Interjet flight.
And so we arrived back at our apartment around 5PM on March 23rd, tired and stupid from lack
The Happy Couple
Mr. and Mrs. Nimalovitch. Thumbs up!
of sleep but VERY happy about our trip and glad to be home once again.
There are more photos below