Experiencing the El Yunque "symphony" - Puerto Rico - November 2010


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Published: October 7th 2012
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Old San JuanOld San JuanOld San Juan

Sunrise over the dome
This is why we love the east coast. Get on a plane at two in the morning and 3 hours later you are in paradise - Puerto Rico. First stop - SAN JUAN. To be more specific - historic OLD SAN JUAN. We drove straight here, because we have heard so many wonderful things. It was a Friday and everyone was running at 5am in the morning. Wow. We kind of just followed the runners and ended up at "the end of the city" guarded by the "GARITA'S" AT the FORTRESS. EL MORRO FORTRESS was used in defending the city many years ago. A beautiful fortress with views of the ocean and coastline as far as the eye can see. It was definitely quite the experience to just sit on the wall and watch the sun rise with such beautiful surroundings.

We heard so many great things about the food and thus made our first stop at CAFETERIA MALLORCA FOR BREAKFAST. The MALLORCAS (a sweetbread with ham or cheese or both usually) was awesome. Really my introduction to sweetbread. It was love at first bite. Have it with a nice cup of strong Puerto Rican coffee and believe me -
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Sunrise along the coast
there are few better ways to start the day. We walked around old San Juan and admired the ARCHITECTURE, COBBLE STREETS and hills of the city. It was pretty dead for a Friday so we did not spend too much time in San Juan since our time was short and we had places to be.

We set-out for RINCON over on the west coast. The island is very drivable and the roads are in very good condition. Taking the "highway" you could probably get to Rincon in a couple hours. As usual we took the scenic route. The first chance we got we got off the main road and took the road running along the coast. We moved at a snail's pace, but we saw and experienced what real Puerto Rico is. Small towns, life moving at a snail's pace, everyone growing something in their yard, people sitting around watching traffic, poverty in places, run down places... As always this is just what we do. We may have gotten lost a couple times, but it's all part of the fun. Closer to Rincon we started to see a lot of food vendors next to the road. The food just looked good and we kept saying that we will stop at the next one, but before we knew it there were no more vendors. Feel like we definitely missed out on something, but there is always next time I guess. Our final destination for the next 24 hours was THE HORNED DORSET PRIMAVERA. Wow. What a hotel/resort. Our condo was bigger than our current house complete with a small private pool. Everything was immaculate and so was the service. The GARDENS were beautiful, but unfortunately there was not much of a BEACH (but still pretty). We laid around the pool, had some drinks and got some sun. Pretty sure it was our first time ever just laying next to the pool and relaxing. As with most Caribbean islands the iguanas were running wild and free with no fear. We had a 5 course dinner in the RESTAURANT that evening with beautiful classical music. What made it unforgettable is the fact that the hotel wall (right below the restaurant) almost serves as a "break-wall" for the waves during high tide. The windows to the room were thrown open and it was just a really cool experience hearing/feeling the waves break a
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Garrita on he fortress!
couple feet below us with good music and awesome food.

It was time to be off to our next destination - the other side of the island for the only rainforest in the United States - EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST. Again we just took our time exploring the backroads there and again just saw things that you won't see taking the "regular way" - such as a horse loaded inside a minivan with the top of the van sawed off. Good stuff. On the way there we stopped at HECHO EN CASA (not a clue what town this was in). It was a nice garden setting with some authentic Puerto Rican food. We both went for the mofongo - a corn/maise put into a wooden bowl and filled with usually a meat. We went for the chicken and beef. It was really dry and not the greatest thing that we have ever eaten. But we tried it as we always do. As always we got completely lost on the way there. Our B&B was CASA CUBUY. We booked it a couple days before we left. It was waaayyyyyy up in the mountain. At one point we thought we were going
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Fortress
to drive across the mountain before finding it. We eventually did find it. Definitely very "rustic" (rooms were old and run down, but clean). But then again we were not really looking for 5-star accommodation in the middle of the rainforest. We got there late at night so we could not really see anything - neither of us has really ever been to a rainforest. But we could definitely hear the unmistakable sound of the... NOCTURNAL SYMPHONY OF EL YUNQUE. The frogs croaking and singing and wining throughout the entire night. We just left the windows open and fell asleep to the "symphony". During the day they are quiet as can be, but definitely AT be here at NIGT FOR THE SOUNDS. Earlier that night we did make a stop at NOELIA'S (just down the road) for a quick bite to eat. It was late and it was a Sunday so we were pretty much the only people there. Definitely a hole in the wall where the locals gather, but not much atmosphere that night. I think we just had a couple beers and an appetizer. Would have loved to be here on a regular night when the regulars gather.
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Mallorcas and good coffee!


The next morning we woke up and... it was quiet. The frogs were gone. We looked outside and we were surrounded by green and mountains. It was breathtaking. And waiting for us was freshly brewed coffee, fresh fruit and a full breakfast. The peace and quietness with a fresh cup of coffee was pretty serene. We heard water all night long so we explored into the rainforest from our B&B. We got to the water within 5 minutes. Just water cascading from high up over rocks and rocks and more rocks. We found a couple deeper pools to swim in. There were not much wildlife which was pretty disappointing, but we did see the creature responsible for all the noise... the frogs are tiny.

Once again all good things have to come to an end. We packed our bags and made off for San Juan again. On our way we stopped at COSTA MIA AT FAJARDO. Just another local dive right on the beach. I had excellent seafood linguine and Nikkie gave the mofongo another go... lobster this time. The mofongo was definitely a lot better than the first go-around. We were lucky enough to get a room
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Starbucks
at EL CONVENTO - an old convent converted into a modern hotel in the heart of old San Juan. They even had a little welcome wine and cheese part set-up at our arrival so we made the most of it and enjoyed some splendid views of old San Juan. We did make some time for good old fashioned SHOPPING IN OLD SAN JUAN. We also had to make some time for SUGAR AND SPICE: TOURING RUM-MAKERS. Puerto Rico is famous for its rum so appropriately we made our way over to the BACARDI RUM DISTILLERY. The tour was not as detailed as other distillery tours we have done, but it was till informative and we got free drinks at the end of the tour - never a bad thing. So we got to DRINK SOME RUM so we were happy campers. One thing we heard a lot about was the food of San Juan - FEASTING YOUR WAY THROUGH OLD SAN JUAN. We did not have a chance to try any of the god restaurants but we definitely had some good local food. We had a good breakfast at CAFICULTURA in old San Juan (the service was terrible and they
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Architecture
seemed a little bit out of it since their espresso machine was out of order). On our way back to the hotel we walked by LA BOMBONERA (another special San Juan dive that's been around for forever). I fell in love with the mallorcas so we had an order and some really good strong coffee. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip - just being able to sit in these old hangouts drinking good coffee and eating sweetbread. After visiting the Bacardi plant we drove around a little and found a food truck on the side of the road with a couple tables and chairs only a couple feet from the beach. We stopped and looked what they had to offer. And so we were introduced to BACALAITOS. Easiest way to explain it is probably as a fish pancake - hard on the outside and soft on the inside. And so there we sat - right on the beach with our $6 meal. Beautiful views, awesome food with grease running all through our fingers and an icy cold coke (you can thank me later for the free advertisement Coca-Cola). Life was good.

Not really that many tips from
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Far from it!!!
our side on visiting Puerto Rico. Parking was kind of a pain in Old San Juan, but we did always manage to find something. Once you get on the backroads the signs are not always the greatest so it would be good to invest in a god map. That is really all there is.

The trip was pretty good to us for our books. We managed to cross off 5 things including the Horned Dorset Primavera, old San Juan, Sugar and Spice: Touring Rum-makers, feasting your way through Old San Juan and the Nocturnal Symphony of El Yunque. So 154 down and 5,171 to go

Til next time from a froggy-kinda symphony


Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 28


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Horned Dorset Primavera

The gardens were pretty
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Horned Dorset Primavera

Our neighbor visiting!
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Horned Dorset Primavera

It was nice to just hang out
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Horned Dorset Primavera

He kept coming back
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Horned Dorset Primavera

Our little private pool
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Horned Dorset Primavera

A little bit of beach
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Puerto Rico

Our new "baby"!
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El Yuenque

Told you we saw a horse in a van
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El Yuenque

View from our room
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El Yuenque

Just doing our thing


11th December 2012
Old San Juan

Beautiful!
I went back to look through your previous blogs and this one made me grin too! We just took our kids to Puerto Rico....How fun to see this post!

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