Puerto Rico

Enchanted Island (how true!!)

We just got back from a long weekend in Puerto Rico and I must say, we loved it there!  On Travelocity.com we got a great package deal of a round-trip ticket to San Juan from Santo Domingo, DR and 3 nights at the Sheraton Old San Juan for $460/each!  It is only an hour flight from Santo Domingo and we arrived Thursday, October 13 at 8:30 in the morning.

After checking into the hotel, we took off to explore the old part of San Juan.  The Sheraton Old San Juan is in a great location!!!  We were in the heart of the old city and across from where the cruise ships docked.  I loved everything about San Juan…the blue brick cobblestone street, the old wall that surrounds the old city, the two forts, the colorful painted buildings, no motorcycle traffic, people driving reasonably and the pride that the Puerto Ricans had for their land.

For dinner, our first night we went to Barrachina on Fortaleza Street.  It boast of serving the first Piña Colada.  They were very, very good!  We had a seafood paella which was also delicious.

Friday, we got up and had a breakfast of Greek yogurt….we found a store in our wanderings the day before. I was so excited to find Greek yogurt!  Plus, a chocolate chip scone from Starbucks, all washed down with a cup of coffee sold at the kiosk in Plaza de Armas.  It was a lovely way to start the day.

Then we went to Porto di Oro a jewelry store on Fortaleza Street.  We had been there the day before and I had tried on a beautiful Movado watch.  It was on sale for 60% off!  I have wanted a Movado ever since I had worked at GM Pollack and Sons back in 1987!  So, for a very long time.  I had to think long and hard before buying it but in the end, it was a great price, I probably would never find another one so inexpensive again.  We bought it and I love, love, love it!

Our next excursion was the ferry across the bay to go to the Bacardi Rum factory and take their tour.  It was kind of frustrating as we were walking toward the factory not knowing how far it was.  There were 6 of us, two other couples that we had met on the ferry.  A guy saw us and said “Bacardi tour?” We said yes and he directed us into this garage where a van was parked.  It all appeared to be part of the tour when actually, it was a private taxi.  For $3.00 each, they would give us a ride to the factory.  When we asked how far, they only said it was a long way and too far to walk. When we said that we would take the bus, they said we would be waiting for hours.  We decided to take the bus….#53 for 35 cents.  The bus was at the stop in 5 minutes.  As it was, I didn’t have the correct change, so we got on for free!

The tour was interesting.  Bacardi originally started in Cuba, 150 years ago and the factory was moved to Puerto Rico in the 1960s when Castro came into power.  When Facundo Bacardi, the founder of Bacardi rum, purchased his first distillery, there was a colony of fruit bats living in the building.  In his native Spain, fruit bats were considered a good luck charm. So, the bat was adopted as the company logo. 

The tour ended with 2 free rum drinks.  I had a rum punch and daiquiri.  David had coconut flavored rum with pineapple juice….that was very tasty.  We looked in the gift shop but didn’t buy anything.  I did have a yummy piece of rum cake from the snack bar! 

For dinner Friday night, we tried the Peruvian restaurant C.Vi.Che 358.  It, too, was located on Fortaleza Street.  They were having a Sangria 2 for the price of 1 special.  So, David and I decided to start out with a Sangria.  I didn’t like it at all…there was no fruit and it tasted like grape soda.  So, I asked for a pisco sour….sadly, this wasn’t good either.  I don’t think they used pisco but something else for the alcohol.  The took the “sour” out and put in sweet.  Nothing really interested us on the menu….so we opted for an appetizer of plantains with cerviche.   They were very good.  
After dinner, we walked around the old section a little while longer and then made our way back to the hotel to call it a night. 

Saturday we were up and about early as we had decided to rent a car and explore more of the island.  Our waiter at Barrachina recommended a scenic route 143 that took us across the center,  mountainous part of the island.  It took us through the Toro Negro Forest, that consisted of jungle terrain.  We took a hike on a path in the forest.  It was really pretty and followed a stream that offered small waterfalls along the way. 

Some of the views along the way were beautiful!  After we got to the end of Rt 143, we went south towards Ponce. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to explore this city.  We heard great things about it.  Next trip!  

Back in San Juan, we dropped off the car at Charlie’s Rental, which was recommended to us by two different local people.  The office was in the Condado area of San Juan.  This area reminded us of Miami….lots of high rise hotels and condos along the beaches.  They picked us up at the hotel but we didn’t get back in time to get a ride back to the hotel.  We walked around the area for awhile and then hopped the bus back to Old San Juan. 

Dinner was at the restaurant El Balcon del Moreno located around the corner from the Sheraton.  We had a meal of rice and beans, yucca patties and plantains.  It was very good and exactly what we felt like having that night.  

It was a beautiful evening and so we decided to walk some.  It seemed to be what the locals had in mind too.  We walked along the walkway along the ocean by the old city wall.  Before we came to the walkway, there were vendors selling a variety of souvenirs and food.

Our wanderings looped us back toward the center of town and in one of the plazas there was a band playing and women singing.  The music was so great to listen too and after awhile, people in the audience got up and were dancing.  One song was about Puerto Rico and a lady dressed in a traditional outfit with a flag danced around.  It was great fun to watch!

The night ended with a walk through CVS…..sad when it is exciting to walk through a pharmacy.  I just found it fun as it was something I was familiar with….they had Halloween decorations on display, magazines in English….I just enjoyed it!!!

Sunday was our last day in San Juan.  Unfortunately, my only complaint for our stay in the Sheraton was they were having issues with their hot water.  I took three lukewarm showers in as many days!  The first day, I didn’t say anything. The second day, I made them aware of it in a very nice way and was informed that they had just reset the heaters and in 50 minutes we would have hot water. Later that night, David took a shower and had hot water.  Sunday morning, I took my final lukewarm shower.  I called the front desk to let them know and they were very apologetic.  However, they couldn’t make any changes to our invoice since we had prepaid for the room.  So, they offered us 2 tickets for breakfast.  I thought this was very generous as the breakfast buffet cost $20/each!  It was a very nice buffet.

We arrived at the airport exactly 2 hours before our flight.  Oh my gosh, it was chaotic!!  Evidently, there was a cruise ship that had dropped people off and they were all checking in to fly home.  We thought for certain we were going to miss our flight.  JetBlue had a designated line for flights to Santo Domingo only, which was great.  However, Dominicans don’t have a clue about standing in line.  They just kept cutting in front and it was so very, very frustrating.  Also, while we were standing in line for an hour, we watched as they opened another line only for elderly and people with disabilities.  Now, I am all for allowing elderly people to go ahead of me…..I understand that.  However, I don’t accept or appreciate someone who is half my age, obese and because of that, walking with a cane or in a wheelchair getting preferential treatment.  I know, shame on me for judging.

We made it to the gate just as they were calling our flight…thank goodness!  We arrived back in Santo Domingo, connected with our taxi driver and went to the Barrick apartment.  David headed back to the job site a little later the same afternoon.  Around, 9:00 that night, I decided to get ready for bed.  I went to get my cosmetic bag out of the backpack that I had taked on the trip.  The side pocket was unzipped and the bag was gone.  I thought David might have taken it but he hadn’t.  It was evidently stolen somewhere between San Juan and Santo Domingo….we never noticed that the pocket was opened as we didn’t have to stop in customs.

Dealing with the line jumpers and having my cosmetic bag taken really put a damper on the whole trip. You know, I have traveled the world for the past 34 some odd years and this is the first time ever that something has been stolen from my luggage.  Yeah, you might think it was bound to happen but it just makes me sad to think that people feel entitled to take what isn’t theirs.  Fortunately, there was nothing of value in the bag.  However, sadly, it was a bag that I had bought in Peru and I really liked it. I looked on the internet to see if I could purchase one similar to it but didn’t have any luck in finding it.

So, I just try to focus on the fun part of the trip.  I loved Puerto Rico and would recommend a trip there to anyone who is looking for a winter escape!

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