Last Day in Puerto Rico

Oh, friends. I’m so sad to have to go.

Yesterday (Friday) was our last full day, and compared to the other crazy tourist days, we decided to slow it down and just enjoy the pool and beach.

So that’s just what we did. And unfortunately for both of us pasty fools, the sunburns we’d avoided for the full trip finally caught up with us. 😞

We started our day at the rooftop pool at our hotel:

Bobby is practicing his nascent photography skills. I have a hard time with pictures and can be really critical of how I look on camera (I far prefer to be BEHIND the camera!) but I stepped outside my comfort zone on this trip, and I’ve got to say, I like the result! 😉
Already feeling a little lobstery, we paused to reapply sunscreen and then made our way to the beach, where we set up with an umbrella and two lounge chairs.

We feasted on empanadas and cherry limeade from a beachside stand (DELICIOUS), and Bobby finished his book as I took turns reading and running into the pleasantly cool waves.

(Along our trip, I picked up And The Mountains Echoed, the latest Khaled Hosseini book. Just finished it this morning on the plane back. SO GOOD. That, along with Persepolis, comprised my beach reading material. HIGHLY recommend both!)


In later afternoon, when sand started flying with an increase in the wind, we knew a storm was about to roll in, so we packed up quickly and headed back inside. And no sooner had we done so than the sky opened up, and it poured — the first time it rained for us in San Juan, the whole trip! (We did see rain in the rainforest, so I can’t say it was the first rain of our TRIP. But like… c’mon, rain is in the name.)

We hung out inside for a while, marveling at the quick rainstorm, and then reading some more. Then, we headed back to the rooftop deck for a cocktail!


While sky-high, we watched the rainclouds roll away:


After that, it was time for getting ready for dinner! We headed out to a heartily-recommended restaurant nearby called Ceviche House, and tried their namesake dish. And WOW. So good, I forgot to photograph it.

On our way home, we decided to stroll on the beach, and caught the brilliant moonrise. We stayed on the sparsely-populated beach for a few minutes, just quietly taking in the spectacular sky and standing shoeless in the warm water.

Though the trip was all too short, the ending was just about perfect. I mean, just look for yourself:


After that, it was all packing and final prep, and we headed out super early this morning. 

WHAT A TRIP.

Now. Time to start planning the next adventure!

Until next time, friends. ¡Adiós, Puerto Rico!

Old & Bold San Juan

Friends!

It is late(ish) here, and I am beat. (Spending all day on your feet will do that to you!) Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to write up an account of today before I zonk.

This morning, we had plans to get up early and head to Old San Juan, the historical center of the city. After a liiiiittle bit later of a start than we intended (whoops, forgot to set any alarms!), we took a taxi over and started our day.

First up was El Paseo de La Princesa, a beautiful walkway to the sea.


I made a friend:


And we worked our way down the road to the Raíces fountain. 

Guys, it was almost too pretty to look at.


We kept strolling past there, and began to follow the fort walls on a beautiful promenade around the bay.


Along the way, we dipped into the city gates (the last one still standing of the original 5!) and saw a bit of the city itself:


We strolled past a dilapidated old building with a boarded up door. Luckily, though, a few of the boards had fallen, and I got this picture:


Doesn’t it make you just want to buy it, just so you can fix it all up and turn it into a hotel? UGH. (So if anyone has a few million lying around… you know where to find me for a cool investment opportunity. 😜)

From there, we kept going on the Paseo El Morro until we got to THE FORT. And of course, the view from the fort was unparalleled.


Tired and a little sore by then, we found our way to St. Germain, a small restaurant we’d read about in the guidebook.

SO DELICIOUS.


Shortly thereafter, we hopped in ANOTHER taxi to take us to our tour of Casa Bacardí, the rum factory!


Though the tour was a little foolish (we went on the “historical tour,” which was essentially 30 minutes of Bacardi talking about how its founders were such geniuses), it was #worthit, if only for the included-with-price-of-admission cocktail and commemorative cup.

From there, we headed back into Old San Juan, where we explored the OTHER fort — Castillo San Cristobal. The views from here were just spectacular. Unlike El Morro, which we did earlier in the day, this fort allowed us to see panoramic views of the whole city. And plus, we learned that the fort was used as recently as WWII!

Check out this view:


If you’d believe it, after that it was time to eat again. (All this eating! It’s almost like we need it to live!)

We strolled back to a nearby plaza, where we found a nice restaurant and made ourselves comfortable as the sun set.


(He’s not picking his nose… just an unfortunate placement of his finger. I mean… Bobby! Stop picking your nose!)



After night fell and we finished our meal, we headed back to Paseo de la Princesa for one last nighttime look.



And now, it’s time for bed!

Tomorrow will be our last day in Puerto Rico (😭😭😭), so I’m not sure what the day will hold. Perhaps beach all day long? Maybe a bit of that rooftop pool? Maybe a street fair? ONLY TIME WILL TELL.

Until then, goodnight!

Return to The Island Capital

Hello, friends!

Greetings from another day in the Island of Enchantment. 

Today, Bobby and I checked out of our country inn, and headed back into San Juan — but not before making the most of our final hours on the east coast.

After breakfast, we packed and read a bit more, then leisurely packed the car and set off. Along the way, we wandered to a beachside restaurant called Rincon Del Faro (Corner of the Lighthouse?), where we had our SECOND fruit-carved beverage — this time, piña colada, my favorite.



After lunch of fish sandwiches (and fried calamari!), we took a jaunt over to the beach.


Not to be sated by just any old beach, and with an extra 45 minutes to spare before we had to head back and return our rental car, I convinced Bobby from here to drive to Playa Luquillo. Guidebooks and other travelers uniformely said Luquillo had one of the best beaches in the whole island, so we figured we’d spend a few minutes strolling the beach and putting our feet in the water.

It was BETTER THAN I COULD HAVE IMAGINED


The palm trees. The cool water. The lack of crowds. The rainforest mountains looming in the background. PERFECTION.


I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to leave here. If I had had a hammock, I may NOT have left. But leave we eventually did, and we headed back in, exchanged our car, and hailed a taxi to our nearby hotel.

So for this stay, we were a bit tied: because we were using credit card rewards points, we had a number of ritzy high-rise hotels to choose from. We ended up selecting the San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel, which — no joke — has a special theme. 

The theme is just the color blue.

Blue lights in the hallway. Blue lights in your room. Blue lobby. Blue pool. Blue ocean. (Well, okay, I’ll give them those last two.)

So we checked into our blue room, and set about getting situated.


Good beach: ✔️


Blue lights: ✔️


ROOFTOP LOUNGE AND POOL?????? ✔️


We did some loafing and lounging (it IS a vacation, after all), and soon enough, it was time for dinner. Just a few steps from our hotel was an oceanview bar and grill, where we ate MORE fried calamari and tried the mango mojitos and octopus salad.


Except for the guests SMOKING IN FLAGRANT DISREGARD FOR THE NO SMOKING SIGNS, the restaurant was tasty and the waiters were super friendly.

After that, it was time for a bit of nighttime beach sittin’ (the moon is super bright these days!), and then a bit more lazing around before bed.

Tragically, this evening saw the demise of Bobby’s laptop, which means I’m stuck to phone photos for the rest of the trip’s blog posts. In the interim, check out these pictures of pictures of today:


And with that, I’m off to sleep! Tomorrow, we see OLD SAN JUAN and tour the Bacardí factory. Will try to see if I can send samples via the computer to each of you. 😜

A Journey to The US’s Only Rainforest

HELLO, friends! Writing now with what little energy I have, after a CRAZY second day on the east coast of the island.

This morning was calm — the first thing Bobby and I did was head up to breakfast, which was simple but quite good.


We then took a minute to tend to the wild animals. And by wild animals, I mean this ferocious beast, named Caspar.


After breakfast, we took a walk around the property that the inn was on — and we came across a banana plant, which I decided to grab a banana from. It was delicious.


After that lazy start to the day, we hopped back in the car and headed towards our major activity for the day: EL YUNQUE, the only rainforest located in the United States. I’d never been to a rainforest, so I had very little sense of what to expect.


When we drove in, we stopped at the visitor’s center to get acclimated. And right away, it was clear: the air was THICKER here than elsewhere.

Once we had settled on our trail for the day (La Mina Trail), we made our way up the mountain and began.

IT WAS AMAZING. We took a well-worn path through the heart of the forest, which hugged the creek for several kilometers, until it dropped and turned into a beautiful waterfall with a swimming hole beneath. I jumped right in — and BRRRRR, it was chilly.

Because the trail was steep, I didn’t take any pictures on my phone. (I did, however, focus on my real camera for this hike!) Once I’m back to a place with more consistent internet, I’ll add in some visuals.

The whole venture out and back took us a few hours, so when we got back, we decided we’d have a few drinks at a roadside stand. But before we did that, we strolled up to this overlook to catch a few more glimpses of the mountains.

The view from the top of the tower:

Phew! All that walking was enough to make anyone thirsty for some cold coconut water.



Thoroughly spent, we drank our weight in coconuts and then hit the trail back towards the inn.

AND THEN YES, WE WENT FOR A SWIM.


We stayed poolside for a few hours until it got dark. Then, we grabbed a few things and headed out for dinner!

Bobby had heard of this great food truck near where we had gone on the bioluminescent bay tour last night, so we made that our #1 goal. And the joint, called Bistro Del Mar, did NOT disappoint.


Bobby’s dish, a chicken stuffed avocado with coconut rice.

My meal, a classic Puerto Rican food called mofongo. (That’s mashed plantains.)

I am still SO FULL and SO HAPPY.

It’s been a good day today. Tomorrow, we head back to San Juan, and perhaps spend some more time on the beach or touring Old San Juan. Later this week, we’ll be visiting the Bacardí rum factory. 

Hard life, you know.

From The Beach to The Mountains in 1 Hour

Waking up this morning felt like waking up to find that a good dream was real. 

Bobby and I were headed out from The Dreamcatcher early to pick up our rental car and then drive out to the east coast of the island. But first, we ambled down the stairs to see what the chef was cooking — in this case, pancakes with almonds, fresh bananas, homemade tamarind and honey syrup, and fresh coconut-and-orange juice. 


Just as good as it looks!

After that, it was time to hit the road!


We journeyed along the road closest to the beach, which was pretty quiet, and got to take in views of the beautiful El Yunque in the distance. And then, all of a sudden, in the not-so distance.

We stopped for lunch at a rooftop restaurant rated #1 on TripAdvisor, and were treated to an excellent lunch with a view.


And after that, it was time to check in to the hotel! Our inn is a small one located at the top of a mountain, and once we got there, the host let us know that we were some of the only guests they’d seen in days. They introduced us to their 3 dogs, which they said loved to go on walks with guests, and they encouraged us to let them walk with us when we wanted to go wander around.

And then we got to take in THE VIEWS.


And see THE POOL 


I’m going to be completely honest with you: this afternoon, we did not make the most of this pool. (I know, I know.) Worse still, we took a NAP instead. But that was necessary, because of our evening plans.

Tonight, we ventured out, grabbed some kebabs from a street vendor for dinner, and sat by the beach… and THEN…

WE GOT TO SEE THE BIOLUMINESCENT BAY!

Guys. I don’t know how to describe this to you. I couldn’t take my cameras aside from my GoPro, so I will have to upload something later, if the footage even turns out.

BUT GUYS. We got the chance to see REAL LIVE GLOW-IN-THE-DARK ORGANISMS. Right in the water. RIGHT IN OUR HANDS.

We went on a guided tour with a tour group, and paddled out to sea in our little kayaks, 2 to a boat. The moon was rather full (which usually means decreased visibility), but we still soldiered on. We kayaked through a dark lagoon, all in a straight line, barely able to see in parts, with dense mangroves all around us. And just as we started flagging, the trees opened up and we sailed out into the Laguna Grande, where the sparkling, glowing organisms live. 

Our tour guide, Javier, was a trained marine biologist, so he waxed poetic for a while about the phenomenon. Apparently, these organisms are plankton, which glow as a defense mechanism. They can be seen in very few places around the world — including a few places in Puerto Rico.

We passed around a bucket of an example of the organisms, and each of us saw the electric lights — kind of like twinkle lights, or fireflies. And then, we all pulled a large canopy over our heads to better block the moon, and ran our fingers through the water. 

IT WAS SO COOL. 

We stayed in this area for some time, playing around and exploring via kayak. And then, it was time to travel back through the mysterious Jungle Book-like mangroves, until we popped back out in the ocean, and wandered back to our car.

Guys. It was so neat. The world is a very, very cool place.

Here’s one look as we prepared to get on the boats:


On the way back to the hotel, we made a quick pitstop for snacks and juices. Here are our spoils:


SOURSOP! Peach! Tamarind! Guayaba! I LOVE JUICE.

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking it extra slow. (Like, “naps by the pool” slow.) You won’t want to miss any of the action. 😜

I love Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico, You Lovely Island

Hello, friends! I’m back! And just in time to go away again… but this time, I’m taking you with me.

And because it’s chilly and grey up north, let’s head further south. Maybe somewhere tropical. Perhaps a place where we can go to the beach? Or to the mountains? Or visit a rainforest? But let’s not spend too much, and let’s not leave the US.

DONE. Because this week, I’m coming at you from Puerto Rico, US territory since 1898. AND I AM SO EXCITED.

About a year and a half ago, my boyfriend Bobby and I traveled through the San Juan airport en route to another destination. As we were descending into the airport, Bobby and I took a few quick looks out the window, and both agreed that San Juan was too beautiful, and we should try to visit if we could ever get the chance.

Months passed, and every so often, I would come across an ad that screamed JOIN US IN PUERTO RICO. I stumbled across pictures on Instagram of sparkling lagoons and bright blue waters with mountains in the background, with little captions reading, “FAJARDO, PUERTO RICO.” On one of my favorite travel blogs one December day, I saw a stunning guesthouse in San Juan called The Dreamcatcher, which, to my shock when I looked it up, was affordable.

Still, it was a pipe dream — tickets and hotels and food all add up quickly, and there was never time in my schedule.

That is, until Bobby and I were taking a closer look at our schedules this year. Bobby’s still in school, so we were plotting out what our calendars would look like… when he mentioned he’d likely have a week in February after he finished an exam. “We should take a trip!” he said. “Use some of those points I have from my credit card.”

Half-jokingly, I mentioned we should go to Puerto Rico, because I had just seen these ads on the Metro that were advertising “cheap” flights to San Juan.

We started browsing destinations and adding up figures… and lo and behold, those “cheap” San Juan flights really were cheap.

And the more we looked, the more excited we got. And things started to fall into place: hotels booked through points and work bonuses. Flights handled from our travel fund.

And that is why on February 5th, we woke up at an unnecessarily early hour to catch a plane, and then another plane… and by lunchtime, this was our view.

We’re HERE! From the airport, we went straight to our hotel — and yes, this is the very same guesthouse I saw a year ago on that blog. It’s called The Dreamcatcher, and they had ONE room available for our first night in town, so before we head out of San Juan to do some exploring, we’ve made this our home base.

The Dreamcatcher is SO BEAUTIFUL, guys. We walked in and were ushered into this fabulous living room waiting area, with fresh iced tea and Puerto Rican coffee and a gentle smell of incense. There were fountains. Outdoor showers. And… an outdoor… kitchen?

YES INDEED.

After a short while, our rooms were ready, and we rushed up the stairs to the suite. And THIS WAS THE VIEW. 

A very happy Bobo takes in the sights in his fun shirt.

The PORCH with an outdoor shower (yes, fully private, and not something we have to share!), and TWO swinging seats.

After we’d had some time to settle in, we decided to take a good look at the map that the guesthouse owners had made for newbies in town. We found a sandwich joint nearby and headed that way for Cubanos.

Funny enough, the restaurant that we stopped into was none other than Kasalta. This bakery has the distinct honor of being the place where President Obama had lunch on his trip to Puerto Rico in 2011 (the island’s first presidential visit since 1961!). They take great pride in this fact, as evidenced by their giant banners… and the large plaque on one of their tables.

While we were waiting for our sandwiches (one Cubano and one of the “president’s choice!” sandwich), we got lucky, and the Obama table opened up. So naturally, we sat right down, and got the chance to sit where HISTORY HAD BEEN EATEN.

Plaque roughly reads, “On the 14th of June, 2011, President Barack Obama ate at this table.” Wow.

After lunch, it was time to take a walk towards the beach. The Dreamcatcher is only TWO blocks from a semi-public beach.

Not having worn swimsuits to the restaurant (I mean, we didn’t want to offend the memory of the president’s sandwich!), we just decided to walk the beach, shoes in hand.

IT WAS SO NICE.

In the background here, you can see the larger buildings of the “downtown” area of San Juan.

The beach was crowded but not terribly so. Most exciting was the abundance of unleashed (and VERY well-behaved) dogs.

After the nice beach walk, it was time for a nap. (Especially for those of us who woke up before 4 to catch a stupid plane….). Luckily, those hanging chairs were just the ticket…

After the nap, we didn’t plan for much, so we got to watch the sun set as other inn guests did yoga in the main common area outside our windows.

The view from our balcony, looking over at one of the windows, with the night sky in the background.

Then, once the sun had really set, we got a quick dinner (ceviche and a chimichanga) and strolled back to read and swing in the hammock and luxuriate in all this ridiculously warm weather.

(And also try not to go crazy with the coqui frogs singing their INCESSANT songs, all afternoon and night. It’s cute and definitely gives us that tropical vibe, but it’s also driving me batty.)

It’s kind of crazy to me to be taking a trip just for the sake of relaxation and fun. Usually, I’m ALL SYSTEMS GO, so this will be a test of my ability to let myself chill. We’ll see what comes of it! (:

Tomorrow, we’re heading off to the East Coast of Puerto Rico. We’re also taking an adventure there that I can’t even describe, but I will HOPEFULLY get good pictures to share. STAY TUNED!

Kelsey

A Poem for the Word Nerds

Loving words has a way of making you unsatisfied.

Today, I was sent this poem by a fellow editor, who seems to understand exactly how I feel sometimes. And in turn, I thought I’d pass it along to you all, in case you ever come across a moment where English punctuation is insubstantial.

Appeal to the Grammarians

by Paul Violi

We, the naturally hopeful,

Need a simple sign

For the myriad ways we’re capsized.

We who love precise language

Need a finer way to convey

Disappointment and perplexity.

For speechlessness and all its inflections,

For up-ended expectations,

For every time we’re ambushed

By trivial or stupefying irony,

For pure incredulity, we need

The inverted exclamation point.

For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,

For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift

Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,

Or felt love or pond ice

Give way underfoot, we deserve it.

We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,

The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,

The flat tire at journey’s outset,

The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.

But mainly because I need it – here and now

As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio

Staring at my espresso and cannoli

After this middle-aged couple

Came strolling by and he suddenly

Veered and sneezed all over my table

And she said to him, “See, that’s why

I don’t like to eat outside.”