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.

Blizzard2016: Thanks, Snowbama!

If you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic or north, you know that a historic blizzard has blanketed us COMPLETELY in white in the past few days!

Thanks to the wise forethought of my boss, kind telework policies at my office, the convenient snow schedule  (Friday afternoon through Sunday morning!), and of course, the snow (which hit 3 feet, according to some calculations), I’ve been stuck in the house since Thursday night. But there’s a sneaky benefit of that:

PHOTOGRAPHY. COOKING. CRAFTS. AND GAMES.

Over the course of #Blizzard2016, my housemates and I have made 3 soups, snow cream (8 cups snow, 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp vanilla, and then some Bailey’s if you’re feeling wild), nearly 30 cups of tea, kale chips, granola, half a scarf, part of a dress, several waffles, 6 bowls of dinosaur-egg oatmeal, and 4 large hashbrowns. I learned how to play Lords of Waterdeep; I finished two books, finally pulled the trigger on a winter coat after my old one crapped out, and shoveled half the walkways in and out of the house. It’s been a successful Snowpocalypse—and frankly, I have no idea where this productivity came from. Usually, I’ll spend half a day lazing about reading, but the sheer thought of being cooped up has me ANTSY.

The progress of the snow:

Friday 2PM, Friday 4PM; Saturday 2PM

Friday 2PM, Friday 4PM; Saturday 2PM. Positively buried under!

Snow can be magical: it transformed our normal street into a magical mysterious wonderland.

Can you find the SmartCar?

Can you find the SmartCar? Hint: it’s hiding behind the car you CAN almost see!

Before it got too deep, my housemates and I made a trip outside. Dog and I posed for a few elegant snow photos. (Snowtos?)

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After that? All the snow. All the time. More more more. Every time we looked out, it was pouring snow. It piled up faster, faster, faster… and then our back door froze shut. (Dog sure wasn’t a fan of that.)

Once the snow finally stopped Sunday morning, it was time to dig out.

Don’t tell anyone, but I think I love shoveling. I may be sore today, but I spent a good hour in total shoveling, and I FELT SO ALIVE. The cold! The exercise! The fun noises that you make! I think I may be inclined towards colder weather, but HOO. BOY. It was sure nice.

WE DID IT.

WE DID IT.

Digging done, it was time for Dog and Roommate and I to take a few glamour shots. (Dog was very thankful to be let outside.)

Run, puppy, run!

Run, puppy, run!

Li'l tongue!

Li’l tongue!

So handsome!

So handsome!

Ah, the snow is too much for my little heart. I love it. I LOVE IT. (And Dog loves it too!)

Today (Monday) has been much about melting, repairing, and preparing for the rest of the week. It was a work-from-home day for three of us four housemates, the metro is still struggling at half speed, and we’re running low on supplies—so we may have to soon take a trek out to the grocery store.

But I for one am thankful for the extra day: it’s allowed me to pretend that the snow is still coming down, that the world is allowed to be silent and white and sleepy a little while longer. It’s almost like I’m back in grade school, where a snow day pressed pause on our reality, and didn’t release us until the snow had turned to slush. And since there’s still beautiful white powder outside my window, I don’t think it’s time yet to get back to the real world just yet.

Shhhh…. let me keep my snow day dreams.

Hope you all are warm and cozy where you are!

The Devon Horse Show: Almost As Many Dogs as People

Ah, unexpected fairs.

Last weekend, as my boyfriend and I were headed back up to Philadelphia to meet a few friends for a reunion, we stumbled upon the Devon Horse Show. As in, a horse show that also has a ferris wheel. And so naturally, we cancelled our other plans and promptly bought afternoon tickets to the show.

There were SO MANY DOGS. (And my love for dogs is second to none.)

Days like these are extra special, because you wake up without even knowing they’re happening. It’s almost like magic.
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A Baseball Not-Fan, At the Baseball Game.

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Last Wednesday, my coworkers and I happened upon some cheap tickets for a midday baseball game in downtown DC. And that’s how I got to see my first Nationals (Nats) game, in their battle against the Miami Marlins!

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Our seats were up pretty high, but had a pretty fantastic view. (And mmm, if you ever do go, think about getting the lemonade they had there. Is $5 too much to pay for a lemonade? Yes. Did I just say “TREAT YO’SELF” and throw all caution to the wind and buy myself one anyways? Yes, I did that too.)

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Towards the middle of the game, we all paused and watched the Presidents Race. IMG_0599

Lincoln took home the gold (even though it doesn’t look like that in the photo above!), but the man who truly stole my heart was T.Roosevelt.

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MMMmmm, what a man. Look at that nice blue button-up—SO fancy.

I’m sunburnt and hot and full on lemonade and peanuts, but I’m so happy to have had the chance to see my first Nats game. Even though I don’t really care for baseball at all—and honestly, I can’t even tell you who won.

Let’s be real here; we don’t go to baseball games to watch the SUPERIOR ATHLETICISM. We go because we’re spending time with friends outside without making any effort, and we’re eating tasty snacks and we’re doing the wave.

Maybe it’s not that baseball is all-American; maybe it’s the act of watching a baseball game (and eating all the food you possibly can) that truly is the all-American pastime.

Sometimes: An Early Evening in Northwest DC

Sometimes, we don’t go for our nightly runs.

Sometimes, we decide that it’s pizza for dinner, and that we’ll fling the windows open and feel the breeze shake the trees.

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Sometimes we’ll take a little walk, just to watch the evening descend. (And also to collect the pizza.)

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And we’ll stumble onto a neighborhood pool, looking fresh as ANYTHING, and consider jumping in. Just for a second.

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And we’ll find some flowers that are too cute for words, but that we’ll squeal about noisily.

img_0562And oh, Marilla.

img_0565And sometimes we wander along streets by embassies, and see black and red and blue and green shutters…img_0567And flowers, the kind you thought only existed in books and artwork…img_0566And SUNimg_0568And the results of a neighborhood kid’s hours of adventures.img_0570

And then you walk home to pizza and breezes and beers and dusk.

Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.

 

 

The Classic D.C. Life: Weekend Trip to Charlottesville

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You’ve heard me say it before: I’m a big fan of spring.

And that’s not to say I don’t love other seasons, too. In fact, stick around and you’re liable to read plenty of rants (or even video posts) about my passion for weather in general. Cold and snowy? ALL RIGHT. Hot and muggy? MY FAVE. Sunny and breezy? NOW WE’RE TALKIN’. Chilly and cloudy? WHAT A GOOD DAY.

And actually, it was the latter that Boyfriend Bobby and I were greeted with, this past weekend while on a day trip out of D.C. and into Charlottesville. My friend Lizzie, a part-time bread baker and a part-time wilderness firefighter (yes, there are people who are JUST that cool) is currently living the baker life in ole C’ville, and before she hitches up her wagon and heads west, we drove the 2.5 hours down to see her and explore the area.

(For those of you who don’t know—as I didn’t, until just the other day—Charlottesville is appropriately shortened to C’ville. Not sure if it’s pronounced like See-ville or Seville, but the linguist in me is thrilled regardless.)

Our first stop on Saturday was to Ash Lawn-Highland, the estate of James Monroe (the fourth president). Lizzie had heard there was a sheep shearing contest there, and we were NOT going to miss something that fun.

Once we arrived, however, we were disappointed to learn that the alleged contest was not to be. HOWEVER, we managed still to catch a bit of the action, and saw an expert shear a sheep from full-fluff down to nearly-bald.

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What a little guy! He was so quiet during the shearing. I felt like he should have gotten some sort of treat after such an aggressive haircut.

Besides the sheep shearing, we also took in the grounds (with the garden, above!), and wandered right over to some cows, laying out in the field. We also had a run-in with some chickens, and (!!!) a beautiful male peacock.

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If you’ve got an afternoon to spare, DEFINITELY do consider stopping by the grounds.

After that, we hit up a soul food diner in town, and then wandered over to Lizzie’s work, where we got the full back-of-house bakery tour.

If I could live in a bakery….

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Lizzie treated us to a loaf of bread she had made the night before (apple cider– YUM), and a piece of the bakery’s famous princess cake. I didn’t think I liked marzipan until I tried this cake. (10/10, would eat again.)

The rest of the afternoon was spent on Charlottesville’s downtown mall, a pedestrian-only walkway, which boasts at least THREE used bookstores. Lizzie showed us her favorite (Daedalus Bookstore, just down a side street off the main drag), and we spent at least an hour inching our way around the store, finding new loves and old friends in the myriad pages.

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Bookstores are good for the soul.

I made it out of the bookstore with TWO hardback books: a beautiful illustrated copy of Don Quixote (in English), and a new-to-me book called Zuleika Dobson, written in 1911 and illustrated in much the same way as the old Madeline books were.

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After that, there was time for some homemade pizza back with Lizzie before Bobby and I hit the trail.

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Sad to have seen Lizzie for just a short time, but so thrilled for her summer and fall out west on the fire crew. (What a cool thing, to have a friend who’s a wilderness firefighter!)

And now it’s back to D.C. for another week at the grind. But this weekend is the DERBY! (Kentuckians around the world rejoiced.)