Sunday, December 27, 2015

Puerto Rico - Exploring Old San Juan

Our morning food tour was only the beginning of our day-long ramble through Old San Juan.  When Kathy released us back into the wild, we paused for a moment with our map to note the places we had passed that were worth revisiting, and to identify the landmarks we hadn't yet crossed off our list.  

The Plaza de las Palomas
Detail of the Capilla del Cristo
Old San Juan is a warren of narrow cobblestoned streets lined with Spanish colonial
architecture.  It's gorgeously preserved and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Love the colors.  As we walked along, we quizzed each other on which color we'd pick
if we had a house we could paint in the neighborhood.
Ponce de Leon!
Turns out that guy I remember reading about in 5th grade was kind of a big deal here.
After giving up his quest to find the fountain of youth in Florida, he settled to be the
governor of Puerto Rico.  This statue is made of a melted-down English cannon captured
in 1797.
Planning pause in the Plaza de San Jose
(and yes, this is a candid pose that Amanda captured surreptitiously)
El Morro -- Dating back to 1539, this is the oldest Spanish fort in the New World. It rebuffed attacks from the Dutch,
British, and US militaries.  We loved the expansive park -- perfect for kites.
Cementario de San Juan -- An oddly pretty cemetery just outside the fortress walls.
We entered the cemetery through a single narrow tunnel through the embankments.
The neoclassical chapel makes a nice focal point among the tombs.

Most of these tombs are family tombs with doors that open into mausoleums with stacked niches for the coffins.
One was open so I took a peek -- it wasn't nearly as creepy as you might have hoped.
Looking back at the city from the fortress.
The tallest grey tower in the distance is our condo building.
Next time I go to the bagel shop, I'm going to ask for a sessa-meseed bagel.
Hard to tell in this photo, but the cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan have a blue hue.
The bricks are painted with a substance to make them less slick, and the substance contains iron and other
minerals that over time oxidizes to a deep blue color.  It's a lovely effect.
The three-hour-long food tour notwithstanding, by the time we had finished wandering through the fortress
we were flagging and needed sustenance.  We stopped at a 17th Century convent-turned-hotel for a quick bite.
The road in front of the convent led down to the city's only remaining gate in the walls (it
dates from the 1630s). This is the gate through which visiting dignitaries
would have entered the city.  The road leads up a hill to the cathedral in the central plaza.
Most travelers went straight there to give thanks for a successful voyage.
Port of San Juan
Time to break out the selfie stick!
Selfie sticks are great for up-the-nostril shots
This is La Fortaleza, the governor's mansion that dates from 1533 and is the oldest executive
mansion in continuous use in the western hemisphere.
We went back to the place from the food tour where we'd eaten the
alcapurrios and ceviche -- there was a poster that said they also had
delicious stuffed avocados, so we wanted to give it a try. We thought it
would be a quick snack but turned into an hour-long ordeal in which we
nearly froze from the air conditioning and starvation.  Fortunately
the food -- when it finally came -- was good.
By the time we had finished our stuffed avocados, it was time to think of heading home.
We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some things for breakfast.
Grocery stores in Old San Juan are somewhat less roomy than in Seattle
Old San Juan comes alive at night, we discovered.  After leaving the grocery store, we
came across preparations for an outdoor concert.
We opted not to wait for the concert and instead went in search of dinner.
We found a place El Punto de Visto that had a (partially obstructed) view on the roof and
decent ratings on Yelp.  I ordered the mofongo with steak and garlic saucee -- the waiter's
enthusiasm notwithstanding, it turned out to be an unfortunate choice that stayed with
me all night...

1 comment:

Lady said...

So pretty. Love the ocean views! Sorry about the unfortunate dinner. Hope it didn't turn out to be another "pink foam of death".