San Juan Journals

Puerto Rico - Isle in Style

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A November 2001 trip to San Juan by Ishtar

A Swiss Bakery  Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico More Photos
Quote: I had not been back since 1993 to la isla del encanto (enchanted isle). Chuck and I were eager to get away for a vacation dedicated to leisure. I wanted to show what I remembered and knew that we’d go beyond the walls of the capital and the Atlantic beaches.

Puerto Rico - Isle in Style

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Overview

A Swiss Bakery  Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Sometimes, it is what we don’t know that brings us to navigate unchartered waters: our ride over the Cordillera Central with a rented 4-cylinder Toyota Echo will be engraved in the labyrinths of my brain. The Cordillera slices the island horizontally, and is about 4,000 feet at its highest point. If you are not paralyzed by the vertiginous drops on the mountain’s roads, you might notice that people live up here. Oh yes, they had the presence of mind of installing random guard rails, but who are we kidding here? No, I will not forget. Our visit to the Serallés Castle in the north of ...Read More

Alhambra Palace

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Hotel | "San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casin"

Comfortable with PC in hand Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Chuck, the wiz kid, was able to get rooms for us at $70/night here, and that''s remarkable, considering the hotel was almost fully booked by the end of our first weekend in SJ. To make things even sweeter, he was able to get an upgrade to an ocean view room which was heavenly, especially in the evening when we left the door open, and could hear the tireless cha cha of the ocean waves breaking on shore. If you come here, try to get Room 614. The balcony provided 2 white chairs and table; walls were painted shrimp with aqua grill work. Inside the super comfortable beds, down pillows and lightweight cotton blankets with Cheerful yellow/gold/burgundy colors. The carpet didn''t really match, nor did t...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 6, 2001

Alhambra Palace
PENA PARTIDA 2 4
Granada, Spain 18009
34-958-221468

Hotel El Convento

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Hotel | "El Convento Hotel"

Hotel El Convento Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
We were not able to get a room here, however, we did quite a bit of touring and investigating This hotel is a gem; we happened to find it on our stroll around the streets of OSJ. It is flanked by a cathedral and a park, and posh shops. It has 3 floors and historically served as a 16th century convent, and later, a bordello. It is exquisite, and the rooms are set to surround the open atrium in the center which has tables and umbrellas and palms and a glass elevator all the way to the rear which we took to see the reception area. They had no vacancies which is totally understandable. One of the women at our hotel had lunch here, and recommended we check it out. We walked from the rec...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 13, 2001

Hotel El Convento
100 CRISTO STREET
San Juan, Puerto Rico
1-787-7239020

Patisserie de France

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Restaurant | "La Patisserie de France"

Patisserie de France Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
After we rented our little Echo, we started getting lost and loving it. But as the dining hour approached, we started heading back to the Condado area where you can find restaurants for all tastes and budgets. As we headed east on Ashford Avenue, I spotted the word patisserie, and immediately went into Pavlov mode. Parking there is less than ample, accommodating maybe 2 mini cars. We were the only ones, so it was OK. The Patisserie itself was poorly stocked when we arrived, and unless you probe further, you'd never know they served anything but waist enhancing goodies. As you walk past the pastri...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 6, 2001

Patisserie de France
1504 Ashford Avenue
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 728-5508

Latin Star

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Restaurant

Latin Star Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
We wanted to try breakfast outside the hotel today, and did just that. About two blocks east of the hotel, we spot this outdoor restaurant (café would intimate something on a smaller scale) with very clean, blond wood furniture, Xmas decorations girding its outdoor sign. We immediately sat down and waited for someone to give us a menu. In the meantime, looking around the place, I noticed a beautifully painted mural on one side depicting El Morro, and recalled the many times I had been there when Michele was yet a tot. The ceiling also had something that looked like holly hanging from it, together with some other colorful ribbons and flowers. We were told that Christmas in San Juan begins im...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 8, 2001

Latin Star
1128 Ashford Avenue
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 724-8141

Lobby Bar

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Restaurant

Lobby Bar Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
The Lobby Bar is perfect for "noshing" , and if you don’t know what that means, it’s a New York word for eating something small, as in let’s have a nosh. Noshing also implies continuous eating. In this context, I am taking the first definition. There are only 3 tall, marble topped tables which are set in front of the bar for seating. Each one is graced with a single stem of yellow bird of paradise in a glass vase. For effect, they’ve filled a large bamboo basket with loaves of different sizes and shapes to start the salivation process. They have a full espresso bar with all sorts of coffee concoctions including cappuccino . They proudly display sealed packages of the islan...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 10, 2001

Lobby Bar
San Juan Marriott & Casino
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Stone Crab Alley & Hurricane Room

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Restaurant | "Stone Crab Alley and Hurricane Room"

Stone Crab Alley & Hurricane Room Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
It was interesting that every morning, as we walked through the doors of the hotel onto Ashford Avenue, this restaurant was right in our face. We never even bothered to check it out or look into it. This was when our room was facing the ocean; on the return trip, we had a room on the executive floor facing the city, and I caught the restaurant in a photo and it looked fabulous! We went down for dinner and learned that there were 2 restaurants sharing the building, but only the Stone Crab had the outdoor seating and music. That shifted the odds a bit. The other restaurant is called Tropical and specializes in Cuban cuisine. We were seated very promptly and on the whole, must have ha...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 10, 2001

Stone Crab Alley & Hurricane Room
1214 Ashford Avenue
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 722-8425

The King and I

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Restaurant

The King and I Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
We had walked all day and were dead tired. We decided to go into the first restaurant that had an open door. Thai food is always welcome at any time after 1:00pm so we were delighted to go into the King and I. As we entered, the wall decor immediately to our left was a golden relief work which was framed and depicting typical Thai art. The walls' colors were a melange of soothing pastels until your eyes come to rest at the back: a bright red wall further embellished by huge wooden schools of fish. Tables are set French bistro style. We sat side by side at a booth and were taken with the beauty of the embroidered placements which were protected by top glass. They depict the exotic Thai dan...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 14, 2001

The King and I
315 Recinto Sur
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 725-8401

Hard Rock Café

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Restaurant

Hard Rock Café Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
It was fairly crowded when we entered and we were dispatchd to the upper floor which is the non-smoking section. As customary, there is memorabilia all over the walls, but in the center atrium is a huge wall with a rendition of Elvis Presley when he was thin. Our server's name was Rafael, and we found out later that he used to live in Astoria, New York. He returned to Puerto Rico because he missed his roots. He indicated that his girlfriend bought him a ticket to visit her in San Francisco, but he was too scared to fly after the events of 9/11. We ordered a platter of cheese nachos with beans , tomatoes and jalapeños whi...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 14, 2001

Hard Rock Café
253 Recinto Sur
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
+1 787 724 7625

Los Gorditos

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Restaurant

Los Gorditos Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
After our tour of the Bacardi plant, we set out for Ponce, but leisurely, as we were told it's only 90 minutes away. You'll realize what a joke that is later on. If you look at a map, Bayamon is southeast of Cataño so we're going in the right direction. We were on Route 2 which is a main artery. We stopped on a side street in Bayamón for lunch. This is a half-residential, half-industrial area, and the restaurant we entered was not terribly fancy, which means the cuisine will be great. It also meant that Chuck's suspicious antennas will go up, and he'll stick to something "safe". It was ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 14, 2001

Los Gorditos
C27 Route 2
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Isla Bonita

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Restaurant | "La Isla Bonita"

Isla Bonita Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
La Isla Bonita Restaurant is decorated in such a way as to make you feel you are outdoors. We were attracted by the lights, and went inside to have a look; it's a beautiful setting, with long, flowing drapes which have been scalloped on the ceiling! Lovely music pervaded the atmosphere, and the seating recreated one of nature; bamboo/cane chairs and tables with plenty of potted palms and other green plants. Tiny lights had been wound around just about everything and as your eye is drawn to the neon above the bar in the rear section, you see the name La Isla Bonita seemingly floating in the air. The menu was displayed near the entrance, so you can make your decision without entering the physic...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 13, 2001

Isla Bonita
Next to Wyndham Hotel & Casino
San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Vista

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Restaurant | "La Vista Restaurant"

La Vista Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
La Vista Restaurant is aptly named as the view is appetizing, especially if you sit outside the restaurant. The few times we came here, we always sat outside and it was a particular pleasure one night when it was pouring sheets of rain, and I was getting pummeled sideways on my right shoulder. Room service also is prepared from the La Vista Menu. The first day we were here, I refused to lift a finger, so we had room service from La Vista. The room service menu is very limited; in addition to inflated pricing, they add a 17% service charge and a $2.50 trip charge. This is when beaming up the server would come in real handy! Our dinner consisted of an exquisite ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 16, 2001

La Vista
San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino
Condado, Puerto Rico 00907
+1 787 722 7000

Bacardí Rum Distillery

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Attraction | "Bacardi"

Bacardí Rum Distillery Photo, Catano, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Call 787-788-8400 The Bacardi distillery is huge; it emcompasses many other buildings besides manufacturing. When we arrive, we park next to tents which are going up for next week's arts and crafts festival which they sponsor once a year. Revenues from the fair go to charities. This tour is completely free, and you are given white tickets to enable you to board the tram that takes you from building to building. Orange tickets allow complimentary drinks mixed with Bacardi. The choices today were coke, fruit punch, 7 up and some other thing. Our tour guide speaks English fluently. They are very conscious of security here, and are constantly counting heads and speaking into their walk...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 12, 2001

Bacardí Rum Distillery
Bay View Industrial Park Route 165, Km. 2.6
Catano, Puerto Rico 00962
(787) 788-8400

Bacardi Arts & Crafts Festival

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Attraction | "Bacardi Arts & Crafts Festival"

Bacardi Arts & Crafts Festival Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
We forfeited other plans so we could attend the Bacardi festival. As we approach the factory, roads are closed, vehicles parked sideways, and tents outside the grounds. There is very high security all around, and we are told we need to park "outside". It is stifling hot, but luckily, the sun is hidden by a few clouds. This event draws 50,000 people each year and as we reach the front gate, there is a line that only hell knows how long. Security gates with metal detectors, directly as a result of the 9/11 events, slow admission. Music is loud and coming on a regular basis. As we arrive, all we see is food, food, food. People are eating shish-kebab at 11 am. The art exhibits are house...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 12, 2001

Bacardi Arts & Crafts Festival
Route 165 @ Intersection 888
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Alliance Duty Free

Attraction

Alliance Duty Free Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
A real pleasure to be able to avail oneself of the great prices of a duty free shop even though you are not considered an overseas passenger. This particular shop trumpeted the fact that it catered to "all passengers". That's great. Luis Muños Marin International is very modern, spacious, with good bi-lingual signage. As we started heading for baggage claim, we spotted this shop, and as usual, neither one of us had to ask; we just went in. By comparison to other duty free shops, this one is mid-sized and does more with fragrance and cosmetics than with liquor and jewelry. As we walked in, a 40% off table was the first thing we saw; it had an assortment of perfumes, colognes, and eaux with the majo...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 5, 2001

Alliance Duty Free
Luis Muñoz Marin Airport/Delta # 2
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Plaza Las Américas

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Attraction | "Plaza Las Americas"

Quote:
Call 787-763-3252 for directions. A huge mall which is characterized by a glass tower you can see from the highway. Plaza Las Americas is the predominant shopping center in Puerto Rico. According to my brief research into this, J. C. Penney's largest store of its entire chain makes its home here. For mall buffs, it's a must see with over 190 stores, eateries and they boast 100% occupancy for the last 3 or 4 years which is more than we can say here. Their jingle goes "Menos Mal que esta Plaza" which means thank goodness for this mall. We actually didn't want to come here, wanting to reach the mall at Carolina instead. Chuck needed a computer hoo...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 16, 2001

Plaza Las Américas
Fd Roosevelt Ave Po Box 363268
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936
+1 787 767 1525

El Yunque National Forest

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Attraction | "Caribbean National Forest (el Yunque)"

El Yunque National Forest Photo, El Yunque, Puerto Rico
Quote:
As you start rolling on 191, it's about 2 miles before you get to the new visitor center which they call "el Portal" . The signs will direct and greet you. They have handicap facilities, toilets, phones and a gift shop. Expect a $3.00 entrance fee for adults, $1.50 for kids 12 and over. We collected some maps at the entrance which is cleverly designed so that you are actually walking over the rainforest canope, so it's an interesting perspective. There are exhibits and interactive displays which educate you about el Yunque. It started pouring, but stopped right after the 12 minute film, narrated by Jimmy Smits, which is shown before you start your tour. It's optional, but I suggest ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 16, 2001

El Yunque National Forest
Road 191, Off Highway 3 To Luquillo Beach
Palmer, Puerto Rico 00721
(787) 888-1880

To Luquillo and beyond

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Story/Tip

Park at Luquillo Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Today was the day to visit the northeastern part of Puerto Rico. We were going to do the Yunque Rainforest, Luquillo Beach and Fajardo and decided we'd come back a different route to see something interesting. To get there, if you are coming from the Condado area, head east towards Old San Juan. Traffic will not be great no matter what time you go, so have patience, as it gets better. Highway 26 is about 2 blocks from the hotel, so for us it was fairly simple. Follow the signs to Fajardo - drivers here are courteous most times and observe the speed limit - I didn't s...Read More

Ashford Avenue: San Juan's Park Avenue

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Story/Tip

El Consulado Hotel Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Ashford Avenue is a ritzy address in the heart of the Condado area of San Juan. It is here that you'll find luxury hotels & casinos, high priced apartment buildings, elegant restaurants, and upscale shops. When the sun goes down, the lights go up all along the avenue, and taking a leisurely stroll can be very pleasurable. It does not have the charm of Old San Juan, nor the crooked, blue cobblestoned streets. It is a thoroughly modern avenue, and were it not for the occasional signs in Spanish, you could be on Main Street, USA. Luckily for us, our address was on Ashford for 6 days, and we strolled it in both directions, by sunlight and moonlight. We also went as far west as we cou...Read More

Old San Juan on foot

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Story/Tip

The Paintings are in the Back Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
No matter how many times I come here, there are always new discoveries. On Saturday night, we wanted to go to OSJ for dinner and possibly some dancing. The concierge advised that everything was basically closed, and that there was only one restaurant which offered a show with dinner called La Sala . So, we take a cab and $12 later, we are in front of the restaurant. They're not open yet nor are they serving, we need to come back later. So Chuck and I decide to browse the streets, as we spotted some open shops. In a corner souvenir shop, both of us pick up sunhats which subsequently save us from the infernal heat. Then I spot Haitian paintings into the next store, and this is a must if you'...Read More

Another Day in Old SanJay

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Story/Tip

The Place is filled with clothing Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
We decided to catch the city bus to OSJ which costs $0.25 per person. That's 50 cents for both of us as opposed to $12.00 (quite a savings). On the way to town, we are the only tourists on the bus. Chuck gets an attack of the hungers, so we need to find a cafe as soon as we get to the terminal; to make matters worse it is now 92 degrees. The Hard Rock Cafe was the first place we found, and in we went.We went to the area where " La Negra" was supposed to appear at 1:00pm, and she wasn't there. They were casually setting up the stage so we boarded one of the free trolleys which take you a...Read More

More Than A Lobby

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Story/Tip

And the Band Played On Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
The Marriott has done some interesting things in this lobby which are not found in its other locations; the first is the gambling Casino, as it needs to keep up with the Joneses. There you have a mini-rendition of let us empty your pockets slot machines. I never even went near them as there was always something better to do. To the right of the casino is a well placed Lobby Bar. There is ample seating which is positioned around the bar which is the focal point of the lobby. Supporting that placement looking straight ahead from the door is a dance floor with seating, and band instruments ...Read More

On the Beach

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Story/Tip

The vista to the west of the Marriott Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
The Marriott has its own private beach, but there are really no physical boundaries which separate it from the public beaches which are available to everyone. The Caribe Hilton has the best beach in Condado, in my opinion. The first day we arrived, I stood on the balcony facing the ocean and watched them sweeping clean the sands below. All the lounge chairs are neatly stacked nearest to the hotel’s back wall. It is difficult not go to the beach, so after 11:00 am, Chuck and I went to the ground floor directly to either poolside, or to the beach. You must stop at the activity desk, pick up towels and pink I.D. band for your wrist. Otherwise, the lady guard at the steps will not let you st...Read More

Renting A Car

Story/Tip

Quote:
Avis was the first of two car rentals we visited, as Chuck has preferred membership. It’s about 4 long blocks from the hotel, so it’s an easy walk if the sun is not frying your brains. As we arrive at Avis the woman behind the desk is showing us the cars and the per diem rates. After Chuck tells her we’ll need the car for a week, she give us an awesome rate of $175.00 for the week with an automatic upgrade from economy to midsize. We told her we didn’t need the car today, but she writes the information down for us and indicates that we can come back any time and pick it up. Famous last words. One of our cab drivers had advised that L & M is the cheapest rental around. S...Read More