on September 29, 2004
Plaza de Hostos is a secondary meeting place initially chaperoned. It's left of cruise ship piers and abuzz with the curious frequenting La Casita, which houses a tourism information center. Leaving crowds behind, make your way left onto the Paseo de la Princesa and prepare for captivation.This special walkway skirts outer walls of the old city and is worth repeat passage at various stages of sunlight, or nightfall when streetlamps and spotlights zero-in on significance. Decorative palm trees lining the initial stretch are stunted by fortress walls towering behind them. Beyond rows of shaded benches are small gardens with statues and local artwork clearly labeled with intent.La Princesa is the city's historic jail; an intriguing colonial structure now incarcerating the island's tourism headquarters. But most breeze right passed, drawn towards the spectacular la Fontana de las Raíces containing bronze sculptures depicting formations of local heritage. Spray from the waters is driven by winds coming off the harbor. Terraced decks contain fully-exposed benches and frequent lovers. Sunset romance is further catered to on Sundays from 5:30-7:30 with musical performances.Rounding the corner, La Muralla imposes full attention for closer inspections of the historic sandstone walls. The myriad of perspectives are confounding, tightly pinned between power of presence and sultry scents from the bay. Structures and objects peeking over the top remind that you're an outsider all but voyaging back in time.Garden alcoves spring forth from the wall's indentions suggesting this effort is something not to rush. The densest of shade provides comfort from the Caribbean sun, but the coolest effects come from the wall, with numerous places to stop and grope. Place your face against its soothing touch, even in the darkest of night, while personally serenaded by natural sounds of Old San Juan.The halfway point of this Lovers' Lane is distinguished at the Puerta de San Juan; one of six original gated passageways into the city, and the only one remaining. Otherwise, the walkway continues onward; this portion open until 10:00 pm.Finally completed in the late ‘90s, second half of the paseo contrasts the refined subtleties earlier encountered and gets strictly down to the business of fortification. There's nothing quaint about this excerpt the almost 500-year purpose of warding off strangers. Even locals shy away from this stretch until sunset joggers and speed walkers brave the course.In-depth details on large information placards are placed almost as strategically along the walk as the massive ramparts and bulwarks which overshadow them. Fascination in words pales in comparison with abrupt proximity of El Morro, firmly fixed into the cliffs. Nothing's as impressive as the aerial views dominating postcards, but venturing to the point and wishing for vision-contained, wide-angle mode is a must.Signs say to keep off the rocks, but obedience hampers further viewings. There's a water fountain; my only encounter during this last jaunt made in high-noon heat. Best panoramas reveal themselves walking back towards la puerta. Enter the city, and bide your time until conquest awaits at dusk...
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