San Juan Stories and Tips

Old San Juan on foot

The Paintings are in the Back Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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're in the area:

The African Shop
253 Calle San Justo
OSJ (tel)787-725-1572

The store had glaring 50% off most of the merchandise signs in red; can't miss that color! A huge inventory of African clothing, wooden masks, musical instruments, butterfly collections Z(big on this island), jewelry, antiques, african art, haitian art, some rasta hats.

We ask permission to take photos and the young woman who works there begins to talk with us and wants her boss, who is deep in conversation, to allow us to take shots of the store. The owner looks like the guy who used to do the Kola Nut commercial for 7 UP; remember that deep, labyrinth-like voice? Well, his clone is here, alive and well. After he realizes our intentions are honest, Chuck goes clicking around while I look at the paintings in the back that are so very colorful, always depicting Haitian life.

Then Mr. Owner requests a picture by himself, as he doesn't like the impromptu one taken by Chuck with him discussing business with some tourists. So we obliged. All kidding aside, if you are serious about African Art, you can find some terrific values in here, with the proviso that this 50% off sign is permanent.

We continue our walk, and as we head toward the pier, we see a magnificent cruise ship portside and start to plan the next, next vacation immediately. It's not terribly crowded this evening, and strolling around the old city is unhurried and the breeze is merciful.

We are now hungry, after talking about cruises and how much weight you put on aboard, we find a great restaurant inside the arcade next to the Wyndham called la Isla Bonita . After dinner, we head toward the tourism office which is open! In we go and start taking one of everything; additionally, some artisans are displaying their wares around the building and some of the sidewalks adjacent to it. They are almost all tipicos of Puerto Rico artisanship and Chuck buys me a wonderful leather key chain with my initial on it. A old man is begging for money with lackluster results.

. We head back towards the Wyndham, and go in to find out what the rates are at this time, and are quoted $145 for a standard room. They, too, have a casino on the premises. Outside the hotel, there is an outside café area where a live entertainer is singing and swinging. We stop to listen and sway to the beat of the band. She ends her show with Santana's Oye Como Va .There couldn't be a better finale as I am dancing on the sidewalk.

We hail a cab back to hotel; our driver is delighted to tell us all about Bayamon where he lives with his family and loves it. He recommends that we go there to get a flavor of the real Puerto Rico. Will we ever find the time to follow all the recommendations we are getting. Back at the hotel, the lobby is very crowded, dancers crowd the floor in front of the band. We make our way to La Vista , the hotel's poolside restaurant to have tea and Chuck orders a passion fruit/guava smoothie . Ocean air is fresh and not too many people are dining now. Our feet begin to ask for mercy, so back to room 614 in anticipation of a new day.

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