Juan Griego is a small harbour side city on the Northern side of Margarita Island. During my short stay there, it was very easy to fall in love with the old world charm which encompasses the entire neighbourhood. It's one of those places on this planet where you'd swear simply morphed out of a history book into our present day and age.
The most noticeable feature of Juan Griego is the harbour itself. The small cove is home to countless small wooden fishing boats, docked while awaiting their return to the Caribbean Sea. The water in the harbour is very clear and of a light blue colour, due to being sheltered by a mountain range to the West and cliffs to the East.
The subsequent absence of waves make this a prime feeding ground for hundreds of brown pelicans who make this harbour their home. They dive into the water from great heights at rapid rates and it's a real sight to see. When the pelicans aren't fishing for a meal, they simply hang out on the roofs and hulls of the fishing boats, which seem to suffice as their nesting spots.
Further inland, is the quiet but formidable town where most of the locals shop, eat, work or simply pass the time away. The numbers of old school vehicles which drive on the streets are staggering, from small VW beetles to rusted trucks. Apparently, mechanics on the island must make a pretty good living!
The culinary side of the town focuses on seafood, seeing as the fishing industry is quite large. The prices are very affordable, and meals are prepared with local seasonings and herbs which provide a dinstinct yet pleasant flavour. For breakfast, my friends and I ordered as much arepas as we could possibly eat. This spanish staple consists of a flat corn flour bun with different types of meat in the center and grated cheese. I tried the fish, chicken and beef arepas and each was extremely tasty! The cost was approximately $1 USD, and two would provide a filling meal.
Another specialty of Margarita Island which became very obvious to us during our first day there, was the abundance of freshly made fruit juices. The bartenders and shopkeepers actually throw the fruits into the blender right in front of the customers, and within seconds, you're being poured a tall class of watermelon, canteloupe, orange or peach drink. This is what the locals mainly drink, and it took a considerable amount of effort to find a can of soda in Juan Griego!
Further down the street has several stores, shops and vendors selling trinkets such as magnets, keyrings and wooden jewelry. I bought a few, but found the prices weren't as good a bargain as I was hoping for. I guess we had finally arrived in the tourist district! Anything from clothes, electronics and tools can be bought downtown, and bargaining is allowed.
A few churches and old buildings are scattered throughout the community, and they are kept in great condition. The European influence is apparent in the number of small town squares which have stone statues, trees and several benches for relaxation. I had a glass of coconut crush with milk and sugar while staring out at the harbour from one of the benches. The entire area is really laid back, and before I knew it, the morning was over.
Juan Griego really grew on me, and I absolutely enjoyed my stay there. I spoke enough Spanish to engage in a few conversations, and every local I spoke to was not only helpful, but very friendly and welcoming. Venezuela may have a bad reputation in the travel industry, but Juan Griego is another world all on its own!