Written by Ishtar on 15 Dec, 2001
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…Read More
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 could until the neighborhood really started to deteriorate; we turned around and it was then that we found
La Patisserie de France . About a block east of the hotel, is a Walgreen's Drugstore which was a lifesaver for me. Actually, it is a much bigger deal down here than back home. It is located at:
1130 Ashford Avenue
After a brief survey, I have concluded that prices are approximately 20% higher than on the mainland, and there is more emphasis on beauty products and more brands for the modern woman who lives here. In addition to filling prescriptions, they have a mini-market, gifts, beach accessories, some computer supplies, toys, office supplies, frozen foods, snacks. This is where we repeatedly bought bottled water as the tap water in SJ leaves a lot to be desired. Also picked up some diskettes from my sony digital, emergency polish remover, cotton balls, juice, and munchies. They also do one hour photo and have an ATM on the premises.
A few feet away is a beauty salon that really taught me the meaning of an Ashford Avenue address. I walked in as I had wanted a fresh manicure and pedicure. The shop was completely empty except for the man behind the desk. I first asked about the pedicure and was dumbfounded when he replied $40.00! So I asked the same question in Spanish to ensure that I had made myself understood, and the answer came right back at $40.00. So I dared to ask if there was any special treatment that came with the pedicure like massage, paraffin, what not. Well, no, just regular pedicure. I made a U turn, and rejoined Chuck on the sidewalk.
The identical scenario, or somewhat similar took place at a predominantly male clothing store (a few token dresses), where silk shirts were upward of $120. They had signs in the window advertising pants for $20.00, and as long as we stayed at the Marriott, we never were able to see anyone shopping there.
So, we cross the street, and find a condom shop and we always find these to be great fun, so in we go. There is one thing that you will see here that just does not go over too well on the mainland, and those are huge bathing towels with bare breasted women on them. They are also prominently displayed in souvenir shops as well. It's refreshing to see such openness; but it does go hand in hand with the cat and mouse game that Latins play between the sexes. Well stocked in sex toys, games, gags, and flavored liquids.
As we continue our walk, I notice a very charming, small parador that used to be the consulate office for Spain. Info below:
Hotel El Consulado
1110 Ashford Avenue
We go inside to inquire about the rates and look at the rooms. It smells really clean and a young woman shows us 2 different rooms: one with balcony and one without. Both looked very comfortable and streamlined. The facilities are air conditioned, and the manager quotes us $85/night with complimentary continental breakfast. It is good to remember these folks, as they are part of the very first chain of Puerto Rican hotels designated as IHPPR. They have other locations near the beaches, and you can check out their website at www.ihppr.com.You're in the heart of Condado, so if you don't mind being away from an ocean view, I certainly wouldn't mind staying here.
This was the day we went to rent our car at Avis who are also located on the Avenue. We also caught the bus here, # B21 which takes you right into Old San Juan for $0.25. As a footnote, I'd like to say that drivers here are extremely courteous and do yield the right of way to pedestrians.
We did Ashford in the other direction the night we went to dinner at Stone Crab Alley . The Avenue was really dressed up in lights including the restaurant, and after the meal, we walked and saw a few other restaurants, Italian, Mexican, and see posh shops, one of them is Oggetti which I've been dying to go into, and is having some sort of private tasting in one of their rooms. There are also expensive and elegant clothing stores.
We also go by El Canario hotels is on Ashford, and we did go in to get some information. They have 3 locations, and the Canario by the Sea is around the corner from the Marriott facing the beach. The street is a dead end, and has served us well for parking our little Echo. We end the stroll by going into a local grocery store which is a couple of blocks from the hotel.
Written by Ishtar on 16 Dec, 2001
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…Read More
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 see too many weavers. Highway 26 becomes Route 3 which is fine, as you will stay on there; it's a limited access highway, so you will have to contend with stop lights, but there's lots of stuff to see along the way.
We passed Plaza La Carolina Mall and the Carolina Shopping Court . Then there was a huge semi-circular stadium on the road, a municipal court house and a Lilly Drug manufacturing plant. Drug Manufacture is Puerto Rico's principal export, to our surprise. Then comes another huge strip mall with Kmart, Home Depot and all the stuff you can think of. Mountains in the background are the only "anomaly". The weather will change drastically as you get closer to el Yunque . We also passed by the Belz Outlets , which is advertised everywhere as it is fairly new. It's around Cavanovas . The neighborhood starts to deteriorate at this point, although it remains fairly clean. Houses turns to shacks. A sign indicates that the Rio Grande Plantation Eco Resort is here, so note that the National Forest is coming up and as Route 191 sneaks up on you, so stay alert, as it will take you to el Yunque.
Luquillo Beach is a stone’s throw from the Forest, and we went into the Park area which precedes the beach. As it was a week day, the grounds and beach were fairly deserted. We were not terribly prepared for the beach, as we had no towels, no change of clothing, no bathing suits. What is most striking about Luquillo is the cleanliness of the huge park, and of the beach itself. All of the beach eateries were closed except for one souvenir shop that remained opened. There were less than five bathers as the weather was quite fickle, but the expanse of sea, sky and sand was intoxicating. There was one woman sunbathing and reading; a family with 2 children where I found anchor and threw down whatever I had brought along. Chuck was already in the water; I made a bold move and removed my tee shirt and decided to go into the water with my bra and shorts! The water was amazingly warm with shreds of algae floating by with the tides. Imagine having Luquillo Beach almost to yourself? The sun was really not hot enough to dry my clothing, so I had to improvise a bit.
We are now making our way to Fajardo which is a lovely little resort town at the tip of Puerto Rico's northeast coast. We never find the beach, instead, we get out to see the town square where men are busy putting together Christmas decorations. There is a promenade with some apparel shops and shoe stores. I spent quite a bit of time in the women's shop as they had the type of dresses I love to wear, long and flowing with spaghetti straps. Chuck had already toured the rest of the shopping area in the meantime. Back in the car, we are trying to find a restaurant to have a bite. This will not happen until we reach Humacao which is south of Fajardo actually. In our desire to find the shore, we hit on the Marina which is incredible. There are so many boats here that they are parked 3 high; there is a hotel on the premises. But no vehicles can go past that point so we turn around. We are on Route 53 and making our way to Humacao which is a major city, around all small and poor villages. The mountains are truly majestic around them. We go through the towns of Ceiba and Naguabo , and somewhere between those two, we hit a dead end at the Roosevelt Roads Naval Reservation Golf which is for military personnel only. Dinner at Chili's is quite welcome and tasty. Chuck goes for the beef sirloin fajitas and I have a hamburger. After dinner, we go into Sam's Club because Chuck wants to check out their prices. It’s no big deal really although it's quite large and the locals here apparently like to shop. We are asking people at the door for directions and we get 3 different versions. Night is falling and this will be our first solo ride in the evening in Puerto Rico. It turns out to be quite rapid and efficient; the roads, signs are well maintained and if you are alert, you will not miss your exits. We actually get back on Route 53 which will dump us on 30 west which you take all the way up and back to San Juan. Speed limit varies between 60 & 55, and when you get closer to Bayamon, you'll get a 4 lane highway instead of 2. A long day, indeed.
Written by Ishtar on 13 Dec, 2001
Chuck captures the sunrise on camera and it's mind blowing as he takes several shots showing the sun's position. He's quite excited about it and when I wake up, I get to see it on the computer screen. The day is going to be great,…Read More
Chuck captures the sunrise on camera and it's mind blowing as he takes several shots showing the sun's position. He's quite excited about it and when I wake up, I get to see it on the computer screen. The day is going to be great, so we are getting ready to have breakfast at the main house, and we are joined by a family of 4 that arrived yesterday who speak no English. They have 2 turbulent boys whose hyperactivity cannot be satisfied by the bucolic surroundings.
Today, we have yet another server, and it seems they all work part time. Once again, the colorful place mats take their spot on the tables, and eggs are starting to fry. There is a self-service beverage bar where you can have tea or coffee while you wait and jugo de china which is orange juice. Chuck goes for the fried eggs, and I select the scrambled with cheese. The absence of fruit at breakfast surprises me, as it is normally a staple in the Caribbean.
The sun is already playing games on the water, and it goes in and out of the clouds. After breakfast, we step into the lounge library and look at the collection of what turns out to be mostly paperback novels. Actually, I'd call it literary trash, but I spot a copy of the Satanic Verses by Rushdie which I've been wanting to read, so we have a find. For Chuck, I find a book on the world's rainforests. We are actually going to go back upstairs, open our door, and let the sound of this little corner of earth into our room. We had our bathing suits on the terrace in the hope that they would dry, but they are still quite damp. Chuck is itching to go to the beach, so he takes off as I relax in bed, and do some writing. A few minutes after, in my bathing suit, I join him on one of the chaises lounges. We sit in awe of what we are seeing, albeit not the first time we are faced with such wonder. The sun feels delicious, but neither one of us really can sit in it too long. I decide to go on a hunt for beach pebbles which are of a certain veined variety, and Chuck installs himself in one of the hammocks and falls asleep. In the meantime, I have gathered quite a collection of red veined pebbles which are going to join the rest of the assortment back home.
After being fairly well rested, we head to the pool area of which we never took advantage as the water was quite cool and uninviting. We look around, and there are 3 pools in all; the main large pool, a jacuzzi which is not turned on, and a kid's pool. There is a wet bar facility, but nothing in it. We were told that parties are held here, and my imagination tells me they must be quite a hit. There are quite a few uva del mar trees, and these actually grow right out of the sand on the beach. I originally discovered them in Caracas in 1966 when I made my first trip there, and have been completely enthralled by their shape and versatility. We also cross paths with a couple of lizards, but they must be very well fed down here as they are much larger than the ones in Ponce. I prefer to call them miniature iguanas.
We see the couple from Toronto, and he does some snorkeling in the water and retrieves a few snail shells. By the way, if you are really into swimming, the beach here is a bit inadequate with its very rocky shore. It actually HURTS! So I am not recommending this place for its beach although the tranquility and facilities on sand and between palms are extraordinary. One can always go and have a dip elsewhere as the shore line is neverending. We are both regretting the fact that we cannot spend any more time at Carib Playa.
Road # 3, KM86.4
This place is heavily advertised in the tourist guides as a seaside resort hotel, with gold and tennis courts on the Caribbean. It is in the Southeastern part of the island, and from Patillas, you need to stay close to the…Read More
Road # 3, KM86.4
This place is heavily advertised in the tourist guides as a seaside resort hotel, with gold and tennis courts on the Caribbean. It is in the Southeastern part of the island, and from Patillas, you need to stay close to the coast; but we do discover a couple of treasures along the way. We make our way through crooked streets, sleeply villages and mountainside restaurants. The Caribbean is always there, either in the distance or within a few feet of the road. At one point, we see the seashore with a magnificent sandy front with some houses perched on the cliffs. We come to an abrupt end which has a "danger" warning. Park the car, and negotiate the rocky make shift stairway to the beach. To the left, an impressive cognac colored rock juts out of the water and the contrast against the blue is heart stopping. The sea is calm except for the gentle unfurling of the waves and there is not a soul as far as the eye can see. Run in the water, along the shore, get wet more ambling. Wonder how many people know about this spot. At one point, we see some kids going to the other side near the rock. Snap more pictures. It is hard to capture the mood in words.
Back in the car and continuing on Route 3, we catch a glimpse of the resort: what is most striking are the olla colored tile roofs, accented with palms, lagoons, and the extremely blue sea.
However, this is not just a resort, but a self contained community where people have purchased houses and/or condominiums. There are also those who have memberships to the country club and come here seasonally.
When we arrived, Chuck went inside to get some literature while I remained in the car, and enjoyed the perfect weather. Building and expansion is on-going; if you live here, you will have available to you a supermarket, a bank, a shopping center, 5 or 6 quality restaurants, several tennis courts, and a marina on the premises. There is a private, bi-lingual school as well for kids to attend. You also have access to a 3 mile long private beach. Hey, you never need to leave home! Clearly, this is not for us.
But obviously, the popular concept has attracted many families here: prices for the condos start in the low $200K. You have access to a 3 mile long private beach. There are plans to erect a hospital and 2 churches here in the future.
This area used to be a sugar cane plantation and was developed into this community resort/residential area by a Charles Fraser and Esteban Padilla. The lawns, where the land is developed are well tended although some of the greens of the golf course looked a bit ratty. There is a lagoon in the midst of the development which adds some flair. Very few people were out and about when we got there which was about 3pm. A weekend here may be in order.
Should you wish to make a visit if you are looking to buy, here's the contact information:
Angel Del Moral
Associate Broker, Lic # 04811
Palmas Del Mar Properties Inc
Box 2020, Humacao, PR 00792
Tel: 787-852-8888 X 245
Written by Ishtar on 14 Dec, 2001
We are now wanting to head to Ponce and are getting onto Route 2. As we leave the Dorado area, we are trying to find the most direct route there. We go past many hospitals and diagnostic services (for your information, Puerto Rico's #…Read More
We are now wanting to head to Ponce and are getting onto Route 2. As we leave the Dorado area, we are trying to find the most direct route there. We go past many hospitals and diagnostic services (for your information, Puerto Rico's # 1 source of revenue is drug manufacturing), car dealers, vacant lots for development or sale. Road is elevated at one point and you can see the poverty mixed in with industry. There is an American University here as well. We are supposed to cut to Rte 165 south and unfortunately we take the first ramp instead of the second, which leads us back towards San Juan. We miss Rte 165 completely as it never shows up as an intersection on 2. The next road going south is 160 which turns into 159 which goes south. Also at some point, the road becomes 143 and the voyage from hell starts at about here.
This itinerary is not for the faint at heart as we unknowingly are engaged in going over the roughest and highest terrain in Puerto Rico known as the Cordillera Central , which is a mountain chain that goes straight across the center of the island much like a spinal chord. Now understand that once you are on this road going up, it is very difficult to do a U because the road is barely sufficient at times for one car. If you are looking for stomach churning vistas, then I’ll tell you how to get here: On your map, you need to pass Vega Alta after which the intersection for Route 160 appears. Go South on 160 and proceed; actually I drove for part of the way here, and we get to see some quaint villages, in really rural areas. One of the interesting things we found was a kind of post office box terminal, for lack of a better word, where the village’s mailboxes are all in one spot for them to come and get their mail. As you go higher in the mountains, you see these, but with less frequency.
You will pass the towns of Morovis and Orocovis. You are still on 143 and will stay on there for the duration of the ascent and descent which will take a couple of hours. We reached an altitude of almost 4,000 feet and there are frequent curves on the passenger side (ME) where there are no guard rails, and the view is blood curdling . Chuck was joking as he knew I was less than ecstatic but at one point, I spotted a wonderful grapefruit tree and an orange tree right next it, and asked him to stop. When I stepped out of the car, the fragrance of the grapefruits struck me, and I wanted one or two to take back. So, I found a roadside stick and started hitting them with very little result. So I went over to the oranges, with similar luck. Guess who came to the rescue? I think the mountain air does something to these fruits.
We had hoped to reach the foothills before sundown, but we were not that lucky. Our target was not even Ponce at this point, but the town of Villalba which is on the other side of this mountain range. We stopped to ask for directions and when people tell you things are not far, take it with a grain of salt. It was pitch black when we landed in Villalba and I was ready to just find a place to settle down for the night. Well there are no hotels here according to a man on the street, who wanted to sell us a house (?!). Next large town is Juana Diaz where we find a phone and a place to eat. Here’s that info:
Carre. 14, Calle Comercio # 16
Juana Diaz 787-837-5858
This restaurant is centrally located and is quite large, well lit and appears spotlessly clean. While I’m glad to be alive, I’m not terribly hungry so I order
arroz frito pequeño (small fried rice) for $1.65 and a Tropicana drink which is large enough for us to share. Chinese food is very popular in Puerto Rico; the menu here is heavy on shrimp dishes,-for instance camaron con broccoli at $6.50. Sopa Wanton is $2.25. (there is only one size for soup). They take some license here to accommodate the native taste: Papas fritas and Pollo Frito; (french fries, fried chicken in a Chinese restaurant? They also serve ensalada de lechuga y tomate , lettuce & tomato salad. Tostones (plantains) and Mofongo (mixture of plantains/ground meat and spices) are also on the menu. If you want sweet'n'sour chicken, you'd order pollo agridulce . Nothing on the menu exceeds $6.50. Service is fast and if you find yourself following this voyage, do stop here as it’s worth it.
We finally arrive in Ponce Via Highway 52 and go toward the beach to check out what is happening, and it's pretty dead. Head to town center, and although all is well lit, our first impression is that Ponce is a ghost town despite all the hoopla about the cultural aspect of the town.
We check the first hotel we called, the Belgica , which is something of a hotel/parador. The man at the desk is very courteous and shows us a typical room. He claims that this hotel is the oldest in town. They do have charming balconies. We go upstairs to see the room, and albeit clean, we know immediately we are not going to stay here. There is no restaurant on the premises, no ice, no water. There were also no phones in the room which was pivotal for us, as we need to check our business email. He recommends we go and see the Melia which is across the street on the same side as the Parque de Bombas (firehouse). It takes us a few turns to find this and the one way streets are not helping us. As we drive, we see many structures abandoned, boarded up, or in total disarray. Finally find the hotel the entrance for which is on calle Cristina, which is a side street; by the way, this hotel has no affiliation with the international Melia chain; it has been privately owned since 1901.
Written by Jose Kevo on 23 Apr, 2006
Sometimes, the best travel experiences reveal themselves in the most unlikely ways, and there's a nameless driver to potentially thank for this one. Back in '94, when first discovering Puerto Rico and booking the most popular tourist excursion, the brief encounters with El Yunque's rainforest,…Read More
Sometimes, the best travel experiences reveal themselves in the most unlikely ways, and there's a nameless driver to potentially thank for this one. Back in '94, when first discovering Puerto Rico and booking the most popular tourist excursion, the brief encounters with El Yunque's rainforest, and Luquillo beach were supposedly highlights of the trip. Preparing to head back towards San Juan, the driver announced we were going to take a diversion from the main highway by which we'd arrived.Whether it was part of the tour package, or another means to a destination's end, brief explanations for the upcoming exposure were almost apologetic. As defined, Highway 187 passed through one of the island's most breathtaking and poorest areas which had taken a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo in '89. Originating from the Midwest and with 2 years in NYC, hurricanes had never spawned much thought beyond fading headlines until now, in this land where the word originated thanks to Jurakán; the Tainos' God of malice.Lush terrain periodically gave-way to open expanses filled with topless trunks where winds had snapped-off palm fronds like plucking sprigs of cilantro. Scattered around below were small gatherings of squatters, living in impoverished hovel appearing as if the storm had happened only the week before, not 5-years previously. Roaming goats, burros and chickens lazily disregarded the passing van, but gleaming smiles accompanied with vigorous waves from observant campesinos, were hard to miss and I filed the invitations to perhaps RSVP another time.Existence of impoverished underdogs has always held a peculiar amount of intrigue, justified in curiosity and admiration for their undoubted struggles charged with simplicity. As part of my first trip off the U.S. mainland, this initial segment of Highway 187 would unknowingly fashion eventual life as a New Yorker, living and working with underprivileged Puerto Ricans in Spanish Harlem, and as a traveler looking to avoid tourist circuits in favor of cultural encounters off the beaten path. Sheltered perceptions were still in the processing stages that day when another distraction immediately redirected focus.A jaw-dropping expanse of primitive beach trailed-off for as far as eyes could see towards the west, shimmering in earliest stages of sunset. By then, most of the other passengers had tuned-out or dozed-off; awaiting drop-offs at their Isla Verde resorts. But even I was disregarding driver's commentary to insure not a single glimpse was tainted beyond the visual strain. Never had I seen, little alone imagined, a palm forest that intermittently gave way to coastal panoramas, vividly stained in my psyche to this day. Since that time, the mental and photographic gallery of images have remained ongrowing!Over the last 12-years, there's been numerous occasions to reconvey those initial impressions, still just as verdant and convincing. The Piñones beachfront had commanded frequent encores in the company of friends as a voluntary alternative to San Juan gathering spots. Pithy explorations had taken place when having access to a rental car or by using public transportation, which now extends through this entire area. However, nothing will ever supplement for leisures afforded during these latest pursuits; calm in the midst of no storms during height of the most active hurricane season on-record.Highway 187 continually proves to be more than just a scenic alternative. It's revival of a state of mind which transports anyone ready, willing and able. The all-you-can-perceive buffet specializes in reckoning the most ordinary into the extraordinary. With unlimited trips recommended for the mental digestive system, I recently found myself frequently turning around; back-tracking short distances, or even heading back to the inception and beginning again which proved to be the only method for leaving no scope unappreciated.Thanks to flagrant refreshings induced by time of day and weather conditions, highlights of natural refinements waver through stages of sun-kissed brilliance to silhouetted shadows; guaranteed to transcend every venture into another maiden voyage. At times, ears were splitting -- not so much from pounding Salsa music on the car stereo, but from colossal smiles found when looking in the rear-view mirror. Windows rolled down are an absolute must for accentuating the fresh air and ocean breezes; periodic blasts on inevitable goose bumps assured to counter potential sweat.Remembering what it was like to be 16, and the first time allowed to take the car out without any supervision, this immortal strip of roadway unfolds like a pilgrimage back to youth. Perhaps that's why Highway 187 ranks at the top of my travel list when it comes to favorite roadtrips and joyrides.So, with one hand on the wheel and with camera ready in the other, come along conmigo for the ride...
Tunnel VisionStarting at the Río Grande turn-off and heading west towards San Juan, Highway 187 immediately meanders into fertile farmlands. In some stretches, roadside vegetation forms dense canopy tunnels which flaunt optical illusions based on stages of the sun and shadows. The Luquillo mountain range, which embodies El Yunque and the tropical rainforest, is usually only visible of an afternoon. On morning jaunts heading out, mountains vanish into humid haze.
Along for the RideBe prepared to share the road! Horseback riders, along with cyclists, pedestrians, and roaming animals, are all part of the side-show. The entire two-lane roadway is narrow, and often doesn't have shoulders. Expect plenty of blind curves as well as places for pulling over. Drive with caution stoked with eager awareness.
Stages of ProgressEl Oasis is one of those Latin American dreams in the making, where patrons can stop in for just a bit of everything. Perhaps starting with a wooden roadside stand, local entrepreneurs save money until they can construct an inexpensive, cinder-block structure allowing them to expand business. Second phases usually involve building a home on the second floor. On weekends, this place was packed!
Natural RegentrificationLong-cleared for the wood, and to accommodate grazing for livestock, sections around the Piñones State Forest are now reverting to original environs; this field redestined to become a coconut forest within a couple of decades. Afternoon skies are often contrasted with sunlight accentuating dark storm clouds which brew in humidity over the nearby mountain range, and then pull-out towards the coast with strong showers.
Home Sweet HomeRegardless of how insignificant income levels may be, roadside inhabitants are abandoning clapboard shacks in favor of structures more durable against tropical storms and hurricanes. It's very common for islanders to still live off the land by gardening, raising livestock, and fishing across the street in the ocean.
YesterdaySome of my best memories and meals took place in these types of casual eateries, as pictured back in '97. For squatter vendors, mostly illegal Dominicans, start-up costs were low and risks minimal. When businesses blew away during passing storms, owners simply collected necessary pieces and started over. However, local government officials would periodically come through and raze all structures -- only to find them reappearing within in a matter of weeks. Once the Wilderness Trail was completed, clusters of food kiosks were also built on inland side of the road based on licensing and monitoring vendors. They don't have near the appeal or charm, but there's still plenty of rustic, renegade spots if that's what you're seeking.
Island AccessoriesOther roadside accents include colorful arrays of beach gear, water sports equipment, and a wide-assortment of other nonessential merchandise. Prices are always cheap and negotiable.
Stolen MomentsSands aren't the only things which heat-up on any given afternoon. Latin Lovers indefatigably exercise the myth, and often redefine concepts of wildlife viewing in their various stages of passion. It's all part of the package -- romance; shared and unaccompanied experiences that inflame the spirit, regardless of age.
Following the CrowdsOn weekends, especially in heavily trafficked areas, take a cue from locals and grab the first parking spot you find. Always make sure to lock valuables in the trunk. It's easier to walk to everything nearby while fully taking-in surroundings.
The Truancy for Slackers TrapTo say Piñones has developed into quite the local Hot Spot would be a gross understatement! The assortment of roadside businesses is mind-boggling, and while options are unlimited, selections are not though there are upscale restaurants tucked-away amid the clutter. In addition to standard rations, fresh seafood is very popular.Even when traffic isn't backed-up, proceed slowly and with caution. The frivolous sundry of signs and advertisements is distracting -- like the train wreck you can't tear your eyes away from. Specific destinations and recommendations are untraceable even when asking for directions. Piñones specializes in irresponsible spontaneity. Oddly enough, that's part of the appeal.Close
Written by Jose Kevo on 10 Jan, 2006
Numerous years had passed since bothering with a rental car, and apprehensions were mounting while listening to others in the pick-up van sharing horror stories regarding mishaps on the road. This, coupled with rental agencies seeming to require all but signing your life away, was…Read More
Numerous years had passed since bothering with a rental car, and apprehensions were mounting while listening to others in the pick-up van sharing horror stories regarding mishaps on the road. This, coupled with rental agencies seeming to require all but signing your life away, was enough to question my entire travel plan, but fear not! Having access to a rental car in Puerto Rico is an inexpensive splurge, and the best way for leisurely exploring the 100 by 35-mile island beyond San Juan's growing public transportation system, expensive taxis, and organized group excursions. Here's a Road Warrior's Guide to maximizing driving experiences while minimizing costs and risks.
Bilingual agents help wade through all the paperwork and fine print. They accept no cash; major credit cards only. I probably should've checked about hidden fees when making reservations. Insurance coverage from using my credit card does not include Thrifty's liability insurance of $5.95 per day. This raised the base-rate from $20.19 to $26.14, not including taxes and fees, and ended up costing more than other listings which may, or may not have had other hidden costs. Total daily rate was $29.11.
Toyotas are built for punishment and endurance, and the Echo handled well bouncing along off-road, or heading up steep mountain inclines. Compact size was a real bonus with fuel effeciency and for squeezing into tight parking spaces. The basic stereo came with a cd-player, and a sound system that proved to be as Puerto Rican as the license plate! Most won't likely care for the musty smell which permeates everything in the tropical humidity; cars especially stale from air-conditioning moisture. Scents disappeared within a couple of minutes; especially if opting to drive with windows down to maximize island breezes while conserving fuel. Otherwise, consider bringing an auto air freshener.
There was plenty of leg room in front, but backseat passengers will be cramped; especially if riding long distances. For such a small car, the trunk space was huge for accommodating luggage. When stopping anywhere, make sure to put all items in the trunk to prevent auto break-ins said to be common.
Fortunately, the Toyota Echo didn't even use a tank of gas after driving around for five days. Gulf stations were the cheapest before and after price hikes. A full tank of gas, at .78 a liter/$2.95 a gallon, cost $27.75. Make sure to refuel before returning the rental. The car was issued with an additional $100.95 refundable charge on the bill for fuel valued at $4.35 a gallon.
Lesser roads often deteriorate with pot-holes, and entire low-level sections flood during significant rains in rural or city settings. Off major highways, San Juan's suburbs beyond the Condado-Isla Verde tourist strip are a maze of unmarked streets, older highways, and new transportation construction projects. At one point it took over an hour driving from Río Piedras back to the nearby airport, and while never considering myself lost, I certainly had no idea where I was.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with appropriate Spanish-related driving terms that appear on highway signs/markers which will help make finding your way around much easier. Traffic waiting for exits, especially in the San Juan metro area, often backs-up in multiple lanes, and locals consider it nothing to try and race ahead in outside lanes before cutting over at the last minute. Puerto Ricans drive more agressively than recklessly, and definitely expect others to share the road!
Take note that law enforcement vehicles drive with their visabar lights on. There was quite the panic when a squad car appeared on my tail with lights flashing. Fumbling with seat-belt (law requires you wear them) and drivers license while pulling over, the officer went racing by to my relief. Should you receive any type of driving citation or parking ticket, make sure to track down how to pay them before returning the rental car. Any unpaid fine that resurfaces to your license plate will be automatically billed to your credit card, with a hefty processing fee.
Street-side parking, along the narrow, congested passageways, saved the minimum $4.50 per hour that parking garages charge. At no point was I ever forced to park more than two blocks from the Guesthouse, but it's more luck than anything. Locals seem to park everywhere regardless of yellow/blue paints on curbs, or numerous No Parking signs designated for loading areas or government dignitaries. Best I could surmise, most parking rules applied only from 8:00am-5:00pm on weekdays, but it never hurt to ask the merchant about regulations in front of their business.
Leaving before 8:00, and not returning until after 5:00, made for quick exits/re-entries, and parking. Yet the one weekday I returned around 2:00pm, a needed bathroom break interrupted the hopeless search for parking, and I headed back towards the suburbs. Streetside parking was readily available later that afternoon, but here's another tip for major consideration. Especially Friday-Sunday, have a spot and be prepared to stay for the night! By 7:00pm, police began blocking off streets preparing to receive what appear's to be the entire island which invades Old San Juan on weekends.
If you're staying in the area and can't find parking, there's a pair of garages on Calle San Francisco that offer a $4.50 overnight rate given to local residents; again provided you're gone by 8:00am the following morning. Otherwise, the largest cluster of parking garages are across from the cruiseship port along Calle la Marina.
When heading towards Old San Juan, an endless construction project on the Condado Lagoon Bridges only adds to congestion and confusion. Once coming through the jumbled intersection, an immediate left along Highway 1 leads to the cruiseship port and parking garages. Highway 25 heads toward the cluster of hotels before clipping left to run along the northern rim, feeding into Old San Juan's Calle San Francisco along the northern border of Plaza de Colón.
Written by Jose Kevo on 29 Sep, 2004
Well-rehearsed images are always enticingly the same: Sitting on the left, at an "A"-window seat of an American Airlines jet; beyond needing verbal queues from flight crew or feel of the plane's descent. Heart and mind racing with anticipation serve as the built-in…Read More
Well-rehearsed images are always enticingly the same: Sitting on the left, at an "A"-window seat of an American Airlines jet; beyond needing verbal queues from flight crew or feel of the plane's descent. Heart and mind racing with anticipation serve as the built-in compass, confirmed by Atlantic white-caps becoming more distinguishable. Tease of peering through the window is almost unbearable until finally glimpsing "the enchanted one".These treasured visions have became an incurable obsession in progress. They never tire or fade, but conveniently keep luring me back for re-embellishments - enough time to rendezvous with what's obviously become manic fixation that I'm not sure how long I could survive without.When heading from the States and debarking the plane, it's as if eternally waiting for that initial perfumed scent, or first warm embrace ... natural Viagra for the soul. I'm still enamored from that first chance encounter, but it's taken all 10 years of this ongoing tryst for rendering myself hopelessly enthralled; willing to wallow uncontrollably in questionable spoils of infidelities until one of us ceases to exist.Scattered Seeds...Call it a Latin ThingAs a first-time visitor, it would've been shameful not to have paid proper respects through a brief, introductory acquainting with elders held in highest esteem. Tearing myself away from the beach scene involved more obligation than I cared for, but some things in life need to be done regardless of motivation.I found her waiting almost as if she'd been expecting me. Perhaps nothing special beyond daily routine for anyone else seeking to pay homage, but inviting just the same. Seizing initial hospitality was hesitant thanks to my own agenda. I'm sure half-hearted company was nothing unfamiliar when it comes to the aged.Going through the motions of showing interest in past significance was poorly disguised. However, when life has been rich and full for those with seasoned understanding, they need muster no special effort for bridging generational gaps. Whether appreciated or ignored, it's all the same.Shame of actions didn't fully reveal until later, combing through photos and realizing how much had been taken for granted. Thankfully, a camera had preserved the grandeur, which a forced presence had chosen to reject. Enlargements eventually hanging around only begged to have details filled in.An extended weekend back in Isla Verde was just that and nothing more. But after a second reappearance with fellow New Yorkers claiming to love Puerto Rico based on nothing more than tourist traps masquerading as beach resorts, I could no longer justify shortcomings. Pleading my case, there were no curious takers leaving confines for anything beyond.Determined not to settle for labeling myself a resort tourist, returning with a rental car seemed only way to soothe the magnetic affection that had been tempting me forward. I gorged myself with those initial tastes of island life; reluctant to tear myself from the spread with final days waiting back in San Juan. After checking into my Condado hotel, there was a hunger still waiting to be fed.It was late afternoon when parking along the stately northern passageway. Crossing street, a convincing leap placed me atop the fortress wall with a commanding presence typical of a macho-driven society. Demure vistas were mine for the taking without indecision while blazing an unknown path that would become my defining ingredient. And then, I stepped out of the shadows.There she was, still waiting as if knowing I'd be back. The brujas de Santeria must have caste a spell melting to the core of my being; dumb-struck and totally exposed from gaze of presence radiating in stages of sunset. There were no more obligatory pleasantries or formalities. The veil had came off as if in desperation to keep from loosing me a second time. Later, after some swoon-struck first-time experience, I declared my eternal devotion and moved in the next day.Back in New York, friends weren't overly interested in what could've possibly transpired beyond resort walls. Sneering was only appropriate when invited back for another timeshare on Isla Verde. Besides, a steamy summer reencounter had already been devised.By now the leash had come off, living only 3- half hours away, but Old San Juan had developed as my ideal version of domestic; the perfect kind of package to come home to on a routine basis. And no matter how far I strayed, loyalty and faithfulness always remained true in my heart. When it came to flirting with distant relatives, the ugly firstborn sister next door; the motherland and family roots beyond, there was still only one I cared to be with.The Mistress ScornedI'll never forget the arriving flight while looking out over shapely figure sprawled before me. It was no secret how badly I wanted to retrieve bags, cancel connecting flight, and sneak in for an extended massage of libido. But I kept going; willing to settle for my first layover quickie on the way home, except plans got rerouted through Santo Domingo only detouring guilt of actual cheating.There's no denying something drastically changed. Like anyone consumed with inner-struggles, avoiding confrontation was typical first line of defense. Coyly playing things off wasn't fooling anyone but myself; especially after those first few overnight layovers trying to fake old delusions. The art of distractions can be a bittersweet weapon; especially if used once too often.Succumbing to whatever had reignited the itch, a surprise late appearance for our five-year commemoration was in order.Thinking I could prowl back for a three-night stay like nothing happened was not transpiring. Landing in hot water is one thing. Dealing with constant tears and howling wrath quite the other. Pacing around while fully exposed sanctioned hollow rejection...returning lock myself in the room, playing chicken. Forewarnings about false sense of calm in the eye of the storm was all the allusions needed. No sense making a bad situation worse, and I caught the first flight available; dodging collision until things blew over.Time was my only consoling partner until deciding to test fate and slip back for "a night". There was no second guessing what had to be done, but who was I kidding? Crawling back every inch of the way would be worth ending separation. My charge was still connected; mere presence erasing any need for words. A blazing sunset rendered a submissive truce; unspoken secrecy that can make or break a man's character.Desiring Temptation - The Gratified ScenarioI lie motionless in the bed as not to wake a soul. The drowsy clack of the overhead fan serves as orchestrated soundtrack for the night. Smoke can be seen hanging in the distant air with the glow of every inhale; a red light patiently clicks away numbers...the digital alarm clock not set to go off for at least another hour.A renewed sense of spirit never quite blooms with eclipsing guilt; shameless but hampering just the same. Contemplative silence embraces the darkness, and I figure there's no sense prolonging the inevitable with bridled anticipation. After quietly gathering my things, I firmly grasp the door in hopes of muffling the squeak that would signal my slipping out. There's no mystery, I'll eventually be back.The city is sleeping comfortably with balcony doors flung open for wooing the predawn breeze; the lack of noise a rare luxury. For having such a lighter feeling about myself, there's always a counter-balance for suddenly how heavy bags weigh me down as I pass along abandoned Calle Fortaleza. Sometimes the cabbies don't even ask. They just know.Almost as if in respect to the silence of nocturnal magic, car stereos usually are not even turned on, giving perfect opportunity to begin processing the latest discretions into titillations. Contrition never has a chance against the all but twisted satisfaction; likely no different than marauding pirates of yore. But when is a little of something ever enough? Especially when it seems so forbidden? So far I've restrained never giving in to the taunting self-deceptions by asking the driver to turn the car around.Crossing bridges over the lagoon transports illusion back to actuality. Twinkling of the distant Condado strip is an image burned deeply into my mind that I frequently lose myself in; rows of beachfront hotels lit-up in the darkness with hints of a new day just beyond. I suppose significance is harbored in parting sadness and the whole I can't believe I went off and did this again conflict. What's done is done.The puddle-jumper whizzes down the runway towards the rising sun before sharply clipping over Isla Verde beach in a 180˚o turn that fully shifts everything westward and back towards internal purposeful perspective.Distance of separation grows ever so slightly but not before allowing one last look; tempting as ever, seductively laid back like a siren by the sea. At this point, call it mutual understanding and one last harmless flirtation, however futile. She knows; I've found another. Close
Often on a tight schedule and even tighter budget, food is usually the least of my priorities while opting to sate an appetite of a different kind. I'm a faithful patron to some, but there's also always a new find on the blocks that…Read More
Often on a tight schedule and even tighter budget, food is usually the least of my priorities while opting to sate an appetite of a different kind. I'm a faithful patron to some, but there's also always a new find on the blocks that manages to catch and satisfy my attention. Here's a few of my favorites, all conveniently located near the guesthouses:BreakfastCoffee dominates my Breakfast of Champions with a large costing $.89 at the Burger King on the corner of Tanca and San Francisco. There's a nice morning-shaded plaza across the street to enjoy while waking up! Fast-food joints litter the Old City with familiar fair and slightly cheaper prices.However, this last adventure, I found San Juan has finally caught up with the Starbuck's craze, and there's a new one just off the southwestern corner of Plaza de Colón heading south. Their pastry case is loaded with sweetbreads, muffins, and specialties featuring tamarind, guava, and other tropical pastes; a large coffee costing $1.80, great for enjoying outside at one of the umbrella-shaded tables while watching the city come to life.Tío Danny's, at 313 Fortaleza, has been a long-time favorite that is full of surprises since it's always undergone another change for keeping up with competition. If they still happen to be serving breakfast, a plate of eggs, potatoes, and choice of meat with bread and coffee is never more than $4. I've also had some exceptional local cuisine for lunch within the same price range, but the bonus is dining in the center courtyard of the colonial-styled historical building; something you'd never expect from the street. As of the summer of 2003, they convert into an upscale seafood house of an evening well beyond my price range.A couple of other favorite stand-bys are Cafeteria Mallorca at 300 Calle de San Francisco and La Bombanera just down the block and across the street at 259 San Francisco. Both offer standard, sit-down breakfasts for under $5. Their window fronts are loaded with fresh-baked items, both serve lunch, and La Bombanera stays open late for dinner with nothing on the menu costing over $15. The latter is worth passing through just to see this old-time diner and fountain counter operating "as is and as has been" historically for almost a century.LunchI stumbled across a new find during my last extended visit that's rather obscure but worth tracking down. Café Celeste is tucked away at 197 Callejón de la Capilla; a small alley that runs between San Francisco and Fortaleza. Initially I was drawn to the music and large crowd in the passageway of a late night...long after the food was gone. It's definitely a local hot spot without the frills, beers costing $1.50.For dining, they only serve lunch beginning around 10am and going until all the food for the day has been devoured. There's a new menu posted out front daily featuring 6 Creole favorites, such as stewed shredded beef in salsa, fried chicken, pork roast, pepper steak, and codfish just to name a few. Everything is packaged and ready for take-out, including large portions of rice and beans, salad, and non-alcoholic beverage of choice for $5.The space is very limited and crowded inside with compact walls lined with stand-up counters for eating on the run. Outside in the alley, there are a few shaded patio tables and chairs great for confirming you've found a memorable place. Aside from barely being able to finish what adequately suffices as the meal for the day, local life parades by to the beat of whatever Latin music is pulsing inside. Call it the final indicator of success, but I was surprised at the number of local business people in suits which made a quick appearance before returning to the office with a haul. I highly recommend this place.DinnerThe last meal of the day has always been somewhat of a challenge, and why I like to load-up on a late lunch regardless of afternoon heat factor. All the local-based places have closed, leaving a huge dining void with choices limited to posh, upscale-priced restaurants or fast-food; all their availabilities inconsistent based on whether cruise ships are in port.On the ground level next to the guesthouse on Tanca is a standard, Asian-run Chinese food take-out restaurant with lots of seating and the typical menu read around the world. They've tried recreating a few of the local dishes with rice, but stick with what they know - sweet and sour chicken or pork, veggie medley in garlic sauce, etc., for under $6, not including drink. It's something, if not convenient, and I find myself here more than I care to remember. Meals are made to order; obvious by the long wait if there's any type of business for the night.I don't patronize fast-food establishments at home and cringe at the thought of doing so here. But there's a pair of local chains serving up something different to spare you from McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC and the likes.Flamer's is on the corner of Tanca and Tetuah, and La Meson Grill is swallowed next door to Wendy's at the northwest corner across from Plaza de Arma. They've a large selection of salads and specialty sandwiches, but it's a pleasant change of pace to have a helping of tostones, boiled yucca, rice and beans, and other local favorites as side dishes. You can leave either of these places stuffed for under $7.Street VendorsWhat's a Latin encounter without swarms of vendors hawking drinks and snacks from make-shift carts? A day-time favorite are paraguas; cups of shaved ice saturated in tropical flavored syrups; better than any snow cone you'll ever have. They offer two sizes and I've never paid more than $2 for a large.Vendors tend to flock to a pair of high-traffic areas. You'll find them on Calle Norzagaray at the corner of the lawn leading up towards El Morro Fortress. This is also where you can purchase kites should you care to test your luck around the wind-swept sprawl. Vendors here are also only out until the sun goes down.The other cluster are always filling the plaza area just off the docks where cruise ship passengers come aground, and are often scattered along the straight-away entry to Paseo de la Princesa promenade. Expect their prices to be higher; especially if purchasing consumables or tourist trinkets from an immigrant vendor.The best experiences here come on evenings when there isn't a ship in port and the local, die-hard entrepreneurs are out like they've been for centuries. Surprisingly, pizza off one of these carts was decent; a large slice of pepperoni and coke for under $5.More than a NightIf planning on being around a couple of days, I head for the Super-Ex Mercado (formerly Pueblo de San Juan supermarket) on Calle Cruz on the eastern side of Plaza de Arma. You'll find a little of everything you would at home, but I challenge you to try the local brands of items rather than U.S./global kinds. You'll be pleased at the differences.Similar snacks and things for the room can also be found at Walgreen's on the northeast corner of Plaza de Arma or at a local drug store chain just across the street. The local version is more interesting, but both are priced higher than at the grocery store.Close
The few uphill blocks on Calle Tanca only escalate the beating of my heart after rushing in and out of the guesthouse to deposit luggage. There's a different type of baggage that always needs unpacking first. Once reaching Calle Norzagaray, what awaits has became my…Read More
The few uphill blocks on Calle Tanca only escalate the beating of my heart after rushing in and out of the guesthouse to deposit luggage. There's a different type of baggage that always needs unpacking first. Once reaching Calle Norzagaray, what awaits has became my defining ceremony of auto-exorcism for wiping the slate clean.
Just to the left of the small park area is a stretch of 9-foot high fortress barriers. Vault yourself up through one of the lowered rampart indentions, climb atop, and head where ever the wall may lead...
La Perla is the haphazardly assembled community just below the walls, but don't let warmth of assorted pastel colored buildings fool you. The streets are narrow and often filled with inhabitants in a crude but luring way. Enjoy views from your elevated observation deck but never accept an invitation to descend for a visit or simply getting a closer look. This intriguing area is one of the most dangerous for the entire island!
When approaching the large Neurobiological Research Center, the wall takes a right for gaining a profile view of La Perla and realizing just how stacked some of the make-shift structures are. Here you'll come across your first Garita (Sentry Box); strategically placed look-outs built into the fortress walls, which have become Puerto Rico's signature icon. There's a steep, walkable incline behind the research building leading towards El Cemeterio San Juan and the expansive Campo del Morro lawn leading up towards the featured fortress.
There's a soul-stirring affect of contrasts through these parts; modern-day life as islanders flock to the massive green sprawl for kite flying, exercising, family time, romance, and about any other excuse for indulgence. To the right is one of the oldest cemeteries on the island, which is filled with a mind-boggling assortment of tombs and shrines honoring those of years gone by whom once undoubtedly enjoyed the same types of leisure on the wall's other side.
By the time you've reached the western edge of the cemetery, winds from the nearby ocean have magnified in an embracing sort of way, all but murmuring the many silenced voices from the past mingled with conversations and laughs from those on the other side. Find a comfortable perch; stop to listen while taking in one of the best scenes from San Juan's northern shore.
The wall begins to climb the hill towards El Morro and I always begin to sense the power and security of presence trekking across their familiar tops in making what has became a pilgrimage. Beyond the northern wall towards the pounding Atlantic, shaded slopes are covered with some of the densest growth of sea grape trees; another good place to stop and reflect in coolness without the sun.
Coming to a small bunker, there's a brief spot where you'll need take to the turf and you'll discover just how steep the natural incline has been that the rampart has spared you. Once you can step back on the wall, you're at the inner courtyard of El Morro where you can explore outer areas.
Usually the fortress is closed by the time I've began my jaunt, but just to the side of the entry walkway are stairs leading into a moat-like area with plush grass; great for sitting against the shaded walls which have been standing almost 500 years. Let their cool gentle firmness massage your back and your mind. There's also an area against the bay that gives some pretty spectacular views of the six levels of citadels as they descend towards the water.
By now, I'm usually near trance-like state rejoining the wall making a beeline for my "If I could be anywhere in the world" spot atop the cliff that perilously plunges towards the bay. About halfway down this segment is a small circular extension; big enough for two people, and where you're likely to find me of an evening if I'm in town.
Others sporadically pass behind; some lingering at times but this is one of those places where it's easy to savor the extended moments all to yourself. The mouth of the harbor is hemmed from tiny Isla de Cabros lined with mesmerizing palm trees dwarfed in the distance so as not to upstage the pending evening event. More hypnotic and therapeutic than the couch in any shrink's office, the stages of sunset melt to the core of my being.
I've had some landmark occurrences here, regardless of how drab and colorless the skies might have been. Thoughts which run through any of our minds on a regular basis are one thing, but I'm always hypnotically amazed at what hidden factors tend to resurface as unknown issues seeking resolutions. Regardless of which point of dusk I've arrived, the sun slipping below the distant horizon is my time piece for knowing when it's appropriate to move on...along the wall and life in general.
Once this portion of wall has ended, you'll need to take to the steep, grassy hill descending towards Casa Rosa; the pink, colonial structure once serving as military barracks. You'll have to step over an unguarded "no entry" cable for remounting the wall. There's a small bulwark where secondary defense cannons once fired, which also has other soul-stirring views over the harbor and distant peninsula. The area seems to be a popular gathering place for evening dog walkers, but if you're like me, they won't be the only transformation encountered.
A care-free, kid-like manner has always been restored by the time I've reached these segments; walking the long, narrow stretches of straight-away as if performing a tight-rope act for those looking up from the malecón below, or finding myself advancing to greater distance-leaps in the v-shaped indentions evenly distributed along the rampart walls.
Random garitas beckon a more inquisitive, youthful approach than their earlier counterparts, and the playful environment is only heightened from the pair of tennis courts and basketball courtyard always teeming with sounds and energy of life. Should you thirst for more, there's a water spicket along the drive though you may have to wait your turn - including for leashed dogs and their masters.
By now, the historic street lamps lining the promenade and beyond walls in the old city have emblazoned an ambiance, ushering in tranquility and romance of another Caribbean night. A variety of bougainvillea, flamboyáns, and other assorted tropical trees and plants overshadow the wall and parts of this final stretch garden. And then, the sweetest music obscurely blends into the sultry, tropical air...the chirping of the coquí frogs found only on this island; the last confirmation I need to indicate I'm exactly where I should be.
The last section of traversable wall ends at a gated entry that is always open and leads to a small courtyard called Plazuela de la Rogativa; the small plaza of the religious procession. There's a rather haunted looking, larger-than-life bronze statue of the bishop of San Juan and three of his parishioners brandishing torches to commemorate the attempted British siege in 1797, and how their desperate, but successful, tactics fooled the troops into immediate retreat, thinking they'd been outnumbered.
By the time I've reached this point, the unknown, unexplainable transfixion I crave has undeniably taken place. It may be the end of my welcome back ritual, but if you're like me, you'll marvel at the new beginnings whether turning uphill on a side street or continuing towards the historical Puerta de San Juan. Then again, there's always an inviting bench to steady yourself until some of the capricious intoxications of regained liberation subside.-- Over time, I have discovered that it is possible to begin outside Fuerte San Cristóbal and walk the city's perimeters to Puerta de San Juan from atop the fortress walls. With each return visit, this is still my favorite thing to do en Viejo San Juan; great for elevated perspectives and astounding Photo Opportunities