Puerto Rico: La Isla Del Encanto...

From the breathtaking forts and historical sites of Old San Juan to the lush scenery of the El Yunque National Rainforest, I cannot believe how much I saw in just under one week! What does "La Isla Del Encanto" mean? Translating from Spanish, 'The Enchanted Island" showed me a magical time. Yes, I really need to go back to Puerto Rico! ¿Quién dijo 'Viejo San Juan?' I did!

Yes, United got me to the island in one piece! Landing into San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport made this trip feel so real, having this trip booked since April 2012, it was mad to think that I was finally in the Caribbean. I was very glad to be in Puerto Rico because I needed a holiday! The sights and feelings of the island were immense, I knew I had made the right choice to visit PR! As my taxi drove closer to my final destination I could feel the holiday vibe all around as I was approaching the old cobbled streets of Old San Juan! I would be lying if it was just the scenery I was looking forward to see in Puerto Rico, let's just say I had experienced several slices of PR magic before getting down to that United States Overseas Territory! Choosing Puerto Rico was a no-brainer, the autumnal chill was beginning to turn into winter in Newark, I would have been the fool not to make that Rican sweet escape! Let's get it, PR!

Settled into the slow pace of Old San Juan, I was loving life! I found this UNESCO World Heritage Site simply breathtaking with its Spanish Colonial buildings and feeling of yesteryear. Old San Juan will always be a favourite place of mine. I had to pinch myself to think that I was lucky enough to have the chance to hop on a plane and be in a place like this in less than four hours, something that I really do appreciate. One thing I kept in mind was that Puerto Rico stands as an unincorporated U.S territory so I was prepared to see a Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's and CVS Pharmacy along the way. Sure, those places came in very handy! I was ready to kick back and enjoy myself, even to get a full nights sleep for my working pattern constantly tests me. Puerto Rico, I found you at long last! Oh yes, my dear friend and airport colleague Thyciria Rodriguez already knew I was going to have a blast in her home isla, she taught me well that Puerto Rico sure keeps it real!

Equipped with my camera I embarked onwards to discover the streets of Old San Juan, it was a good job I had charged it beforehand, I had some serious scenes to capture! The architecture was simply beautiful and it was evident that 99% of the buildings were either looking in tip top condition or being restored to their former glory. I made my way to Castillo San Felipe El Morro first and then to Castillo De San Cristobal. I wanted to get the best out of the two great protectors of San Juan for this island nation has been ripe for the picking for many hundreds of years. The weather was just sublime, I had left the super cold temperatures of New Jersey to be greeted to the Caribbean breezes of Puerto Rico. I look at my U.S placement current home, I would rather be in PR! With those colonial wonders in my sights, life was sweet in Puerto Rico!¡El Morro fue simplemente formidable! Gracias el próximo siguiente!

The sun was amazing, the winding old streets of 'Viejo San Juan' gave me life and then some! Those forts were spectacular, showcasing the lengths that the Spanish went to protect San Juan from further foreign invasion could be viewed from all around. Discovering the underground passages and the rooftop lookout vistas was such an amazing thing to do, I declare it a must do when in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico looked as if it was on lock by the Spanish, the forts looked completely bulletproof, no lies! Yes, after witnessing the Puerto Rican flag fluttering alongside the USA flag was something else completely, something somewhere definitely told me this commonwealth nation stands proud for their flag, PR had its own star and stripes to fly proudly! I was in love with Old San Juan's slow paced rhythm, it was just the tonic away from my working life at Newark Liberty International Airport. My placement year has been something else, it's not over yet! ¡Mi vida!

Going hungry in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico would have been a difficult task as there was a wide range of restaurants to choose from. I for one didn't want to eat American food whilst I was in Puerto Rico as I aimed to sample the local cuisine to the best of my ability, for that I certainly tried my best! I must admit that I had one hungover Burger King meal, it was needed! I found one place in-particular that really gave me a taste of the island, Cafe Puerto Rico served wholesome and delicious Puerto Rican food. On my first visit I tried a plantain Mofongo served with chicken in garlic sauce and rice. I ate at Cafe Puerto Rico a number of times during my stay in Old San Juan, the flavoursome Latin dishes were so good I kept coming back for more! I am now thirsty for Cafe Puerto Rico's amazing Mojito, along with other cocktails but I would definitely recommend the Mojito! Me encanta la comida puertorriqueña! I did, yes!

Fancy a Daiquiri? Well, I didn't know that Puerto Rico is in fact home to one of the Caribbean's Bacardi Distilleries! I threw caution to the wind and took a ferry to Catano, a place that I vaguely knew the name of due to my research on Google Earth prior to my trip. After meeting with other people who were also in search of the mystery Bacardi Distillery it became clear that this place isn't too easy to find when you are your own tour guide. After driving just a little from the ferry terminal we reached the world famous Bacardi Bat logo at the main gates, how bizarre?! I made the most of my free sample which happened to be a Daiquiri, a very nice one it turned out to be! If I be honest the tour wasn't that amazing but it was all free apart from the ferry and the taxi ride, so I'm not going to grumble about that! Yes, Cataño served a sense of what I wanted to see in Puerto Rico, it was gritty and showed me a string normal PR neighbourhoods with countless street-side snack stalls!

I decided to step out of the protected city walls of Old San Juan in search to see another side of this sensational island. Taking a trip to the El Yunque National Rainforest and Luquillo Beach in search of something different. I can safely say the El Yunque Rainforest was amazing, being the only rainforest listed in the United States Department of Agriculture it was great to say I something more than OSJ! Surrounded by lush trees and plant-life I was loving the peace of El Yunque, it felt so far removed from the colonial fashion of Old San Juan. Waterfalls gently flowed in one direction whilst a secret visa of the vast rainforest provided me with a breathtaking shot! Climbing to the top of a watchtower gave me the chance to even catch a glimpse of Isla De Culebra, a place I wanted to see but it wasn't possible. The drive to El Yunque gave me another chance to see sights of the wider San Juan area. Servir selvas tropicales!

Concluding my lovely day trip on the final day of that Puerto Rican holiday at Luquillo Beach was amazing! Grabbing some sunshine on the beat was nice but gazing into the oceans view was much better, I could see for miles and miles into the Caribbean Sea! Feeling hungry I saw a beach food stall that had some chicken pastries for sale, getting one of those Puerto Rican snacks was a winner! Washing it all down with two free poured Bacardi Daiquiri's was just the ticket, the ladies at that seaside stall even ID'd me but according to United States law at 21 years of age I was legal to drink that blended drink! Catching their conversation it seemed as if their Spanish was more a Puerto Rican dialect, nonetheless it was great to hear their own form of PR Spanish! My five days in San Juan, Puerto was amazing and better still I didn't need to leave the United States of America, well almost! Would I return to the enchanted island? Is that even a question? Oh, Just try and stop me B!

Puerto Rico Lo Hace Mejor!

Joseph Harrison


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