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! Choosing "La Isla Del Encanto" was decided for me, after my Rican encounter in 2011. Translating from Spanish, 'The Enchanted Island" showed me a magical time. Yes, I really need to go back to PR!
Yes, United got me to the island in one piece, I had already caused a commotion before I had made it to Newark's Terminal C! I landed into San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, that arrival made the trip finally real! Having had the trip booked since April 2012, it was mad to think that I was finally in the Caribbean. Yes, PR! 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!
Settled into the slow pace of 'Viejo' 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, I was prepared to see some familiar U.S Mainland chains. Spending my first evening on the island, I walked along the Paseo del Morro. That moonlight waterside walkway had me feeling several million miles away from the noise of New Jersey, USA! Staying within Old San Juan along 'Calle de La Fortaleza' allowed me to explore the history century's Spanish colonial style buildings. I was in some kind of heaven? I was on the 'Island of Enchantment!' Like my friend 'Thyciria Rodriguez', the island would serve Realness!
Equipped with my camera I embarked onwards to discover the streets of Old San Juan, 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 since its Taino Islander origins. The weather was just sublime, I had left the super cold temperatures of New Jersey, USA to be greeted to the Caribbean breezes of Puerto Rico. The warmth didn't just cover the weather, the local people were super friendly! My friends from the island had inspired my visit! I look at my U.S placement current home, I'd 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! My love for Puerto Rico will be forever!
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 of the USA stands to be extremely proud of 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. Visiting Puerto Rico added that 'fuego' y 'sabor to my placement year! Claro. Me encantó la bandera de Puerto Rico!
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, I aimed to sample the local cuisine to the best of my ability. 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 encant la comida puertorriqueña! I did, yes! I had no previous knowledge of Puerto Rican food, I loved every single bite! I ate a lot of Monfongos! ¡Si! Que rico!
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 normal PR neighbourhood which had countless street-side snack stalls! I wanted some of those snacks! Getting out and about was the tonic, SJ!
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 Spanish colonial fashion of Old San Juan. Waterfalls gently flowed in one direction whilst a secret panoramic vista of the vast rainforest sure 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. Next time, PR! The drive to El Yunque gave me another chance to see sights of the wider San Juan area. Servir selvas tropicales! Even the views from the minibus amazed me! ¿Empanadas y piña coladas????
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 Empanadas was definitely a winner! I washed them all down with two free poured Bacardi Daiquiris! That beachside drink 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. Of course, 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 PR, just try to stop me! Ay!
Puerto Rico, Lo Hace Mejor!