Puerto Rico Day Two: So Much To See In Enchanting Old San Juan

After my tour of the historic Castillo San Cristobal,  I  again wandered off to explore the streets of old San Juan. I first made my way through  the now familiar Plaza Colon and it’s towering statue of Christopher Columbus. trees and Christopher statue Plaza Colon

I decided to walk up one of the most famous streets in  old town San Juan, El Fortaleza.Colorful cobble stoned street

Like all the streets in old town it was paved with blue cobblestones. These pretty stones were brought from Spain and used as ballast on the ships. Once in San Juan they were removed from the ship and were replaced  with gold for the journey back to Spain. The residents used the discarded  cobblestones to pave the streets. 

shops on cobblestone street

The  street is now lined with many small shops and upscale stores, selling all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, electronics,  luxury goods and any other thing that can be sold  to tourists from the cruise ships,gist shop old San Juan

and restaurants and outdoor cafes of all types  ranging from  five star gourmet  to local eateries. outdoor cafe old San Juan

I followed the busy narrow street and found myself once again at the Governor’s mansion near the old front  gate to the city. There is no motor vehicle traffic allowed on the street near the mansion.  cobblestone street leading to Governor's mansion

Next to the mansion I saw what I thought was  a church. I love to visit churches, temples and mosques on my travels and tried to enter. The door was locked.Hospital and shrine House of Health operated by Servants of Mary nuns

A friendly caretaker approached,  told me the chapel was closed, but  he would see if the nuns would allow me to visit. Shortly a young nun appeared and waved me inside.photograph of Blessed Mary in hospital

I remember very little Spanish from my high school days.  The  nun spoke no English.  She was  kind and friendly and we communicated through gestures. She lead me to a beautiful  chapel and she left me alone to  take photographs. shrine and chapel House of Health Servants of Mary

As I was leaving I encountered the young nun who was now accompanied by a middle age nun. I tried to explain to them that I was taught by Bernadine Sisters as a child. My attempt was not successful.  Statue in House of health

A third older nun now appeared.  I again  tried to explain to them my schooling by Bernadine nuns. Finally the young nun got the caretaker, who spoke English and we had a wonderful conversation with the help of our translator. We laughed about the nuns who thought me  and how they  hit us with a ruler when we were bad. One nun laughed and pointed to the oldest one. She shook her head, no, not her. We all laughed.  We also talked about the the 1960’s  television show, the Flying Nun. They, of course, all heard about it. Three Servants Of Mary sisters

Now I was their friend and the oldest gave me a tour of the facility which was a convent and hospital for the old and poor. She took me to a balcony with spectacular views of San Juan bay, and the Governor’s Mansion. It was truly a blessed experience which I will always cherish.  I learned the building was built in 1524. The nuns cared for the sick here for over 125 years. Here is a link to some more photographs of my wonderful encounter with the sisters and their mission. . Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Convent February 9 2018.

I next  walked to  the Puerta de San Juan or the main  gate   and up atop the old city wall. The views were again spectacular. view of San Juan bay from city wall

I saw  more sculptures, old houses and some beautiful flowering gardens. sculpture old San Juan

I made my was back to the park in front of  “El Morro” when I decided to begin my return journey. park and view of "el Morro"

I meandered through the pretty streets,calamari and rice revisiting many of sites I saw the day before. I wish I had time to visit the many museums in the city. I did stop for a nice, and reasonably priced snack, calamari and rice, with all the lemonade you could drink a restaurant located in one of the museums. 

I returned to my hotel mid  afternoon and spent some time editing photographs and exploring the many art filled rooms at the Inn. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike through old San Juan. Puerto Rico  Day Two: San Juan afternoon hike.

I wanted to see the  sunset and decided the best place would be  the high ground of “El Morro”  It was a beautiful evening in Puerto Rico. Huge billowing cumulus clouds floated on the ever present trade winds. 

I walked along the old city wall and came to a beautiful cemetery situated above the Atlantic Ocean. 

I spent a few minutes taking in the serene scene.  And I was delighted to watch a rainbow appear over the ocean. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to YouTube. Cemetery video.

I walked up to an old battery wall near the fortress and joined a group of local residents and tourists also waiting for the sunset. Unfortunately clouds moved and we only caught a brief glimpse just before it set. It was still a  great place to be. 

I  walked back along Fortaleza Street  enjoying the sounds of tourists and residents at the many cafes, bars and restaurants.  I ate dinner at a quaint  French restaurant, Trois Cent Onze,  recommended by a friend. The food was excellent. I finished my meal and returned to the streets which, despite a passing showers were still alive with the sounds of folks enjoying the warm tropical evening. 

It was an uphill walk to my hotel but I soon heard the crashing of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the rocky shore. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan evening walk. February 8 2018.

I also listened to the music rising up from San Sebastian street from a balcony in my room.  I was tired  and soon  fell asleep listening to the sounds of music and partying that lasted until sunrise. Here is a link to a video of the sounds of San Sebastian Street from my room.

“Fall in love
with the energy
of the mornings

trace your fingers 
along the lull
of the afternoons

take the spirit 
of the evenings
in your arms
kiss it deeply 

and then
make love
to the tranquility
of the nights.” 
― Sanober Khan

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Puerto Rico Day Two: San Juan: Castillo San Cristobal

After a light breakfast at my hotel, I began my second day in San  Juan by heading to the massive fort that prevented me from observing the sunrise earlier in the  morning.view of ocean and Castillo San Cristabol

Construction of Castillo San Cristobal was started by the Spanish in 1634 and took over 150 years to complete. It was the largest fortification in the New World. 

I was able to enter the castle with my admission receipt from my visit to “El Morro” the day before. entrance to Castillo San Cristobal

Once inside I again learned so much history about the fortress and San Juan  from the many exhibits throughout  the castle. They ranged from the defenses of the fort to how the soldiers were housed and fed. soldiers sleeping quarters

The fortification was built because of land assaults on San Juan by the Dutch and British in the 17th century. This newer  fortress protected the city for the next 300 years 

I roamed the many passages and tunnels throughout the fortress.tunnels in castle

Along the way I visited the dungeon which had these drawings on it’s walls. They were probably made by some poor soul awaiting a long prison sentence or execution. You probably didn’t wind up in the dungeon for petty crimes. drawings of ships on dungeon walls.

There were spectacular views from atop the walls of the fortress, including this view of the Capitol of Puerto Rico. View of capitol of Puerto Rico from castle walls

While enjoying a view of the ocean from one of the casements I saw a rainbow form over the water. The weather is usually sunny here this time of year but there were a lot of showers during my visit.rainbow over ocean

The exhibits told the history of how the lives of the  soldiers who defended the fort changed over the years, ending with the American troops who were stationed here in World War II. flags waving in wind

Once again time prevented me from seeing all there was to offer in this spectacular and historic fort.clouds and city view from fort

Hopefully I will get the chance to return to San Juan and visit it again. But there are so many countries to explore and I am running out of time. So I am glad I can share this visit with my blog readers. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the castle. Puerto Rico Day Two Castillo San Cristobal. February 9 2018. clouds over castle

 

On 
My 
Travels 
i have been 
A guest in 
Many castles 
Yet the 
Monument 
Which i 
Find 
Divine 
Is the oasis 
Where the heart 
And the silence 
Intertwine.”

~silent lotus” 
― silent lotus

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: Up Early In San Juan But No Sunrise For Me.

Despite the night long celebrations on San Sabastian Street I slept well my first night in San Juan. I was up before my alarm went off,  hoping to see a sunrise. I thought I could see it near Castillo San Cristobol, the large fort to the east of my hotel. clouds over ocean near walls of fort

Sunrise was around 7 a.m. and I hurried along the wall overlooking the ocean to be on time. Well, as I approached the fort I realized it was obscuring my view to the east and I would never get around it to see the sunrise. narrow San Juan street

Instead I walked back down toward the cruise ship pier again on the narrow cobblestone streets. Christopher Columbus statue old San Juan

I came upon the Plaza Colon where a towering statue of Christopher Columbus overlooks the plaza. The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and gifts shops but there was no activity at this early hour. colorful buildings old San Juan

I made it to the pier where I found a contrast of the old and the new, a  sail ship and a gigantic cruise ship. sail ship and cruise ship in morning sunlight

This is were you can also find more contrast between the old town and the new growth from tourism. There was a Walgreen store next to a Sheraton Hotel,hotels and stores in old San Juan

and there even was a Ralph Lauren store. Philadelphia doesn’t even have one of these anymore. Lot of tourists dollars flow around here. ralph lauren store old San Juan

I meandered through the streets of San Juan observing the colorful buildings and many shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants, of course, closed at this early hour.outdoor cafes in old San Juan

I next  walked back up the steep streets to Norzagaray street were the entrance to my hotel is located. It is the last street along the massive wall that was built to protect the city. graffiti old San Juan

I noticed the many building located below the wall, next to the ocean and remember reading about this residential community, La Perla.La Perla sign along Atlantic Ocean

The guide books I read said to stay clear of this poorer neighborhood, so, of course, I had to visit. I walked through the narrow old gate into the village and found a few folks who were pleasant and friendly.old gate in wall La Perla

The buildings were run down and appeared damaged by the hurricane. Unfortunately it appears many of the residents could not afford to make  repairs.colorful house on street in La Perla

I walked to the ocean and enjoyed watching and listening to the waves crash along the rocky shore.

I also watched a large cruise ship enter San Juan Bay, giving an illusion it would crash into  “El Morro” .cruise ship near "El Morro"

I made my way  up the steep road to Norzgaray Street and back to my hotel. I spent some time exploring it’s many room. All adorned with the art work and sculptures created  by  the owner, Jan. I had  a small breakfast and was soon off for more explorations of the wonderful city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.  Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan morning walk. 

room in Gallery Inn

“Life is an experiment in which you may fail or succeed. Explore more, expect least.” 
― Santosh Kalwar

 

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Puerto Rico Day One: Getting To Know Old San Juan

After  my arrival in Puerto Rico  at the Luis Munoz Marin  airport I took a taxi to  old town San Juan .  As soon as  walked up to my hotel, the Gallery Inn, and entered  the gates I fell in love with the place. It was like walking into an art gallery. I was greeted by a pleasant young lady at the desk  and this noisy but lovable parrot. More about this wonderful place later.  campeche the white parrot at the Gallery Inn

I quickly settled into my  cozy room, unpacked,  and  was off to explore old   San Juan. My hotel is situated on the northern end of the city overlooking the old city wall and Atlantic Ocean. I walked south into the old town on the  blue cobblestones of narrow  San Justo Street. San Justo Street old San Juan

I soon discovered  all of the streets in old San Juan are narrow and made of this unique blue cobblestone. blue cobblestone street

Like my first visit to any city,  I was, at first, disorientated. I forgot my map at the room.  I  knew enough  from my research for the trip to somewhat find my way around. ( As I write this post I know the old town  like the back of my hand). I made my way down the narrow street to the newer areas of the town near the cruise ship docks.street vendor and cruise ship in background

The tourists from these ships provide much revenue to the city. I believe it is  why the water and electric infrastructure in old San Juan was almost completely restored after the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall. Old San Juan was  again catering to it’s many tourists. colorful building old San Juan

I continued my walk westward on the Paseo de la Princesa. This street lies outside the massive walls that protected the city.old city wall San Juan

I welcomed the  many trees that lined this street. The sun was intense, and, even with the ever present trade winds, it was still hot. Temperatures were in the mid 80’s. tree lined street old San Juan

I also found many interesting statutes  and sculptures along the way. sculpture of family

I walked  to the Fuente Raices, a monument depicting  the different races of people  that contributed to,  now make up Puerto Rico. monument old San Juan

I next followed the street as it continued outside the city wall providing spectacular views of San Juan Bay. San Juan bay from outside old city wall

I entered the old city through the Puerta de San Juan, the main gate to the city. It is through this gate sailors, soldiers and dignitaries would first enter the New World after a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You could almost feel the history and ghosts  of the many people who walked through here over  the past 500 year. old city gate San Juan

I entered the old city and it’s beauty and enchantment were everywhere. Old trees, brightly painted buildings, and cobblestone streets made you feel you walked back in time. trees and old buildings

There was so much to do and I had so little time to do it. I have always been fascinated by Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. I had to visit his final resting place in the impressive Catedral de San Juan. Ponce de Leon tomb

I explored the beauty of this church for awhile and, like always, wish I had more time. Here is a link to some more photographs of this beautiful and historic church. San Juan Cathedral February 8 2018.altar Cathedral of San Juan

I roamed the many narrow streets just talking in the many sights of tourist and residents enjoying this delightful city. people feeding pigeons

I took  in so many sights it would take hours to describe them in this short blog post, but there were so many restaurants, shops, tourists sites and museums one could spend weeks exploring them all. outdoor restaurant old San Juan

And I only had two days. So I  made my way to Castillo San Felipe del Morro or “el Morro”,  the large fort that was built almost 500 years ago. This is  one sight   you cannot miss. El Morro fort San Juan

The large fort was built by Spain to protect the harbor used to replenish ships making the long voyage from Europe across the Atlantic. view of Atlantic ocean rocky shore

There are many exhibits in the fort explaining the strategic significance of the island of Puerto Rico. It was the first land encountered as ships crossed the Atlantic that had fresh water and was vital to controlling access to the “New World” .Spanish canon

I roamed the fort for over an hour and learned so much history while enjoying spectacular views of the ocean and city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to “El Morro” El Morro February 8 2018.walls of Spanish fort El Morro San Juan

Once gain time was not my friend. It was getting late and I was getting hungry and tired. So reluctantly, I had to walk back to my hotel. I still was able to enjoy  many more  sights of old San Juan along the way . Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. San Juan Day One afternoon hike. old cemetery on shore

I got back, showered, and realized it was near sunset which around 6:30 pm. I was saddened to learn the only place to watch it would be from “El Morro” and I had no  time to get there.  I was starved so I walked to dinner at a restaurant famous for it’s local food, El Jabirito.  narrow blue cobblestone street

It was a family style restaurant with much chatter and laughter coming from the many local residents dining their. local restaurant

I had the fried red snapper and mofongo de yucca (mashed cassaba)  a local specialty. red snapper fish and mofongo

After my delicious meal I made my way through the noisy and bustling streets of old San Juan. They were filled with music and laughter and would be, I learned, throughout the night. It is like New Orleans, the city never sleeps. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk and meal. San Juan evening walk February 8 2017. narrow street at night San Juan

I was soon in my room, and despite the music and noise rising from San Sebastian,  I quickly fell  fast asleep, looking forward to another day of exploring  San Juan. San Sabastian street old San Juan

What I can tell you is that for Puerto Rico being such a small island, it has culturally impacted the entire world. Fat Joetotem monument

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Puerto Rico: Day One: Travel To, And Arrival, In Old San Juan

I began  writing  this post somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I was on my way to historic and hurricane devastated Puerto Rico. I was thinking of a place to visit closer to home than my usual more exotic adventures. I love to travel but  have not traveled since the tragic loss of my sister and brother-in-law. I was reluctant to leave home. It has been a hard four months for all of us. Much joy has left my life.  But, with  encouragement from mom and family, telling me it is what I enjoy to do and what my sister Linda would want me to do, I decided to visit Puerto Rico. cumulus clouds over Atlantic Ocean

My trip began early this morning. I left my home at 4 a.m and drove the 45 miles to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton airport. I was worried about the winter weather but the roads were ice and snow free. After a quick check -in and short wait I boarded my plane.  De-icing delayed us a bit but I was soon on a short 30  minute flight to the greatest city in the world,  Philadelphia.control tower Wilkes-Barre Scranton airport

I had a very short layover and had to dash through the airport to make my connecting flight. I have done this many times before on  my travels. jets on ground in Philadelphia airport

The A330 airbus was not a full flight and I was lucky to have an empty seat next to me. This is traveler’s heaven. I wish I had this luck on my flight to Australia. view of clouds from airplane

We took off on time and I was able to read, start this blog post and relax on the 3 hour flight to Puerto Rico.  I love airplane flights, especially when I get my window seat. As a child I would always stop what I was doing and look up at passing airplanes. I wondered who was on the plane, where they were going and what their lives were like. I also wondered if they were looking down at me. I now know some of them were. There was no meal on this flight and I purchased a “cheesy” and not so good fruit and cheese tray for $9. cheese tray lunch on airplane

The flight went by quickly and I soon was descending through puffy  cumulus to the sub- tropical island of Puerto Rico. I have been seeing the reports of the damage done by the hurricanes and thought I could help their economy recover and see for myself the extent of the damage. I also  read the island has an interesting history, an abundance  of wildlife and beautiful beaches so I made my decision to visit.  view of coast of Puerto Rico

We flew over the old and new sections of San Juan. Unfortunately I will only have time to visit the old city. 

We arrived at a small, but efficient and clean airport, and I soon had my luggage and hailed a taxi for the 15 minute ride  to old San Juan. 

It was sunny, warm and humid outside. And very green and alive. A welcome relief from the cold, gray winter back home. 

We drove a major highway, lined with hi-rises, commercial districts and businesses, as is found in all major cities is the world.

This changed when we neared old San Juan. The buildings were older, the streets narrower and covered with blue cobblestone. My driver soon left me off at the wonderful and unique hotel, the Gallery Inn. I had once again made it safely to a new foreign land. And I will admit I was once again excited to begin to explore it, knowing that the joy I have will never be the same. But life is short, and all our days are numbered, so, despite the sadness, pain or setbacks were are given, living the life we left  have is all we can do. It is what we were created to do. So here I am and I am glad to have you all here with me. Here is a link to some more photographs from my trip to San Juan.  Puerto Rico Day One San Juan February 8 2018.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

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