Notes on Puerto Rico

3
Jan
2010

You’ve seen all the pics. Here are some random things I noted while in PR:

1. We were hard pressed to find a salad or vegetables. No one seems to eat them. Apparently all fiber comes from plantains.

2. A huge number of men sport rat tails

3. I have never seen more Burger King’s per capita anywhere in the world.

4. While traveling on the Ruta Panoramica, there seemed to be one radio station that was all Phil Collins, all the time.

5. As we are Jewish and it was Christmas, it seemed like fate that our rental apartment was in the same building as the best Chinese restaurant in town. We of course ate here on Christmas day.

6. There is a lot of rain in the rainforest. Shocking.

7. Since it was a holiday week, schedules at bars and clubs were a little off. One place we were told to go was closed, but a homeless man on the street seemed to know the holiday hours of at least two gay bars, and helpfully explained it to us.

8. Without saying a word, everyone assumed we were from New York. Is it just that the island sees the most tourists from NYC, or something else?

9. An absolutely crazy number of assholes with music blaring extremely loudly from their cars.

10. More fried food than any place I have ever been, much of it super delicious.

11. A refreshing honesty that results in the loss of a sale. At two separate food establishments, I order something behind the counter and the person comes back to tell me that it is not at its best, and suggests I order something else.

12. Overall, some of the warmest, most friendly people I have met anywhere. Everyone kept inviting us places, offered helpful advice, and took an interest in knowing us. Ricans are very (justifiably) proud of their island(s), and happy to share its best secrets with us. I was really blown away by how great the place was and will definitely be going back.

13.  Puerto Rico has this wonderful quality of being both home and foreign seeming at the same time.

Faro Cabo Rojo

2
Jan
2010

We ended up hanging out on Flamenco beach in Culebra a bit and drinking beers with a really nice group of people who took the plane with us. They were all from PR, and got into a heated discussion of the best things to see and do while there. One thing they could all agree on that was a not-to-miss: The lighthouse at Cabo Rojo. This place was literally the farthest from us on the island possible. Which meant it was about a 2 hour drive. We hopped in the car on the morning of our last day, and set out to see the lighthouse, then made our way up the west coast towards another famous beach, Crash Boat, just in time for one of the most perfect sunsets I have ever witnessed.

Fear of Flying / Culebra

1
Jan
2010

Since we missed our chance to go to Vieques due to bad weather/missing our flight connection out of Miami, we decided to go instead to Culebra for the day, via a (we had heard) death defying 10 minute flight from Ceiba on the main island. As we psyched ourselves up for several minutes of pure terror, it never materialized. The flights to and from the island were far smoother than just about any regular sized plane I have ever taken. And although the waters were very choppy on Culebra (we had been told it was like glass), it was still a beautiful place to go.

Arecibo

1
Jan
2010

After spending (yet another) morning on the beach (this time at La Concha in Condado, mysteriously surrounded by vacationing Jewish families), Josh and I decide to take a little trip to Arecibo. The place shuts its doors to new visitors at 4, so you have to be in before then and we barely made it, arriving at 3:50 after a series of winding and not well marked roads and some major help from the Google. Once inside, we passed quickly through the horribly boring exhibit to get out and take a peek at the telescope. It doesn’t disappoint. We marvel at the science fiction quality of it all, and I wax a little nostalgic about the movie “Contact”. We then decide to go in to the theater there to see a little film about the place. God was it awful. It purported to be a “re-enactment” of a typical day at Arecibo, with the admin people and scientists playing themselves. Avoid this at all costs if you go, it really makes you want to put your eyes out. We snuck out about 10 minutes into the 20 minute torture session. Our screening was made more special by the presence of a girl a few rows behind us with a terrible case of tourettes. She kept making barking and loud snorting sounds to accompany the video. Come to think of it, she was the only thing that made the whole thing interesting. It is really a shame that the museum and video presentations are so bad, because the science and the telescope are really cool and inspiring. Hopefully they will get money to redo it one day.

Luquillo and El Yunque

1
Jan
2010

Taking advice from the locals is always the best way to go. We hear about a nice beach near the rainforest and decide to hit it before going to the forest. It turns out to be a lovely little beach and the best on the north side of the island for swimming that we have found. After that we head into “El Yunque“, the only rainforest on American soil. We took a wonderful stroll through the forest, stopped at a waterfall where Josh braved the icy cold to swim for a few minutes, and then continued on the surprisingly long path to its endpoint. We then took the paved road back to our car, and as we were walking it, a huge downpour erupted. We were soaked through and through by the time we got back to the car, just in time for the rain to stop completely (isnt is always the way?). Although not on the same day, we later stop on the road near Luquillo at a line of famous food stalls for some of the most delicious stuff we have had in Puerto Rico. My favorite was the arepa con camarones and a kind of sweet plantain stuffed with beef. Yum.

Panoramica to La Parguera

31
Dec
2009

At the lunch counter of the most excellent “Sieglo XX” in old San Juan (where the flan is to die for, btw), we met a lovely young woman who suggested we visit a place called “La Parguera”. We hadn’t heard of it before but are nothing if not adventurous, so we decided to head out the next day, take in part of the famous “Ruta Panor√°mica“, and head over the the other side of the island for a look see. The Ruta was mostly covered in fog and alas, not very panoramica at all. It was also very twisty and turny. This, combined with Josh’s amphetamine-around-every-corner style of driving made me almost hurl, many times over. I was fortunately mostly recovered by the time we descended into La Parguera. We hadn’t realized before getting there that this was no ordinary beach, but a series of lovely small islands off the coast. So we negotiated a boat ride and spent two hours on one of the loveliest tiny islands I have ever seen. And for most of the time there, we were completely alone. There was literally no one else on the island. It was beautiful and calm and I had a great mediation here. I highly recommend this place.

Old San Juan

31
Dec
2009

Here is the first of several slideshows from our trip to Puerto Rico. This one is all in the oldest part of San Juan (one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas btw):