It is Spring Break, and Jessica and I have left the chilly Northeast behind for the greener (and warmer) pastures of Puerto Rico. Jessica’s family is originally from there, so we have been visiting them and checking out Puerto Rico’s sights.
We started the trip off with a visit to Old San Juan–the original settlement that served as a strategic Spanish stronghold in the Caribbean. Old San Juan is beautiful. The buildings are brightly colored weathered concrete highlighted with intricate wood and iron work.
We walked around town for a few hours while popping in-and-out a few native shops such as Coach and Ben and Jerry’s. We did find an artisanal rum store, but alas, no free samples, the closest I could get was Rum Raisan ice cream.
Old San Juan definitely has an old world feel. Our walk took us through, under, and around the original walls of the city. We passed many small monuments and landmarks with signs explaining a small part of Puerto Rico’s historical past and significance.
One shrine described a horse race that used to take place through the streets of the city. One year, as the racers took a precarious turn along the top of the city wall, a horse and rider lost their footing (hoofing?) and plummeted of the side of the 50 foot wall. Watching this unfold, one viewer called out “Oh Lord, please save that man!” and miraculously the rider survived the fall (the horse was not as lucky). In tribute, a small shrine was erected on the spot.
After walking the streets of Old San Juan, we hiked to the edge of the island to see the old Spanish fort: El Morro (don’t forget to roll the Rs). El Morro is part of the Old San Juan National Historic site. The walk to the fort covers an expansive green space, which serves as the city’s public park. The fort is on the end of a small peninsula, so the wind blows strongly across the green making it a wonderful place to fly a kite.
We crawled our way through small portals, walked up and down long ramps, and climbed up and down narrow and dark spiral staircases. I did climb my way on top of the walls but managed to avoid any long drops with fast stops.
El Morro was built to protect the San Juan harbor, an important strategic point for controlling the Caribbean. Because everyone wanted control of San Juan, the Spanish lined the fort with cannons pointing towards the half mile wide pass into the harbor. Only a few of the cannons are left; but, as we walked around the fort, we would catch glimpses of the ocean through openings in the walls and windows. This photo was from the men’s room!
Beautiful right?! It was definitely the nicest men’s room I have been in. Check out the slideshow below for more shots of the fort.
The first day of vacations are always the craziest because you try to pack in so many different things. So, after El Morro, we drove from Old San Juan to Jessica’s grandmother’s house where we spent time with her family. Her grandmother’s house is right near the coast. I took a few more photos as we walked to see the view.
Next, we are headed to El Yunque–a tropical rainforest–for some hiking.