Monday, April 25, 2011

The Artwork of Death

Lynn and I wandered through a large, seaside cemetery in Old San Juan that looked like a miniature city from a distance.  It was full of beautifully carved monuments.  They were quite detailed, and by far the most popular motif was angels.  Most were female, though there was one Archangel Michael in full armor.


Old San Juan

View from the fortress that guarded Old San Juan, showing one of the distinctive garitas
 OK, this is a place I’d like to stay for a few days.  Along with Steve and Lynn, our friends on Celebration, we rented a car and drove up to Old San Juan, which is full of cute hotels, interesting-looking bars and restaurants, narrow roads pave with blue bricks, colorful buildings, and lots of history, all within easy walking distance.  The city was built around El Morro, the fortress that guards the entrance to San Juan Harbor.  The fortress is wonderfully restored, and the exhibits provide a great overview of the importance of Puerto Rico to sailing ships traversing the ocean between Europe and the Americas.  You may recognize the distinctive shape of the watch towers, or garitas, suspended from the fortress walls; they are the emblem of Old San Juan.  We walked until we were hot and tired, then sat in the shade and feasted on various tapas for lunch.  Later on, we  refreshed ourselves with a tour and libations at the Bacardi rum distillery.  A long day, but worth it.
The friendly bartender demonstrates how to drink a refreshing Cuba Libre (original recipe: Barcardi Gold Rum and Coca Cola) at the Bacardi rum distillery

Interesting Street Display

Whereas in the United States, display models are all little skinny things, here in Puerto Rico, they’re shaped much more like the actual women you see on the street.

Ponce, Puerto Rico

Church steeples above the plaza fountain
Details of the huge sand sculpture on a corner of the plaza

Inside the historic and colorful Parque de Bombas, or fire station, built in 1883
Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico.  We wandered the area for several days, stocking up at the Cash and Carry warehouse store, (which I like much better than the Kash & Karry supermarket in Florida just because they spell their words correctly), checking out a real mall (with welcome air conditioning), and admiring the beautiful plaza and intriguing and colorful architecture of downtown.

Pretty Ponce architecture

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mayagüez and Boquerón

Fruit and flower of the cannon-ball tree

Chris at the base of the large Panama canoe tree

Colorful but crooked building on the Boqueron waterfront
Mayagüez is the third largest city in Puerto Rico, and quite interesting.  We walked all over the downtown area, including through the university campus there, which was very pretty, with all kinds of tropical foliage and trees, including the tallest palm I’ve ever seen.  Next door was the U.S.D.A. Tropical Research Station, which had hundreds of trees and shrubs labeled with species and origin.  Some of our favorites were the cannon-ball tree, with its namesake fruit, looking and feeling just like cannon balls, hanging from vines and littering the ground; and  the Panama canoe tree, which was straight and broad and tall, branching out only way overhead.  Boquerón is a small vacation town to the south of Mayagüez, where the university students come to party on weekends.  And party they do; the music plays all day and most of the night, loudly.  But it’s a fun atmosphere, and you could get an empanadilla (meat pie) for $1.88 and a Medalla (the local beer) for $1.25; where there are students, there’s cheap food and drink.  We also met up with our friends Steve and Lynn on Celebration, who had just arrived from the Turks and Caicos.  We hadn’t seen them since November, so we had a fun reunion. 
The Bacardi bat creeping along the sand toward an unsuspecting Boqueron beach goer, looking to suck a little rum-laden blood

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Colorful Welcome to Puerto Rico

Don’t you just love a rainbow?  Of course, they are by definition accompanied by rain, but we welcomed rain to wash all the salt off of the deck from our crossing to Puerto Rico.  After all the hassles of officialdom in the Dominican Republic (having to check in and out of every port), it was a delight to check into Puerto Rico in five minutes using the Local Boater Option.  This program (available in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands so far) allows you to check in over the phone.  This is the second time we’ve used it, and we love it.  We originally signed up for the program at a Seven Seas Cruising Association gam in Charlotte Harbor, Florida.  Small world again; the customs agent signing us up went to my high school, though a couple of years ahead of me!  He’s a very nice guy, and has been a great source of customs-related information.   Anyway, this rainbow extended across the entire entrance to the harbor at Boquerón.  Below is a picture of one of our neighbors there in the quiet anchorage just before dawn.