Tuesday, March 9, 2010

San Juan

Day #12: Thursday, February 23
San Juan

My original itinerary for this cruise did not include San Juan; that was a surprise to me when I got on board the ship. The original itinerary had included Santo Domingo instead. I heard mixed reasons why they opted for Puerto Rico over the Dominican Republic, varying from the Haiti earthquake to problems with the dock in Santo Domingo. Regardless, I'm glad for the change, because Puerto Rico ended up being another of my most favorite ports! We docked right at Old San Juan and it was just fabulous.

We were excursion-less for San Juan, so we slept in a bit. We got up around 10:30 and got ready for the day. We decided to just have breakfast on the go, so we took some fruit and cereal bars in our bags to eat as we wandered through San Juan.

I can't say it was love at first sight for me and San Juan, because this was my first view out the porthole. But don't worry, it got better.

We made our way into town, first coming upon the Plaza de Colón, featuring a big Christopher Columbus statue. It was such a gorgeous day out, and there were local artisans with booths lining the plaza.

Monument to Christopher Columbus

Some of the detail at the base of the Christopher Columbus statue - there's a bird on that guy's head!

Off to the right we saw a big fort that I wanted to check out, so we walked out that way to the Castillo San Cristobal. We each paid $3 admission, then spent some time exploring the fort. There were fabulous views from there. We wandered through the fort for a while but unfortunately, thanks to another rehearsal for Heather scheduled at 3:00 that afternoon, we had to cut our time a little short so we could fit in everything we wanted to do. We wished we could have spent more time at the fort, but we enjoyed what we were able to see. I also bought my postcards there to get that out of the way.

Heather walking through one of the tunnels of the fort

Drawings of ships on the walls of the dungeons, drawn by prisoners being held for mutiny

View of Old San Juan from the Castillo San Cristobal

Look at that blue water!

Me and Old San Juan, taken from the fort

Stunning view from the fort

After leaving the fort, we walked back through the town. It was just so cute. It was colorful and charming, with lots of trees. It was really beautiful. I stopped in a little souvenir store to buy my magnet, which ended up being my favorite magnet of the trip (and Eric and Heather agree)!

Beautiful San Juan street

I think I would like to live on this street.

We made our way to the City Gates and the walls of the city. We walked out through the Gate to walk around the city walls, on the Paseo del Morro. The Paseo del Morro is a nice trail that follows the city walls along San Juan Bay. It was an absolutely gorgeous path. Once again, I was blown away by the beautiful scenery around me.

Heather walking through the Gate of the City (Puerta de San Juan)

View of the city walls from the Paseo del Morro

Views along the Paseo del Morro

So pretty! Outside the city walls

As we followed that path, we eventually came to the Raíces Fountain, considered to be one of the most romantic spots in Old San Juan. And, it was beautiful indeed. The Fountain was built in 1992 to honor the African, Spanish and Taino/Amerindian roots that make up Puerto Rico's mixed cultural heritage. I enjoyed reading about the symbolism of each portion of the Fountain, so I'm going to share it here! The water also switched patterns occasionally and at one point I got sprayed a bit by it, which felt so incredible on that hot afternoon.

The Raíces Fountain

The Island of Puerto Rico sails through the waves like a ship that has at its bow a steed emerging from the sea with its strong and vigorous pace, but planted on terra firma, and astride its flanks, a youth who scans the horizon of indelibly beautiful dawns and sunsets.

Astern, two dolphins stylishly cut through the waters in friendship, playful and intelligent, with an instinct for kindliness and gentleness, depicting the Puerto Rican character.
They are joined by a female figure at the island's portal, from which incoming ships can be sighted, and from whence she can greet with garlands and delicacies those who come from distant seas and foreign lands.

To the left, and in what could be called the main spot on board, the family, the center of any societal group.

To the right, the native "jibaro" deeply rooted in the land with his rhythm and his folklore and the woman, who dances to the beat of the music.

In the middle of the vessel as if it was the main mast, an enraged goddess - the central figure - emerges, howling to the four winds, as if trying to soar toward the cerulean vault seeking the stars and symbolizing the freedom of the Puerto Rican people.

We then walked back towards town along the Paseo de la Princesa, which was another beautifully peaceful path. It was lined with trees and benches and the views looking back at the Fountain were lovely. Apparently that area is also a WiFi hotspot. Knowing that the cruise ship crew is always looking for some free internet, if I were Heather, I would go to that spot every time we were in San Juan and just sit and spend the afternoon. It was so pretty.

Looking back at the Raíces Fountain from the Paseo de la Princesa

Ever since I learned we would be docking in San Juan, Heather had been raving about the food. "We'll get something to eat there," is all she kept saying about San Juan. So, the time had come for lunch. We went to a restaurant where Heather had eaten before called Café Berlin, or as I prefer to call it, Café of AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS LIFE-CHANGING FOOD. Seriously. I had one of the very best meals of my life at this place. I do think my dinner at the Seafood Restaurant in St. Andrews is still my #1 Best Meal Ever, but Café Berlin is a close second.

The site of the most amazing lunch ever

What about you all? Do you remember the best meal of your life? If not, please make it your goal to someday eat something that you will always remember as The Best. It's so worth it.

And now, get ready for the food pictures. You had to know they were coming!

We had a fabulous table outside, because it was such a gorgeous day I have no idea how you could not eat outside. First things first, we ordered a couple Medalla Lights, the local beer. It was cool and refreshing and just what we needed.

Heather enjoying her beer, and trying to decide what to order

We decided to splurge and start with an appetizer of seared ahi tuna and sweet plantains. As soon as I tasted that tuna, I knew I was in trouble. This place was GOOD.

Our appetizer

For our entrees, we decided to each order something different and share. Heather ordered the Seafood and Mofongo Fest, which included original Puerto Rican Mofongo (basically mashed plantains) with fresh shrimp, scallops and a fish fillet in a Criollo sauce (a red sauce with a little spice to it). I ordered the Papaya Scallops, which were fresh sea scallops sauteed in a fresh papaya and herb sauce. They were served with yuca mofongo and meszclum (I think that means some sort of lettuce mix, but I could be wrong, because my knowledge of these words comes from Google and Google alone). We ordered without knowing what many of the words in the food descriptions meant, but we were not disappointed. Everything was absolutely fabulous. The mofongo from the Seafood Fest dish in particular was incredible! We both ate until we just could not possibly eat any more.

Seafood and Mofongo Fest:
There are three shrimps around the outside of the plate, and the fish fillet at the bottom right. The mound in the middle is the mofongo and it contained scallops, peppers, etc. YUM.

Papaya Scallops, with yuca mofongo at the top left and what I assume is the meszclum at the upper right.

The before: Enjoying my amazing lunch

The after: I'm not sure I can move.

After lunch we considered doing a little more walking around, but after the sun, beer, and obscene amount of food we had just consumed, we were so exhausted. We stopped at the post office (another good ol' USPS) to mail Eric's postcard, then went back on the ship.

We rested up for a few minutes before Heather had to go to rehearsal. While she was gone I went up to take pictures of the port from Deck 15, then went back to the cabin to make further use of yet another U.S. port by calling Eric and Dad with my cell phone.

San Juan from the ship

After rehearsal, Heather came back to get ready for her show and I got ready for our last formal night of the cruise. That night Heather was doing the first two performances of "Do You Wanna Dance," the final show of the cruise (NO! Say it ain't so!). This show featured different types of dance from various eras and parts of the world. It was a very cool show, although the focus was more on the dancers instead of Heather, which is fine but just not what I'm looking for! I want more Heather! Of course, Heather did a fabulous job in her numbers and the dancers also did a great job with this show.

"Dance with Me"

"Da Beat," the swing number

"Hernando's Hideaway"

"Last Dance," the big finish

Of course, I got some video of this show for you to watch. Because this was the last show, I was much less concerned with getting busted for video-taping. Earlier in the cruise I was so nervous they would yell at me and then I wouldn't be able to get away with video-taping the rest of the shows of the cruise. But, I made it and this was the last one, so I was a bit more bold. As a result, this video is much better than the others, and I even got some close-ups here and there. So, enjoy! (I've included the breakdown of when each new song starts again, in case that helps you!)
  • 0:04 "Dance with Me" - very cute!
  • 2:04 "Da Beat" - check it out, Heather RAPS! Ha! And she wears a pretty awesome hat.
  • 3:01 "Hernando's Hideaway" - I would say this is Heather's big number in this show, and it was my favorite. Go Heather!
  • 5:25 "Last Dance" - the big finish! Unfortunately, Heather is behind somebody's head for a little bit towards the beginning of this one. Stupid audience head. But, this also features another "woo" from me for Heather at the end!

VIDEO: Selections from "Do You Wanna Dance?"

After Heather's two shows that evening, we went back to the cabin and ordered room service. Heather's friends couldn't believe we were making it a quiet evening, because we were arriving late in our next port (noon instead of 8:00 a.m.), plus we had another time change that evening that would allow us to gain an hour of sleep, plus Heather only had one show the next day. So, it seemed like a perfect night to party it up. But, we were beat and in the mood for some relaxation. We ate our room service dinner, drank some wine, ate some of the brownies my dad had made for us, and finished up the season of Jersey Shore. Then we called it a night. We were just exhausted!

Up next: Our last port, do you believe it? We'll be in Grand Turk, crossing another item off my list!

And don't forget, there are more pictures of San Juan and Heather's "Do You Wanna Dance" show on the photo share site!

1 comment:

Becky said...

I loved all that fountain description. That is really cool. There was no video in the video spot! Is it just me?