Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Me Encanta Puerto Rico!

Hola!  Gracias.  Solo Salida.  Velocidad maxima.  Pare.  El San Juan Hotel.

For those of you amateur Spanish speakers, these seven phrases comprised my entire Spanish vocabulary during our long weekend in Puerto Rico.  Impressed, yes?  (I mean, si?)  And for those of you who speak Spanish better than I do (i.e. everyone reading this blog - and please forgive me if I am completely butchering this beautiful language), you will notice that most of our Spanish-speaking opportunities came in the form of the service industry (“Gracias!”) and driving around San Juan (“Solo Salida?  What in the heck does that mean?…”), an adventure in and of itself.

Needless to say, Will and I had a fantastic time in Puerto Rico and even though we had only two full days (with the other two left for traveling to and from), we packed in as much as we could into those forty-eight hours.

When we finally arrived at our hotel on Thursday afternoon, we still had a couple of hours before check-in, so we wasted no time completing full relaxation mode:

One of us had more trouble than the other letting go of the real world...

Our hotel was located in Isla Verde, a community immediately outside San Juan, PR where most of the touristy hotels are found.  It was beautiful, well-equipped and right on the beach:

Friday we were up with the sun (which was not bad since we had both crashed by 9pm Thursday night – we are wild, eh?).  The day started with a beachfront breakfast to fuel up for our day in the El Yunque rainforest, the only rainforest in the US National park system:

View from breakfast (our first attempt at the "panoramic" function on our camera; a work-in-progress)

Once we made it to the rainforest (and for those of you who don’t know this, Puerto Rico has some of the worst street signs and even worse direction-givers…not one of our five maps we had gave accurate directions to the rainforest.  Thank goodness for the National Forest signs!), we found our way to the visitor’s center:

And then on to tour the park.

Our first hike, Mt. Britton observation tower:

If you look very closely at the bottom picture you can see the observation tower on top of the mountain in the background.  I have no idea how to do one of those fancy-dancy arrows or circles around one of my pictures, so I am using the very subtle "WE WERE HERE!" as an indication.

 Our second hike, La Mina falls:

I just realized I used the same snail picture in both collages.  We only saw one snail, but I my brain must still be on island time; or I'm still in shock from returning back to reality.  Hopefully either way you will forgive me!

Because the trails were slippery and wet (yes folks, it does rain a lot in the rainforest), this was my primary view for most of the hikes...

Will and I tend to do more active vacations, so the rainforest was perfect.  The hikes were challenging, but not impossible and we both felt like we had earned another mojito (or three) by the time we got back to the hotel.

On Saturday we awoke to the sound of rain and thought our morning plans to tour Old San Juan might be spoiled.  But thankfully by the time we got to old town, the sun was shining and the clouds lifted.  It was a perfect day save the soaring temperatures and humidity…but we didn’t care with sights like these:

Incredible historic sights

The colors were mesmerizing!

The fort!  Very hot, but very worth it.

My absolute favorite - the cemetery immediately outside the fort's walls.  Stunning.  (Oops, used the same picture again.  But as Will says, that puts him on par with the snail.  Not bad.)

And of course, the entire reason we went to Puerto Rico – the wedding!

Mr. and Mrs. Keith Lorenze

Amazing reception.  Yes, we were bathed in blue and red lighting - incredible.

We were sad to leave the island (and our freedom), but so happy to return to Frances, George and our own bed. 

I am not the world’s easiest traveler —I hate (HATE) to fly and I go into slight culture shock when I am forced out of my comfort zone (the low point of this attribute was when I started crying in our rental car after seeing a stray dog on the side of the road.  Please feel free to laugh at me - Will did!).  I’m not a girly-girl and I love a good adventure, but I am admittedly (and ashamedly) wary about traveling in different societies.  Truthfully though, Puerto Rico is about as “American” as you can get for a primarily Spanish-speaking island, so my adjustment period was very minimal and exceptionally easy.  I hope to get better as Will and I travel more, if he’s up for the challenge!  I desperately want to see as much of this amazing world as I can (a complete contradiction from my last few sentences, I know).

The next post will surely be less picturesque and a tad more mundane; although the photographer will be much more exhausted and in greater need of a good mojito recipe.  If anyone has any recommendations I’m all ears!

Adiós amigos! 

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