Day 2 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sunday, July 27, 2008: We spent the night at the Fajardo Inn. It's set on a steep hill in Fajardo. Here's the view from our small balcony looking toward the parking lot, ...
|... and the view looking the other way. Well, okay, there wasn't a view but there was a lovely mango tree.
|Our room was a suite which we were in just long enough to shower and sleep. However, we had very limited time in Puerto Rico and lots to see, so we were checked out first thing in the morning.
|Our first stop was for desayuno, which we saw on every fast food restaurant sign and finally figured out means "breakfast." As much as we love to eat local foods, we needed familiar sustenance so we went to McDonald's.
|Our next stop was across the parking lot to Walgreen's, to indulge in a travel tradition of replacing a broken hair dryer/hair curler. Debbie's hair appliances only ever break down on vacation.
|Next, we headed to El Yunque National Forest.
|We drove right past this lovely sign and even photographed it, but it never occurred to us that this might be the visitor center and the only place where you can get a map.
|Since we never got a map, our entire drive was an adventure, not knowing what was around each corner. We were delighted by scenic overlooks and lush tropical scenery everywhere.
|We had a nice visit at Yokahu Tower, an observation point with an elevation of 1,575 feet.
|The tower contains a gently sloping staircase that circles the tower around and again. There's no indication how many times it goes around, so daylight at the top is a welcome sight even though it is a very easy climb.
|The views from the top are gorgeous, as you'd expect from such a beautiful island. Our little mascot, Orchy, posed for a photo.
|Tom pointed the telescope toward Vieques Island where we had been the night before.
|The forest stretches in all directions.
|Heading back down the tower took no time at all, so we were able to linger a bit in the gift shop at ground level, where we picked up some tiny coquí frog figures.
|Back on the ground, we took another look at the ocean view, ...
|... before taking a closer look at the tropical vegetation like this vine, ...
|... this fern tree, ...
|... and this lovely flower, yellow allamanda.
|Tropical environments are havens for tiny lizards and we love lizards. Check out this adorable little guy.
|Back on the road, we went as far into the forest as we could, given our time constraints and our complete lack of knowledge of how far in we were. The road was winding and narrow, but in excellent shape, and it was a very pleasant drive.
|We passed large bamboo stands clinging to the side of the road, ...
|... and several waterfalls, ...
|... including this large one, La Coca. We couldn't linger, though, because we had to a ship to catch.
|We returned our rental car to the airport and took a cab to the cruise ship pier in Old San Juan where our ship, Carnival Destiny, was waiting.
|We flew through the VIP check-in and started through the mouse maze of security and badge registration, including this area featuring four or five bars serving sample sizes of various alcoholic drinks. It made the waiting a little easier.
|Before long, we were in our cabin on the Empress (7th) deck, 7-183, which is a category 11 suite on the starboard (right) side of the ship.
|The room was one of the best we've enjoyed on a cruise ship. Let's take a look around.
|The couch had a fold-out bed and the balcony featured three chairs and a small table.
|The bed was really comfortable with one of those amazing hotel-quality down duvets.
|The main room had a full closet and large chest of drawers, ...
|... and the separate vanity area had an even larger closet with fold-down shelves along one end.
|The vanity had three fully-lit mirrors and four small drawers. It was all so spacious and decadent.
|The bathroom was a marble and tile wonder. Amenities included a tube of toothpaste and new men's and women's razors. We're guessing that Carnival has worked out a sweet deal with the manufacturers of these products, just like they must have done with the alcohol vendors we'd seen earlier.
|The shower had gel and shampoo dispensers instead of supplying individual bottles.
|The shot of the Jacuzzi controls on the tub gives some idea of the pretty copper-colored tile used throughout the bathroom. It was really nice.
|After we had settled in and gotten a quick meal in the Sun and Sea Restaurant on the Spa deck, it was time to explore Old San Juan.
|It's a pleasant walk along the waterfront and through the edge of the town. This little park held tables full of old men playing chess.
|This is the base of the impressive Banco Popular building.
|Our walk continued down Paseo de la Princesa. This portion was a pretty boulevard lined with vendors offering souvenirs, food, and art.
|The architecture and the tropical plants create a very distinctive look -- warm, comfortable, and elegant.
|Under this gigantic tree, people were gathering for a musical performance later in the day.
|This is the Raices Fountain, with sculptures representing Puerto Rico's varied heritage.
|This tiny park featured many narrow, spiked sculptures. At least we hope they were sculptures.
|The Paseo de la Princesa is a lovely walk indeed.
|Here's another tiny park with welcome shade and beautiful landscaping.
|We ducked through the San Juan Gate to take a quick look at the streets of Old San Juan.
|Beyond the gate, this portion of the walkway is called Paseo del Morro, and is bordered by the ocean on one side and the imposing city walls on the other.
|This is scenic El Morro fort, one of the most recognizable sites in Puerto Rico. The little sentry outposts, called garitas, are a famous Puerto Rican image, and we were glad to see the fort in person. We would have loved more time to visit the fort and see more of this beautiful city.
|The area around the fort is San Juan National Historic Site. Feral cats live on the property and are as cute as they are wild.
|Here's the view looking back along Paseo del Morro with San Juan Gate toward the left and Paseo de la Princesa continuing along the seawall to the right.
|We stopped for refreshments -- drinks made with pineapple juice and coconut cream.
|We made it back through the security/check-in maze and relaxed on our balcony. We we able to catch a glimpse of Castillo San Cristobal on the hill in the distance -- yet another place to visit when we return.
|A cruise ship was docked across the harbor from us. Was it just resting? Surely it couldn't have passengers on it or they'd all be sad that they aren't docked in Old San Juan like we were.
|We ate dinner on the Lido deck again, because the formal dining rooms only offered open seating; assigned seating wouldn't begin until the next night. We enjoyed watching the sunset over the waterfront afterward
|We strolled along the top deck at our Carnival ship all dressed up in lights. This was our only stroll on this deck at night as we like to keep to ourselves in our cabin and on our balcony in the evenings.
|The Royal Caribbean ship in the pier next to us was loaded with passengers and ready to go.
|When it was our turn to depart, we watched an amazing sail out from our starboard balcony.
|The waterfront was alive with sounds and lights, ...
|... and the water was too, as this party boat, La Rumba, went sailing by with music, revelers, and an enthusiastic MC.
We bade farewell to the walls of Old San Juan and promised to return in seven days' time.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy