Friday, February 19, 2016

Puerto Rico and Vieques

Old San Juan

In early February, we left Providence RI on American Airlines early in the morning, and after a stop in Charlotte S.C. we landed mid- afternoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A taxi into Old San Juan from the airport cost $24.00 and delivered us to the Gallery Inn on Norzagaray St. The Inn is a fascinating place, owned by artist Jan D'Esopo, who has lived in San Juan for years but is originally from CT.

Parrot at the Inn
Her sculptures and her sister's paintings are everywhere throughout the inn. The Inn is a work of art itself, with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore. There are parrots and orchids and you might find Ms. D'Esopo's sister painting portraits in one of the galleries. You can commission her to do a portrait if the mood strikes. Be aware, though, this is a 300 year old place. It has lots of atmosphere and a great location, but not necessarily a great hot shower in the morning. Things like modern plumbing have to be cobbled together in a place like this.The floors and walls are old, so if you like being in a place that's sparkling new, this isn't for you.

At the Gallery Inn
Old San Juan is beautiful, full of pastel colored buildings and flowers. There are two Spanish fortresses within walking distance of the inn where we stayed, part of the San Juan National Historic Site. $5.00 buys you entrance to both. The views are amazing and there's usually a breeze, so on a sunny day they are fantastic places to explore.

OSJ restaurants
Spanish fortresses
You'll have fun just walking around OSJ. There are a lot of restaurants and bars. In general, you don't want to have a car here, the streets are very narrow and parking is difficult.

We rented a car one day and drove to El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system. GPS is a good thing to have, as we almost missed the turn off the main road to the forest. It's not as well marked as you might think. Many of the trails seemed to be closed, but we did hike to La Mina Falls in the rain. Going down is easy, coming back up a little tougher. We had umbrellas, but you might want to just wear your bathing suit. You can get in the water at the Falls and change into dry clothes back at your car.

El Yunque Rainforest
We met friends in Condado and hired a van to take us to Fajardo, where we took an hour-long ferry to the island of Vieques. As senior citizens, the ferry cost only $1.00 each way! We rented a house for the week in the town of Isabel Segunda, a charming place with narrow streets where horses and chickens wander freely.

It's a great place to vacation. There are a lot of beautiful beaches. You'll have to rent a Jeep to get to most of them, as the roads are often rough. Playa Media Luna was probably our favorite. It's a protected cove so the water was calm and easy to get in and out of. It was also easy to find shade to sit in.
View from the deck, Isabel Segunda

If you're going to Vieques, you absolutely have to go to the Bioluminous Bay. This is best seen during a new moon, which also makes it better to see the thousands of stars in the Milky Way right overhead. Microscopic plankton in the water glow like fireflies when they are disturbed or come into contact with another organism.

Also, don't miss the little town of Esperanza, a beachside town with a number of restaurants and shops right across the street. We ate at the restaurant Bananas, once for lunch and once upstairs for dinner.


Upstairs at Bananas

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