Hola! So I wrote a bunch of this at the beginning of our trip. And since I’m now sitting in the middle of Parque de bombas in Ponce, and want much more to just take in my surroundings, you’ll be stuck with an unedited version of my original thoughts. Also some random pictures that don’t necessarily apply. So here you are!
What can I say about PR so far? It’s amazing. It almost seems like a secret because you never hear anyone say, ‘Oh my God, Puerto Rico, you MUST go, it’s tah die for!’ In fact, pre-this trip, the only thing I knew about Puerto Rico was that my fourth grade teacher was from there and she was soft-spoken. I guess I knew that they speak Spanish too, but I can’t be too sure.
Right now I’m sitting in an apartment in the El Yunque national rain forest (the only rain forest under U.S. Parks and Recreation), listening to the symphony of Coqui tree frogs and drinking a Presidente beer. After the drive we had to get here, it’s well-earned. But more about that later.
We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon in San Juan and promptly headed to the car rental place (thrifty car rental, sounds promising, eh?). After a bit of waiting, we walked out of the office to find a hot cherry red Mitsubishi Lancer awaiting our direction. Michael and I had quite the giggles because it’s totally a conspicuous rental car and unlike anything we’d ever drive but what the hell! We’re on vacation! So we left with the hot cherry red car and the advice to avoid potholes wherever possible. Smooth sailing
After making our way through San Juan we headed East towards Fajardo, where we would catch the ferry to Culebra, our first stop of this trip. Luckily we discovered an outlet mall where Michael could purchase a bathing suit, and we had our first confusing interaction with a mall food kiosk. We wanted guava and strawberry smoothies (so so so so so starving. even mall food sounded OK) but ended up with guava-filled churros. Ha – not what I was looking for but WOAH they were delicious and when you’re that hungry, anything will do.
Sugar high and anxious to make the ferry in time, we navigated through some hairy traffic and finally arrived in Fajardo. Now let me just tell you that the Fajardo ferry is about as organized as our federal government. Do you get it? It’s TOTALLY AND EPICLY disorganized. And that’s all well and good, but our 4:30 ferry decided it didn’t want to go to Culebra until 8. THAT’S FOUR HOURS LATE! Ok. Apparently this is a regular thing with the ferry. It became clear that we just needed to get with Island time, which is where time doesn’t exist. Beware east coasters – time REALLY does not exist here. And if I weren’t so airplane grody and exhausted, I could be happy with having no sense of time. So long as it doesn’t get in the way of my eating. Well we had some quesadillas and Medallas (the beer of PR) and by the time the ferry came around we were relaxed and ready to make it to Culebra.
Since it’s not the busy season, they put everyone on a cargo boat, which is cheaper I suppose. I thought, ‘Who cares! They still have seats for the two hour ride!” Flash forward to me, knees to my forehead, violently chewing a piece of peppermint gum. Several men are on the sides of the boat, peering over the railing as if there are some interesting fish or sharks or naked ladies there. Ahhh, but no, they are just really seasick. SO SEA SICK. And it never seemed like we were approaching land, I’d thought we’d be on that boat forever. Finally we make it to Culebra and go to call our lodge to pick us up. No answer at their office number. No answer at the hotel number. No answer at the reservations number. It’s 9pm. We started at 4:30am. So yea, we obviously started to panic a bit. And just as we were getting to that point where we started doing an irish jig on the big red panic button, the hotel’s jeep drove right by us so we could chase it down. Phew. Everyone was saved and good thing because my Irish jig is ABOMINABLE. Turned out THERE WAS A POWER OUTAGE on the island. Oh. So yea, when we got to the hotel we were promptly given candles for light. It was very very dark.
Anyway, at this point, Michael and I are peeing our pants with joy at the idea of a room to put our stuff in and some food for our empty bellies. Not to mention more Medallas. So a power outage seemed like nothing at all. We had conch salad and carrot & coconut soup and promptly passed out.
Wednesday we awoke to an amazing view of the bay. Waking up to that view totally erased any of the stress from the day before. We walked to town (very hot, very hilly) picked up some breakfast from an aggressive yet burnt out American dude (queso y huevos torta) and then picked up groceries for the rest of our stay. I found guava jelly and can tell already that the guava may just be my PR version of figs. Yum yum yum. Guava is so tasty!
We spent the day at this lagoon not far from our lodge, snorkeling, swimming, and smashing coconuts. OK, Michael was the coconut smasher, I can’t take any credit. We cut some really large ones down from a tree and then he beat them with a bamboo stick until we were splashed by some water within the nut. I can think of few things these past few days that are more alluring than a freshly opened coconut, full of water and milky sweet flesh. Except maybe one with a shot of whisky in it, which we had tonight for dinner.
We hiked back to the lodge (again, very hilly, very hot) just in time for dinner. Michael had lobster risotto which was perfect and would be approved by many Italians, and I had Argentinian skirt steak with monfongo (fried yuca cake). And for dessert? Carrot cake. Now normally I’m a ‘no carrot cake but Grammy’s carrot cake’ type of gal, but Fran and I made a carrot cake in Italy that was superb (and actually similar to Grammy’s but used moscovato sugar instead of white sugar). My issue is that other versions are too cakey and not very carrot-y. But since the Italian carrot cake turned out so well, I decided to trust the instinct. And this cake must have been made by the Grammy of Puerto Rico because it was full of carrots and topped with a cream cheese frosting that was incredibly rich whilst still being light and airy. Yum yum yum. I’m half convinced that it was a meringue cream cheese frosting. Once I figure it out I’m joining the three carrot cake forces to make the PERFECT CARROT CAKE. Moscavato sugar + Grammy’s cake recipe + orange zest + meringue-y cream cheese frosting. Thanks, Fran, you were so right about the orange zest!!!
Anyway, I digress. Wednesday was great. Thursday we woke up, hung around the pool a bit, and then caught the ferry back to the mainland. We witnessed some crazy driving but no one here ever honks their horns. It’s refreshing. We met up with Sue, our landlord for the next few days, at a gas station so she could lead us to the apartment we’re staying in. It’s right on the edges of the El Yunqe rainforest, although you wouldn’t know it’s not in the actual rainforest since it’s crazy lush and green and blanketed here, just like the rainforest looks like in the movies. I feel dumb saying that, but it’s eerie how the rainforest in my brain looks EXACTLY like rainforest in real life. I don’t know why more people don’t come to PR. Seriously. Amazing beaches, amazing people, amazing rain forests, and the food! Fresh conch? Fresh red snapper? So delicious.
So anyway, Michael and I ventured to this cool strip of restaurants this evening known as the kioskos. And they are exactly that, a long strip of kiosks. They sort of line the beach like a strip mall, and during the day they look like storage units, but at night they open up the sliding garage gates and BAM a full fledge restaurant/bar appears. With backs that open right out onto the beach in Luquillo. I had more fried yuca filled with conch, octopus, & shrimp in a red creole sauce, and Michael had salmon with a sesame glaze and yellow rice and beans. I also had a mojito, which was delicious, but rum still gives me heartburn so that will probably be the only one of this trip.
We wandered home and got lost several times. We saw a big spider. And now I’m sitting in our beautiful apartment enjoying a campfire banana, writing an update. Because I haven’t provided any updates and I feel very guilty about that :). I have a clip of what the tree frogs sound like and so many pictures but I might just direct you to my picture page. Because surprise surprise, I don’t have enough space on my wordpress at this moment for more pictures.
WordPress has changed their interface and I don’t have nearly enough time to refigure it all out, so I’m sorry if this is an ugly setup 😉