Monday, January 13, 2020

Vamos Corillo! (or Let's go, friends!)

Travel is so much more than leaving your home for a different, temporary location.
Travel allows you to experience new locations, foods, weather, lifestyles.
Travel opens your mind, and your heart to the things that make us different yet bring us all together.
the beach near Old San Juan
Last Spring, we were lucky enough to take a return trip to the Caribbean and the British Virgin Islands. 
While Rob set up the majority of the trip, I was in charge of setting up the flights. There is no easy way to get to the BVI from the Coast of Illinois. Travel day can either be a 16-hour odyssey or a nice leisurely day with an overnight stop.

Of course, I chose the leisurely day with an overnight stop. (On the way down only. The return was regrettably Odyssey worthy.)

We flew Southwest on this trip, which flies into San Juan, Puerto Rico. The following day we would be taking a much smaller plane to Tortola.

I must admit, initially, I was a little nervous about the stop. Puerto Rico, as well as the whole Caribbean, was still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. I am always a little tentative when it comes to trying a new location, especially when traveling with friends. The desire to show everyone a good time is strong.

And I have a reputation of booking awesome hotels sight unseen to maintain.

With all that pressure, I typed in ‘hotels in San Juan’ and going by photos alone settled on Villa Herencia in Old San Juan. The photos showed an old-world Latin-style hotel with stucco, brick work, courtyards, mosquito netting and bathtubs on the roof.

Seriously. How can you pass up bathtubs on the roof?
sun bathing, taken literally

We were all a little nervous when our airport taxi driver had to ask directions to the hotel….twice. There was much laughter as a couple of people in the taxi mapped the drive on phones, which gave conflicting routes.

The Bishop's. We drove past them so many times, we felt they were blessing us personally. 

The driver persevered and committed to driving us up and down streets so narrow we were pretty sure they were sidewalks, past breathtaking views of the old fort installation and finally dropping us off in front of a locked door on a blue stone road in the middle of Old San Juan.

Eduardo met us at the door, welcoming us with a booming voice and endearing smile. He gave us a breakfast menu to fill out for the next day then took us to our rooms and left us to explore the premises.

through this hallway...

the courtyard outside our room

This is the moment of truth, when traveling with friends who are relying on your hotel pick to set the tone for the trip.

High ceilings, heavy wood furniture and mosquito netted beds, modern fixtures surrounded by antique mirrors in the bathroom…although the rooms were small, they were absolutely beautiful.
mosquito netting for ambiance only

modern meets antique

a secret behind every door

I retained my Great Booking Mystique.

Given the fact that we had less than twelve hours in Old San Juan, we hit Eduardo up for some suggestions before heading out into the city. He gave us numerous suggestions for dinner, depending on our preference of ‘touristy’ ‘authentic’ ‘quick’ ‘young-vibe’ ‘where he would meet friends’. We settled on a tiny tapas style place Rosa de Triana, complete with stone arches, dark hallways and candles. Mojitos and tostones consumed, we wandered the streets of Old San Juan.
We wrapped up our evening on the patio at Barrachina, sampling flan and dodging unidentified that felt it important to try to bean us in the heads.

I’ll let pictures give you the rest of our tour, but first I have to mention our Villa Herencia breakfast.

On check in we were given a menu to choose from – eggs, fruit, yogurt, toast. Not a huge selection, especially for people who LOVE breakfast. But we figured it would be a good start and we could grab something at the airport.
We woke early, packed our bags and met in the dining room – another high-ceilinged room filled with heavy wood table, and coffee and juice laden buffet. The ladies preparing our food apologized for the delay, only to arrive minutes later with silver trays for each of us.

this is now known as breakfast eduardo

I have never had breakfast served to me on an individual silver tray. I could seriously get use to this.
El Morro, a portion of the old fort

the city gate

San Juan Cathedral, Ponce de Leon was being renovated

Forteleza Street 

I have always found old world Latin style beautiful and romantic. I did not expect to leave San Juan with such a strong desire to return. It has become yet another place that I will always hold near and dear.

And to that end, Puerto Rico is once again in need.
Puerto Rico is a United States territory. They do not have the luxury of benefits afforded to the rest of our states. Yes, there is a history behind this. I am not going to enter that discussion. This is not that sort of page.
Rather, I am going to appeal to our humanity. This island country has been hit with multiple earthquakes over the past few weeks. They were still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria two years ago.
Below is a list of sites which are aiding Puerto Rico.
If you can, give them a hand now.
And in the future, give Puerto Rico a visit.

American Red Cross

Hispanic Federation

Direct Relief


All Hearts and Hands

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Aaaaayyyyyyy It's a New Year!

Happy New Year!

We survived another holiday season.  Fancy foods have been consumed and subsequently purged from the fridge while the purgee made heart felt promises of NEVER eating half a ham ever again

Gifts have been wrapped, opened, admired and put away while pondering the thought process that brought the giver to think the box of plastic hockey guys would truly be loved by the 61 year old recipient.
the face off
a skirmish resulting in the Yellow Guys goal
and the inevitable fight which broke out after that controversial goal

Loved ones near and far have been hugged and made to promise to visit more often, all the while hoping that the ukulele concerto will truly become a real thing.  
Resolutions have been made. Goals have been set, which is really just a kinder, gentler way to say resolutions.

And now it’s January 5th. And if I don’t get this post up by Tuesday, I will have blown my goals for 2020, one of which is to post here once a week. And being as Jan 7 – which technically is a week from Jan 1 – is Tuesday, I figure I am still good….

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not great with goal setting.  I don’t like putting them out into the world as I seem to take that as a challenge to see just how quickly I can screw it up. But, as the holiday season one horse open sleighed right over me, I decided it was time to change it up.

Truthfully, I prefer the option of picking a word to represent your plan for the new year. I toyed around with ‘reset’ and ‘reconnect’ but finally – This Morning – settled on Time Out.
Not the sit in the corner and think about what you did Time Out, but more of a last 20 seconds of a football game, there’s no way they can win but maybe if they run the clock out there could be a miracle Time Out.

I can’t quite figure out why I don’t seem to have any free time these days. Time where I don’t HAVE to do anything. Or, more honestly, have time to do the things I really enjoy doing.

I blame my upbringing.

I grew up in a house where you did your chores before doing fun activities. Those activities became the prize for dusting that stupid dining room table with the giant carved legs and cross pieces requiring me to crawl under it and then crack my head as I crawled back out – all the time hoping I hadn’t passed out and missed Johnny Quest.
This philosophy was reinforced by my 5th grade teacher, who noted on my report card that ‘Laura does not use her time wisely’. Apparently, completing my homework and then quietly reading a much more enjoyable book at my desk was not satisfactory. It only reinforced my believe that I needed to always be productive, although at this writing I suddenly realized that perhaps it was more of an insult to her worksheet producing abilities. And now I am picturing her tiny, support hose wearing body hunched over a desk, late into the night, trying to create the ultimate mimeograph sheet of questions set to finally, at last, stump that little Schloz girl…

It isn’t easy to break those habits reinforced nearly daily.

(Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was not a coal mine of constant household chores. I had plenty of time for Barbies and imaginary adventures and getting trapped in trees. And 5th grade was, in reality, pretty fun, except for this teacher’s penchant for spraying the room down with Lysol daily and discussing her varicose veins.)

And that philosophy has served me well throughout my adult life. I have run a tight ship around the house, and I hope, impressed my managers with my great work ethic.

But I have a terrible time doing fun things when I know there is another load of laundry crawling up the wall, or a fine layer of protective dust on the furniture.              
So, to that end, I have made my Word of 2020 – Time Out.

(Fine, it’s two words. Just me, overachieving again.)

And to manage making this a year of Time Out, I needed to set some goals.
Goals such as ‘reading for enjoyment every day’ and the afore mentioned blogging goal.

But the biggest is to just allow myself some TIME.
And it hasn’t been easy.

Into the new year by 5 days, I have managed to read a little each day, however, it took every fiber of my being to stop taking down the Christmas decorations to take a ride up the river for some music and a glass of wine.
a cold day on the Mississippi. the barge is parked. taking a Time Out!

Bluffs along the river road
sunset at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Illinois
And at the end of the day, as I was making pancakes from scratch with the odds and ends of dairy and non-dairy products I had in the fridge as I have yet to grocery shop this weekend, I had to agree, those hours were truly Time well spent.

So I will again wish you a Happy New Year from the Coast of Illinois.
May your New Year be as productive as you need and as fun and exciting as you want!
me and the Bronze Fonze
(while the above pic was from a quick before Christmas wedding trip in Milwaukee, I had to include it because....Aaaaaayyyyyy,,,, it's the Fonze!)

See you next week!!