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

ChefsForPuertoRico

All Hearts and Hands

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