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A Walk Through Historic Old San Juan

November 10, 2010

The next day we met our friends from Madison, Dave and Darlene who were joining us on the cruise. We had a full day to spend in San Juan and decided to stroll through the historic district because Mike and I never got to that section on the hot walk the day before. We met at noon and took a cab to San Cristobel Castle on the northeast corner of Old San Juan. We walked around the castle but did not go in. Instead, we walked down Norzagaray Street toward San Felipe Del Morro Castle on the northwest corner.

It was a rainy, steamy day; remnants from tropical storm Thomas that was blowing through the Caribbean. As the rain began to pick up, we took shelter in the tunnel that connects the street with the graveyard, located outside the city wall. When the weather cleared a bit, we walked around the graveyard noting the destruction of some of the above ground graves. We learned that the graveyard was located outside of the 3-mile city wall because it was considered ‘unclean’ and could not be enclosed within the historic section of San Juan.

After we roamed through the graveyard, the rain began to pick up. We decided to have lunch and perhaps the weather would be more cooperative once our stomachs were full. We asked a local where there was a good restaurant and were given several names. We chose El Patio near the San José Plaza on Sebastian Street.

Mike and I shared a Caesar salad and a local pork sandwich. Dave and Darlene ordered some fried plantain bananas and sweet potatoes that we all shared. Our appetites sated, we left El Patio and walked once again to San Felipe del Morro Castle, a national historic site established in 1983. Inside we roamed through the many floors of the castle. Some floors were connected by steep stairs with no hand rails, others were connected by ramps made slippery by the rain.

From San Felipe del Morro we meandered through the streets of Old San Juan drinking in the sites. Dave and Mike stopped at a cigar store and Darlene and I shopped at quaint souvenir shops and found several unique items, such as a conch shell that had a pirate’s face painted on it. We walked until it was time to meet our dining and historical tour guide, Courtney from the Flavors of San Juan (www.sanjuanfoodtours.com) at De Armas Plaza. Before we had dinner, however, Courtney walked with us to some of the more famous sites in Old San Juan. We went to the Cristo Chapel on Tetuan Street, then visited the world’s narrowest apartment (4 feet wide) and finally we visited the Governor’s mansion “La Fortaleza”.

Our first stop on the dinner tour was at Café El Punto where we ate local stuffed plantains, mango smoothie and beans and rice.

Next we went to El Picoteo located in the Hotel El Convento, a former convent, where we enjoyed some local tapas including chorizo sausage. The next stop was Bodega Chic where the female bartender taught us how to make authentic Bacardi rum Mojitos. We were also treated to some of the best French fries I’ve ever tasted. They are the chef’s specialty we were told. Our last stop was Aureola where we had a delicious flan and espresso.

The evening ended much too soon for all of us. We hailed a cab back to our hotel and made preparations for the following day: Embarkation!

Tomorrow Anchor’s Aweigh!

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