Day 3 – Rainforest Tour


11/6/15 – We went to bed so early last night, that we’re both awake around 5AM.  Well, that gives us plenty of time to get ready and have breakfast.  We went to the hotel restaurant again.  They have a buffet for $20 – a little more than I really want to spend on breakfast, but the a la carte menu is kind of pricey too.  Ok, fruit, eggs, toast and juice.  I’m ready for the tour.

We’re downstairs right at 7:45 for our tour.  We’re told it’s going to rain so we get umbrellas from the front desk.  Never used them – just something extra to carry around.  While we’re waiting, one of the bellmen asked what tour we were doing.  Half day rainforest – he says, they’ll be here at 8:05.  Sure enough, our guide showed up right at 8:05.  We had 4 more hotels to stop at before we really get on our way.  That’s the main reason I don’t like organized tours.

Our guide is Lismal.  She’s very knowledgeable and entertaining.  The last 2 hotels were in Condado and as we were driving through she pointed out a couple of good restaurants.  Then she pointed at Subway and said “No Subway!”.  Then Chili’s – “No Chili’s!  You are in the Caribbean!  Eat local food!”

We continued on through the countryside with Lismal pointing out little towns and the mountains we were headed to (the Sleeping Giant for the formation).  I always love getting to see some of the countryside of the islands I visit.  We arrived at El Yunque National Rainforest, which is maintained by the US National Parks Service. 20151106_092508We drove into the lowest level of the park, then continued on up to the 2nd level where we parked.  We had a chance to take a few photos and Lismal found this snail on a tree.  

She said there are brown and green ones.  We then took a walk up a little into the forest to Bano Grande

which was built as a swimming pool by the CCC in the 1930’s.  It’s very scenic up here.  

After this we walked back down to the road and had to walk in the road for awhile to get to the Caimatillo Trailhead.  Apparently during the last big storm, there was a lot of damage and some areas of the trail washed out.  They are working on repairing it now.  We went up this trail and Lismal pointed out different trees and told as about the flora and fauna in the forest.  We stopped by a stream and she got down and got a couple of rocks which she rubbed together.  Doing this made a mud ink/dye.  She explained that the Tainos used this to paint their faces, and she demonstrated on those of us that would let her.  She mostly did faces, but with me she used my upper arm.  She made 3 different colors using different combinations of rocks.  Very interesting.

From here we got back in the bus and went down to an observation tower which is 75 feet tall.  It has incredible views.  I took the stairs up and there are windows at all the landings.  You really get a great variety of views.

Our last stop was a La Coca waterfall.  It is right on the road so very easy to get to and take pictures.  

Then we headed back into San Juan and, of course, we were the last stop.  We rested up a bit when we got back and then headed out for lunch.  While waiting for the tour I had asked the bellman where to go.  He pointed down the street in front of the hotel entrance and said go a block, then up the stairs and there is a whole block of restaurants serving Puerto Rican food.  Ok, that’s where we’re headed.

We come out of the stairway and sure enough, across the street is a row of restaurants.  We’re kind of looking back and forth when I see Raice’s.  20151106_140719This was one of several restaurants a friend of a friend had recommended, and Lismal and recommended it as well so we decided to go there.  There was a short wait, and finally we got a table – right next to the cash register so we constantly had wait staff standing almost on top of us.  I was a little disappointed when I looked at the menu because it was more of a dinner menu and most of the food looked heavier than I wanted mid-day.  But after getting a beer, I was getting a little more into the mood.  

Finally we each found something that sounded good.  Frankly, I thought the food was so-so.  Their menu on line here looks better than the choices we had, and there were no $6.95 specials.  My feeling about this restaurant is that it has gotten well known and maybe lost some of it’s original charm.  The employees, for the most part, did not look like they were happy to be there.  Not my favorite on this trip.  Oh, well, it filled us up.  

After lunch we took a little walk around Old San Juan then back to the hotel.  Pam hadn’t been feeling real well since the bumpy bus ride back from the rainforest, so she decided to rest in the room.  I took my book and headed up to the pool.  It was failry cloudy, but still nice and warm.  After about an hour, it started to rain so I checked on Pam – still resting- so I headed down to the bar where the bartender made me a Puerto Rico Sunset. 20151106_180828 Yummy!

Pam showed up after a bit and we had some dinner and an early night again.

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Day 2 – Arrival in San Juan


11/5/15 – Our flight landed in Charlotte, NC right on time.  I was able to get a few hours of sleep on the flight – that’s why I like a red-eye – get onboard, sleep a few hours, and wake up in a new place!  Unfortunately, Pam, wasn’t so lucky.  We had about 3 hours before we boarded our next flight, I had hoped we would be able to have a nice, leisurely, sit down breakfast.  Pam was tired so we decided to just find our next gate and relax for a bit.  I was hungry, and getting cranky so I grabbed an egg & cheese bagel to recharge a bit.   After I ate, Pam decided to find some coffee, and I decided to just walk a bit to stretch my legs.  One of the things I like about the Charlotte airport is the way it is laid out it is easily walkable.  It also has rocking chairs throughout which gives a lot of great spots for resting and people watching.  It has a lot of nice shopping and restaurants, just something about it – it doesn’t feel as rushed and crazy as most I’ve been in.

I walked almost the entire airport – got my blood flowing.  By the time I got back to D Concourse to our gate, Pam was sitting in a rocker by the window.  I joined her and before long it was time to board.  San Juan – here we come!  I napped a bit more, and soon we were landing.

Down to baggage claim, out to the taxi line, and soon we were in the taxi on our way to the Sheraton Old San Juan.  Our driver was quiet, I like when I get a driver who points out attractions and tells me a bit about their country.  Oh, well, I just looked out the window and watched the scenery go by with a big grin on my face.  I’m back in the Caribbean!  Oh, it feels so good – it’s been too long.  

We get checked in at the Sheraton and up to our room – ooooh, musty smelling -ick.  And it’s got a tiny, dirty window looking out at a parking garage.  After a few moments pondering, I call down to the desk.  They promptly send a bellman up with new keys one floor above us.  Oh, much better. We still look at the parking garage, the window still looks dirty, but I think it’s from the salt air – we are right across the street from the water.  But now we have a little balcony.  With a little view – see?  20151107_112414

After all this travel, we decide to freshen up, check out the hotel and eat dinner at the restaurant here.  We went up to check out the pool deck.  Kind of a small pool area, with a hot tub, and a great view. View from Sheraton restaurantIt has about a 4 foot wall around it, to keep us from falling off, I guess, so you only see the view if you’re standing up.  But you can see the beautiful, blue sky while relaxing on your lounge chair.  There is also a fitness area – apparently people actually do use these.  Who knew?

We went down to the concierge desk to see what things there were to do for the next day.  We decided to book a Rainforest tour for the morning.  Looking forward to this.  Now, let’s have dinner.

The restaurant is on the 2nd floor, and we were able to sit outside.  Oh, look, it’s Happy Hour until 7PM – 2 for 1 drinks!  20151105_164254We order a couple of Mojitos – we’re soon to be much happier.  The menu tonight has a 2 for 1 special – Sangria for 2, appetizer to share, 2 salads, 2 entrees, and dessert to share for $49.95.  Sounds good – steak for Pam and salmon for me.  Now, where’s that Mojito – ah, here it comes.  How beautiful to look out over the water, in this tropical paradise, with a friend and a 2 for 1 drink!  Mojito at Sheraton

After dinner we head to bed early.  Need to catch up on sleep and be ready to start our tour to El Yunque Rain Forest at 7:45AM.  Yawn!

San Juan and Celebrity Summit – Day 1


Beth at airport

Preparing to Take off on a Jet Plane

11/4/15 – It’s finally here.  The day Pam & I leave for our big vacation.  We have been planning this for over a year, put our deposits down in January and finally, we are heading to SeaTac airport tonight for our 10:15 PM flight.

My neighbor, Mark, is going to care for my cat Mango,  

and drive me to the airport.  He comes downstairs for some Mango instructions and asks me up for a pre-trip glass of wine.  I do some last minute packing, then head upstairs.  His wife, Lisa, is suffering from knee pain and won’t be taking the ride with us so I want to say goodbye and thank her for helping with my cat.

We got out of the house about 5 minutes later than planned, and I’m just buckling my seatbelt when my phone buzzes with a text from Pam “I’m here at the airport at the Sports Page bar by gate D4.  What??  It’s only 7:50.  I tell her I’m just leaving but being TSA pre-checked I should be joining her about 8:30.

It’s an uneventful drive, and Mark get’s me there right about 8:15 as planned.  Check my bag, through security and sitting with my first Bloody Mary in front of me just after 8:30. 
Our flight starts boarding right on time, and by 10:15 we are taxiing down the runway – on our way to sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico for 2 days before boarding Celebrity’s Summit.

(I promise better pictures in my next post.  Most of mine are being held hostage in my digital camera, I can’t find the cord)