Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sightseeing in Old San Juan


With Sim back from his successful visit to the UK, we decided to rent a car for the day and do a little sightseeing. The car arrived in the usual Caribbean manner – late and slightly battered. Sidney, the man that rented the car to us, handed over the keys having delivered it personally to the marina without taking payment or asking to see a driving license or any kind of identification!! Wonderful. Off we went, joined by John from “Stingo” on our bonny way, hurtling down or up I should say, route 52, all the way to Old San Juan on the north coast of the island.

Old San Juan is on a small narrow island connected to the mainland by 3 bridges. It has the Atlantic Ocean to the north and Bahia de San Juan to its south. It is a UNESCO world heritage site surrounded by a 42ft high wall and guarded by two forts. We strolled around the blue cobble stone streets lined with different colonial Spanish houses in various bright colours each with their own intricately designed balconies and hurricane shutters. The whole area is beautifully maintained with no garbage on the streets, no peeling paint or falling down properties to be seen anywhere. We walked to Castillio San filipe Del Morro (El Morro Fort) which towers over the tip of the headland and guards the entrance to the bay. It dates back to 1539 and is said to be the oldest Spanish Fort in the New world.

Having worn ourselves out from all the walking we had some coffee in the shopping district where the expensive cafes and gastro restaurants line the streets and decided on our next course of action; which was to jump back in the car and head into the hills for a well-earned plate of pork. Guavate is the town where you will find a number of roadside restaurants selling roasted pig 7 days a week, all day long. Succulent, tender, juicy pieces of pork and crackling served with the Caribbean stable of rice and beans and plantain. Nothing fancy, served with plastic forks but simply delicious! It was the gastronomic highlight of the day.

We took the windy road back through Guayama, the old sugar cane capital of Puerto Rico in its day and back to Salinas where our boats where safely at anchor, taking a little detour en route to Walmart in Santa Isabel where we went crazy in a shopping frenzy. Actually we were fairly well-behaved.....all things considered. We arrived back to Salinas as the sun was setting in time for a quick beer at Juan’s new bar before heading back to the boat to unpack our goodies

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