Friday, March 15, 2013

Anniversary Cruise! Puerto Rico, Day 3

If you're looking for a place to stay that's convenient, the Hampton Inn (where we stayed) in Isla Verde (Carolina) is more than adequate. It offers all the amenities we need. Clean, comfortable, spacious rooms. A breakfast that is plentiful and delicious. An inviting swimming pool with a swim-up bar and outdoor grill restaurant, with plenty of thickly padded lounge chairs if you're going to be swimming and sunning yourself. An exercise room. A laundry room. An office room. And probably lots of other meeting rooms and things we didn't care about at all. The folks at the front desk were helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly.

It's close to the airport but well sound-proofed, and it's just a couple of short blocks from the beautiful Isla Verde Beach. Isla Verde used to be kind of a “second cousin” to the Condado Strip. Nice and all, but one step removed. Funny how things change and evolve over the years. As mentioned in the Day 2 post, the neighborhood includes the El San Juan Hotel. It also includes the Ritz Carlton and a number of other low-rent places.

The lagoon from high up!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
So, in the morning, Bob and Karen arrived to pick us up and suggested that we spend the day at their place, the Conrad Condado. There's a lagoon there for snorkeling practice, a salt water pool, a swim-up bar, and all the goodies. It was an offer we couldn't refuse!

The Conrad was decorated very retro tropical. It felt like Havana in a weird sort of way. Well, not that I've been to Havana [sure would like to, though], but it was how I imagined it to be. The furniture was retro ultra-modern, '60s or '70s looking, and so were the lamps. The lobby offered aqua and red and blue lighting accents. Bob and Karen said they thought it was kind of over the top kitschy, but I thought it was awesome. Maybe because it had a back in time quality and reminded me of the d├ęcor way back when, but it was new. It made me feel happy and lighthearted and relaxed. Perhaps that's what the hotel had in mind.
The pink building said "Miami." Fitting, no?

Bob and Karen's room was on the 10th floor and afforded an admirable panoramic view of the city. We all changed into our bathing suits and headed down to the poolside area, where the view was of the Old San Juan walls on the other side of the lagoon. Waves were crashing against the barrier rocks. It was gorgeous.

We slathered on the SPF55. Whatever you do, don't forget the sunblock. You don't want to ruin your vacation with a painful burn. We donned our snorkel gear and headed to the beach by the lagoon, where Bob gave me some snorkeling tips. It would be the first time I had snorkeled in almost 40 years, the last time having also been in Puerto Rico. It seemed poetic, somehow.

The waves outside the lagoon crashed on the rocks.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
I ventured into the water accompanied by Karen, and Bob went out with Harry. Was I going to gag on the mouthpiece? Would my mask leak? Would I move my fins like crazy, yet go backwards? Would I panic and sink to the depths of the lagoon (Okay, it wasn't that deep. Still...)? These were actual, real concerns that tried to interfere with my exhilaration at finally doing this again. No worries! Karen said I took to it like a duck to water, like I'd been doing it for years. I'm not the world's strongest swimmer, but I didn't even need to use the floatie I had borrowed. It was no problem at all, and I loved it. The water wasn't very clear (Bob talked of Rarotonga. We talked of Bonaire...), but there were enough beautiful, colorful fish and interesting sea creatures to keep me out there exploring. Apparently, there was an unfortunate oil spill in the '90s that knocked out the reef (very sad indeed), and they have put little “condos” out there for the fish to hide in. It's kind of cute. We saw blue fish with yellow fins, yellow and black striped fish, little neon looking fish, silver striped long fish, disc-shaped ones, etc. It was tons of fun. The sun kissed me a little in spite of the sunblock, but not so much as to cause pain.

So, we snorkeled around noon, took a break, gleefully slid down the water slide like a bunch of kids, had a pina colada, had a rest on the beach in the shade, then went snorkeling for another hour and a half or two. Nobody could get me out of the water. I was in love.

We showered and washed the sand out of our hair, and then we went walking down Condado in search of some FOOD. It's amazing how hungry I was. I could have eaten a horse.

On our way to dinner, Harry decided he'd like to try a ride
on this nifty thing. But it was a police vehicle. Oops!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We decided on Bueno Ayres, an Argentinian steak house. Harry's steak and my chicken were both delicious, plentiful, and perfectly prepared, with the edge going to Harry's steak. But only because steak trumps chicken! We also had fried sweet plantain (surprise!), which was yummy. The waiter said it was the second-best in all of Puerto Rico. We thought that was kind of a weird thing for him to say, and then we realized that, of course, his own mother makes the first-best! For dessert, we enjoyed a light and flavorful cheese flan. The sangria was outstanding, and the coffee was absolutely spectacular.

It was a great day for all of us. We felt as if we were vacationing. Because we were!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds lovely. Glad you had fun snorkeling. Don't think I will be giving it a try though. Sounds like not the best choice for feet that are not up to snuff. However, I can certainly enjoy the views and the ocean and the beach. Lovely!


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