Sunday, July 20, 2014

Class Reunion Eastern Caribbean Cruise - Old San Juan

Ready for an adventure!
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And the next day, there we were back in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some of our classmates were going straight from the ship to the airport and home, but a group of us had decided to extend the vacation to enjoy more time together and also to hang out on this beautiful island, relaxing.

Cobbled streets of OSJ.
Photo by Chris.
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The delayed gratification of Old San Juan awaited, but first we had to check in at the Hampton Inn in Isla Verde again. It was kind of like coming home, and some of the folks who had stayed downtown before the cruise decided to come on over to our place for this last installment of our reunion. If you're gonna hang out together...hang out together, right?

Before we knew it, we'd piled into a taxi van and were on our way to Old San Juan, where we planned to tour the San Juan National Historic Site, most notably El Morro. We had assumed we would be dropped off at the entrance to the fort, but no. The drop-off point was at least a mile away. We were told to grab the free tram that goes around in a loop around the tourist area, and that there's one that goes by every few minutes. Sweet! 

And they did come around every few minutes, but they were always full. Totally full. Absolutely full. Never an available seat. So, we decided to start walking. After all, it looked pretty close. And that's the thing about the tropics. Things look pretty close, and they are, but it's hot and it's muggy and the sun is beating down on you, even through the clouds. Long story short, not everybody was able to make it out to the fort, which disappointed me greatly. After all, El Morro is the Big Draw. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's a World Heritage Site. To miss it while being so close to it is a shame. But if your feet are hurting and you're thirsty for something icy and you're just exhausted, there are vendors and park benches and shady places to hang out while you wait for your group to come back.

From El Morro to Condado.
What a view!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
"Battle of San Juan"
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
For those of us who were able to proceed to El Morro, it did not disappoint. It is alive with history. On this particular day, it was even more alive with history than usual. There was a re-enactment going on of the Battle of San Juan in 1797. We watched the costumed players for a while and then made our way inside the fort, where we enjoyed beautiful views of the surrounding area, took photos, explored, and imagined what it would have been like to wear all that heavy clothing in this climate. Did I mention how hot and humid it was? Be prepared. Stay hydrated. Wear sun protection. And be sure to check out the deep recesses of the Castillo, where you'll experience actual coolness!

San Juan Cathedral
Photo by Chris.
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Continuing our walking tour of the area, we stopped at the Cathedral of San Juan, which has been around for 500 years (1511). Yes, there are buildings in the New World that are old! Naturally, it isn't like the great European cathedrals, but it is still impressive and serves the community well. Puerto Rico is a very Catholic place. There was a small wedding going on by the altar, so we did our best to be respectful, disappearing into the background. Best wishes to the happy couple!

Enjoying a pina colada (yes, they make "virgin" ones, too)!
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We proceeded through Old San Juan's picturesque streets to the commercial areas of the town in search of souvenirs and a opted for a mandatory pina colada at Barrachina, where the drink was first served. Don't you agree? But we were starting to get hungry, and we'd promised to gather together with our whole group for dinner at the Courtyard. Sadly, it was time to go. Until next time Viejo San Juan. And there will be a next time!
Until next time, OSJ!
Don't even think about finding a parking space here.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.

Links to other  San Juan posts:
Arriving in San Juan
All Aboard the Celebrity Summit
Anniversary Cruise:  Puerto Rico, Day 1
Anniversary Cruise:  Puerto Rico, Day 2
Anniversary Cruise:  Puerto Rico, Day 3

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