Thursday, April 16, 2015


Like I mentioned yesterday we recently went on a cruise:

Sadly I don't have any of the pictures from the cruise with me right now (or I don't think I do) but I've got some from just before the cruise which is a good story too so let me talk about that now.

Our cruise left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on a Saturday so we flew down the day before. I'd waited until late to book the hotel and couldn't get into a Holiday Inn property on points (my normal preference) so we looked around Priceline for awhile and found the "Hotel Miramar" for a decent price. It had really good reviews so I took a chance.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was pretty much terrifying. One of the nice things about San Juan is that the pricing for most taxi rides is fixed by zone so if you know what zone you're in and what zone you're going to you won't be massively scammed like you can be in other big cities. Our taxi driver was an older lady who was overly cautious and several times almost got into accidents because she wouldn't just GO. San Juan is a Boston like city, drive fast, ignore others. Anyway she got us there without killing us but I think I got a couple extra grey hairs.

At first look the Hotel Miramar isn't much to look at. Its in the Miramar neighborhood of San Juan which sits across a lagoon from Condado which is a more ritzy tourist area. I suspect Miramar is where the people who work in Condado live. Its run down and dirty but the Hotel Miramar is excellent. We were on the 8th floor which is clearly the "executive level" you have to use your key car just to get the elevator to go there and theres no door handle on the door from the stairway (easily fixed by pulling on the door closing mechanism) so the rabble can't get in.

Our room, number 802 is really 801 and 802 combined, its HUGE. Easily 700 square feet, bigger than our first apartment.

This view is half of the balcony, to the right of the picture is the bedroom, where I'm standing the balcony is twice as wide and opens into the sitting room and kitchen. For what I paid this room is LUXURY.

We had dinner at Pizza e Birra Miramar. My Spanish isn't good but even I know pizza and beer. Angie doesn't drink beer so we had their house made sangria instead which was fantastic. The pizza was good but nothing special.

Next morning we went to a little local place for breakfast. When we went in we were the only English speaking people in the joint. I've been through that before in Argentina but I think it was a first for Angie and one which she handled really well. Not many folks working there spoke any English at all but surprisingly they had an English menu. I was glad for that but we'd have worked it out anyway "sin queso por favor".  Breakfast was great and I really like latin coffee which comes with milk already added. The orange juice was fresh squeezed, like when I asked for a cup they squeezed it right then.

Then we made our first mistake, we walked around the lagoon. Don't get me wrong the lagoon is beautiful and going around takes you through Condado but, one of the annoying things about cruises is you can't get on the ship until 1pm at the earliest while you need to check out of your hotel at either 11am (in the US) or 12pm in PR. This means you've got a couple hours to kill. What we should have done was go back to the hotel and hang out until we had to check out. Instead we wore out our feet early.

Anyway for mistake number 2 we didn't pack towels. There is a really nice beach at the north west end of the lagoon. If we'd had towels I'd have just gone there and hung out for a couple hours. As it was we decided to check out the section just north of Condado which turned out to have nothing going on. Hilton has some villas there but they're total blandsville and it looks like maybe not done yet so theres just nothing to do. We started to walk into old San Juan got called a "Stupid gringo" by an old guy and decided it wasn't worth it, we've done old San Juan before and figured once we got there it'd be time to go home.

I think this is my favorite picture of the whole trip

We did stop and get a coconut which is something I'd never done before. They lop off a little chunk and give you a straw. After we drain the milk I slammed the body against a bridge abutment (nice new bridge with sharp corners) until we could get inside and get the meat. You'll notice that the coconut has a green husk, this is normal and how they come off the tree. Before they get to the store they pull all that husk off. I seem to remember a Sesame Street clip showing somebody pulling the husk off the coconut. Oh wait, here it is. Angie's grandfather looked at this picture and didn't know what it was, I'll have to show him the video...

I was slightly nervous of the coconut, you know, fresh natural product, far from home, strange tropical diseases but in the end it all worked out just fine. Fresh coconut is much softer than the older stuff that makes it to the states. We took a tour in St. Kitts and somebody bought a coconut and had the same reaction I did.

One more highlight of Puerto Rico was mofongo which is fried plantain which is crushed into a pulp and then formed into kind of a volcano shape and has meat and sauce in it. Mine had steak which was really good but filling and hard on my stomach. Angie got fajitas which was silly, it was 2pm and we should have shared one meal. Anyway, mofongo is a Puerto Rican speciality which I'll be looking to try again soon.

Okay so thats it for the pre-vacation vacation. I'll find the actual cruise pictures and next time I'll tell you about St. Thomas.

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