Arecibo – Friday, January 5, 2007

January 9, 2007 20:26 – 20:26

Dorado del Mar – Started Writing Friday Evening, January 5, 2007

Today, we went to Arecibo to see the world’s largest radio telescope. Before that, however, we decided to stop in Hatillo for lunch. The map below shows the area where we concentrated mostly today.

A number of the places we’ve tried on this trip haven’t lived up to the billing in the tour books. El Buen Café, in Hatillo, however, surpassed all of the books’ recommendations. It was terrific. Katie had penne pasta with Alfredo sauce and chicken. It was delicious. Karen & I ordered paella for two, but we switched to rice with langostino (lobster) when the waiter told us that the paella would take an hour.

It was in fact paella with shrimp, lobster, calamares and other stuff. The wine was a Spanish riojo made by Ataia or Alaia (have to check spelling). Not only was the paella the best I’ve had (we had lot of paella in Spain last Christmas vacation), but the red wine was the best Spanish red I’ve ever had—perhaps the best red wine I’ve ever had, period.


After lunch, we made the drive south and up into the hills to Arecibo. This part of Puerto Rico resembles the area around Las Piedras more than other parts of north central Puerto Rico we’ve seen so far. As we rounded the final turns, the giant antenna came into view.

It’s a long walk up from the parking lot to the radio telescope. But, it’s worth the walk. The reflecting surface, shown in part below, is 305 meters across. It turns out that there’s a 100 meter radio telescope antenna in Charlottesville, Virginia. Large by most standards, it’s less than a third the size of the one at Arecibo.

Nestled among this space age technology, mother nature thrives. Notice the pink flowers below and to the right of the apparatus in the picture shown above. The next two pictures show the beautiful blossoms in greater detail.

Above and below, proof that Katie was at Arecibo.

Below, a Puerto Rican girl is there to learn about why Arecibo is special. A future astronomer? A future astronaut? Maybe. I hope her family is able to help her find the answers to her questions.

Above, one tour group gets help with its questions. A down side of Arecibo is that the tour is self-guiding. While there are lots of displays with lot of information, there’s nobody to answer your questions unless you happen to be part of a special tour. I’d love to know if they have to dismantle the suspended parts of the antenna when hurricanes come through. I couldn’t find anyone to ask.

Below, I’m pretending to examine a meteorite. It seems to have caused most of my hair to fall out!

Arecibo Lighthouse

From a seeker of beacons to a beacon, Arecibo spans the reach of technology. After leaving the observatory, we headed up to the coast to see the lighthouse.

It turns out however, that the historic lighthouse is enclosed in an amusement park of sorts. I’ll happily pay a few bucks to see an historic lighthouse. However, the price of admission for the three of us was $27. So, we declined, and chose to view it from afar.

Church, Charlie’s, and Henry from New York

By now, it was getting closer to sundown, and we wanted to see a few more things. There’s a 17th century church in Manatí we wanted to see, so we drove there. Unfortunately, the road system in Manatí turned out to be hard to manage, so while we saw the church, we ended up not parking. So, I have no pictures. Like many of the older churches in Puerto Rico, the one in Manatí is white and not terribly distinguished. I guess the Catholics put all of their grand church money into other parts of the Spanish empire.

Leaving Manatí at about six, sunset was now a reality, and lunch was beginning to wear off. Karen expressed a desire for burgers, and this place called Charlie’s magically appeared on Carretera 693 a few miles west of Dorado on our way home. It’s a bit of a dive, which means that the food is good. We stopped and placed our order, and while doing so, a tall fellow named Henry from NYC asked if we needed help. We didn’t. But, we chatted with Henry while waiting for our carryout food.

Henry’s family comes from Puerto Rico, although he was born in New York. He’s in Puerto Rico for his aunt’s funeral. His uncle, 90 years old and sporting a spiffy hat, was there, too. At one point in the conversation, I mentioned that the oldest person in the world purportedly lives in Puerto Rico, down near Guayamo. The 116 year old man is still active. Henry’s uncle volunteered, however, that he knows a man who is 117 years old, and that the uncle’s goal is to break all existing records. He says he owes his longevity to the fact that he eats a lot of corn and corn meal.

Henry’s cousin, apparently a police officer, recommended a restaurant called Ladrillos in downtown Dorado for seafood. We’ll have to give it a look-see.

After about a 20 minute wait, our food came. We gathered it up, shook hands with Henry, his uncle, and his cousin, and headed to DD8 Bruma. The burgers were okay. Five guys doesn’t have to worry, though. The chicken pastelillos that we ordered too were also good, but I would’ve preferred shrimp, had they not been out of everything but chicken.


After dinner, we decided to check out Pitusa to see what it is. We’ve been seeing them all over the place. It turns out that they’re like Big Lots. They carry lots of remaindered items at low prices. After Pitusa, we headed down to the Grande, which was supposed to be open until 11 pm. It was 8:38 pm, however, and Grande had just closed. Apparently, a number of places close early because January 6th is Three Kings Day. Knowing that things might be closed the next day, we decided to try Walgreens to see if we could get something to have for lunch on Saturday. Walgreens was still open, so we picked up the makings for sandwiches, etc. Finally, we headed back to DD8 Bruma and settled in to watch a few top models, the crikey hunter, and Keith Olbermann.

Saturday Morning

I’m finishing this narrative on Saturday morning. Since 6:30 am, three rounds of showers have come through, each lasting 5 to 15 minutes. The NWS says there’s a 40% chance of showers today. I’d say that Dorado is taking up any slack in the forecast. The third round is happening now. Judging by the amount of standing water, I’m guessing that we’ve had at least 2 inches of rain in the past two hours. Once the sun comes out and Karen & Katie are up and have been breakfasted, we’re going to head over to the beach by the Embassy Suites. We haven’t been beach swimming yet on this trip, so, we’re looking forward to it.

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