Beach 1 — Saturday, January 6, 2007

January 9, 2007 22:28 – 22:28

Above, the odd segmented lines show the route we drove today


We’ve been remiss. So, we blocked out Saturday morning—when most other things would be closed due to Three Kings Day—to head to the beach. Earlier, I scouted it out on foot, walking the 1.5 miles to the beach to see about parking, access, etc. At that time it was about 10:30 in the morning, only one person was in the water.

Along the way, I used my trusty cell phone to snap a few pictures of the neighborhood and the environs between here and the Embassy Suites.

Having satisfied myself that the beach was doable, I returned to the house to find that Katie was now awake. Karen begged off, so Katie & I drove to the Embassy Suites, per Marina Mercado’s suggestion, and parked in their pay lot. Behind the Embassy Suites, and adjacent to their pool area, as if it were their own private beach, is a public beach. I should have taken a picture, but didn’t have a camera or cell phone with me this time. The water was very rough. But, behind the Embassy, two long segments of rocks have been extended into the ocean to create breakers. The result is a large circular man-made cove that’s suitable for swimming.

When we got there, three people were in the water. We immediately made it five. The water here is a bit cooler than you might expect for a location that’s only 18 degrees north of the equator. But, Puerto Rico is cooled by the Trade Winds—and the Trade Winds were in full force Saturday. Having swum in the 60 degree waters of the St. Lawrence off of northern Prince Edward Island in July, however, the 75 degree waters of the Caribbean Sea off of northern Puerto Rico are tame by comparison. Also… no lobsters to nip your toes.

We swam for about an hour, being joined by another dozen or more people, many of whom dipped in for 15 to 30 minutes, then retreated to their beach chairs. This one woman, from NYC, was backstroking and repeating Floteando… floteando… floteando. It was amusing.

At one point, three guys showed up with surf boards, complained among themselves about how surfing hurts their “nips”, and then proceeded to paddle out to the edge of the cove and then into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean/Caribbean Sea. Braver souls than I am they were, especially given that the winds were whipping the water into 5 to 10 foot swells. I pity their nips. We never saw them again. I assume that the sharks were able to satisfy their appetites.

At about 1 pm, after an hour of swimming, we decided to head back in. We rinsed off, courtesy of Embassy Suites, then plodded back to the car. The exit gate was open, but I was prepared to pay the $2.25 for parking. As I drove up to the parking attendant, I nodded at him. He nodded back, so we got to park for free. Maybe it was a Three Kings Day parking special.

We got back to the house, showered, and made ourselves grilled turkey ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. While lunching, we discussed what to do with the rest of the day, and decided to head into Old San Juan.

What we didn’t know was that several hundred thousand Boricans (Puerto Ricans) also had the same idea. Their destination was a large outdoor concert and celebration. Fortunately, we ultimately were able to get past them and made our way to a historic fort at the tip of a point of land.

It turns out that originally, the city of San Juan was supposed to be named Puerto Rico—rich port—and the whole island was supposed to be named San Juan. That would have made a lot more sense. But, the Europeans, in their usual “let’s screw it up way”, got it backwards. I guess we should be glad they didn’t name it India or New Delhi, having dubbed the people who’d already lived here for several thousand years (the Taino) Indians.

Old San Juan Fort

I’ve been to enough historic forts that I didn’t need to learn about the various aspects of the fort. Instead, what was most interesting for me was the photogeneity of the fort, its landscape, and the location, juxtaposed against the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. It was also great fun to people watch.

Uh oh! An enemy ship approaches!

Above, people approach the fort.

The fort also served as a lighthouse

A cemetery adjoins the fort

The old Spanish flag, the American flag, and the flag of Puerto Rico.

This girl, above, is holding a kite, which she no doubt intends to fly later. The grounds of the fort are a favorite kiting location. Many families were there, not only flying kites, but picnicking on the grass and having fun with their dogs.

The enemy ship is approaching even closer! Ready the cannons!

With the enemy ship approaching, above, Katie demonstrates her fondness for ammunition.

Over the years, the fort’s walls have been patched with a variety of different substances

Above, a visitor examines a cell shot of his friend.

Above, I never did figure out what these two guys were doing. They seemed to be examining the contents of a small tide pool.

Flying a kite

Above, shadows of Katie and me.

After the fort, we went back down to the edge of Old San Juan, where we discovered some interesting sculptures.

What’s that on the tip of the statue’s finger?

This is a totem. Look at the next few pictures to see if you can tell what it’s made from.

Shards of pottery!

This boy’s scooter is powered by rocking the central board

Kasalta’s Deli and Bakery

After leaving the fort, we drove around Old San Juan some, and resolved to return on Monday when the crowds would be [hopefully] thinner and parking more possible. Karen mentioned a Cuban deli and bakery that sounded like a good place to get dessert and maybe dinner. So, I set a course for it.

We had delicious sandwiches on Cuban bread. Karen had a Cuban, Katie had chicken breast, I had roast beef, and we shared a bowl of seafood soup. Yum. Afterward, we procured desserts for later and assorted items for the next morning’s breakfast. The baked goods weren’t as good as the sandwiches, but they weren’t awful, either.

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