Beach 2 and Beyond—Monday, January 8, 2007

January 10, 2007 17:42 – 17:42

Last Full Day in Puerto Rico

Monday is our last full day in Puerto Rico. This morning, Katie slept in until 11 am. When she finally arose and had breakfast, she & I drove to the public beach in Dorado. Karen decided to stay at the house and get some work done.

When we got to the beach, nobody else was in the water. As usual, we were trend setters, and quickly took up residence in the water, where others quickly followed our example. The public beach turned out to be much nicer—larger, sandier, less rocky, and less seaweed—than the beach near the Embassy Suites. We swam from about noon until nearly 2 pm.

At one point, I remarked to Katie that it was a good thing we didn’t go to the beach on our first day in Puerto Rico. I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else. The water was a perfect 76 degrees, and this particular beach was wonderful.

During the two hours that we swam, perhaps as many as 20 others eventually entered and exited the water. As we were leaving, a group of about six or eight teens had taken up residence in the water, each equipped with a bottle of beer. How cool is that? Hint: Not cool at all.

Afterward, we drove back to the house, showered, and the three of us made plans for the rest of the day. We decided to drive into Old San Juan to see the Governor’s mansion and the shopping district. This is the view from where we parked.

Because the area is fairly hemmed in, I found it impossible to get a complete picture of the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza. My helicopter wasn’t working, so I had to settle for less complete vistas.

This is the approach to La Fortaleza.

The right side of the building is the governor’s mansion.


The left half of the building is a hospital.

According to, “La Fortaleza (also known as the Palacio de Santa Catalina began construction in 1533 and finalized the 25 of May of 1540, as a fortress. It was authorized to be built by Charles V as a defense against Carib Indian attacks. The building was the first of a series of military facilities constructed in the Bay of San Juan, but soon later proved inadequate to guard the entrance to the harbor, and became the official Governor’s Residence”. It’s the oldest governor’s mansion still used as such in the Western Hemisphere, and is part of San Juan’s World Heritage Site.

Interestingly, originally, the entire island was supposed to be named San Juan, and only the city was to be named Puerto Rico. Think about it. The island has lots and lots of ports. You wouldn’t call the entire island Rich Port. But, someone screwed it up. Note to self: see if I’ve already blogged about this gaffe.

For dinner, we went to Lupi’s Mexican Grill. It was okay, although not stellar. The perfect Mexican food does not exist in Puerto Rico. In fairness, Puerto Rico isn’t Mexico. But, something calling itself a Mexican Grill could do a better job. Mind you, the food is quite good. It’s just not stellar. Better Mexican food can be had at dozens of restaurants in the DC area.

Before and after dinner, we walked around the shopping district, the two main shopping streets being San Francisco and Fortaleza. I snapped almost at random to try to capture the spirit of the area.

I never did figure out what the three horns represent on these masks, which we saw everywhere.

Above, Katie tries out a hammock seat.

Ummm… Recommended by whom, exactly?

Negotiating the price of ice cream in the streets of Old San Juan.

When we finished, we tossed a coin and decided to drive to a bakery to see about dessert. It turned out that the bakery doesn’t exist anymore, if it ever did. We decided that we were more tired than hungry for dessert, and decided to drive back to Dorado to pack, etc. On the way, I stopped at a Shell station for gas. The effective price of gas was generally about $2 per gallon, and sometimes less. Gas for the 1,500 miles we drove while in Puerto Rico cost about $100.

Final Morning (Tuesday, January 9, 2007)

I got up at 4:30 am, made some coffee, took a shower, and packed the rest of my stuff. By about 5:40 am, we were all packed and stuffed into the Toyota Corolla. We bid the house goodbye, and made our way out to the roads. To my surprise, the roads at 5:45 am were as bad as any other time of day. On the autopista on the way to the airport, the 65 MPH highway crawled at times at 25 MPH.

Because of our ordeal at Hertz when we first arrived, we were worried about the return. However, a dude met us in the parking lot, printed out the receipt using one of those portable devices, and 10 minutes and a shuttle bus ride later, we were in line in the terminal to have our bags inspected at the USDA station. That line moved relatively quickly, and we proceeded to Spirit Air’s line. The line was long, but moved much more briskly than when we were trying to track down Katie’s iPod (never did find it), and we emerged from line at about 7:10. While waiting in line, I decided to make sure my computer hadn’t been damaged by the USDA xray machine, and discovered that the airport in San Juan has free wireless! So, I was able to get my email and respond to a few while negotiating the line.

The line at security took only about 5 minutes, and it was a brief walk to the terminal, where we arrived with about five minutes to spare before they began boarding our zone of the plane. The plane took off shortly after the appointed time, and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale about 150 minutes later.

In Ft. Lauderdale, we obtained lunch (drinks, sandwich for Karen, pantelillos and salads for Katie & me) for about $37. Ouch. Eating at airports is never a bargain.

To our delight however, the FLL airport turns out to have free wireless. We found a place to hunker down and passed the additional two hours of the layover flailing away at our keyboards.

On the final leg, Katie and I were seated in row 11, in the emergency exit area. For me, that meant no seat at all in front of me. Leg room!!! For Katie, it meant two seats to herself for drowsing, and the seats in front of her didn’t recline. Yay! Karen got an entire row of thee seats to herself, so she was in heaven.

A woman seated in row 9 had some kind of asthmatic episode about and hour into the two hour flight. She looked blue in the face, and I wondered if she might die. The flight crew brought out oxygen and a mask, and I couldn’t tell if it was doing any good. She ultimately seemed to survive however. The next time I saw her, she was standing next to me at the luggage carrousel, and hefted an enormous bag that had to weigh more than I did. I guess that oxygen must’ve worked magic.

(Our last night in Puerto Rico, I had bopped into Radio Shack to buy some noise cancelling headphones. I settled on a set from Sony. On the plane on the way home, and on my 10 K walk on Wednesday morning, the earphones performed wonderfully, as I listened to most of the Apprentice, by Tess Gerritsen. If noise bothers you on planes, you need noise canceling earphones.)

We touched down in DC about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and I called my lovely sister to let her know we had arrived. Getting our luggage took a bit longer than we expected, pretty much nullifying the 20 minutes we’d picked up in the air. By 4:30 pm, however–thanks to my sister, Sharon–we were back home and tired, but none the less for wear.

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