Sunday, December 22, 2013

Old San Juan

El Morro

Old San Juan (seemap) is one of my favorite places in Caribbean to walk around. It is a fascinating mix of a 500 year old city and a modern tourist-trap cruise town. This means that when you are here you surrounded by history and the fight to keep the historic along with the changing of historic local stores to the chains that exist throughout the world. The trick, as with any place that pulls in tons of tourists is to do two seemingly contradictory things. First, give in to the tourism. Accept that there will be crowds and traffic and crowds and small sidewalks and crowds. Go with it. Go to the sights that the tourists go to. They are worth it. Second, find the places where the tourists don’t go. Stay away from the traps and chains. Shop and eat at the locally owned places.

El Castillo and El Morro
The north side of Old San Juan sits atop a cliff and is braced by two 500 year old forts. To east is La Forteleza San Cristobal.

Castillo San Cristobal

To the west is El Morro

The Atlantic Ocean from El Morro

El Morro entrance

Now neither fort have fancy recreations. Basically they have photos and maps and written descriptions of how they had looked. But both offer amazing views of Old San Juan, the bay and the Atlantic ocean. Of the two old forts El Morro is my favorite, not for what is inside it, but for the area outside as you approach. The is a huge open space that becomes a gathering ground for families out to enjoy the day and fly a kite. It also offers an amazing view along the shore. A trip up El Morro is a must when you visit Old San Juan.

Now, it is a long, up-hill walk from the port or the bus station to the forts. Luckily there are three free trollys, one provided by the National Park Service to the forts and 2 by the city that go around Old San Juan.

For lunch we went to Mojitos. The Amazing Ms. D  and I split a side salad and a conch mofungo. But we each had our own mojito. Well to be fair I my own, and plus half of my wife’s (she always was a cheap date). After lunch we stopped by a street vender who my wife had seen before. He goes by The Professor and sets up on RecintoSur near Plaza San Jose. He makes wonderful jewelry out of aluminum and stainless steel.

The Amazing Ms. D and The Professor

The Professor and his work.

We ended our day at ThePoet's Passage. In the midst of all of the hyper tourism that is Old San Juan lies the wonderful oasis of coffee, good food and good thought. We walked in to Carol King’s Tapestry playing on the sound system and sat down to great coffee. Next to the cafĂ© is a book store and reading space. Every Tuesday is open mic night. The staff are friendly and helpful, whether they are answering your questions or letting you sing along to Carol.  

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