Puerto Rico Day Two: So Much To See In Enchanting Old San Juan
After my tour of the historic Castillo San Cristobal, I again wandered off to explore the streets of old San Juan. I first made my way through the now familiar Plaza Colon and it’s towering statue of Christopher Columbus.
I decided to walk up one of the most famous streets in old town San Juan, El Fortaleza.
Like all the streets in old town it was paved with blue cobblestones. These pretty stones were brought from Spain and used as ballast on the ships. Once in San Juan they were removed from the ship and were replaced with gold for the journey back to Spain. The residents used the discarded cobblestones to pave the streets.
The street is now lined with many small shops and upscale stores, selling all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, electronics, luxury goods and any other thing that can be sold to tourists from the cruise ships,
and restaurants and outdoor cafes of all types ranging from five star gourmet to local eateries.
I followed the busy narrow street and found myself once again at the Governor’s mansion near the old front gate to the city. There is no motor vehicle traffic allowed on the street near the mansion.
Next to the mansion I saw what I thought was a church. I love to visit churches, temples and mosques on my travels and tried to enter. The door was locked.
A friendly caretaker approached, told me the chapel was closed, but he would see if the nuns would allow me to visit. Shortly a young nun appeared and waved me inside.
I remember very little Spanish from my high school days. The nun spoke no English. She was kind and friendly and we communicated through gestures. She lead me to a beautiful chapel and she left me alone to take photographs.
As I was leaving I encountered the young nun who was now accompanied by a middle age nun. I tried to explain to them that I was taught by Bernadine Sisters as a child. My attempt was not successful.
A third older nun now appeared. I again tried to explain to them my schooling by Bernadine nuns. Finally the young nun got the caretaker, who spoke English and we had a wonderful conversation with the help of our translator. We laughed about the nuns who thought me and how they hit us with a ruler when we were bad. One nun laughed and pointed to the oldest one. She shook her head, no, not her. We all laughed. We also talked about the the 1960’s television show, the Flying Nun. They, of course, all heard about it.
Now I was their friend and the oldest gave me a tour of the facility which was a convent and hospital for the old and poor. She took me to a balcony with spectacular views of San Juan bay, and the Governor’s Mansion. It was truly a blessed experience which I will always cherish. I learned the building was built in 1524. The nuns cared for the sick here for over 125 years. Here is a link to some more photographs of my wonderful encounter with the sisters and their mission. . Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Convent February 9 2018.
I next walked to the Puerta de San Juan or the main gate and up atop the old city wall. The views were again spectacular.
I saw more sculptures, old houses and some beautiful flowering gardens.
I made my was back to the park in front of “El Morro” when I decided to begin my return journey.
I meandered through the pretty streets, revisiting many of sites I saw the day before. I wish I had time to visit the many museums in the city. I did stop for a nice, and reasonably priced snack, calamari and rice, with all the lemonade you could drink a restaurant located in one of the museums.
I returned to my hotel mid afternoon and spent some time editing photographs and exploring the many art filled rooms at the Inn. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike through old San Juan. Puerto Rico Day Two: San Juan afternoon hike.
I wanted to see the sunset and decided the best place would be the high ground of “El Morro” It was a beautiful evening in Puerto Rico. Huge billowing cumulus clouds floated on the ever present trade winds.
I walked along the old city wall and came to a beautiful cemetery situated above the Atlantic Ocean.
I spent a few minutes taking in the serene scene. And I was delighted to watch a rainbow appear over the ocean. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to YouTube. Cemetery video.
I walked up to an old battery wall near the fortress and joined a group of local residents and tourists also waiting for the sunset. Unfortunately clouds moved and we only caught a brief glimpse just before it set. It was still a great place to be.
I walked back along Fortaleza Street enjoying the sounds of tourists and residents at the many cafes, bars and restaurants. I ate dinner at a quaint French restaurant, Trois Cent Onze, recommended by a friend. The food was excellent. I finished my meal and returned to the streets which, despite a passing showers were still alive with the sounds of folks enjoying the warm tropical evening.
It was an uphill walk to my hotel but I soon heard the crashing of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the rocky shore. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan evening walk. February 8 2018.
I also listened to the music rising up from San Sebastian street from a balcony in my room. I was tired and soon fell asleep listening to the sounds of music and partying that lasted until sunrise. Here is a link to a video of the sounds of San Sebastian Street from my room.
“Fall in love
with the energy
of the mornings
trace your fingers
along the lull
of the afternoons
take the spirit
of the evenings
in your arms
kiss it deeply
to the tranquility
of the nights.”
― Sanober Khan