There's something very mysterious about Puerto Rico. I've never been able to fully put my finger on it, but something lingers just below the surface that is exciting! I ventured there recently, taking my off time to breathe in the warm sunshine and vibrant life that surrounds those visiting this nearby paradise.
I'd had some experience here before, as a travel escort for large groups that often sought out the history and beaches of San Juan. I'd even cruised into her port a time or two. But nothing fills the senses as when you can
walk the cobbled streets of Old San Juan seeking the rich history of this tiny nation.
A short cab ride from the Old San Juan hotel ($21) drops you into the heart of Old Town, where old men face off on giant domino tables and old women are not afraid to smoke a Cuban cigar. A short shuttle ride (free) takes you up the daunting hill to Castillo Dan Filipe del Morro, fondly known as El Morro, a structure built to protect the city of San Juan in 1539. Views from this area are spectacular!
Strolling through the streets of the old city one is apt to see trolley buses winding through the tiny avenues, motor scooters squeezing into the tiniest parking spots, nightclubs, and taverns that have been part of the city for hundreds of years. The people are friendly and warm, and the youth smile when you cannot understand their Spanish, although they speak English quite well. Shopping is everywhere, from trendy boutiques to stores clearly recognizable by any tourist.
But the pulse of the city is music. Salsa, in particular. You'll have a very pleasurable experience at the El San Juan Hotel, one of Puerto Rico's most beautiful old hotels. The night was steamy and you can hear the high-pitched squeals of tree frogs in the courtyard as you walk to the hotel. Strains of salsa already emerges from the doors when you arrive. Just inside the door, smells of heavy perfume and cologne covered you like a warm blanket. Bodies are moving to a rich sound of bongo drums, guitar, and steel trumpets slice through the dark like a newly sharpened bread knife. Women and men of all ages gyrate across the floor, their smiles wide and happy.
You'll could hear the chinking sounds of the casino to your right, but it is the music and the dancers that keeps your attention. Stand quietly out of sight taking in the joy in the lobby of that gracious hotel and when its was time to go, you'll leave unwillingly. They say the dances go on until the wee hours in Puerto Rico, each dancer enjoying life to the fullest.
If you love the charm of Puerto Rico or want to read a more historical piece of fiction, you'll love,"Conquistadora" by Esmeralda Santiago. It's an epic novel of love, discovery, and adventure by the author of the best-selling memoir When I Was Puerto Rican.(striaght from the book review.)
This is a riveting tale, set in a place where human passions and cruelties collide: thrilling history that has never before been brought so vividly and unforgettably to life.