We haven’t been on a real
vacation in a long time. SW changed jobs a couple of times, screwing up
her bank of vacation days, so we both were in dire need of something more
than a long weekend. I love to travel and it’s been so long I’d forgotten
the thrill of beginning a new adventure. It’s one of the many reasons I
don’t want children. Yeah, yeah, you CAN take them with you – IF
you can afford to go, after the expense of raising the little demons, and
the additional expense of carting them along. But then you get there and
you spend half your time taking care of them, only to find it frowned upon
to take them into, say, strip clubs and seedy bars, so what’s the point of
taking them with you? Besides, vacation is supposed to be LESS stressful.
I love kids, but I also love my slack, semi-irresponsible life. SW loves
kids too – as long as they’re other people’s kids, and extremely
Thus on our row of three seats on the plane, there are only two seats
filled. I can feel the stress of my workaday life melting away already.
jumped in a cab at the San Juan airport and did our best to
guide the driver to our destination. We’re staying in Viejo San
Juan (Old San Juan) with degenerate SVA. She’s writing a travel
guide to Puerto Rico so she’s got a charming apartment in a
swinging neighborhood for a couple of months. From her balcony
you can see both the bay and the Atlantic. An almond tree
provides shade above. Tourists walk up the street below, hoping
to find something scenic atop the hill. Inside, the tall ceilings
and tile floors help keep the place relatively cool, with 10’
tall doors opening to let in the wind for climate control.
Unfortunately, that also lets in the mosquitoes, little bitches
so tiny you don’t feel them bite. But it’s that or trap the heat
and humidity inside, so we lather up with deet several times a
The apartment above her features a rooftop deck with
view of the surrounding neighborhood, ocean and forts.
Viejo San Juan is all
Neapolitan ice cream, a pastel rainbow of buildings in old Spanish style,
built on hills overlooking both the bay and the Atlantic. It reminds me a
bit of some of the neighborhoods in San Francisco. Blue cobblestones pave
the narrow streets, not really built for vehicular traffic but they come
nonetheless. Balconies overhang the sidewalk in some places, providing
much-needed shade below.
It's pretty, but crowded with tourists from the colossal cruise ships
which dock bay-side and pour forth white-faced masses into the streets. In
the heat and humidity, surrounded by dark-skinned locals yammering Spanish
and increasingly sunburned tourists yammering in English, I get heavy déjà
vu of my trips to Mexico.
However, the illusion is shot when you sit down at a bar and shell out
$4.50 for a drink. Puerto Rico ain’t cheap. Everything is imported from
the fatherland. No, not Spain, as would be fitting to the locals and the
architecture, but from the U.S., which wrested the island from Spain in
1897. The cultural assault continues. Sizzler, Payless Shoes, Marshals,
and the expected McDonalds, Burger King, Dominoes – these are the forces
that are taking over the world far faster, and more effectively, than any
tanks or missiles.
This artist has work all over town.
|After a relaxing drink we trekked a few blocks to The Convent Hotel, a former convent that now hosts a small bar, restaurant, and hotel. I
sampled the only local brew, Medalla Light, despite my ethical objections
to light beer. It tastes like any other light beer, which is to say
tastes like watered down beer.
|We headed to Baru for dinner. Some dishes were delightful, others not so
great, but the courtyard dining area was charming and we were there early
enough to beat the crowds.
We started off with some
dried cassava chips with a strange guava and balsamic sauce drizzled over goat
cheese. Good stuff.
|SW opted for
some mozzarella and tomato thing she enjoyed.
|We also got a plate of asparagus risotto. The
waitress claimed their dishes were "larger than a tapas but smaller
than an entree." We found them closer to entree size, for two, and
ended up eating way too much.
|Last up, a pile of pork ribs.
Puerto Ricans love their pork, but, like much of the Caribbean, they
also love fruit, two great tastes that they think taste great
together. These particular ribs were smothered in a guava sauce so
sweet it was like jelly. Too sweet, and it covered up the taste of the
We returned to the apartment
and sat on the balcony, sipping drinks made with Don Q,
one of the local rums, until late in the night.
"These people could put us out of
Photo Editor, Creative Loafing
no place like home... no place like home...
All content on this site is owned by Degenerate Press and
cannot be used without our permission. We have lawyers for friends
with nothing better to do than cause trouble (no kidding), so play
nice. Copyright © 2005, All Rights Reserved