We had a busy day ahead of us so we got up relatively early to find
another clear day, despite the weather man predicting rain all week. Did
you know it was a crime in England in the 1600’s to predict the weather?
I’m beginning to think they may have been on to something.
We headed down to the pier where a boatload of American tourists
disembarked from their floating skyscraper to head into the mall and the
Hard Rock Café so they can buy a t-shirt that proves they went somewhere.
Shit, they could’ve found as much genuine Puerto Rico in their local Wal-mart
|We picked up a rental car and headed out through the upscale hotel
district to the highway where we sped through the heart of San Juan and
out into the hills in search of lechon, roast pork.
minutes outside San Juan is an area famous for it’s roadside shacks
serving up local fare. We left the highway and cruised up winding
roads until we found a new restaurant, La Casona, Castillo de Guavate,
serving lechon for $5.50/pound. A massive deck functions as their
dining room overlooking the valley below. Their pig on a spit is
proudly displayed at the start of the cafeteria-style line.
|Fortunately a woman in
line behind us provided us translations when our Spanish failed us and we
ended up with plates piled high with pork and other delights. A live band
performed for the grand opening of the place, not even yet 100% built yet
already hosting a sizable crowd.
|The rice and beans were excellent, a very Greek lasagna was fair, some
strange combinations of fruit and meat that are common in Caribbean food,
but all merely side items to the main course, the lechon that had brought
us out of San Juan.
The meat is served plain with only it’s own juices as sauce. We got a
variety of pieces, everything from tender meat to ribs to crispy/chewy
skin. Not the best pork I’ve had, but I’m a bit of connoisseur when it
comes to roast pork. It was a damn fine meal.
||We headed off through the hills, climbing higher and higher, trying to
reach El Yunque, a national park encompassing a mountain-top rainforest.
Unfortunately, our route found us winding up ever-smaller roads past
locals who were obviously confused to see pale-faced tourists whipping
past in a rental car. Eventually we hit a dead-end and had to turn back,
despite confirming the route on three different maps. But the view in
those green hills and valleys was well worth it.
||We ended up
on a larger road that got us to the back side of the park where we
wound past small waterfalls and swimming holes, each with a few
grinning locals lounging by the stream with kids in tow.
||The jungle grew
more and lush and dense with the Puerto Rican coqui frogs chirping out
their eponymous onomatopoeia in between rumbling thunder from the gray
clouds hovering around the peak above.
Down the other side, we decided we’d run out of time and wouldn’t be able
to visit the main area of the park where you can tour walking trails and
there are signs labeling the sights, so we cruised on to the northeast tip
of the island near the town of Luquillo where a long row of beach-side
shacks serve up local fried fare.
burritos, tacos, plantains, meat-filled fruits and potatoes, all
battered and deep-fried. Good stuff, but you can see why the populace
tends toward the American average weight rather than the European
scale, despite their comparatively active lifestyles.
We headed back toward San Juan, stopping at a roadside bar/liquor store
where the proprietor mixes his own sangria in empty liquor bottles. His
version is pink, made from guava and white wine, thick and sweet but
refreshing when served over ice. At $7.50 a bottle, it’s one of the better
deals we found.
Back at the apartment, we debated going out for the night. There was a
drag show our hostess wanted to see but after a couple bottles of sangria
on the balcony we lost momentum and motivation. The threatened rains
finally appeared around midnight to cool us off.
"These people could put us out of
Photo Editor, Creative Loafing
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