|Up relatively early, we trekked through town. It's lovely, with a charming square that was undergoing renovations during our
visit. I was surprised at how many non-Catholic churches were
around. The Episcopal church a couple of blocks off the square is
But not all buildings in town have that Spanish colonial
We got a little breakfast at a bakery, something sorely missing in Atlanta. Fine coffee, delicious pastry, a couple of donuts, how I'd
like to start every morning.
The public cars visit the big, popular beaches but we wanted
something more secluded, so I had reserved a rental car from Marcos, a
place recommended to me by the folks running Casa de Amistad. I called
them to get directions and was told it was too far to walk, I'd have to
catch one of the public cars that serve as bus/taxi to Vieques and much
of Puerto Rico. I tried calling one but couldn't get through.
I looked at the map and info in the hotel room and couldn't figure that
out either. Fortunately the friendly folks of Casa de Amistad were happy to drive us
there. Marcos turned out to be little more than an open shed where
a guy was renting a variety of vehicles. He gave us what I hope
was the most beat up one on the lot, a Geo Tracker, one of those Suzuki
Samurai looking things. The doors wouldn't shut properly, the
convertible top wouldn't close all the way, there were scratches and
dents all over, knobs missing from the stereo, floorboards full of sand
and water, and it was full of
mosquitoes. I grumbled at first but once we hit the dirt roads that lead
to many of the beaches I stopped complaining. I wouldn't be concerned
about a minor scratch or sandy interior when I brought the thing back!
We picked up a couple of sandwiches at the local lunch counter then
cruised across the island, through the smaller but more touristy town of
Esperanza and out a long dirt road to Playa Grande. It wasn't the
prettiest beach I've seen, not even the prettiest on Vieques, but it did
have what we were searching for -
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|We lounged for a bit and snacked. EM fell off the vegetarian
bandwagon and groaned with delight while devouring a mortadella
She cursed the clouds while I thanked them. My skin burns
like gasoline so even though I was covered in SPF 45, I could still
feel my skin sizzle when the clouds parted. Soon the clouds
gathered behind us and we couldn't see the hills for the rain,
but it managed to miss us at first. A couple of cars
appeared on the road and began to unpack, but when they spotted
us mid-kiss they got back in their jeeps and cruised on. Either
they, too, were looking for privacy or they were nice enough to
leave us with ours.
Soon the storm drifted overhead and the rain came down.
Though it would dampen our towels, it didn't dampen our spirits.
I'll leave it to your imagination.
After the cool rain, the sea felt warm as bathwater.
Eventually we packed up to explore further, just as another wave
of storms washed over us.
We drove up and over the ridge that separates the
northern and southern sides of the island, getting a view of the beach
we'd just left.
Then on down into the mangrove swamps, part of a nature reserve
that used to be a bombing range for the U.S. Navy. They are in
the process of cleaning up some of these areas and you're not
allowed to visit about half the island, but there are plenty of
beaches, jungle and swamp to visit. We found our way to Green
Beach, an appropriately descriptive name for the place.
Definitely not worth the long drive down the bumpy dirt
road across scary, rusted bridges only to find a mosquito-infested beach
where the jungle/swamp stops about 2 feet from the water, not leaving
you much room to relax. But if you're interested in nature, they do have
a boardwalk over the mangrove swamp.
We passed these yellow concrete markers all over Vieques, each set
with a different bronze relief sculpture, most of them abstract.
There was no indication as to what these things were.
|After half a day's adventure, nothing sounded better
than greasy seafood, cold beer and staring at the sea. We stopped at
Duffy's in Esperanza in hopes of such treats at a reasonable price and found the
place full of friendly, drunken ex-pats. The beer was cold but the menu
was a little more eclectic and overpriced than what I had in
mind. It was hard to complain after chowing down on excellent crab cakes
while staring at the view...
The back "yard" at Duffy's.
|As we cruised around we passed lots of folks riding horses
around the island. Many of them run loose and you have to drive
carefully to avoid them, as well as chickens, goats and other
Back in Isabella II, we met up with Paul again and headed to his
favorite bar, El Sombrero Viejo. We had a few rounds of my
favorite drink in Puerto Rico, Don Q rum mixed with Passoá
passion fruit liqueur and club soda. The soda cuts down on the
sweetness of it, but you're still drinking mostly liquor, so
We stepped around the corner to Scoops, a pizza joint/arcade/ice
cream parlor and picked up a pizza for dinner and took it back to
the bar. The cook at Scoops is from Brooklyn and prides himself
on his pizza. I wasn't expecting such a good pie in little Vieques. We ate every bite.
El Sombrero Viejo has a heck of a jukebox too - a great
selection of old R&B and soul, a thankful respite from what I began to
call "The Incessant Salsa Machine" that is Puerto Rican music. However,
late into the night the German owner of El Sombrero Viejo took over the
jukebox and played nothing but German beer hall music, all oom-pah-pah-oom-pah-pah,
creating a surreal soundtrack to our island visit.