Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Puerto Rico, Day 3

(The view as we approached the old Fort of Filipe del Murro)

Our 3rd day we spent exploring actual historic Old San Juan. We allowed ourselves a nice slow start to the day and then walked up the hill and down along the water to Castillo Filipe del Murro. You can't see it in the picture above but all outside the fort were hundreds of kids with kites. It was so windy there it was the perfect spot to fly a kite.

(Kirsten, Beth, Amy, Meghan & Alison at the Castillo Filipe del Murro)

We spent a good couple of hours wandering through the castle. It was huge, filled with stairs, ramps and plenty of knooks and crannies to explore. It was incredibly hot though out there with only concrete below us!

(An old guard tower at Castillo Filipe del Murro)

After we felt we had spent enough time exploring the fort we walked down to try and visit the old Cathedral in San Juan where Ponce de Leon is buried. It was closed and someone recommended that we come back for Easter Vigil as that's when the church would be open.

So we walked back down the block to the City Walls. You can walk outside the City Walls and there is this great path along the water. Amy and I had gone running that morning out in a different direction away from the city. It was a beautiful where we ran but if I had to do it again I would have run on this path outside the city walls. The views were just beautiful and it was a little bit nicer. We found a nice shady bench and enjoyed our handmade lunches from our apartment (we're so thrifty!) After lunch some people got icees and then we decided to hit the shops.

It was so funny because a lot of the shops were American and discounted. Discount Coach, Ralph Lauren, etc. I got my ornament (I purchase an ornament from every new place I visit for vacation - it makes my Christmas tree one big story!) We split up for a bit while shopping and agreed to meet up again at 4PM to head to Castillo San Cristobal which was the fort that guarded against a land attack. It was along the same side of the city but at the opposite end from Castillo Filipe del Murro (which guarded against the water attack).

(View from Castillo San Cristobal down the coast to Castillo Filipe Del Murro)

We spent about an hour or so exploring this fort, which was much smaller and much the same as the other fort. Then it was time to head home and get ready for the night out.

Once ready we walked back to the Cathedral and about 2 minutes after we got there they opened the doors. It was nice to see we weren't the only tourists there to see the Cathedral as opposed to attending the Easter Vigil. The church was small but at the same time had this elegance about it. We did get to see where Ponce de Leon was buried which was pretty cool!

After the Cathedral we walked to the other side of the city (all of 7 minutes!) to have dinner at Cafe Puerto Rico which I had read many great reviews about. I think I might have been the only person who didn't love my food (don't get the pork chops with onions -they come fried!) The wine was flowing and we had good conversation and the service was good.

After that we headed to this alley to go to Cafe Nureycan which we had read a lot about - known for it's salsa dancing. When we arrived there was an improv comedy duo on. I could only partially understand what they were saying but it was still pretty funny. We watched the end of their act and then the salsa dancing began! Almost everyone in our group was asked out to Salsa at some point in the night. We were there enjoying the music until after 1AM even though we had an early wake up call.

It was the perfect last day in Old San Juan. Overall, San Juan & Puerto Rico is definitely a place I would recommend for a vacation. It's really accessible and easy to navigate. Everyone speaks English and is very friendly and accomodating. It also offers a wide variety of activities (cultural, beach & relaxation, active & exploratory, and of course an enjoyable and relaxed night life).

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Have you ever visited a fort outside of the US? If so, what fort have you visited?

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