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Friday, May 31, 2013

Memorial Weekend 2013: Puerto Rico

For Memorial weekend, two of my friends and I decided to take a little trip. 
After scouring the internet for cheap tickets, we came across Puerto Rico. It just 
so happens that two of our dear friends were just there and got engaged. After 
the tickets were booked, I found out three of my other friends were going a 
couple weeks before as well. It was looking like we had picked the hot spot for this 
year. We were very excited. 

The three of us had been watching the weather like a hawk. From two weeks before 
the trip to the day we left, nothing had changed. 60% chance of rain for the next 
ten days with 60% rain every single freaking hour. We still packed for the beach 
hoping that would bring us good luck. 

Finally, the day had arrived! Sara and I kissed our puppies goodbye, hopped in a car 
to the airport and took off on our long girls weekend getaway. Unfortunately, our 
flight was slightly delayed which pretty much screwed up our awesomely planned 
arrival times, 6:40pm for Shannon and 6:44pm for Sara and Me, which also screwed up 
our scheduled shuttle to the resort. It turned out we got in over two hours late 
and Shannon was threatening to meet us at the bar if we did not arrive soon. 

Thankfully, when we arrived, everyone was in good spirits and we unpacked and 
headed to the bar for some drinks and dinner. Our good spirits kept rising as we 
made some new friends and champagne started flowing.... until 3:30am. Us old 
farts were ready to pass out, wake up and sleep on the beach all day. But first, 
what better than a morning walk on the beach?

After our lovely morning walk, we visited one of the resorts eleven restaurants
for breakfast. Like most resorts the buffet looked fabulous but that price tag did not!
So we stuck with a la carte. The view was beautiful from the restaurants terrace and
the weather even better. So far, no rain! 

Halfway into our midmorning, early afternoon nap on the beach, we decided to head
to the pool to give our skin some shade. It is a very good thing we did or else some of
us might have ended up with third degree burns. That sun is hot! It is also nice to
get that feeling of sticky salt water off of your skin. 

On our way to the hotel Thursday night our shuttle driver mentioned a little
bodega down the hill from our resort noting it was much cheaper. We figured a little
run would never hurt. We popped on our running shoes and ran down the hill to
the bodega assuming that we would walk back with our goods. Once we arrived,
shell shocked with all the hill going up on our little down hill run, we were thankful
that a shuttle driver felt sorry enough for us and asked if we would like an
airconditioned ride back up to the resort. 

Later that evening, we had a reservation in the hotels Italian Restaurant, Palio.
Dinner we light and delicious and went extremely well with our crisp rose! We had
an early evening planned as our adventures for Saturday were much more intense
than todays. 

Saturday morning was an early one. We were scheduled to pick up our rental car at
8am which meant we had to be up, dressed, packed, fed and ready to go by then.
We loaded up the cooler with water and snacks, loaded ourselves into the car
and headed on down the road 14 kilometers to the top of the El Yunque Rainforest.
The rainforest has many different hikes. During an intense discussion with one of
the locals the day before, we got him to indulge us in the best, non tourist hikes.
Driving to the top of the rainforest, well as far as you can drive, which is not
technically the top, and hiking up from there was his recommendation. So that
my friends is what we did.

And were we glad we listened to him or what.... 

I mean, how amazing is this...

My favorite photo from the trip (below)

When we arrived at the end of the trail to the Yakahu Observation Tower, we 
were dripping with sweat, humidity was clinging on to every part of us and we could 
not tell the difference in sound between running rivers of water and the wind. I 
never realized that but yes, those two things sound extremely similar. Unfortunately 
for us, most of the time it turned out to be the wind. 

During rainy season in Puerto Rico, it rains a lot, and the rivers flow faster, the 
waterfalls  are more intense, the tides are crazy and the wind sounds exactly like 
that. During most of the hike the sound was beautiful little running streams but once 
we arrived on the final pathway to the top, we were very much mistaken. Why was 
the wind so intense you ask? we noticed the fog and wind getting stronger and 
more dense about halfway up the last part of the hike. When we reached the tower, 
we had a feeling the weather had slightly changed from the beautiful sunny morning 
we started with. 

We climbed up the stairs to the top of the tower and were so surprised to see what
we saw. Absolutely nothing! We were in the middle of a windy, foggy and cold cloud!
We could not see 10 feet in front of us!

Our view from the towers windows...

 On our hike back down the rainforest, it rained a few times but quickly subsided.
We reached the car in the nick of time. The clouds basically unloaded and we
would have been drenched if it wasn't for our perfect timing. 

We headed back down the and parked the car at another location and hiked down,
the whole way, further into the rainforest to see La Mina Waterfall. Apparently this is
the only waterfall to date that you are allowed to swim in. Sadly, we all felt the
pressure of the waterfall was unsafe at the time, took some more photos and
headed back up the trail just in time to miss about 100 people coming down.
Once again, perfect timing. 

We were starving after our morning hikes and decided to hit up the Luquillo Kiosks
for some lunch. On our way there we made a few wrong turns and ended up at
the beautiful Luquillo Beach. The water was the perfect temperature to just walk
right on in, crystal clear sparking every blue and turquoise you had ever seen.  The
sand was bright white and the views were spectacular. Not to mention the beach
was almost empty. It was so perfect, I went for a swim. 

The Luquillo Kiosks are made up of roughly 60+ restaurants and bars serving local
cuisine. Shannon was desperate to try the most common dish, Mofongo, which is
mashed plantains served with your choice of seafood, chicken or beef. We asked
a random which was the best spot for Mofongo and he said hands down La Parrilla.
We found a nice little cozy table with a beach view and ordered away.
Everything, including the Mofongo, was delicious. 

Later that evening, we had reservations for the Bioluminescent Bays. On paper
and photos, this sounded spectacular! In person, after the mile long kayak adventure in
a mangrove tree cave with nothing to light your way but a glow stick, you might
think differently. With a deep cut on my right thumb, it being a full night so the bay
did not light up as much as we would have liked, something alive and hard falling
on Sara, the other kayak groups passing you in this 15' wide x 8' high cave, the
incredibly strong current, the seaweed everywhere, getting soaked and smelling
like something died, and driving home in your underwear, you definitely might
think VERY differently. But, we survived and agreed to not talk about it ever again. 

We played paper rock scissors in the car on the way home to see who got to
shower first...

The next morning we were supposed to visit the beautiful island of
Culebra. Unfortunately, we did not make it so we rented the car again and spent the
day enjoying and exploring more of Puerto Rico and having a very long lunch in
Fajardo. Shannon and Sara went bar hopping in the hotel while I showered, packed
and napped. I later joined them for a night cap. 

The next morning we checked out of the hotel, hopped in our little rental car
and headed to the heart of Old San Juan. Sara had booked us a little pricier hotel for
the one night and when we arrived, we were overwhelmed with joy. This hotel
was Spectacular, with a capital S. El Convento is probably the nicest hotel I have
stated at to date. It was unbelievable. The staff, bell hop, servers, bartenders,
guests were so friendly it was almost a culture shock. Complimentary water, coffee,
tea and fruit at all times. Every night there was a complimentary wine and cheese
party on the third floor and terrace. We were even upgraded to a suite with a
balcony connected to the hot tub and pool. We were literally the happiest girls on
the planet. We wished we had stayed at this beautiful hotel more than one night
but truth is, we probably could not have afforded it.  

We headed out for the day to tour the city, shop for friends and photograph anything 
I could. The city was so colorful we were stopping left and right to capture every 
color, door, window, beam, and shutter.

By this time, after no breakfast of meal for the day, we were starving. Our
friend Monique had recommended a restaurant she said was fantastic and we
immediately headed that way. El Jibarito, located about five blocks away from our
hotel on Calle del Sol, was almost empty upon our arrival. We were so thankful.
Only after we had fed our tummies did we realize the place was now packed with a
line out the door. The table next to us was filled with locals celebrating a young
girls birthday. You could tell this place was the real deal. After lunch we headed
back out on the streets of Old San Juan with our eyes set on shopping. 

And a possible snack. Top middle, I died and went to pastry heaven, they were so good.

The first shop we entered turned out to be a gold mine. All three of us made purchases.
I brought home a very cool carved dried gourd, yes like the fruit. Sara bout this
paper mache painted spiky mask made up of yellow and red with black polka
dots. Shannon, a coconut cerveza mug!

That evening I had made reservations at a restaurant recommended to me by one of
my NYC friends, Mel, who had just visited the weekend before. Marmalade was about
a seven minute walk from our hotel and once again, we made it right before the rain
hit. This time it would have been a little different, we had on makeup, heels included. 

Marmalade was the fanciest restaurant of the trip. It was very fitting with our fancy
hotel of the trip as well. The weirdest thing I noticed, I was talking quietly. Why?
Well, the whole restaurant was quite! It was unbelievable. We could actually hear
what each other had to say. No shouting, no sore throats, no annoying, huhs? or
whats? Not to mention the food was devine. We really had such a wonderful
experience. From the wine to my black truffle pasta and toffee bread pudding,
I was literally having the best day of my life. We all agreed we loved Old San Juan
right then and there. To top it all off, the chef/owner even came to our table to see
how everything was. Amazing. Did I mention the whole meal for the three of us
including wine was $140.00? Unbelievable! 

We headed back to the hotel bar for a final drink of the evening. Sara was catching a
car to the airport at 4:00am and Shannon 6:00am. I myself did not have to be to
the airport until 11:00am. Who planned well? This girl! Well, like most of our trip,
the night really did not go as planned. We ended up meeting a mother and her
son during check in, saw them again at the wine tasting, followed by the restaurant,
and then in the hotel bar. Let's just say some of us did not get to bed, maybe ever. 

The next morning, both of my friends were gone. I wanted to get out on the streets
of Old San Juan and visit some of the areas we had not the day before. With
limited time, I hurried out the door around 7:30am. After a short three minute rain,
the weather cleared up and the sun came out. The morning turned into a
beautiful day. 

Around 9:00am I arrived back at the hotel and enjoyed a lovely brunch outside in the garden. 

I made use of our wonderful suite, robe and slippers all the way, took a long tub 
and finished packing. The car was there to pick me up on time and take me to 
the airport. Sadly, Sara's flight had been cancelled and at this time we were not sure 
if she was going to make standby on my flight. After over eight hours in the airport, 
good news arrived and she was able to fly back on the same flight. 

Oliver had been staying at her apartment so if Sara did not make it back, I would 
be home with no puppy as the doggy sitter left for the weekend! Poor pups! When 
we arrived at her apartment we were so glad to be home from the long stressful day 
of traveling. Four loads of laundry later and Oliver and I were passed out ready for life 
in NYC to start once again. 


  1. Absolutely gorgeous photographs. Blessing of a good designer...if you ever give up interior design, you can certainly succeed as a photographer. You rock!

  2. What a fun trip!!! Glad you girls had fun! Love the pictures!!