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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Southwest: Ponce and Boqueron

The southwestern area of Puerto Rico presents a one hundred eighty degree contrast to the urban hustle of San Juan and its tourist beaches. We took highway 52 along the Caribbean coast, with great views of mountains and sea, to Puerto Rico's second oldest city, Ponce. The photography there was extraordinary (be sure to click on each photo to see it enlarged).

View along the road—palm trees in the mountains.

Ponce is charming in many ways but overall, quite decrepit and needing some paint and renovation of its many very colorful Spanish style houses and buildings.
Still, we did see some wonderful historic sights on a one hour trolley tour through the city. Our guide was the typical guide, following the same pattern—announcing the name of the site and the date it was built, as if that's all one needs to know: "Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, 1670" (Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

The centerpiece of Ponce is the historic "Ceiba de Ponce," a tree associated with the founding of the city. Now surrounded by the park with the same name, the emblematic 500 year old tree is unfortunately dying away, with only one large branch left, held in place by a metal support.

In the surroundings of the legendary Ceiba de Ponce, broken pieces of indigenous pottery, shells, and stones were found to confirm the presence of Taino Indians long before the Spaniards later settled in the area. It has been said that this tree was already a large tree at the time of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World.

Doorway to a building, an example of local Spanish architecture:

A local street vendor, selling Valentine's Day baskets:

Street scene in Ponce:

We stopped outside of town for dinner on the Caribbean at a place called "Pito's Seafood and Cafe". Our weather was cloudy and misty during the excursion, but actually made for better black and white photographs. Here's a view of the scene in the evening:

After dinner, we decided the drive back in the rain wouldn't be easy, so we took a room in, of all places, a Quality Inn, not realizing until the next clear blue morning how beautiful the setting was.  We saw these Puerto Rican parrots in the gardens there:

Turtle on a rock in the garden pool, "kickin' back."

We left mid morning and drove another 45 minutes west to the rustic little fishing village of Boqueron, on the west coast of Puerto Rico. The place was so far off the beaten path that there very few people who weren't locals, and it was a great and picturesque place to relax. Had a delicious lunch of freshly made coconut shrimp and chicken quesadilla at another restaurant with a deck over the water— Galloways. We did meet several people on the beach and talked about their sleek Pacific Coast ocean touring kayaks—an Argentinian guy and his wife and her sister. They strongly urged us to spend more time in Boqueron and the surroundings because the life there is really nice. They've been coming there for many years.

So again, few words—the photos speak for themselves:

On the beach in Boqueron:

Portrait of a pelican:

Pelican in a tree:

Shot this frigate in Boqueron, off the west coast of Puerto Rico.

Check out the wikipedia entry for frigate: Look familiar?

Local color, village center:

Yours truly with Carole on the beach at Boqueron: 

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