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Monday, February 21, 2011

When in San Juan, no time for digital processing

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Would you rather spend your vacation time hunched over a laptop doing digital photo processing or vegging out on the beach? I chose the latter, so there've been no postings after the rainforest till now. These are random shots for the last 3-4 days of one of the all time best vacations I've had.

This was where we spent much of our time:

View over San Juan Bay near Old San Juan.

Walking the streets of Old San Juan

Street Accordionist, Old San Juan

Walking along the old city wall, Old San Juan.

Sunset, San Juan Bay

Parque de las Palomas in Old San Juan has been surrendered to the birds. Paloma is Spanish for "dove", as in rock dove, the traditional name for the common pigeon. "Rock" refers to their native habitat, the rocky cliffs of Europe, Asia and North Africa. Pigeons love to roost in areas that resemble their natural, cliffy habitat including "pigeon holes", which are nooks and crannies man-made just for this purpose. Someone has dug pigeon holes into the ancient walls of Parque de las Palomas, and the pigeons love it.


La Cucina de Ivo, our favorite restaurant in Old San Juan. The freshest ingredients, so carefully prepared, and introduced by our server Ivanna, shown here with her sister, Iria and her brother in law, Omar. Their father the chef, Ivo Bignami, and these three run the restaurant.


Beachfront cemetery La Cementario Puerto Rico Memorial
Mango smoothies were cool and refreshing.
In Old San Juan.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last days in paradise

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So today's the last day here. Posting has been the lowest priority since being outside takes precedence to hacking away on the Mac. Here are a few photos from the last few days. More may follow while I'm here, or not. It's just too relaxing to do much more. Just check back to see more.

View over San Juan Bay

The vacationers in Old San Juan.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

El Yunque National Forest Park [finally!]

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Yesterday, spent the entire day in the only US designated tropical rainforest, El Yunque (pronounced "el joon-keh"). The tropical rainforest lies completely within the boundaries of the El Yunque National Forest, part of the U.S. Forest Service. It consists of a small crescent shaped band that lies over the tops of the peaks of the forest, located near the eastern end of Puerto Rico. At the top of the rainforest lies a narrower band of the forest in which plant life is stunted due to a thinner layer of soil at higher elevations on the rocky mountain, as well as higher winds. The photo in the title of the blog is of El Yunque peak in the fog and clouds.

I've posted a wide range of photos from the day's outing, below. We were led by the top rated guide on Trip Advisor for El Yunque, Luis Robles, who was recommended by, of all people, Carole's manicurist at the El San Juan Hotel, Sonia. It was only coincidental that I looked him up and found that he was top rated, and he did more that meet our expectations. A self taught naturalist, guide, former fisherman, Vietnam vet, and Puerto Rican-born, US resident, Luis was a friendly, knowledgeable guy who taught us more than we could ever remember.

Luis [or Louis, or "Louie", he said any of these names work for him], pointing out an Australian eucalyptus:

So here are the results of the day's excursion, not in any particular order except how I want you to see them.

Coca Falls

View from Yokahu Tower, looking down toward the rainforest. The sun poked through the mist for a moment here.

Yokahu Tower. It is basically an observation tower in which you can see marvelous sites from all directions.
 La Mina Falls trail. This is a 1.4 mile roundtrip trail under a tropical canopy of palm and other trees that winds steeply up and down to a waterfall. Was huffing and puffing on this hike, described as "moderate" but I was winded and drenched when I reached the falls, and low on water for the return trip.

La Mina Falls trail.  There are several rustic shelters to stop and take a breather.

La Mina Falls. I was just lucky I guess to get the pretty girl in the shot.

La Mina Falls.
Breadfruit Tree. The breadfruit tree is a majestic, dark leaved specimen that can reach heights of 85 feet (26 meters). The fruits appear at the tips of the branches in groups of three or less, starting out green and ripening to rich brown or lavender in some varieties. Native to the South Pacific, it was introduced to Puerto Rico. The fruit is edible.

White flowers, with lavender color leaves. 

Plantain and inflorescence (the large bud that opens as a flower. Bet you didn't know what that was called!)

Tree snail.


Anole staredown.

Matapolo Tree. Notice the roots that snake across the ground. These roots can grow to stand up to four feet high.

Taino indian face in the rock. Can you see it? We don't know if it was a natural formation or carved by the indigenous indian tribe, the Taino.

Australian eucalyptus.

I came across a recent news story: Ancestral Photo Discovered: Taino Queen Ananana. See any resemblance to someone you know?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Market Day

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We looked for and found an old-fashioned open air market to buy fresh fruits at the Plaza del Mercado de Santurce.

The place was full of local color, both in the fruits and the people and surroundings.
Local bounty

Our banana man

Outside the market, "Not Quite Still Life with Fruit"
Lunch was at the highly recommended "El Pescador", a seafood place serving extremely fresh and delicious dishes including bocarones (sardines) fillets with olive oil and vinegar, fish broth worthy of the best bouillabaisse, grilled shrimp with garlic. A very good meal indeed.

Tomorrow, on to El Yunque Rainforest.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seeing the photos

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If you didn't know this, you can click on the photos (or tap on them for touchscreen users) to enlarge the images.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Still on the beach

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This place is great....there's no compelling reason to do anything at all but sleep, eat, and breathe in the air and the sounds of the surf, with a little jogging and beach walking to fill in.This guy was doing a little fishing but seemed lost in thought enjoying the views.

Yesterday, there was this gorgeous rainbow over an abandoned hotel called the Empress Oceanfront, which is on the most wonderful piece of real estate at the eastern point of Isla Verde beach (la Playa Isla Verde). It is rumored that JayLo may be interested in purchasing this property, which is currently in deteriorating condition.

We eat lunch at a place reminiscent of the cafes of Key West that Hemingway would have frequented, a little cafe called La Playita, complete with ceiling fans, a languid wait staff, easily consumed tropical drinks, and the requisite colorful locals.

La Playita

Colorful local

Carole's having a great time here. The place we stay is the El San Juan Towers condominiums. Here's Carole in her new hat:
Before you know it, night falls over Isla Verde. This is the night view from our balcony. Tomorrow, an excursion to el Mercado de Santurce for some fresh fruits, coffees, and shopping. Hasta mañana, amigos.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the Beach

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Views from my chair, Caribbean queen, shadow quartet, dusk from the balcony.