Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1815: San Juan, Puerto Rico with Cathy and Katelyn
By Linda Hagstrom from Pennsylvania, Spring 2010
Page 3 of 5: Thursday - Old San Juan
Katelyn and Cathy at El Morro
The concierge told us how to take the public bus to Old San Juan. This was the first area settled by the Spanish in the early 1500s, and much of Old San Juan is still surrounded by a wall. It was about 20 minutes on the bus. We stopped at a Starbucks for sustenance (Katelyn wanted to try a frappucino and she loved it) and walked first to El Morro, the fort built by the Spanish in the early 1600's and now a Unesco World Heritage Site.
When we lived here in the 1960s, we had visited El Morro and even played golf on a 9-hole golf course that was laid out in the moat of the fort. That golf course no longer exists.
El Morro is quite large and imposing, with guard posts, the moat, tunnels, dungeons, cannon mounts, a chapel, soldiers' quarters, and wonderful views of the sea. We took our time and saw everything there was to see, including exhibits on the history of the fort.
Leaving El Morro, we walked near an old cemetery by the wall while families flew kites and bought ice cream nearby.
Now we were ready for some shopping and found the shopping area quickly. We went to several stores and then I noticed El Convento was nearby. This is an old convent that had been converted into a hotel by the time we lived here. We had never stayed there but I remembered the lovely courtyard with a restaurant where I had had lunch years ago. We stopped in and toured the public area of the hotel and then went into the courtyard - tree-shaded and just as I remembered it. We had lunch at a pizza place nearby, and continued shopping. There are lots of good ladies' shops because of all the cruise ships that dock very close by.
There were some other interesting historical buildings and areas. We visited Fort San Cristobal, another early fort in Old San Juan, and enjoyed the very good historical exhibits.
We went back to the bus station and got the bus back to the Condado area. We walked to the hotel, got our swim suits on, and hit the waves. Later we went for a walk down the beach. There were some very nice hotels, and others that had been abandoned.
For dinner, we went to the Puerto Rican restaurant that was across the street from our hotel. We ordered some Puerto Rican specialties: tostones, mofongos, pasteles.
We had learned there was to be a fashion show at the hotel that night and we sat outside near the pool and waited for the show to start. Cathy and I played Scrabble on her Touch until it started. The show was inside but very visible to the many people seated outside through big windows.
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