Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hello!! I'm excited to share some photos from our time in Puerto Rico last week, specifically San Juan and the rainforest. It's photo overload because everywhere we looked was so picturesque, it felt like we were walking into a movie scene. I'm still on such a high from it all. But this trip came with little hurdles. 

Guys, why are we so bad at this traveling thing sometimes?! We lost (practically gave away) a significant chunk of our change in Paris (we were 24! naive!), all of our documents in Italy (25! naive!) and important custom forms in Mexico (26, still naive...). I also lost my favorite camera lens somewhere in between there in Arizona, which I had just paid $150 to fix the week before the trip... This time, five years after our first travel mistake, Brian lost his ID in the airport in Chicago before we made it to our connecting flight in Orlando, making it tricky to leave Puerto Rico when it was time to come home, and leaving me in charge of things like the rental car when I was just telling him a few weeks ago I was thinking of enrolling in driving school again since I haven't driven in years and am kind of terrified to. Oi! 

We landed late Friday night, and I drove our giant Jeep Wrangler to our tiny Airbnb apartment in Ocean Park. The guy at the car rental place happily told me we'd been upgraded, but I seriously thought they were going to take it away from me when I couldn't get out of the parking garage. The lady at the gate very hesitantly pushed the button to let us out. 

Once we got to our place we walked to get some takeout pizza and then went inside to figure out how Brian would get back home without a photo ID. We couldn't get over how tiny the room was (the kitchen is outside, the bathroom in a small cave inside the room) and as we reminisced about the tiny rooms of our past vacations, we decided to hit the reset button (a concept our friends started, you literally pretend to press a button inside someone's palm to hit "reset." Ha!) and put the day's frustrations behind us. 

Note: we know these rooms are tiny when we book them, but for the price and location (and the minimal time we spend in them), they can't be beat. 

The next morning we woke up and left our place for Old San Juan. Here I am with my trusty Jeep, which I had parked on a speed bump. Haha!

Brian with the maps, everywhere we go. Also, those clouds!

The best popsicles. I'm bummed we didn't go back a second time. If you find yourself in San Juan, definitely go!

The different doors of Puerto Rico were some of the prettiest things I've seen. I love the different colored homes and shops, and adding these doors to the mix made everything ten times cuter. It felt like walking through an old, little town in Spain.

We loved Puerto Rico's signature dish, mofongo (mashed, fried plantains). Love, love, love. We had it here and can't recommend going enough. Especially if you like wicked strong cocktails.

We visited both Castillo de San Cristóbal and San Felipe del Morro Fortress, which had the best views. A $5 ticket gets you into both, so don't lose your stub :)

There were stray cats everywhere around the island (towards the jungle, stray dogs, chickens and horses, too...) and the most adorable little kittens were hanging out at our Airbnb. 

Grateful for this man who opens coconuts off the tree for me in Puerto Rico but also takes a hammer to them on our patio in the January Chicago snow (kind of balances out the losing-our-things when traveling thing). I loooooove coconuts.

Shortly after the coconut treat, our Airbnb host came up to us in the kitchen and said he had bad news ... the power was out. Someone had come to cut down some trees and had accidentally cut the cord. He said that since it was Saturday, no one could come fix it, and given the holiday (Memorial Day), it could be days. It was 93 degrees! We were frantic. Brian looked into hotels we could stay at instead while I googled how I could fix the electricity. Brian asked me whether he should book another room, and I told him to wait a bit. Maybe it'd cool down (it didn't).

We decided to chat by the kitchen because our tiny room was a sauna, and slowly others that were staying in the complex joined us. A long night and story short, we ended up staying in the Airbnb and having dinner with our host, who had the most wild stories (he's had five wives!). We went back to our rooms around 2 in the morning and haven't stopped talking about that night since. We met some of the kindest, most interesting people and realized this is why we like traveling so much. Also realized that my college boyfriend is still right, red wine brings out all of my emotions.

Our Airbnb was two blocks from the beach (where we got the worst sunburns of our lives), which had warm, relaxing water (but blistering hot sand). 

Puerto Rico is really good at food stuffed in other food. This pineapple curry rice inside a pineapple (from here) was divine. There were also lots of stuffed lobsters and stuffed avocados, which we unfortunately didn't have time to try. 

Oh gosh, funny story about this dinner, actually. Brian picked out the restaurant and we put "La Parrilla" (the name of the restaurant) into the GPS on my phone. We drove there (about 30 minutes) and couldn't find it for the life of us. Looking at the map, Brian said "it looks like it's next to a Baskin-Robbins... inside a building..." It turns out there are two La Parrillas, one is a fast-food chain spot inside an outlet mall, and another the restaurant we were looking for (no connection to the other) on the beach (of course, 30 minutes away from the outlet mall). We were laughing so hard walking through the outlet mall. It felt like a treasure hunt :) 

We spent the next few days at the Rainforest Inn in El Yunque National Forest, a recommendation from Brian's friend Anna. This was one of the coolest places we've ever stayed. A 30-minute drive into the jungle, it was so secluded and serene. The owners (the coolest couple from Maine) are the most wonderful people, and the breakfast each morning was out of this world. I can't speak highly enough of it. 

More coconuts from the side of the road. So, so good. And, if you can't tell, by this point of the trip I was so, so burned. It hurt to wear a swimsuit or seatbelt. Oh, and I gave up on the Wrangler and Brian was driving. It was too terrifying to drive in the jungle (narrow, windy roads). We weighed it out, and there was a much higher chance of us losing our lives if I drove than Brian getting caught without a license. 

We both got into the waterfall after this photo was taken, but the photos are too embarrassing to share! I was basically totally submerged, and the water was freezing!

After a long day of hiking in the rainforest this burger was out of this world (I got it with fried plantains instead of a bun, which was messy but extra delicious).

That night we were too exhausted to do anything but drink wine, eat Doritos and watch Master of None. It was so peaceful in the hammock with the rainforest sounds around us (it was super loud, though! It felt like someone had put a noise machine to our ears). 

On our last full day Brian picked the activity, which was to visit Sandra Farms, where a couple makes coffee and chocolates. It took us more than three hours to get there, and the roads were so, so narrow. I was terrified. I could see the ledge on either side, and since it was a two-way street, I had no idea what we'd do if another car came by. Once we finally got there (my motion sickness in full force), there was next to nothing there! We were worried we were in the wrong place, and our phones were draining battery fast. Brian called Israel, the owner, who said we were in the right place and he'd come out to meet us. 

Israel took us inside their home and poured us fresh coffee. I was kind of worried to be in a stranger's house alone (when I asked to use his bathroom he guided me to the couple's personal bathroom, and I was like where are we), but just like the Airbnb night, it ended up being one of the coolest experiences. Israel told us about growing up in New York, how the coffee business runs in his family, his adventures from the Peace Corps, shared how coffee is made and walked us throughout their property. It was fascinating.

That night we had our best meal inside the cutest pink house (another recommendation from Anna!) and drove back to the rainforest one last time.

There were pineapple trees at the inn along with a long list of other fruits and vegetables. A lot of what we ate there was directly from the property. We also saw some of the coolest lizards and bugs during this trip! Everywhere I stepped there was a gecko by my foot. 

Each morning Renee from the Rainforest Inn would serve us the tastiest vegetarian breakfast with a homemade, fresh smoothie (we tried this fruit for the first time, which I loved but Brian did not) and coffee from Sandra Farms (she made the best cafe con leches)! We'd eat with all the other guests (six people total) and tried to make plans for a hike together a few times but the rain changed plans again and again.

On our way to the airport we spotted a horse on the road. I was surprised at every animal we saw (so. many. chickens), but the horse was definitely the chart topper. And, obviously, Brian made it home OK, for all those concerned. 

We loved you, Puerto Rico! So much. I can't wait to go back one day. 

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