Wednesday, March 07, 2012

San Juan

Green My first instinct as the plane descended over the green vegetation around San Juan airport was to dive onto its lush grassiness, we were both so happy to see any kind of green stuff. Unfortunately we were still on a plane, also unfortunate was the fact that most of the green stuff turned out to be bone dry. Oh well – it was lovely to breathe in the humid tropical air – I'd picked up some kind of chest bug and was really struggling with the cold northern dryness so a change of climate was very welcome.

We chose Puerto Rico because it was in the right bit of the world, has a reputation for good street food and also maybe a little bit because San Juan and Puerto Rico are two of our favourite games. I'm pleased to report that the locations are not a lot like the board and card games: we didn't sell any coffee or tobacco, build any harbours or ship any slaves, for which I am sure the locals are thankful.

Colours Unfortunately it wasn't all we had hoped for. Whereas the island of Puerto Rico quite possibly does have very good street food, its availability is rather limited in the city of San Juan – we encountered a couple of pizza vans, hot dog stands and one van selling native savoury pastry snacks but our quest for something a bit healthier and less stodgy went unanswered outside of the restaurants, which were not particularly cheap ($10 per dish is typical) and overall we found the city to be quite a tourist trap, not entirely surprising consider the number of cruise ships stopping there.

Oh well. We had hoped to hire a car and explore the island a bit, which probably would have been hugely worthwhile, unfortunately Dgym developed the same chest bug and temperature that I'd had, only in extra virulent manly form so he was too feverish and disoriented to be driving around in Puerto Rican traffic. So we stuck with the city and made the most of it – we found a good coffee & sandwich cafe (Aromas) and the cafe over the road (Los Pinos) turned out to do nice soups, grilled meat and pina coladas. We also found a couple of small beaches and enjoyed the pleasant views from the hotel roof.

La Perla I spent an afternoon exploring the impressive forts of San Cristobal and El Morro and slightly fascinated by the brightly coloured slum area of La Perla which is sandwiched between the two, just outside the city walls. One of the first things you read in any tourist info about San Juan is that you don't go into La Perla unless you have (mostly drug-related) business there or really want trouble, and I was happy to stay inside the city walls – but it's so close to the rest of the mostly tame and civilized city and there are a lot of places where you can get quite a good view.

No comments: