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Old 04-05-2014, 07:05 PM   #61
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Day 4, Puerto Rico!

I was so excited to see just this teensy little bit of Puerto Rico. I'd never thought all that much about the place, other than watching West Side Story, but once we chose this itinerary I grew very happy to know we would be going here.

While planning, it was so hard to decide what to do; I knew we couldn't see the old city, the new city, AND the rainforest. We had to make a decision. There was some nervousness about creepy crawlies in the rainforest (and our tablemates did do the el Yunque excursion and did verify that that was a bonafide worry) so we chose city. And since walking around the Old city was something much discussed, we decided to do that.


So here are the Compasses for Day 4.




As you can see, kids can stay onboard and get lunch with the group.





Even the morning of the port they still had some excursions left, and were offering special deals like that 20% off kids tickets.

I think you can see how I felt about the idea of the $99 spa package. Alas I couldn't convince myself to do any spa stuff. Next time!





Dang, I should have done that 5 beer special, then just take the beers back to the room! Although that would have been more drinks than I had the whole trip.

And maybe next time I'll send Robert in for the $1 stud poker. Have him make a few bucks. Given my sensitivity to smoke, though, we would have to bag up his clothes as soon as he got back. Darn my lungs.






$30 wash and fold special! Nice!





Good info there in the "important things to know today" section!





Robert really wanted me to go to the trivia thing at Schooner Bar. I don't think we tried it that day, but on another we did. And I had to leave almost immediately. The smoke filtering into the Schooner Bar from the Casino was just overwhelming for me. Robert couldn't even smell it. Oh well.




I just noticed there....Afternoon Tea? FUN! How did I miss that?





These scans might be of interest to the shoppers. This is what we got for San Juan. Oh man you can barely read it. Sorry.






With this map I got a second copy and marked off ON the map where things were.



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Old 04-05-2014, 07:36 PM   #62
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Day 4, San Juan!


You come into San Juan from the north. Along with it being a walled city, because ships have to come in between El Morro and Fortin San Juan de la Cruz.


This is from disneycruiselineblog. I didn't want to take their bandwidth, so I put it in my photobucket. But it IS, indeed, THEIR image. (well, maybe the Bacardi tour's image that they are using)




Here's a semi-bad picture of the sign talking about this.




But I learned that stuff later.


And none of it really sunk in as I got up, dressed, and went onto the balcony to see this.







Those pictures are of El Morro.


As we continued into the harbor, we saw more of the wall.










OH I was in LOVE. Without even stepping foot on the ground.


And here is the real-life image of the entrance to the harbor.




Off to the west of the harbor.




More city. So gorgeous.




I couldn't wait to get there!
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:03 PM   #63
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more Day 4

We were up on the earlier side, but we still were moving slowly. Went to have breakfast.

Here's a random picture taken while sitting down towards the bow end of the dining room, looking back at the buffet area.





And this was the nicer view.




More art as we made our way off the ship.




I had to finish my latte entirely before getting off the ship, but they were totally cool with it. Bottles of water were fine (we brought a few) but not an espresso drink.


Looking back at the ship.




Looking forward.







I had ordered a tourist map from somewhere and I had that in hand. I had also read over the basic directions and really studied things (and I went over it with the family) many times. We had a problem first time in Nassau where I hadn't gone over it with the guys, or let them know really where we were going, and I didn't have a great map. We got as far as Elizabeth Street (or we think it was) and turned back.

But this was better. Get off the ship, turn left. Walk along. Soon enough you will see either a CVS or Walgreens.

We really should have stopped in there and gotten MORE water. You see, it was hot. Hot hot hot! I was dressed to reflect the light (you'll see later), DS was dressed to wick away any sweat, but DH was dressed in black. Yikes.

As you continue along, you make your way to Paseo de la Princesa.








Ah, there's the Paseo...




And here's the difference a bit of zoom can make. I had seen this statuary in pictures, but I didn't realize there would be a gate.




With a little bit of zoom, I saw how they got those pictures.




WOW look at that wall. You truly got a sense of impossibility as you walked along, a sense of "that would just be way too hard to try to scale".




I just looked up this place. Cafe La Princesa. Couple things on there I want to try next time we're in PR. Mofongo stuffed with veggies? Yes, thank you.




The grey is so pretty, the white is so nice, the whole building is just so pleasant looking!




I doubt you'll be able to read this, but...




The above is all about this set of statues, called Raises.







Here's the view of the water from that area.

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Old 04-05-2014, 11:25 PM   #64
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We're barely off the ship, Day 4, San Juan!

So we're continuing along *outside* the city wall.

This is art, but it looks like something that has been there since forever.



I'm talking the spikes, not the tree.




The spikes are to our right.

This is to our left.




And this is behind us.




And these were my guys in front of me.




Wall with child.




Wall with invading marauder.




How do people live with such loveliness?




Augh, it's just like a postcard! It's so fluffy! (Despicable Me moment there)




Nature is amazing!




We were approaching a gate.




Make that...a gato. Heh heh, see what I did there?




This is the cat's territory.




This is before the gate.




Here are some dudes I met.




Here's some weird lady wearing colors that can be seen from space, along with the kid from the previous picture. Hey they look familiar. It's like I see them every day....one of them in the mirror.



(bwa ha ha, I didn't realize the lady coming towards the camera is also wearing a very very bright color...we're focusing on the silly person wearing the hat that is exactly like the one you saw me in on CocoCay...wonder who that is?)


And so we went through the gate!
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:35 PM   #65
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So here we went slightly astray. There was this tempting set of stairs.





We went up them and saw this.




Went forward.




Went further. Wow. Still wouldn't want to be a sentry in those tiny SMELLY towers, but...nice view.





And our error is that we just continued along that sort of upstairs pathway. This took us onto a very narrow road with no proper sidewalk, and it just felt like we were doing something wrong. We weren't alone! But that didn't make it feel much better.

So if you pass this close to this pink building, you probably should have gone back down the tempting stairs, continued along forward from the gate, and THEN gone up the street.




By the way, the creepy crawlies in PR make really strong-looking webs. Shudder.


And as cool as that bent tree is, you're not in the totally right spot if you see it.





Any Monty Python fans around? Remember the part in the Holy Grail when they are approaching...something...a castle? or you're watching someone approach? it makes a dramatic sound then you look again and they are the same distance away...over and over? That's what approaching El Morro felt like.








Though it was interspersed with this.







We got there at long, long, windy last. We had already decided that we would hit the other fort that day, so we paid our $5 each for both forts (otherwise it's $3 per person) and made sure to keep the receipt safe.
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:51 PM   #66
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We followed this sign almost exactly! Very very helpful for prioritizing.







Ruh roh. Photobucket has lost its mind. I will be back tomorrow when photobucket has sat in the corner, thinking about what it has done for the evening.
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Old 04-06-2014, 08:32 AM   #67
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Your pics of San Juan are fabulous. When we went, we walked a little way then had a taxi take us to "the fort." I guess we weren't specific enough because he dropped us off at San Cristobal. We toured it for a LONG time; I can't imagine how long El Morro would take since it's actually bigger. Side note: I got to spend time in Cuba last year, too, and toured Morro Castle, the big fort there. It was a year of Caribbean forts.

Anyway, based on how lovely your pics are I want to see more of San Juan next time. Very pretty. I recommend the Parrot Club for dinner/lunch next time you're there. Easy walk from the ships and great food.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:43 AM   #68
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Great pics!!
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Old 04-06-2014, 12:21 PM   #69
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ilovetexas View Post
Your pics of San Juan are fabulous. When we went, we walked a little way then had a taxi take us to "the fort." I guess we weren't specific enough because he dropped us off at San Cristobal. We toured it for a LONG time; I can't imagine how long El Morro would take since it's actually bigger. Side note: I got to spend time in Cuba last year, too, and toured Morro Castle, the big fort there. It was a year of Caribbean forts.
A person could spend hours at El Morro. We spent a good amount of time in the hot hot sun there, and we were hurrying.

Cuba, wow. My Cuban-American friends hate that I would like to visit Cuba (I would think it would be the opposite, but they are complicated!) but I still wish I could...
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Old 04-06-2014, 02:16 PM   #70
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Photobucket is playing nicely with others now. Good good.


So we had paid for the two National Parks for the day, and took a picture of that sign telling us how to see El Morro.

Near the sign was an old old staircase. There were clear and distinct signs on how to use the staircase. What? People need instructions for stairs? Well, yes. Because it's the only way up and down, and there can be crowds, it's clearly marked that one side is for going down, and the other side is for going up. Basically, you always want to use the staircase on your right when facing the stairs.

Aw, come on, common sense!

But is it?




I don't really remember what all of this was. It's all part of an armed fort that's really forbidding looking with not a whole lot of shade, and many helpful signs that are written in English and Spanish.





This is another sentry point. They all go smaller as they get towards the outside of the wall, so if the enemies did climb up they could only get through one at a time. Station a person at the other end of the space, pick off the enemies as they come on through.




It was hot.






We've already seen the old one. Here's the new style.






I think those patterns were used to swing cannons around.








This really makes you think about the life of the soldiers.



And this is one of the areas labeled as the kitchens.





2nd Level of the fort. I didn't do anything to the photo to make it green. It didn't look green when we were in there, just dark.







Under "other features to notice" there's a small bit about a fragment of shrapnel in the wall. Here it is, that outjutting/shadow looking thing almost in the middle.




Whoo boy, staircase. This one you can use going up or down.




This is the view (and method of air circulation) in the women's bathroom on one level.




DS says it's the same in the men's, only there were some webs.



Interesting stuff! Going from left to right on the sign and therefore the map:







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Old 04-06-2014, 02:59 PM   #71
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This reminds me of the fighting scene on POTC.


As far as the stair logic.....well....face it you are talking about people.
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Old 04-06-2014, 03:05 PM   #72
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DS and I went up into the lighthouse but we were immediately followed by a large group of schoolkids on a field trip. None of them were rude, but they were chatty in a small space, and they filled up the space! So no pictures of the inside. But as we went back down the stairs, I realized how really really steep they are. For those with lower mobility, bad knees, etc, probably want to sit this out.





As we looked out over the view, a nice pair of friends offered to take our picture. I was being silly and had been holding "rabbit ears" over DS's head, but was taking my hand down. They caught a picture as I was moving my hand. So I look goofy, but it's actually a decent picture of the three of us, so here you are.




Looking out over a cemetary.




We looked around for a bit more, visited the gift shop, bought some water. DS bought a pack of playing cards with San Juan pictures on them. Wow, he has them out right now, I notice. He loves them.


Then we left and started the long slow walk (not that long, really, just feels long when it's 200 degrees out) over to San Cristobol.


So by this point in our journey, DH was starting to feel *off*. He was starting to get symptoms of "the January thing that everyone had, you know, the lung thing" (as I call it). So he had been with us since the 18th, it was now the 30th, and he was just then getting symptoms. This "lung thing" had a terribly long incubation period.

E was still fairly tired and we had gotten up early-ish. And it was hot. And we hadn't brought quite enough water or snacks. They were starting to drag. They were getting grumpy. This makes their travel agent sad. When their TA gets sad, she gets more chipper, trying to keep the day going happily. When their TA does this, it makes them more grumpy-cat-ish. And so on.


Here's a picture of the trolley map that gives a basic idea of where we were walking.




So picture us walking from #26 towards #18, along that green line. One side of the street is sort of along the wall, or rather you can kind of see over it. The other side of the street is along houses.

Now picture grumpy-cat-males walking along the shady side of the street (sensible) while fake-chipper-TravelAgent walks on the sunny side of the street. Neither will join the other. Neither is being happy with the other. Harumph.

So that's how we walked for awhile. Not my fault DH didn't bring his hat and wore black...


So here's a picture of the museum, from MY side of the street (looking their way).




By the way, if you walk on the shady, house-side of the street you don't really see the houses like this.




Tropical countries have such bright and colorful houses. If you look back at that picture of me at the SJ gate, you will see the connection. I dress like a box of crayons sometimes, and I like houses that are painted that way, too. I guess having been born in San Francisco with the "painted lady" Victorians imprinted my fashion AND house-paint sense.



On the not-so-fun side, there is a bad part of town in OSJ, known as La Perla. It's recommended to stay out of there. Good news...it would be hard to accidentally end up there. The pathway outside the gates stops at El Morro, and so you would have to find your way TO a gate of sorts into that area. It's on the coast, down the hill, and outside the walls. Here is a view down into it. I didn't know this was the "bad" part of town when I took the pictures. I actually thought, from above, that it looked very picturesque and interesting.





Continuing along the street.







A ruined top of a building next to a cool new gazebo-ish looking thing on a terrace.




Getting into the fort seemed to require a long uphill ramp, and the guys needed a break. So we sat in the shade (reunited on the same side of the street again), and E found that one of the local cats was really very nice. (you can't see it, but the cat has the collar)


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Old 04-06-2014, 03:07 PM   #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaoden39 View Post
This reminds me of the fighting scene on POTC.


As far as the stair logic.....well....face it you are talking about people.
I hadn't noticed that before, it really really does! Thanks for noticing that!

True. People are people.
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Old 04-06-2014, 03:43 PM   #74
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Basic info on Castillo San Cristobal.




Main courtyard.







There are things to see here, many rooms with exhibits. Those rooms were, despite windows, hot and I didn't want to look at exhibits. Therefore, my pictures are lacking.

You can go in some "tunnels" (not really tunnels like one thinks of them).

Whoa.




In the tunnel after that sign, there's a dungeon. Only those who aren't scared of the dark and aren't claustrophobic should go in. It's DARK.

If you take one of the free, ranger-led tours, they'll take the group in with the lights on, show them around, then turn the lights off. I saw this happen from out in the main tunnel. Pitch. Black. Utter darkness. Underground, tunnel, no windows. As dark as it can get.

After that group left, we went in, and even with the lighting it's dark dark dark. I would lose my mind in almost no time in there if I had been a prisoner.


In some ways San Cristobal (minus the dungeon) reminded me of my very vague memories of some of the CA Missions we went to on field trips growing up. Especially this.




It's worth going to, but it's not quite as picturesque as El Morro. I'm glad we did it in this order this trip, but in the future I think I would prefer to tour the forts in the opposite order.




If you look back at that map showing the heavy trolley area in the Luna, San Francisco, and Fortaleza streets area, that's where we went next. We were on a street looking out on, it turned out, Plaza de Colon, when we saw a cute little cafe with some outside seating. Not thinking there would be anything we could eat, we looked at the menu posted outside, and saw a large vegetarian portion of the menu! Score!

Sure, we were heading towards the ship, and sure, there was food we'd already paid for on the ship. But here we were, and our stomachs were here, and it was HOT, and heck, why not? So we went on in. This cafe's name is Cafe Berlin, and it was very tasty. I had a Bahama Mama and some sort of meal. DH and DS had some sort of meals as well. The food was big, good, and very fresh and REAL tasting.


After a nice lunch we wandered just a bit more. We came across the tourist-shopping area, and visited Cariloha, which sells bamboo products, on Calle Fortaleza. They got us, big time. And boy did they get us.

At least with jewelry, you only know if you've been "taken" if you go to get things appraised. But with towels and bedding, as we bought, you find out at home, when 5 washings later a towel is starting to fall apart and your sheets have shrunk so much they barely fit on your bed anymore (despite washing them all in cold as the instructions say). Yes they are soft. No, they are not worth it.

Well, the sheets might be worth it, but buy a size bigger than you need. Our bed is a totally normal Queen size bed from Sears, and the depth of it is inches shorter than they state for Queen beds, but the fitting sheet is barely going on anymore, and the flat sheet doesn't come close to tucking in on the sides. Save your money or buy bigger than you need.

On the other hand, I love my beachy bag I got there. And my scarf, though I wish the scarf were longer!


And what has happened with the towels and sheets is just insult to near-injury, because it was while at Cariloha (a US-based company) in San Juan (a US territory) that our credit union decided that it was a questionable purchase. Took what felt like ages. The CU couldn't get things worked out with the CC, so we used our debit. And even that wasn't working the first time because the clerk ran it as credit not debit the first two times. Augh.

Have I mentioned this was the end of our touring day, it was hot, we were sweaty, and it was tick-tocking along towards all aboard time?

Finally FINALLY the debit card went through properly and we headed on out. By that time we had like 9 bamboo necklaces (they give those for free when you enter and say "aloha" or something like that) so we were duly "marked" as tourists (like DS's evacuation wristband wasn't doing that already, or my clothes, or the very obvious fact that I do not live in the tropics, LOL) and we rushed back towards the ship.

Actually, we rushed over to the drugstore to get chapstick. I was out, and this was unacceptable. The CVS (figured it out, it was a CVS) was right near the ship, so I forced the guys to deal with it.

Not long before all aboard time is NOT the time to hit that CVS. CROWDED! And they do their lines differently than other CVSs I've seen, so it's all confused. Locals combined with tourists...bad.

Found the chapstick aisle which was across from the cold remedy aisle, and the "lung thing from January" had hit them, too. Or it had hit enough cruise passengers! There was a sick guy buying stuff for his sicker wife (she hadn't even gotten off the ship, poor lady)... I gave him some experience-based advice and wished him well.


We had plenty of time, we were in no danger. But it sure didn't feel that way! My guys were not having fun as we rushed the block to the ship with something like 40 minutes left. I ask you, does my husband actually travel the world? Or does he just go hide in a Motel 6 in Missoula when he says he's on international work trips? When it comes to family trips, he has NO risk tolerance.


We made it, of course.
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Old 04-06-2014, 04:01 PM   #75
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Whew!

We got onboard, go up to the room. Now, because of our early dining time we did have to start getting ready. Showers, etc. As I've probably mentioned, our level of "casual" isn't all that casual. We live near Seattle; our lives are casual. We like opportunities to dress up. So it was khakis and polos and a dress and heels and makeup and whatnot, and off we went.

This evening we actually got there before our tablemates, and before most of the people arrived in our little back corner of the lowest level of the 3-level dining room. So I got this picture.



Pretty, yes?



Our tablemates had gone on the rainforest excursion and had tales to tell, which was fun.

This might have been the night the next table over had a proposal, which was sweet and dramatic. The teen at our table was friends with the teen from their table, and it turns out their suddenly-about-to-be-stepdad had told him and his sister of his impending proposal, but, and this is odd, they didn't believe him? So they were shocked and astonished at the proposal to their mom. The daughter looked horrified and was crying, though about an hour later she seemed happy (though still crying). The teen boy had about 20,000 emotions flitting across his face each moment. I'm still not sure to be happy for them! I'm a stepkid three times over; one was useless, one has been decent, and the third is good but with very different beliefs...being a stepparent is a big deal, and as a stepkid and a former kid, I felt very uncomfortable with the reactions of those kids...

Oh well, I'm sure it's all fine.


The things you see on cruises, right?


Believe it or not, after such a long hot sweaty tiring day, the kiddo had the energy and gumption to go to the kid's club! Woo!!!

Which left me and Robert to our own devices. We chose to wander. I bought a "serving" of Baileys, no ice, and I had a decaf iced latte (part of my Replenish package, remember) that I poured it into. Yum.

We did a scavenger hunt of sorts, trying to go to, if not in, all of the various lounges and bars. I took some pictures of the signs, but those are boring. Well, maybe they are boring? Let me know if you want to see a few pictures of lounge/bar signs.


We did sit in one bar, Olive or Twist (say the name to hear the funny), and I took some pictures of the outside.




Then we walked across the always-windy pool deck. They were playing, as you can see Burt Wonderstone. I get scared walking outside on those open decks at night. I get worried I'll be blown off forever and ever!




We found the Library and I got a book, and we saw the things they have available.




This is one of the interactive signs. This should probably be on a different ship. Because Freedom doesn't have The Catacombs.




Weird freaky Little Shop of Horrors style glass art.




Turns out this is on the level where we entered the ship, where we first talked to anyone about our beverage package, etc.


Others have taken way better pictures than I did, but one thing I loved about Radiance and Freedom is all of the glass and lit-up glass at that.




I also love the clocks, even when I take blurry pictures.




We went out to the deck.








This was useful info so you didn't lean against the wall and get smooshed.






Eventually it was time for us to go retrieve the young-one. He had made a craft; a decorated pillowcase, and they had watched a movie (Wreck It Ralph, if you can believe it) and had had a terrific time, and we all turned in for the night.


Day 4 was done with.
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