"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

Feb. 17 - Old San Juan, PR

“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad of new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” —Ralph Crawshaw

Like yesterday, we tried to visit places we didn't see on our first visit. We wandered through town taking in the sights and history of the town. Today's post is some of the history we learned.

Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista is the second oldest church in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest church on U.S. soil. The history of the church dates to 1521 and the beginning of the Spanish colonization of the island. The original church was demolished by a hurricane and the current structure dates to 1540. The elegant gothic facade has evolved over centuries. It's the final resting place of Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico.

The church is located on Cristo Street, just a short walk from the San Juan Gate. It was the first stop for many travelers who landed on the island and walked into the city through its only seaside entry. Sailors and travelers visited San Juan Bautista as soon as they got off the boat so they could thank God for a safe voyage.
The sculpture La Rogativa (the procession) tells the story of Puerto Rican patriotism. The monument, located in Plazuela La Rogativa near the San Juan Gate, commemorates one of the most evocative legends of the island. When the British attacked Old San Juan in 1797, a quick-thinking priest took it upon himself to lead the outnumbered soldiers and civilians on a religious procession through the city. Apparently the British mistook the citizens’ prayer march for reinforcements and abandoned their attack.
Just one picture of the beautiful streets of OSJ.
Save A Gato (SAG) was created in 2004 to address the booming cat population around historic Old San Juan, particularly around the Paseo del Morro pathway. SAG is the only non-profit organization that has an agreement with The National Park Service to manage a colony of cats on national park land. Trap, neuter and return (TNR) has worked wonderfully to reduce the size of the cat colony around El Morro by 50% since 2004.
Views from the city wall. Looking south to the La Fortaleza and the governor's mansion and looking north to the El Morro and Casa Rosa.
Quincentennial Square - built in honor of Columbus' first voyage. 
La Perla (The Pearl) was named after a little Spanish fort that once stood there. It's a historical shanty town astride the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan stretching about 650 yards along the rocky Atlantic coast immediately east of the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. The community has a lot of history and perhaps the most unique on the island. It was originally the site of a slaughterhouse built in the 18th century. Slaves, the homeless and non-white servants were required to live outside the city walls, so that was the beginning of homes being built here. Back in those days, living on the water was for the poor and landless.

Even before Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, La Perla started painting its houses in bright colors and adding murals to the squares to improve the looks of their community. The neighborhood has a history of crime and isn't a place we would go after dark, but we felt very safe at the restaurant and walking along the waterfront. Locals don't seem to bother tourists if they are respectful, stay close to the water and don't take individual photos of their homes.
La Garita gives diners the best view in OSJ while enjoying a great meal.
It was a perfect day to enjoy a few Mojitos and a little seafood. I don't think we could have found a better view anywhere on the island.
The colorful homes of La Perla.
The views from the waterfront.
Looking west to El Morro.

Feb. 16 - Old San Juan, PR

“It is not the destination where you end up, but the mishaps and memories you create along the way.” ~Penelope Riley 

Old San Juan has a lot to see and do, and we covered a lot of it on our first trip in 2020. This time we're wandering, at a slower pace, taking in some of the sites we didn't see then.

This was our favorite place for breakfast on our first trip. It's a little kiosk in Plaza de Armas just a block from the apartment.
Looking up our street early in the morning before the traffic and tourists arrived.
After breakfast we walked along the harbor. Taking in the views from the park that runs along the water. This is where the cruise ships dock. Luckily today there was only one ship in port. We saw this pretty seahorse statue, but there was no info on it.  
Casa Blanca was the first governor's residence in Puerto Rico. It was built in 1521 and served as the first fortification of the San Juan islet. It was the residence for Juan Ponce de León and his family, although de Leon died in an expedition to Florida without ever getting to occupy the structure. It was used as the residence of his descendants, until the mid-18th century. This is the gate into the property.
This pretty home was built later and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
This was the original home. Parts of it have been restored and are open for viewing. It's hard to believe the buildings in Old San Juan are so old. Even harder to imagine all the people who have spent time walking these same streets.
A few pictures of the inside of the original home.
Each room in the home had views like this of the San Juan inlet and harbor.
Part of the grounds close to the newer home.
Looking up at Casa Blanca from the city wall.
This is the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. We were able to walk through the building. It's full of government offices. The views from the upper patio were amazing.
From the top of the building looking towards Castillo San Felipe del Morro and it's lighthouse. We visited this site in 2020.
Later in the afternoon I did a little shopping on Calle de la Fortaleza (Fortress Street).
We've been enjoying the fresh seafood and Puerto Rican specialties all week, but tonight we found a wonderful little Italian place for dinner. Bacaro has about ten tables, very intimate, and the food was amazingly good. I had the Spaghetti Carbonara and Stan had the special fish of the day.

Feb 15 - Old San Juan, PR

“Travel...the best way to be lost and found at the same time.” ~Brenna Smith

Today we left the mountains and returned to the coast. We'll spend the next three days in Old San Juan. It was one of our favorite places we visited in 2020. We just loved this old walled city. So many beautiful buildings and so much history. OSJ is actually an island connected to the main island by bridges on the eastern side and is the oldest city in the US and its territories. The Spanish built two huge forts and walled-in the city to protect it from the French, Dutch, and English. San Juan became Spain’s fortified door to the Americas. Today Old San Juan is a busy hub for tourism. We love to walk the city taking in the beauty of the century old buildings that are now used for museums, restaurants, stores and interesting places to stay.

Our last look at the mountains of central Puerto Rico.
Our apartment in OSJ is across the street from the Minor Basilica Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and just a block inside the wall from the Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate). This gate was where dignitaries entered San Juan for centuries. It's located on the Paseo de la Princesa which is a promenade that skirts the curved old city walls on the southern side of Old San Juan.

Fuente Raíces Fountain at the beginning of the Paseo de la Princesa.
Paseo de la Princesa. You can take this path all the way to San Felipe del Morro Castle.
Puerta de San Juan
The building we are staying in was built in the first half of the 16th century and used as a colonial Mansion. The first floor was for the servants, the owners  lived on the second floor and the third floor was used as an observatory tower to watch for invaders and pirates. We're on the third floor, which you can't see in this picture.
Our home for the next three days.
Looking down from our apartment at the stairs we had to use to get to our apartment.
The little plaza next to where we are staying.
The view from our patio.
We had dinner at Bari, which is on the first floor of the building we are staying in.
This little kitty came to visit.

Feb. 14 - Jayuya, PR

“Those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it.”  —Rick Watson

We traveled east out of Jayuya today to explore some popular tourist places and to find some pretty waterfalls. Our first stop was at La Piedra Escrita (the written stone). This beautiful park offers wonderful views of the mountains and a great place to swim in the tranquil water. But it's best known for the large granite boulder that is covered in pictographs. The site was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 2003 due to its importance as a prime example of prehistoric rock art in Puerto Rico. 

La Piedra Escrita
Taino Symbols and means.
Some of the symbols on the rock at La Piedra Escrita.
We have found that the first of the week isn't a good time to travel in this area. Most of the restaurants are closed and so are a lot of the popular places to visit. We knew that the Hacienda San Pedro coffee plantation wouldn't be giving tours but we thought we'd be able to visit the café and gift shop, but no, they were closed. So our next stop was the El Cemi Museum. 

The museum is small, but nice. It has pieces of pottery, some tools and other artifacts from daily Taino life. The museum's cemi shape was chosen to represent the Tres Picachos Mountain range. A cemi is a deity, ancestor or spirit.  
After our bit of education in the history of the Taino people we went in search of waterfalls. The first one we found was the Doña Juana Waterfall. It's located right by the road, so we didn't have to do any hiking to find it. The falls consist of three falls and were very impressive for a roadside falls. Our next stop was the highlight of the day. Cascada Las Delicias (Delights Waterfall). We could see it from the road and it was a series of three falls also. Climbing up the trail to the top fall treated us to a tropical paradise. The water was beautiful and the lush vegetation made us feel like we had left the busy world behind and were lost in the jungle. Our third waterfall was Charco El Morón. The surrounding area was pretty, but the waterfall was a bust...at least for us, because we couldn't even get to it. We enjoyed a morning of exploring and returned to Patria Mia for a late lunch. We got back to the house just as the rain began to fall. We spent the afternoon relaxing, napping, reading and working on the blog. 

Doña Juana Waterfall
Walking up to Cascada Las Delicias from the road.
This is the middle falls.
The upper falls.
Looking down from the middle falls.
The scenery here was a bit different. It was in a nice valley, the water was pretty but we couldn't get much further than this towards the falls.
Since nothing was open for dinner we decided to cook in again this evening at the house. The kitchen was very basic, only two burners, so the first night we had seasoned rice and meatballs and the second night we had spaghetti. We'll have a nice Valentine's dinner once we get to Old San Juan.