Every once in awhile, I must subject you to photos from my travels. In my head, this is justified by the fact that every trip I take is centered on food.
My trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in early May was no exception. My sister and I stayed in a little guesthouse a few blocks from the beach in the residential Ocean Park neighborhood and quickly fell into a daily routine of breakfast in the kitchenette, lunch outside, beach, blended drinks, dinner outside and early to bed. A trip to lovely Old San Juan filled the only semi-rainy day before it was time to pack again and head home to cooler temps and a far less leisurely daily schedule.
Our trip began with a cancelled Delta flight (because of a broken toilet). Needless to say, we and our suitcases immediately retreated to Big Star for an emergency pitcher of margaritas, which we only slightly regretted when the 3:30 a.m. wakeup call came the following morning.
However, the warm Caribbean sun on our pastey legs followed by a burger and mojito quickly remedied our airport/margarita hangovers.
Each morning began in our little kitchenette, with buttered pan de agua, fruit and Nescafe expertly mixed by Mad.
Breakfast was followed in short order by lunch, which was always eaten outside. Here my sister had just ordered tacos de camarones y bistec at La B de Burro.
Because Mad is in the midst of learning French back home, every time she addressed a local during our trip, it happened in the following order: “French greeting, English greeting, apology, Spanish greeting.”
We always started getting peckish again around 5, which meant it was time for guava and/or mango drinks mixed with Puerto Rican ron and chips with homemade guacamole, which we ate out of a measuring cup because there were no mixing bowls in our apartment. (Once the proprietor found us a blender, the drinks improved significantly.)
When we didn’t feel like calling a cab to go to dinner, we’d fry up garlicky pork sausages and eat them on the patio.
We also frequented a beachfront restaurant called Pamela’s. Not only do you get to eat with your feet in the sand to the music of lapping waves, but all the seafood and steak dishes are fabulous. Churrasco pinxos doused in cherry BBQ sauce, marinated octopus and olive salad, mango-laced ceviche, calamari with aioli and Sriracha, and habanero seared mahi-mahi were a few of the dishes we tried. Each server had a different favorite, which they candidly plugged whenever we looked indecisive.
We made a single (fuzzy) friend in Puerto Rico, a stray dog who followed us up and down the beach and walked us home each day. We never found out his name, though in my mind he’ll always be arenoso, or “sandy,” because his fur was kind of sand colored and he was always covered in it.
Near the end of the trip, we spent almost a whole day traipsing around Viejo San Juan, snapping photos at Castillo de San Cristobal, the colonial-era Spanish fort, and meandering through the little city’s blueish brick streets lined with brightly colored buildings. Freshly watered flowers spilled from some buildings’ decks, while many others exposed signs of decay and neglect. The plazas pulsed with life–restaurant hostesses beckoned with calls of “Hola, hello! Lunch specials for $9.95!” Souvenir stores propped their doors open after a quick rain shower cooled the air, loud music blared from apartments above and locals wove expertly through hoards of sunburnt tourists fresh off cruise ships. My sister and I spent a long lunch at Toro Salao, drinking Coca-Cola Light and munching on paninis de jamon y queso on pan de mallorca, watching people pass (and quietly judging the tourists’ orthopedic-looking shoes).
We spent our last morning on the beach, our toes in El Caribe and SPF 30 caked on our burnt legs. As you’d expect, our flight home was delayed two hours. Te quiero, Puerto Rico. Hasta pronto.