Monday, September 22, 2014

Puerto Rico: Old San Juan

Did you know? Dustin and I went on vacation! True story! 
And do you know what else? It was awesome! Yes!
But really...we had a great trip, and after sharing the details from Vieques and The Gallery Inn, I wanted to finish up the series and give you the scoop on the San Juan portion of our vacation. 

Bowdenisms guide to Old San Juan Puerto Rico
(Created for your viewing and Pinning pleasure. )

Click on "read more" for the full details...
 As I mentioned in the last post, our only two goals for our stay in Puerto Rico, were:
  1. Stay in Old San Juan
  2. Go zip-lining
So once we got our hotel booked, we worked on reservations for a ziplining excursion. There are a few places that offer it in Puerto Rico, but Campo Rico is the closest to to San Juan (they say 5 minutes...but from the Old San Juan pick up point go ahead and add at least 30 to that...) so it was the winner. They have a few different adventure options (some including ATV rides, and rappelling) but we were really zip-line purists, so we opted for the sunset adventure- which was a 3-6pm trip. There were morning or afternoon options too, which are an hour longer, and include an "authentic Puertorrican meal, but we figured since traveling from Vieques took a good chunk of our day already, we might as well finish it up with some ziplining and leave our last day in PR wide open to explore the city. So after checking into our hotel, and walking around Old San Juan for a while in our sportiest outfits, we were picked up by Andre and Willie from Ecoquest, and headed out to the camp.

 It was a really cool spot- a massively large piece of land, right outside the city. There were seven ziplines, (the longest is 1,000ft long and 200ft off the ground!) each connected by a small trail through the forest, and some suspended rope bridges. Dustin and I had a blast flying through the trees, celebrating our ropes course roots (we met while volunteering at a Young Life Camp...but that's a whole 'nother story...) The safety was maybe a little lax compared to what we were used to (we were dealing with high schoolers after all...) but our guides were so personable, and utterly hilarious. They gave us tons of advice on things to check out in San Juan, but also chatted with us about life in general (at one point Dustin and Willie got into an "Adorable Baby Photo iPhone-off"). So we loved the course, but had just as much fun goofing around with those guys, singing cheesy American 80's songs, and relating about marriage and parenting. They took a ton of photos and videos for us, wished us a happy anniversary about a hundred times, taught us a bit about Puerto Rican history and culture, and all around made sure we had an awesome time.

We worked up a pretty good appetite with all that zipping (Ok, gravity actually does all the work, but that doesn't change the fact that we love to eat...) so we were excited for our first big fancy dinner of the trip. A fellow Bio-bay visitor had been to San Juan before us, and recommended Marmalade (she actually raved about it, saying she still emails back and forth with the chef!), so we made reservations and got gussied up. We assumed it was going to be fancy, but we honestly hadn't looked into it at all, so we were a little shocked at the prices. In the end though, we decided not to sweat it, and just look at it as our big splurge of the trip. I don't exactly make a habit out of spending more on my meal than my lodging for the evening, but the tasting menu was calling our names, so we went for it, and I'm not sorry. Their signature dish is Tiny White Bean Soup, which sounds ok, but is actually STUPID good. Like if you go there, and don't get it, you are stupid. And actually- when ordering the tasting menu, they mandate the soup as one of your selections. They even gave us the recipe afterwards. You know, in case I ever have black truffles and pancetta "dust" laying around...

Dustin's drink was called the "Urban Hipster". How apropos.

With our main "must do"s checked off our list Thursday night, we were free to explore on Friday, and Saturday before our flight. We had fun walking around the city, seeing the forts, and taking in the architecture and the art of the old buildings.

 Pretty much killing it with the camera timer. Pros.

But it was HOT, so we did hit a wall midday, and bailed on sightseeing in favor of hitting the pool. We rounded out our visit with another lovely dinner (Carli's), some souvenir shopping, and about a million more pictures.

We obviously couldn't do it all though, so here are some other recommendations we received, but can't vouch for: La Factoria (drinks), Lupulo (drinks and dancing), El Harbor (good brewery with overpriced "German" food), Nuyorican Cafe (live music and dancing), Rosa de Traina, Bodega Chic, and Cafe Puerto Rico. We also heard awesome things about El Convento, and La Concha, in the nearby town of Condado. And Willie, our ziplining guide recommended a trip to the town of Piñones, assuring us La Comay has the best food on the island. Maybe next time!

In the end, we decided that as much fun as the city was (and it truly is packed with cultural and historical awesomeness) it wasn't exactly the perfect spot for us. We really enjoyed our time there, and had a few one of a kind experiences, but at our cores we're more Lazy Beach People, than we are Museums and Historical Relics People. We definitely wanted to see San Juan while we were in Puerto Rico, but in hindsight we could have stayed one more day in Vieques, and been satisfied with an afternoon/night/morning whirlwind tour of the city. But at the same time, I can list at least five things we wouldn't have seen/done if we had gone that route, so I can't even begin to complain.

So that's it. Really. I promise. Well....for now anyway, until I get all wistful about the magic of it all, and drag more pictures out to pretend I'm still there. That might happen, like...tomorrow. Thanks for following along- I hope our learnings and suggestions are helpful! Please comment with any questions, or if you have advice for potential PR travelers. 


See part one our trip, to Vieques and part two: The Gallery Inn. 
And if you're sad to leave the magical world of Bowden vacations, you can check out our entire Travel archives...featuring a 3 minute video discussing my inconvenient need for bathroom breaks on road trips (plus another 2 minutes of footage of me badgering Dustin about whether he's having fun. It's practically like being there.

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