In late March my extended family booked a cruise that was leaving from Puerto Rico. It was great for the family all to be in the same time zone at the same time, because throughout most of the year we are spread out across the globe.
Our cruise had been delayed due to a propeller failure and my niece and I headed off the boat and trekked over to Viejo San Juan. We had been there a few days earlier but it was brief. We wanted to just get off the boat that was heading no where and just wander around the the old city.
The sun was blazing that day and we kept to the shade whenever we could. There were fresh graffiti pieces on some of the quiet streets. The corner shops were open for business, and some old folks had set up tables in the shade to slam their dominoes.
There were, of course, shops filled with the worst kitsch imaginable, but this didn’t really hold my attention. Other than to laugh at its silliness. I wanted to see what the city would show me. I wanted to walk down the cobblestoned streets that have been there for centuries. The names of the streets were cemented into the corners of buildings. In some home the palm trees reached up into the spotless sky.
I search out the places that people actually call home. I want to see where people lay their heads to rest at night. Once we got off the tourist path we were able to get a little taste of Puerto Rico.
Small gated homes with open windows to let in the sea breeze. I imagine Miami back in the 40s and 50s must have looked something like this. There was something different. There were vibrations emanating from this community that I have never felt in Miami.
There was a sense of history stretching back at least 500 years, and more when you think that the indigenous Taino. The sensation was close to that of walking around some of the quiet older neighborhoods of Paris, but the sun blazed, and the salty air filled my nostrils. Even though many of the buildings had been freshly painted in over hued tropical colors If you raised your eyes above the first few floors the paint had faded in the harsh sun.
Wandering around the 2 major castles: Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal I was able to wander and loose myself in the old stone masonry. I felt an uneasy calm as I gazed out into the Atlantic Ocean, and wandered the subterranean levels of the fortifications. I kept telling my niece can you imagine being in this heat and wearing the old woolen uniforms?
I wanted to hit a beach before heading back to the boat. We walked along Aveienda Munoz Riveria we finally came to a beach, Balneario El Escambrón. We didn’t have much time but for a quick refreshing jump into the Atlantic. I felt renewed. The cooling salt water soothed my aches, and reinvigorated my spirit. The beach was relatively quiet on a Tuesday, and seemed to populated with a good mix of locals and visitors.
The time spent in Old San Juan was short. The memories will be as long as the late afternoon shadows.