Car Vacation - San Juan
23 March 2014 | Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Living on a boat is far from stress free but traveling to a busy tourist city where the street signs are in a different language far exceeds our normal stress level. It doesn't help that the plan started with us going to two different big box stores that we normally frequent in the United States and we were expecting that they would follow the same hours we are familiar with. Well, it was Sunday. Apparently, just like the old days in the US, nothing opens before 11am, no matter what their web site says. Add to that the West Marine store in San Juan, that was holding a number of things for us, and was the whole reason we added another day to our vacation, was nowhere near where Google maps took us. Bill had worked so hard on getting everything planned and the directions all printed out and it just wasn't working out the way it was supposed to. Finally, after circling the cruise ship area a couple of times, and consulting with a couple of different police officers, we found one who knew where West Marine was. His English was good, and he was more proficient with Bill’s iPhone than Bill even was. He started by telling us we weren't anywhere near the location and he dropped a pin on the map program on our phone. We were breathing a little easier until we realized we were now in an area where all the roads were closed and we were stuck in the middle of them. It turns out there was a street running race going on. Finally a policeman just told us we could drive on the road the race was on but to go really slowly.
We finally did get to West Marine, an hour before they opened, and were forced to spend some time in Starbucks calming down. Once we were done there we went back to Old San Juan and parked in a huge parking garage. We went out and walked the city a bit and ended up at the fort Castillo de San Cristóbal. We were there in plenty of time to explore before their English language guided tour. So far we had had a rough day. We were there in time for the tour and that changed our whole day. The tour guide was wonderful! We really enjoyed the next hour of the day. In the picture above you can see part of the fort we toured and in the distance the El Morro fort.
Then we had to get back on the road again. We managed to find our hotel, just outside of San Juan, which apparently was also part old age home. It was a very nice hotel though. We had booked two nights since Bill figured we would need two days to see San Juan. We had a hard time finding a place to have an authentic Puerto Rican dinner. We found what looked like a great place but they had a singer with a band and she was so loud that it made our already spinning heads ache. We had to leave. Don’t laugh, we ended up in Applebees! The waiters were extremely nice to us. For some reason they can almost always spot us as non-Spanish speakers. Maybe it‘s because my shoes aren't cute enough. One of the waiters, who was not our waiter, just wanted to come over and practice speaking English with us. The experience was nice until we realized we had to pay to park there because it was in a hotel with a casino. When we got back to our hotel we both decided we had no need to spend another day in or around San Juan, especially since we had learned earlier in the day that all the museums were closed on Mondays.
We managed to get the hotel to cancel our second night’s reservation and we added a night to the other hotel in Arecibo instead. At this point we were trying to add some relaxation and less stress to our “vacation”. On Monday morning we repeated our inability to find a decent place to have breakfast. There is a fast food restaurant on every corner, but we were hoping for something better. After driving around for a while we finally ended up in Dunkin Donuts! Not the breakfast we were looking for. Our destination for the morning was the tour of the Bacardi Rum Factory. It is across the bay from San Juan, not far from where we were staying so we figured it would be low stress getting there. I got directions by connecting to their website but apparently when we followed the directions we ended up on a small street in a little neighborhood. Google Maps got us again! Bill tried a different tactic and we finally ended up there just in time to have our first of two free rum drinks before the tour. The tour was very nice and well organized but I had taken the tour many years ago with my family, I was 12 at the time. It was a very different tour back then. You actually saw them making the rum, that is not how it is anymore. We finished the experience with our second free rum drink and an expensive stop at the gift shop. On to Arecibo!