A Travellerspoint blog

San Juan - Day 9 Sunday 12/15

Old San Juan 101


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San Juan is the capital and most populated municipality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. The city was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico ("Rich Port City"). Puerto Rico's capital is the third oldest European-established capital city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, and Panama City, in Panama.

The damage caused in 2017 by Hurricane Maria was extensive, and our hotel only reopened this year. We forgot to note in yesterday's blog that the Caribe Hilton claims to have invented the pina colada, and here is the government proclamation and wall art to commemorate it.

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After breakfast, we took an Uber up to Castillo San Felipe de Morro, better known as "El Morro." The fort was built in the 1500s to protect San Juan's deep harbor from attack by sea. Our advice to touring the city is to take transportation up to the fort, as Old San Juan is downhill from here. Also, there are lots of stairs in the fort, and it is best to have this behind you as the heat of the day builds. My camera lens was fogging as we walked up to the fort. Admission was covered by our National Parks Pass.

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Here are some photos of the oldest sections of the fort.

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These iconic sentry boxes have become symbolic of this beautiful city.

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Some canons remain in the embrasures.

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This iguana appeared to be quite content while sunning himself on the fort walls.

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Santa Barbara is the patroness of armed forces, and I am sure that many petitions for protection were made in this small chapel.

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We spied great ocean views through the grated fort windows.

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Here are some views from the upper levels of the fort.

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We remembered this piragua (shaved ice) stand from our previous visits to the fort, and decided to enjoy one. They reminded us of how excited our boys were when we brought them here to watch the old gentleman shave the ice for their "snow cones." Simple pleasures!

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Our next stop was the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which had a lovely Advent wreath and some Christmas decorations.

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The remains of Ponce de Leon lie here.

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Across the street from the Cathedral is the very beautiful El Convento Hotel, which was decorated for Christmas.

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The hotel has a lovely courtyard bar and restaurant.

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Here are some views from our walk around the town.

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The Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud is undergoing renovations, as you can see by the facade.

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This is the first time that we have ever seen the interior of the chapel, as it has always been locked.

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It is right next to Parque Las Palomas (pigeon park), Ryan's favorite place in Old San Juan when he was little.

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At this point, it was time for a late lunch at Punto de Visto, a rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Milano. We had fabulous mojitos, empanadas, and mofango with shrimp.

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We walked through the San Juan Gate...

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...and strolled down the Paseo de la Princess walkway.

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The Christmas tree tunnel led to a street fair.

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We stopped for a cocktail close to the cruise ship berths, and heard their horns as they returned to sea. It seemed a good time to return to our hotel.

Thanks for traveling along with us!

Photos are tagged Serenitycarib and San_Juan

Posted by Cybercsp 15:59 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged san_juan serenitycarib Comments (0)

San Juan - Day 8 Saturday 12/14

All good things must come to an end...but we shall postpone our return to the cold for a bit.


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We woke to pouring rain, which mercifully ended prior to disembarkation. We were off the ship a bit after 9 AM, and at the Caribe Hilton within a half hour.

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Arriving at a hotel more than six hours before check-in time is not ideal, but we were prepared to check our bags and change into our swimsuits to wait for the room to be ready. The sun was out and there were plenty of beach loungers. The grounds here are lovely.

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Here is Charlie, waiting...

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We shared chicken and tostones for lunch, adding a Painkiller. Just after we finished eating on the outdoor patio, we were forced inside by more driving rain.

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There is an old fort next to the hotel. The first view is from the footpath, and the other two are from the balcony of our room (which was available at 2:45).

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We had dinner at a tapas restaurant in the Condado area of San Juan. They had a number of Catalan specialties, such as Pa amb Tomaquet (tomato bread) and Shrimp in Garlic. I had the Zarzuela and Charlie the steak. We walked back to the hotel to work off dinner.

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Here is the Caribe Christmas tree.

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Photos are tagged Serenitycarib and San_Juan

Posted by Cybercsp 18:38 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged san_juan serenitycarib Comments (0)

Tortola - Day 8 Friday 12/13

There was no beach, but there was a Painkiller.


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We have become very fond of Cane Garden Bay beach. The water is beautiful, and the delicious Painkillers from Myett's Garden set the bar high (pun intended) for beach libations. That is why I was rather crestfallen to wake up to another rainy morning. We decided to postpone our decision regarding the advisability of a trip to the beach until later in the morning to see what the weather gods might throw our way on this Friday the 13th. So, now, Charlie will provide this bit of history for your entertainment.

Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands. On his second voyage for the Spanish Crown, Columbus spotted what are now called the British and US Virgin Islands. He named the archipelago after the 11,000 virgins of the 5th-century Christian martyr St. Ursula. Local tradition recounts that Christopher Columbus named the island Tórtola, meaning "turtle dove" in Spanish, when, in fact, Columbus originally named the island Santa Ana. Dutch colonists called it Ter Tholen, after Tholen, a coastal island that is part of the Netherlands. When the British took over, the island name evolved to Tortola. And, now you know.

We took a few more photos of the ship. Here is the main dining room, Waterside.

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We decided that the intermittent rain and winds did not bode well for a circuitous van trip over the mountain on winding roads to Cane Garden Bay, so we got off the ship a bit after 11 AM, and walked around the harbor shops. Here are Tortola's harbor decorations for your enjoyment.

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We discovered that Myett's has opened an outpost here at the harbor, so we stopped to have a Painkiller. While it lacked the beautiful beach ambiance, it helped to ease the pain <wink>.

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Then, back on board for lunch at Silk...

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...followed by the dreaded packing and a little nap.

I had a pre-dinner Lemon Drop in the Crystal Cove, while Charlie stuck with his usual Woodford Reserve on the rocks.

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Atypically, we both ordered the same meals - Greek salad, followed by Steak Diane.

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Although Charlie just had ice cream for dessert, while I had the whatever this thing was called.

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After an abbreviated show, Motown Soul, we had a farewell cocktail with Denis in the Avenue Saloon.

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Can it be over already?

Photos are tagged Serenitycarib and Tortola

Posted by Cybercsp 17:41 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged tortola serenitycarib Comments (0)

Nevis - Day 7 Thursday 12/12

A new port for the Pashleys...and Crystal cruises


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Nevis is a small island in the Caribbean Sea that forms part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. The name Nevis is derived from the Spanish, Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (which translates to Our Lady of the Snows), and seems a rather odd name for an island in the Caribbean. Nevis and the neighboring island of St. Kitts, separated by a shallow two mile channel known as The Narrows, constitute one country. Nevis is a small island, only 36 square miles, and the capital is Charlestown . It has a volcano (known as Nevis Peak) at its center. Here is a photo of Nevis Peak, taken from our balcony, right before it started to pour rain.

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SO...our original plan was to spend the day at Pinney Beach; sadly, we quickly are learning how weather dependent plans are on a Caribbean cruise. At about 10 AM, when the rain was subsiding, and the tender transport did not look too scary, we decided to make a break for it, so that we could at least see something of the island.

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Here are some of the historic buildings along the Main Street.

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Charlestown was decorated for the holidays.

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Nevis is of particular historical significance to Americans because it was the birthplace and early childhood home of Alexander Hamilton (so now THAT musical score has been running through my head all day). There was a local woman outside the building who escorted Lin Manuel-Miranda on his visit here when he was writing the musical...she had no idea who he was and why anyone was so enthused about Hamilton!

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We had a pretty sub-par Charlestown map, so one of these photos is probably the remains of the slave market. Or not. Because there were no historic markers, despite the fact that it was marked on the map.

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We passed a few churches which, to Charlie's delight, were locked.

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There was a local produce market, located near an area of shops called the Cotton Ginnery.

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We had a nice view of Serenity as we waited for the tender back to the ship.

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Charlie enjoyed a Fin du Monde beer upon our return.

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I took a tour of the galley at 4:30 PM. It amazes me that so much delicious food comes from such a compact space! After a short nap, we joined favorite bartender, Dennis, for a pre-dinner cocktail in the Avenue Saloon.

This evening's dinner started with tiger prawn for each of us...

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...followed by an eggplant salad for me, and oxtail consommé for Charlie.

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I had delicious halibut, while Charlie enjoyed veal piccata.

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Tonight's show featured a singer, Jamila (single name, like Cher or Beyoncé) who toured as one of the featured performers with the Fifth Dimension for a number of years. She sang everything from opera to Motown beautifully. It was a lovely ending to another great evening!

Photos are tagged Serenitycarib and Nevis

Posted by Cybercsp 04:00 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Tagged nevis serenitycarib Comments (0)

St. Lucia - Day 6 Wednesday 12/11

Finally...a shore excursion!


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Saint Lucia is a sovereign island country in the West Indies, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados, and south of Martinique. St. Lucia covers a land area of 238 square miles and its capital is Castries, where we docked today.

The French were the island's first European settlers. They signed a treaty with the native Island Caribs in 1660. England took control of the island from 1663 to 1667. In ensuing years, Britain was at war with France fourteen times, and the rule of the island changed frequently (it was ruled seven times each by the French and British). In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Fun fact: Because it switched so often between British and French control, all towns on St. Lucia have both an English and a French name. So there is your history lesson for today...

The travel agency that we used to book our cruise is a member of the Distinctive Voyages consortium, and they happened to have a dedicated host on this sailing. We received an invitation to a cocktail party, hosted by travel agent Carolyn Brookover, and were offered the opportunity to join Carolyn, her husband, Brian, and two other couples, for a complimentary shore excursion. We docked in Castries at 11 AM, and left the ship at noon. Our first stop was Morne Fortune, which afforded us a scenic view of Castries and the harbor. (And, yes, we did have to wear nametags.)

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We passed the governor's house, which appeared to be a lovely (and well-gated) place to live.

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Our luncheon destination was the Pink Plantation, a 150-year-old house located on two acres of tropical gardens and lush vegetation. It was simply charming. Upon arrival, one needs to ring the bell to be admitted to the beautiful grounds...

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....that surround this delightful plantation home.

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The table settings were so attractive with the distinctive island-themed pottery.

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Our delicious lunch, which was served on the garden terrace, included warm johnnycakes, followed by a choice of snapper or chicken. And, of course, there was a glass of very potent run punch.

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Fully sated, we climbed back in the van and traveled to Fond Latisab, also known as Creole Park. This park is a farm, dedicated to the preservation of the history and culture of St. Lucia’s native people.

Our guide took us through the process of baking cassava bread, from peeling the root to the final cooking in macamboo leaves.

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While the bread was baking, we toured the farm. While we have seen (and brought home) nutmeg in its hard casing, I had never seen it inside its fruit. Isn't it beautiful? Next to the nutmeg photo are cacao pods.

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We saw how boards were sawed to build homes.

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Finally, we were taught one of the local dances, accompanied by this band.

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At the end, we were invited to sample the cassava bread, offered with homemade jams.

Charlie and I rested before dinner. Since I had missed my favorite Crystal meal, DOVER SOLE, last night when we dined at Prego, our maitre 'd, Igor, had arranged for it to be served to me this evening. The dish never disappoints. Charlie had a grilled pork chop, and we each had what might be the prettiest dessert yet.

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We decided to have an early evening, and skipped our usual post dinner cocktails. Charlie found Toy Story 4 on the on-demand movies, and we hung out in the cabin. Fingers crossed that the sun shines tomorrow so that we can enjoy a beach day.

Photos tagged serenitycarib and st_lucia

Posted by Cybercsp 14:25 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged st_lucia serenitycarib Comments (0)

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