Saturday, May 17, 2014

Destination Puerto Rico - The Final Segment

The final day in Puerto Rico had our group driving into the oldest part of the city of San Juan. This is the capitol building for the island.

The objective for the day was visiting the main section of the Castle of Old San Juan built to defend the city from attack.

A view of one of the sentry posts that overlook the ocean. You could tell it now but when I was much younger my personality was very military oriented. Now I occasionally have nightmares that I am back in the service but I admit I would not find pulling guard duty overlooking the ocean all that bad.  
As our group moved into the interior of the fort one of our first stops was the dungeon. Now understand this is not some unused relic maintained to impress tourists. Back when Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony that room held untold prisoners in horrifying conditions.

As soon as I entered I became quite uncomfortable but if I heard the tour guide correctly these simple illustrations were done by pirates being held in that room. 

About five minutes after entering that stifling room with only a tiny slit for a window that still had at least six feet of wall before you got to the outside world claustrophobia hit me with the force of a fifty-megaton nuke. I absolutely had to get the hell out of there quickly, in the process I about ran over a Chinese tour group just entering. All I can say is that I was not the only person to be effected.  

I am a full-fledged internationalist who believes the nation-state system is a dangerously outdated mode of civilization in a world with seven billion humans all demanding a decent lifestyle, but dammit, I still like to see Old Glory flapping in the wind.

A picture of a colonial-era barracks. Truthfully, aside from a few adjustments not that different to the barracks I lived in during basic training.

A picture of Field Marshal Alexander O'Reilly, an Irish born military reformer who served the Spanish Crown during the second half of the 18th century, he is known as the "father of the Puerto Rican militia." He also played a large part in seeing that the castle was strengthened.

A shot of San Juan from the ramparts.

As you can see three cruise ships were docked and had long since unleashed its human cargo upon the city. In fact it was very easy to tell the difference  between the locals, sorry ass tourists that had flown in, and those free souls who drifted around with a very relaxed but highly charged party attitude. Oh my god, without going into details during the course of that day's adventures I bumped into a group of older ladies from one of the Royal Caribbean ships and could have gotten into some deep trouble. No, my wife was not around and was in fact shopping in one of the stores we passed, more about that later.
Another view of San Juan with the Capital building about dead center.

A decent picture of the parade ground inside the fort.

One of the best stories I heard while touring the Castillo de San Cristobal was the the "Devil's Sentry Box". The jest of the story involves how this sentry box or "garitas" was isolated on the side of a cliff and very close to the sea. The constant roaring of the ocean brought to mind various angry spirits talking to each other. Now add a soldier named Sanchez in love with a beautiful lady named Diana and you have the workings for a romantic/horror tale. See one morning the oncoming guard worked his way down to the sentry post only to find a uniform and rifle but no Sanchez. Superstitious soldiers began to believe the devil had taken poor Sanchez and this another legend was born. Truth be told a few understood Sanchez had enough of the army life and ran off to be with his lady. Another segment to this story came from the tour guide but he said from then on the Devil's Sentry Box was the place to be if you wanted to imitate Sanchez and that as long as you left the uniform and rifle behind the brass pretty much let you go unmolested.   

After leaving the San Juan National monument we had a simple lunch at a local deli. I did have a bit of an eyeopening experience there you can read about it here. After that we entered the final phase of the trip with a stroll down a street getting our last chance at shopping. It was here, while my wife and daughter was inside one of the nicer shops, that I encountered the ladies from the cruise ship. Be that as it may as those party bound ladies moved on I went inside to discover some great and extremely expensive art work.

These pieces of art work, done by local artists, were amazing.

It seems fitting to end my little photographic tour with the man who brought it all about, Chris Columbus. Here in this square we boarded the bus to head back to the airport. As you can guess I loved Puerto Rico, I did not meet an unfriendly local and in fact I felt more at home on that island that the rancid little suburban tumor of a town I returned to a few hours later. If you ever have a desire to visit Puerto Rico I highly recommend the folks at Good News Travel who organized our trip. 

One last thing. We were delayed a couple of hours at the airport sending everyone scattering for a quick meal. I hit the Air Margaritaville restaurant for a Cuban sandwich. A no brainer I thought, but sorry Jimmy while the service was great the sandwich had the taste of cardboard, and overly expensive cardboard at that.


Pixel Peeper said...

I'm not prone to bouts of claustrophobia, but that dungeon might have given me the willies, too.

Older ladies from a cruise are always just on the verge of getting into trouble, huh? ;-)

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

This old man hasn't travelled very much and is not likely to change much in that regard. It's so much easier to read about it than do it. Not to mention cheaper! That said, this was still an unexpectedly satisfying read!

Rose L said...

Didn't you know that all airport food is crappy! Expensive and crappy! With the exception of the dungeon dash, it sounds like you had a thoroughly good time.

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Well now, I admit, I might have flirted a little as those ladies passed by.

Doc: Thanks! It's easy to tell I enjoyed the trip.

Rose: Yeah, but I had some hope that Buffett's place might be different.

Akelamalu said...

Sorry not been around much so just trying to catch up. I didn't realise you were going to Puerto Rico with such a large group, I thought it was just your family! Anyway I just read all your posts and it looks like you all had a great time. I want to see the photos of you dancing though! LOL We just got back from Italy and I will be posting about it but first I have to finish posting about our Canada trip from last September!

Life As I Know It Now said...

I just finished my staycation and although it was relaxing and cheap, I didn't have nearly the fun that you did in Puerto Rico.