Cedric commented on my last post about how the lack of people contributed to the “Tranquilidad” of the scenes. Of course not all of my photos were devoid of people, as the people are a large part of what makes San Juan special. Here are a few photos “with” people as a counterpoint against those without.
Kathy & I recently returned from a cruise to the Caribbean. We’re getting pretty good at the cruise thing – this was our 23rd cruise – but we’re still practicing!
This cruise was on Celebrity Summit. Celebrity has become our favorite cruise line, mostly because they just know how to do good food and good service. While all of the lines are good, we’ve come to really like Celebrity.
Summit is one of Celebrity’s older ships, but we chose it because it is one of their smallest, at just 2,000 passengers. The ship we were on last year was over 4,000 passengers, while we saw a ship this time that was over 6,000! While I would love to experience one of those ships, that’s just a shipload of too many people!
This cruise was supposed to stop at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, but Punta Cana doesn’t have a dock for the cruise ships so it is one where they need to take passengers ashore using tenders. The seas were too rough there for tendering, so we ended up in San Juan, PR instead. While we looked forward to Punta Cana, we love San Juan and were not at all disappointed to end up there.
Kathy & I spent our time in port walking around Old San Juan. We had lunch (and Pina Coladas!) at a nice restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of the drink. More to come on that, but for now, here are a few random photos from our time walking the streets of the old city.
On our recent cruise, Kathy & I spent a day exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico. While a number of cruises originate in San Juan, not many cruise lines stop in San Juan these days. It is a little too far for most ships to reliably make it in two days from Florida, and it probably isn’t as popular as St. Thomas or St. Martin because the shopping isn’t right next to the dock. Since the second favorite pastime of cruise passengers (behind eating) is shopping, most of them don’t like to venture out of sight of the floating buffet line, so having to walk a block or two in a “foreign” city is beyond their comfort zone. Cruises from Florida that do call on San Juan typically only spend the afternoon and evening there before moving on to a more popular island.
Kathy & I love San Juan, and our original itinerary called for us only being in San Juan from 3:00 to 10:00. A medical emergency a few hours out of Fort Lauderdale required us to return to port in the middle of the first night, making it impossible to get to San Juan as scheduled. As it turned out, it also made it impossible to get to St. Kitts, scheduled to be our second port, on time. So we ended up in San Juan on the day we were supposed to be in St. Kitts (follow all that?). 😉
Being in San Juan instead of St. Kitts was an easy trade for us, because we know our way around town pretty well and enjoy walking there. I was originally excited about the possibility of photographing the Christmas decorations around town after dark, but our schedule change put us there only during daylight hours. Being the type of people who go with the flow, we made the best of the time we had and had a nice day there.
One of the highlights of cruising into or out of San Juan harbor is sailing past Castillo San Felipe del Morro. The fortress is now a U.S. National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been given many other historical designations. The fortification, also referred to as el Morro or ‘the promontory,’ was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies. The water at the entrance to the harbor can be especially rough, and the waves crashing against the shore make for an imposing sight, whether from the sea or the shore. It is always amazing – and quite a relief after two days at sea – to feel the ship enter the calmer water of the harbor.
There are as many ways to enjoy San Juan as there are people, but Kathy & I frequently start our visit at the Paseo De La Princesa , which winds around below the walls of the old city to the original city gate. From there we enter the gate and work our way up to El Morro. After enjoying the sights and sounds (and breezes!) at that highest point, we work our way back through town to the port.
I took quite a few photos in San Juan, but don’t think I got anything that will be artistically significant. I did manage to get some new views of familiar subjects. I think because I had been thinking in terms of a late afternoon and evening visit I had some preconceptions about what I would shoot, so I spent most of the day reacting to what I saw instead of on a course that I had pre-visualized beforehand. Sometimes that serendipity can lead to new and interesting things, but often it doesn’t.
We spent some time hanging out at Plaza de Armas, one of the main squares in San Juan and originally designed to serve as the main square of the city. In addition to a fountain with four statues, the plaza is home to a large number of pigeons, which spend their time doing what pigeons do – looking for handouts of free food and making messes. The pigeons make for an interesting photo subject when someone tosses seed in the air and they all scramble to get their share.
Kathy & I never mind sampling a bit of the local cuisine, and often look for interesting places to have lunch while spending the day ashore. Pizza and beer isn’t exactly a native Puerto Rican dish, we did have local beer, so I think that counts for something! Plus it was really good pizza and salad, so we felt like it did the job and were happy to have given it a try.
In general, San Juan is just a pretty nice place to visit, a good place to spend a day, and we enjoyed it very much. As it often does, a day spent in a nice place convinced us that we need to come back and spend more time there. Perhaps I can brush up on my Spanish and think about spending a week or so there sometime in the near future. It’s an easy flight from Charlotte, although it can be tough to get a good deal on airfare. And it can be a little pricey to stay and eat in the Old San Juan area, but I think it could be worth it in order to have more time there for dining, sightseeing and photography.