Scary traffic and comparative weather

16 08 2009

I have already mentioned several times that I don’t dare to drive in Puerto Rico (for example here and here). I definitely prefer taking the bus even if it can take up to 2½ hours to get to the mall (it would probably be quicker to walk if only I could figure out how to do that in a city without pavements everywhere…). However, everytime we go back to Europe, or just to the US, I realise that people don’t actually drive very fast in Puerto Rico! One of the reasons is probably that you can’t drive faster because of all the traffic! We never cease to be astonished by the amount of cars on the roads, at any time of the day or night…

A Puerto Rican rooster
Not traffic but a beautiful rooster that I saw on the street yesterday (the green thing in the corner is part of a fence – the bird moved behind it just when I was about to take the photo)

So, it is not because of the speed that I don’t want to drive – it is rather how people drive in Puerto Rico, and the fact that I am not used to multiple lanes (in Sweden most of the motorways have two lanes, around San Juan the standard is 4-6 lanes!).

On Friday we were invited to a joint birthday and farewell party thrown by a Puerto Rican / Spanish couple; the girlfriend just had her birthday, the boyfriend is leaving [today] to work in New Jersey. I spent most of the evening talking to the English-speaking guest – an Indian guy. We had lots to talk about, and among other things he asked me if I drive in Puerto Rico… Nope! He told us that he is also very uncomfortable about driving here, despite coming from New Delhi!

Cars in the emergency lane, San Juan
Cars in the emergency lane – not an uncommon sight when there’s a traffic jam in Puerto Rico

What scares me the most about the traffic in Puerto Rico is the lack of respect for emergency vehicles! Today we were stuck in a traffic jam (not unusual) due to an accident on the motorway, and ambulances were trying to pass to the site of the accident… Since the emergency lane was completely packed with cars trying to pass the queues, the ambulances and tow trucks had to get through the traffic in the normal lanes - but nobody gave way to them. This scares the hell out of me - I wonder how many people die because they are not reached by ambulances, or not brought to the hospital quick enough due to selfish drivers*?? Neither O nor I have seen anything like it in Spain or Sweden where drivers always do everything possible to facilitate the access of emergency vehicles (and I think that you could get fined if you don’t!). How does it work in other countries??

Traffic jam in San Juan
A Puerto Rican traffic jam

Tomorrow morning we leave for New Jersey and I have been comparing weather – especially since the first TS** of the hurricane season, Ana and Bill are expected in the Caribbean. I hope that they don’t develop into hurricanes and slow down before landfall. The weather in NJ / NY is hot at the moment but there’s hot, and then there’s hot! I know that it can get very hot and humid as well in the NJ / NY area, but I still think that San Juan is a little warmer…

Comparing weather
Comparing weather on the computer

The current weather (according to Wunderground.com):

San Juan, PR: 35,1 degrees and 55% humidity

New Brunswick, NJ: 33,6 degrees and 36% humidity

It is actually surprisingly low humidity at the moment in San Juan, it is usually 60-80%… It will interesting to see how cool it gets in the night in New Jersey - in San Juan the day and evening temperatures don’t vary much. 
  
Street at sunset

Our street by sunset on Friday

*) Sorry if this post is critical towards Puerto Rican drivers, and I am not saying that everyone is behaving in this selfish way, but it is phenomenon that both O and I have seen too many times when driving on this island…

**) TS = Tropical Storm





Wednesday sandwich & a new etiquette poll

12 08 2009

Today I am blogging from the big mall, Plaza las Americas, where the Alliance Francaise has an information stand at the moment. I should be informing about the French classes that start next week but unfortunately most people are asking me questions about the mall itself – where are the bathrooms, where has Banco Popular moved etc. I have also helped a surprising number of French tourists, who were very happy to be able to speak French at the mall. ;-)

AF at Plaza las Americas
The information booth at Plaza las Americas

While waiting for prospective French students, I take the opportunity to share a new Wednesday recipe:

Bocadillo Cubano (Cuban sandwich)
- half a “pan de agua” (or baguette)
- a few slices of ham
- a few slices of roast pork (pernil)
- mustard
- a few slices of cheese
- pickles (sliced whole gherkins)

Fill the sandwich with these ingredients, heat it if desired, and enjoy! It is a classic sandwich in Puerto Rico (and Cuba, I guess) that you can find in panaderias and cafeterias all over the island.
My aunt and I tried it for the first time in La Bombonera in the Old San Juan together with my Peruvian colleague M. The sandwich was a bit too big for me but I love the combo of pernil, cheese, mustard and pickles!

A "Cubano" sandwich
Bocadillo Cubano and lots of fries – not the healthiest of lunches…

And to the etiquette question of the week:

When my aunt arrived to San Juan two weeks ago, she talked about her experiences of travelling alone. Everything went fine but she thought that it was a pity that nobody was really interested in talking to her on the two flights. We had a long discussion about whether or not we talk to people next to us on planes, and if yes, when during the flight…

My travels are almost always done alone, for example O and I have only travelled together to / from Puerto Rico a few times as I usually stay longer in Europe than O. When I was single I would very often travel alone to visit family & friends, i.e my holidays were not spent alone, only the travelling to and from places. I actually prefer not talking to other people when travelling – I bring a book, magazines and music (and I sleep like a baby on planes, trains, buses and cars*!).

If the person next to me starts talking to me, I fear that with a little encouragement from me they will never stop and leave me alone to do my thing (reading, sleeping…). Another reason might be that I have met my fair share of freaks when travelling alone and I prefer avoiding those kind of experiences!! My poor aunt was wondering if people had thought that she was a freak when she tried to speak to the passengers next to her but I don’t think so! Maybe I am the “freak” for not wanting to be more social and friendly when crammed together in a plane for hours? Let me know what you think!

Airplanes at Madrid airport

*) My best friend and I once travelled by train from Switzerland to Hamburg – I turned on my walkman and fell asleep… and woke up just before Hamburg! My friend was sooo bored, ha ha!





Monday thoughts on visits, a film and cold cinemas

10 08 2009

The last guest, my aunt, left this morning and the apartment is now very empty and quiet. The washing machine is working though and I am trying to find my habits again after two weeks of entertaining guests. It has been great, the combination of O’s brother and girlfriend G + my aunt worked out really well, especially as G speaks Swedish fluently (she’s German and lived in Stockholm for more than 2 years). G and I realised that Swedish can be our secret language, which might come in handy when we celebrate Christmas together in Spain in a few months’ time  ;-)

Outlet shopping result
It is difficult to resist outlet shopping when the visitors are finding all kinds of bargains… I came home with two lovely knitted jumpers from BCBGMaxazria (needed for the planned Spanish Christmas), an autumn jacket from Calvin Klein ($22 after 70% reduction) among other things.

The family visits have meant lots of excursions, outlet shopping, nice food and great company. Nevertheless, as always after an intense period of visitors we are now looking forward to some everyday life for a while before the next activities; one week in NJ / NY with my sister (already next week), Saltis and her family’s visit in September and maybe another visit from European friends at the end of next month.

Colourful fish at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Colourful fish in the pond behind the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR)

On the last evening of my aunt’s visit, i.e yesterday, we went to the cinema and saw a real feel-good film, Julie & Julia. I have already written twice about the book that the film is based on -my post in January about the book (as well as the blog!) and as well as “a recipe inspired by the [cook]book that inspired the book that inspired the film“…  For once I wasn’t disappointed by the film after having read the book first!

A lizard in the rainforest
A lizard in the rainforest

The film has two parallel stories, about Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) who started a project to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking during one year while blogging about it, and the life of Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) - a famous American tv-chef and cookbook author. O was laughing so much during the film because he claimed that Julie Powell reminded him a lot of me, both when it comes to blogging and cooking…  

Alternative beach activity - colouring of hair!
Maybe I should suggest to O that next time we dye my hair, we could do it on the beach – that was precisely what this guy was doing yesterday!

After the film, O, B and I made mental notes to bring winter hats and blankets (and maybe one of my knitted outlet bargains mentioned above) next time we go to the cinema in Puerto Rico – apparently the already cold temperatures in the cinemas have been lowered due to the risk of swine flu contamination!? Our faces, ears and feet felt like we had been out walking on a winter day in Sweden!

The Bacardi factory
The Bacardi factory – visited for the 4th time…





Back from a long blog silence…

27 07 2009

I’m back!! It always feels a little weird to come home after a long holiday, but I am trying to get back to my usual habits in Puerto Rico, including the blogging. O’s brother C and German girlfriend G arrived one day before us on Saturday to San Juan, and tomorrow my aunt arrives so the apartment will be full – but it will be fun!

Sunset from a plane
The sun was setting when we were coming in for landing in San Juan yesterday

I had a lovely time in Europe and not too much inspiration to sit in front of the computer when I could spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the Swedish summer! The Spanish summer was a little too hot for me (between 35-45 degrees!), but it was still good to catch up with O’s family and friends. And the wedding in Strasbourg at the beginning of July was wonderful and I even survived reading a prayer in French in the church ;-) Everything will be “showed and told” on the blog in the coming days…

Sun setting behind the clouds
The sunset seen from the plane





Friday theme / Show & tell: The Light of the City

26 06 2009

When you read this I will be in Sweden! My plane landed at 07.35 this morning in Copenhagen, if there were no delays and I didn’t miss my connecting flight in Newark yesterday… I don’t know when I will have time to update the blog but below is my interpretation of the last Friday theme before the summer break. Annika and Desiree have chosen great themes for June!

The Light of the City

Carlsberg in Copenhagen by night
Carlsberg by night in Copenhagen

Paseo la Princesa by night
An evening walk on Paseo La Princesa in the Old San Juan

Old San Juan by night
Old San Juan by night

Ventana al mar by dusk
La Ventana al Mar by dusk

Condado by dusk
The beach in Condado by dusk

NYC by night
Saltistjejen‘s view in NYC

Toronto by dusk
Entering Toronto by dusk

A party by the pool at night
And a poolside wedding in the evening

I probably won’t have time to check the other Friday bloggers’ interpretations of the theme today but I will do it as soon as possible.
Anki, Anna, Annika, Christel, Curieux, Desiree, Emma, Erica, IamAnnika, IngaBritt, Jemaya, Lena W, Leopardia, Mais-oui, Marie, Mia D, Millan, Minerva, Moster Mjölgumpa, Musikanta, Nilla, Norrsken & Stjärnfall, Petra H, Saltis, Sara, Simone, Sparkling, Strandmamman, Taina, Under Ytan, Victoria V and Västmanländskan.





A Swedish Midsummer’s Picnic in Puerto Rico

22 06 2009

There are not many Swedes living in Puerto Rico, and there is no Swedish network to find the few that live here. However, over the course of 1½ years we have found a few – mostly by coincidence. The first Swede I actually found before we moved here – on the Swedish expat website called Sviv.se (Svenskar i Världen) and she, B, has become our best friend in Puerto Rico.
B had heard of a famous Swede in Caguas, who runs a coffee shop and one Sunday the three of us drove there to try to find her. Unfortunately J wasn’t working that day but we had a delicious cup of coffee and got her phone number.
In August O and I found another Swede on the parking lot by the big mall through the Swedish flag sticker on his car (even though it was his Puerto Rican wife that we met first). Last Christmas this Swede, G and his wife invited us for a Christmas fika at their place and there we met Swedish J – expert in making Jansson’s frestelse (a traditional dish with potato and anchovies). The director of the Alliance Francaise told me a few weeks ago that he had “found me a Swede” – it turned out to be half-Swede / half-French A and then one of O’s colleagues told us that his cousin was married to a Swede…

B and I decided that it was time to gather all these random Swedes together, and what not better than for a Midsummer celebration! We invited all the Swedes we knew or didn’t know*, and our other local and international friends for a picnic on Saturday, and prayed to the Weather gods that it wouldn’t rain…

Here are some photos:

View to the Old San Juan
The view of the picnic location was breath-taking – over the Escambrón beach, the Old San Juan with its San Cristobal fortress and el Capitolio

Picnic location between the palm trees
We set up a big table under the shade of the palm trees and the guests started arriving. In the end we were almost 40 adults and kids from Sweden, Puerto Rico, US, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Peru, and Venezuela – a wonderful mix of people and as I pointed out – nobody knew everybody!

A rainy Midsummer in Puerto Rico
A rainy picnic… Unfortunately it started pouring down, in typical Swedish Midsummer fashion, just when we were going to eat – holding a plate and an umbrella and eating at the same time is a little difficult!! Nevertheless, all the guests stayed cheerful and optimistic! Everybody said that “what’s a little rain” – a very Swedish attitude actually…

Trying to cover the food from the rain
All the guests brought food and we had pickled herring, Jansson’s temptation, meatballs, potato salad, beetroot salad, pasta salad, Västerbotten (Swedish cheese) Quiche, Smörgåstårta (Sandwich cake), Strawberry cake, Carrot Cake…

Rainy Jansson's temptation
The Jansson’s temptation gratin got a little wet…

Midsummer strawberries and cake
Probably the best strawberry cake I have ever eaten – B had done a tremendous job with making both the Smörgåstårta and the Jordgubbstårta!

A Midsummer Quiz about Sweden
A Midsummer Quiz about Sweden – Questions included how to say Sweden in Spanish (as people keep confusing Suiza (Switzerland) with Suecia (Sweden)), the name of the Swedish king and the average temperature in Stockholm in July… None of the Swedes managed to answer all the questions correctly but Spanish F and Puerto Rican M did!!

Dance of the Small Frogs
The Dance of the Small Frogs is quite fitting for Puerto Rico since the Coquí frog is a symbol of the country. Unfortunately we didn’t have a may pole but a Swedish flag was good enough to dance around


You can’t hear a lot of singing going on but most of the dancers got the frog jumping down…

Not everybody knew the lyrics by heart
I had made a “Sångblad” with the lyrics to the Small Frogs in both Swedish and English, as well as the snaps song “Helan går” in Swedish and “phonetic” English… No, we are not really singing about “Hell and Gore” when drinking snaps in Sweden ;-)

After the rain
After the rain the sun came out and then slowly set over the sea behind the palm trees… And then the vicious mosquitoes decided to feast on us! :?

A Puerto Rican Midsummer sunset
A Puerto Rican Midsummer sunset – over on the beach a wedding was taking place in the light of the setting sun

Oh, and nowadays there is a small network of Swedes in Puerto Rico – on Facebook! Hopefully we will organise a crayfish / shrimp party in August – with the 3-4 missing Swedes who couldn’t make it to the Midsummer picnic.

*) One of the Swedes who we didn’t actually know was a Swedish girl who contacted me through the blog a few weeks ago. She is in Puerto Rico for only a month while doing a yoga instructor course and I told her to come by our home whenever she had some time off. On Saturday she showed up 5 minutes before we leaving for the picnic so I told her to join us – talk about perfect timing!





Réveille tes sens – the Perfume Event

16 06 2009

Since I came back to Puerto Rico end of March, I have been working for the Alliance Française on the organisation and preparation for an event called “Réveille tes sens” (Awake or arouse your senses). My colleague, who has also become a great friend, M from Peru, and I have worked 3-4 afternoons a week with preparing press releases, writing sponsor letters and meeting with potential sponsors etc. It has been a very interesting project for both of us especially as we didn’t have any previous experience of public relations work. We have had lots of fun while “learning by doing” and practising our Spanish (me) and French (M).

The event took place last week with a press conference and two so-called conferences + 3-course dinners at Bistro de Paris, a fancy French restaurant here in San Juan. Our collaborator and co-sponsor from Lancôme told us that we should be very happy with the press conference – we had representatives from the island’s main newspapers and magazines, plus one TV-station and an English-speaking radio station present to hear the perfumer Christophe Laudamiel talk about his fascinating work as creator of perfumes.

Perfume event
The journalists and participants of the event received small perfume echantillons (samples) of the Lancôme perfume Magnifique, and the smelling strips were handed out by yours truly during the presentation…

Both Wednesday and Thursday evening Christophe made his presentation to captivated audiences, before we all enjoyed a delicious dinner and culminated the soirées with a tombola / lottery. The prizes had been donated by luxury brands and boutiques such as Gucci, Cartier, Coach, Godiva as well as local establishments (a clothing shop, a spa and a fitness centre). It was great to see how the guests were enjoying themselves thanks to our hard work and also to read about the event in the local newspapers.

After having heard Christophe speak three times, I was still utterly fascinated by his world of scents and fragrances. He referred to the book “The Perfume, a story of a murderer” by Patrick Süskind as a bible for the perfume industry – not because of the murder story but because it so well describes smells and their influence on our everyday lives. I read the book a few years ago, and it is a fascinating but also disgusting story that doesn’t leave any reader indifferent… Christophe Laudamiel actually created a set of perfumes for the adaptation of the book to film and you can read more about that in this blog post*. I haven’t seen the film yet but happened to be in Barcelona (representing Paris in the 18th century) when they were filming parts of the film there 3 years ago.

Alley in Barcelona prepped for filming
Not the most exciting photo from a film shoot but this alley in Barcelona had been prepped for filming – if you look carefully you can see piles of dirt that were put there to hide traces of modern days – electrical outlets, sewage etc. I don’t know what they did with the still visible electrical wiring and graffiti though…

I will write more about the content of Christophe’s presentations another day; I had no idea that the world of perfumes could be so interesting!

*) Check out this blog which is written by a friend of Anna Fair and True, Marina Geigert, who works with perfumes.





Wednesday recipe: The best pasta sauce ever with spinach & roasted tomatoes

27 05 2009

Wednesday again and I haven’t written anything for a week! I blame it on the visits we had last week – the Mexican friends + my blog friend Desiree and her C from Alabama. Desiree is half-Mexican, halft-Swedish – the Mexicans were very excited to meet a Mexican Swede / Swedish Mexican ;-) We had a lovely time with both couples, very intense with lots of activities, late dinners (Spanish timing!) and a long Sunday brunch.

The weather stayed quite stable, which was lucky because both before and after the weekend the weather has been utterly crap! I am writing this while the rain is pouring down outside, the apartment has become very dark, thunder is rumbling very loud and lightning is striking!* 

Brunch table
Our Sunday brunch

I will write about our excursions but today I wanted to share with you the best pasta sauce ever. Annika wrote today that she is bored of her everyday recipes and was hoping to find inspiration among us Wednesday recipe-bloggers (we are not that many and not very consistent about publishing recipes on Wednesdays..):

The Best Pasta Sauce ever (at least according to me!): Spinach and roasted tomatoes

4-6 roma tomatoes (or any other tomato)
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
500 g fresh [baby] spinach
2½ dl (1 cup) vegetable stock
1,25 dl (½ cup) cream
juice from 1 lemon
50 g fresh parmesan cheese, grated 
pasta (fettucine, spaghetti or pasta of your choice!)

Heat the oven to 220 C / 425 F. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put in an oiled baking tray, sprinkle some salt on top. Bake for ~30-35 min. (or just fry the tomatoes in a frying pan in some olive oil, on high heat)
Fry lightly the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Add the spinach, stock and cream. Let it boil up and lower the heat to let it simmer for 5 min. Add salt & pepper + freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Blend the mix in a blender / food processor together with a few of the baked tomato wedges + a handful of parmesan cheese.
NB. Blending really is the secret here, I tried to make the sauce without blending (since the blender broke!) but it just doesn’t taste the same!!
Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and serve with the parmesan cheese and tomato wedges on top.
It is possible to freeze the sauce if you have left-overs.

(Inspired by a recipe from the cookbook Bowl Food. The new comfort food for people on the move. I love this series of cookbooks including titles such as Fast Food, Cool Food and Family Food)

Preparing the pasta sauce

*) Getting just a little worried about how I will get to l’Alliance Francaise this afternoon without getting drenched…





Wednesday food: Banana Cake, a Rum Cocktail & a Culinary Fest

20 05 2009

It has really been a while now since I published a Wednesday recipe, and I would love to share the recipe for the banana cake that O has baked the last two Sundays in a row… But unfortunately I forgot to write down the measurements of the ingredients while taking photos of the baking process last Sunday. Maybe I’ll publish the recipe + photos next week. However, both Anna in Stockholm and Desiree in Alabama have published Wednesday recipes today.

O's banana cake

O’s yummy banana cake – in Puerto Rico it is called “pan de guineo”.

Yesterday we had an improvised rum tasting after dinner with our Mexican friends – Bacardi Coconut and Bacardi Select (a dark rum), as well as some ron cañita (Puerto Rican moonshine rum / hembränd rom) with a chocolate flavour (not entirely convinced of that flavour!). I really like the Bacardi Coconut, and I have “invented” a simple cocktail, which is a great alternative to the Cuba Libre (Coke + rum, preferably dark, and lemon juice) that we usually drink at home (we prefer to drink mojitos in a bar):

Coconut rum

Petchie’s Coco Rum Cocktail

½ can of Sprite
Coconut flavoured rum
freshly squeezed lemon juice
ice

Mix the ingredients together and enjoy!

This cocktail probably already exists under another name but I thought of it one evening when I was trying to figure out how to drink the coconut flavoured rum our Belgian friends bought for us at the Bacardi factory last year… As we had lots of Sprite left over from a party I thought that I would mix the two, and the “cocktail” actually really tastes good!

Bottle of rum from Puerto Rico
If you have a bottle of Bacardi rum at home – check the writing on the bottle; if it is an European bottle it will say “Casa fundada en Cuba” but on the Puerto Rican / American bottles it says “Puerto Rican rum”!!

Speaking of rum, the Mexicans have probably (they are not home yet) visited the Bacardi factory today, a perfect excursion on a rainy day! I have visited the factory three times already with different guests and even if the guided tour is brief, it is still interesting to hear about the rum-making process and it is free (+ two drink tickets per person).

The Bacardi factory
The Bacardi factory

Tomorrow the Condado Culinary Fest starts in our neighbourhood and our visitors have promised to cook a Mexican dinner for us! We will of course take the chance to taste the artisan tequila they gave us as a present – Tequila Ortigoza. Maybe we should buy some normal supermarket-bought tequila to be able to make a comparison as at least I am not an expert tequila-drinker…

Artisanal tequila bottle case
The wooden case for the Ortigoza tequila bottle

We thought that the Condado Culinary Fest was a little disappointing last year but we will give it another try this weekend. All the restaurants along Avenida Ashford will have tables and stands in the street and according to the event information on Facebook there will be the possibility to taste coffee, wine and Puerto Rican rums…





A May weekend in San Juan

18 05 2009

The weekend passed quickly as usual, but for once I recorded quite a few of our activities with the camera. Here’s what we did:

Friday:

On Friday evening O came home relatively early, i.e before 7 o’clock. Not as early as I expected as he called me around 5 to say that he was on his way but then he had stopped to talk to a colleague on the way to the car… That is why I usually tell him to not call me until he is IN the car!! When he came home we headed straight to Costco in Carolina (15-20 minutes away by car) for a big grocery shopping. Our Mexican friends were arriving this weekend so we needed to stock up on food!

Fuddrucker's burger

After leaving the groceries at home, we walked to our favourite burger place – Fuddrucker’s. O has figured out that buying one BIG burger is much cheaper than ordering two small (saving 4-5 dollars). So, we order a one pound Portabella mushroom burger and then share it! Yummy!

Saturday

Saturday morning was spent relaxing and having breakfast by the balcony – we have our breakfast-making tasks divided; O makes toast with cucumber, tomato and cheese (plus salami for him) and I make the cappuccino. We also eat porridge or cereal, and fresh fruit and drink juice. The only thing missing from our weekend morning ritual is a newspaper! But at least this way we talk instead!

After a relaxed few hours, we started tidying up the apartment in anticipation for our Mexican guests. However, all of a sudden they called us to tell us that they were still in San Diego! I immediately thought that they had been refused to board the plane because of the swine flu! Fortunately not at all, the flight has just been overbooked and they had taken the offer of two free future tickets, upgrading to business all the way to San Juan the day after and a hotel paid for in SD. Not a bad deal!

Recinto Sur, OSJ
I discovered when we parked in OSJ that you have a great view over the beautiful houses on street Recinto Sur from the 4th floor of the parking garage! Photo tip for visitors!

As our guests were not arriving on Saturday afternoon, we decided to go to the Old San Juan for a walk. I had been told by my French friend E that there was a nice French café that we should try. The only thing I remembered from the directions was that it was in the crossing of Calle del Sol and another street, and that it had a French name! I told O that we only needed to walk down Calle del Sol and we would find it… and we did – Saint Germain on Calle del Sol – Calle San Justo, but unfortunately it was just closing (at 15.00). It looked nice though so we will come back another day.

Calle San José, OSJ
Calle San José

We continued our stroll in the old town and ended up at Plaza de Armas, and we couldn’t resist nipping into Marshall’s to see if we could find some bargains… An hour later we came out, $60 poorer but with two Ralph Lauren hand towels (at $2 each and matching some RL towels we already have), a Pottery Barn interior design book (for my collection; I now have Photos, Bedrooms, Kids’ rooms, Bathrooms and Work spaces), a cute Calvin Klein onesies-set of 5 for a friend’s newborn baby, a plain white sauceboat (såsskål), a Nike exercise top, a Kitchen Aid egg slicer (finally!) and two striped cushions for the sofa.

Plaza de Armas, OSJ
Plaza de Armas, OSJ

O suggested that we get a “fika” in La España, the bakery and café in Isla Verde / Villamar, which I thought was an excellent idea! The place was almost empty, 5 o’clock is apparently the slow period between lunch and early dinner, but the glass counters were as full as ever with delicious-looking pastries and cakes… O chose a big quesito and I went for a mil hoja (mille-feuilles / thousand-layers cake / tusenbladstårta) together with our cafés con leche. We really like La España, it is quite cheap, the staff is almost entirely Spanish and it has this cosy old atmosphere despite the location along the big road to the airport and the flat-screen TVs…

Eurovision in the Spanish bakery, SJ

When we were leaving the bakery we realised that the tv-screens were showing the Eurovision song contest on TVE! We stopped to watch for a few minutes and could conclude that Norway was going to win with a big margin! Eurovision is kind of special for us since we met at a Eurovision party four years ago, but actually we are not huge fans!

Ad for the Villamar graveyard
The bakery is just next to a graveyard, where the ad announces that there are graves and tomb niches available…

In the evening we went to the cinema… can it be the first time in 2009? Maybe we went to the cinema in January but this was definitely the first time since we came back from Europe in March! O chose the film, The Soloist and it was better than I expected. The film tells the true story of the unlikely friendship between a LA-journalist (Robert Downey Jr) and a homeless but very talented musician (Jamie Foxx).

Sunday

The beach at Ventana al Mar, SJ

Our Sunday morning looked more or less like the previous morning… Breakfast, tidying up, O made a banana cake (pan de guineo as the Puerto Ricans call it) and then the Mexicans called – to tell us that they had arrived 1h15 early from Chicago! I guess the Sunday flight doesn’t have the exact same timetable as on Saturdays. We picked up D & J at the airport, and it was great to see them again – we visited them in Tijuana last year. O knows J from his Erasmus (exchange) year in Haarlem, the Netherlands ten years ago!

Yoga at la Ventana al Mar, SJ

After a simple lunch at home, with Swedish B who came by for coffee and banana cake, we went for a walk on the beach. I love the light and atmosphere on the beach just before sunset… A few people are lingering on the beach but the hotels have packed up their beach chairs, the surfers are waiting for one last break and the sand is a little cooler than during the day. At Ventana al mar, the local square by the beach in Condado, some women were doing yoga!

Condado before sunset
The beach in Condado before sunset

The day was finished off with dinner and a stroll in the Old San Juan. O and I were a little disappointed with the restaurant we tried for the first time, but at least the visitors got to hear the coquís (frogs) while having dinner and taste some Puerto Rican mojitos!

OSJ lamp by night
A street light in the Old San Juan

An evening walk in the Old San Juan is not complete without a stroll on Paseo la Princesa outside the city walls. At the moment there is a beautiful photo exhibition of the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand – I love his photos of the earth from above (I got the book for my 30th birthday). Check out some of his amazing photos from Puerto Rico (and other countries) on the following link*. I actually told our visitors to visit the Mar Chiquita beach (second photo) on their way to the Arecibo radio telescope (fifth photo) today…

The Raices fountain in OSJ
The Raíces fountain by Paseo la Princesa, Old San Juan

*) You can even download the photos for free as [computer] wallpaper for your personal use.








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