Monday again and we were woken up at 05.21 by a phonecall from one of O’s colleagues – I heard O discuss something about some printers not working… Apparently a major early morning crisis! 😕
Anyhow, we have had a lovely weekend with my blog friend Annika and her family from Virginia who came to stay with us on Saturday before boarding a ship for a one-week cruise in the Caribbean (including stops in Aruba, Curacao, St Maarten and St Thomas). We had met twice before so it didn’t feel strange at all to have them over. Annika is Swedish, her husband P is American and their sweet 12-year old daughter K who is perfectly bi-lingual.
The guests arrived at noon, and came straight to our place by taxi – the taxi driver didn’t know where our street was so he called us to ask for directions, without telling them! Annika had shown him my email with the address and underneath was my phone number – a clever but cheeky taxi driver 😉 ! After a change of clothes (it is HOT here compared to Washington DC!) and a quick lunch, we headed towards the rainforest, el Yunque.
It is a 40 minute drive from San Juan towards the mountains and the visitors enjoyed the views on the way while we tried to briefly explain life in Puerto Rico and point out different sights – the green vegetation, plantains sold from a truck at the side of the road, the big outlet mall in Canóvanas, the mist covering the mountain tops of el Yunque…
After a quick stop at el Portal Visitors’ centre, where we looked at giant ferns (ormbunkar) and trees with strange-looking camouflage trunks, we continued to the first waterfalls, la coca falls by the side of the road. Everybody stops there to take a picture and so did we of course as well! The rainforest was busier than usual, probably because I have never visited before on the weekend, and I noticed that most of the visitors were local instead of out-of-island tourists.
You can’t visit the rainforest without doing at least a short hike – so we parked the car and walked along the paved trail to La Mina falls. Our 12-year old visitor was definitely the most energetic hiker, she was looking forward to a dip in the waterfalls and was wearing her bathing suit under her shorts. Annika and I walked a little slower, since we were talking non-stop 😉 At the falls it was packed with people – swimming, picnicking and taking photos of the lush and humid environment! The four of us adults watched while K built up courage and tried to find a space among all the Puerto Ricans under the waterfall. Apparently the water was a little cold but once inside, she didn’t want to leave! I was impressed by her boldness to get into the water alone in the crowd.
On our way back to the car we listened to the sounds of the rainforest – the rustling of the leaves, the distant chatter from the bathers, the coquís (the Puerto Rican frogs) with their distinct [ko-kee], the birds (one definitely sounded like a stock dove / skogsduva)… We saw a few lizards, but fortunately for Annika and K no red & yellow spiders like on our last visit (see photo from my Friday post)!
I had promised Annika and the family to take them to our favourite restaurant in the Old San Juan, Café La Princesa on Paseo la Princesa, for dinner. The restaurant is situated just outside the old city wall near the water and the atmosphere is just great. There is usually a live band playing jazz or salsa on the weekends and the place is lit up by fairy lights while you hear the coquís in the background. The sound of the coquís is so loud that visitors usually think that it has been recorded! The best part of the experience at the restaurant, except for the yummy churrasco chimi-churri (a Puerto Rican classic; beef with a green herb marinade / sauce), is that as you sit outside there is no AC, just a few fans! No need to bring a jumper to shield yourself from the cold draft like in so many other restaurants in Puerto Rico.
Our visitors enjoyed the mojitos and virgin piña coladas (for K and the designated driver, O) while Annika thought that the mofongo (mashed and stuffed plantains) was… interesting! Just when we had finished our meal, we could see one of the big cruise ships leaving the port. K ran along to watch the lit-up ship depart and then we strolled along Paseo La Princesa, up through the San Juan gate and through a few of the streets of the old town before we headed home. The visitors were tired after a long and intense day.
Yesterday we got up fairly early to have a fry-up breakfast before the visitors had to leave for the cruise. In the harbour there were three big cruise ships and on our second try we found the right one, the Royal Caribbean’s Adventures of the Sea. K told us that she was nervous, I guess from all the excitement! They have now been out at sea for more than a day and I am sure that they are having a wonderful time! We sure had a great time showing them briefly around our island and we hope to see them soon again!