Today it is the first of June and I am hoping to go back to Sweden in 25 days… However, my ticket is not bought yet – I have a reservation but it hasn’t been issued for various administrative reasons. Fingers crossed that my ticket can be issued tomorrow (today is Pentecost Monday in Belgium (and most European countries, except Sweden) and I need a Belgian confirmation)!
Our Swedish visitors went back to Alabama last Monday and it is high time for me to write about our weekend together! Desiree and I are blog friends and even though we had never met IRL (In Real Life) we had decided that she and her husband C should come and visit us in Puerto Rico over the Memorial Day weekend. O’s Mexican friends J and D happened to decide to visit us at the same time but it turned out to be a great combination of Swedes and Mexicans!
Here are some photos from the Swedish-Mexican visit:
When we had picked up Desiree and C at the airport – a little late of course, due to the Puerto Rican trafic and Spanish time optimism, we headed straight to Panadería La España for a traditional Spanish (!!) lunch.
What do you get if you combine two couples with four cameras and a beautiful Old town? Well, a very slooow walk and LOTS OF PHOTOS!
The view over El Morro from Campo del Morro – El Morro is an old fortress built by the Spaniards to protect San Juan (originally called Puerto Rico!) from the British, the Dutch and pirates. It took 200 years to complete, construction started in 1539 and it is supposedly the oldest Spanish fortress in the New World.
We visited El Morro with Desiree and C – it was actually O’s first visit and only my second time inside the fortress. The view is spectacular over the Atlantic, and the San Juan coastline. My favourite panorama is this one though – over the palm-lined Isla de Cabras (Goat island).
This is one of Puerto Rico’s symbols – a garita or watch tower that regularly intercepts the San Juan city wall and El Morro. It can be found on the cars’ license plates and on many postcards and photos from Puerto Rico. The Bacardi factory can be seen in the distance.
Our walk in the Old San Juan ended in the hotel El Convento where we refreshed ourselves with Piña Coladas in the shade. The Mexicans joined us after having visited El Morro just after us. Unfortunately we couldn’t have dinner in our favourite restaurant Café La Princesa due to a private function, so we drove back home to Condado and had a very late but tasty dinner in Ummo, an Argentinian restaurant. (where to my surprise I all of a sudden saw Swedish football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the tv-screens – they were showing Italian football!!)
We had promised to show our favourite beach, Playa Sucia (the Dirty Beach) in Cabo Rojo to the visitors. Unfortunately we always get lost on the way there, but Desiree and C were very tolerant and claimed to enjoy the extra sightseeing in San Germán and on winding Puerto Rican countryside roads. Due to the delay we didn’t have much time to enjoy the beach but we ate our pic-nic and the guests took a walk to the lighthouse.
The reason why we were pressed for time was our evening activity: kayaking in the so-called Bio-bay (bio as in bioluminiscent) or Bahía Bioluminiscente in the Laguna Grande outside Fajardo. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we were really pleased to finally be able to do it together with the Mexicans and the Swedes. In order to experience the bioluminiscence, it is important to check the lunar calendar – a full moon = no chance of seeing anything. The timing was perfect this weekend and one of O’s colleagues had organised the kayaks and we were a group of 8-9 kayaks to head out in the lagoon.
The Puerto Ricans laughed at Desiree and I wearing caps but we were both very happy that we wore them as protection from both mosquitoes and all the tree branches hanging over the canal.
I am not too fond of deep water and I hadn’t paddled a kayak since I was 10, so I was quite nervous both before and during the excursion in the pitch dark! On our way out in the lagoon we met several groups of tourists returning from the bio-experience and it was a complete revolú (mess) as nobody seemed to know how to steer and I almost got my face smashed in by a tree trunk at the side of the canal! I promise you – we hardly saw anything since lanterns and flash lights are not really allowed! Our kayaks had a faint green light at the front and a red light at the back, so we could just about make out which way people were paddling… Once out in the lagoon we were the only group paddling around and touching the water to see the dynoflagellates shine! Desiree and C decided to get into the water to swim in a sea of sparkles – it was amazing to see!
At the end, despite my initial panic and the mosquitoes eating my ears and wrists, I was very happy to have done the bio-bay and the return to la marina was magical – paddling in complete darkness and with only the sounds of the mangrove around us. Check out this link for a short film from the Laguna Grande and a short description of what the bioluminiscent dynoflagellates really are and why they glow in the dark.
The Mexicans were leaving on Sunday but first we had a huge brunch at home together with a Puerto Rican / Spanish couple. Desiree and C had made yummy American pancakes and we stuffed outselves full of fresh fruit, ham and salami, cheeses, bread and quiches.
It was sad to see D and J leave to return to Tijuana but we are hoping to organise a Mexican trip with them soon!
The day which had started so sunny had turned rainy but it didn’t really matter as we were going to the rainforest in the afternoon. It was actually my first time to experience El Yunque in the rain!
O and I decided to skip the rainforest walk since the rain was pouring down so we waited in the car while Desiree and C ventured into the lush and humid vegetation. O had a little nap while I tried to take photos of the rain from inside the car…
A winding road in El Yunque
In the evening we finally managed to have dinner in Café La Princesa with the coquís singing for us while we enjoyed our dishes of churrasco and mofongo. The next day our Swedish visitors left but we hope to see them soon again – hopefully in Alabama! And once again it has been proven that virtual friendships can survive meeting IRL and become real friendships!
Check out Desiree’s blog for more photos and details (in Swedish) of their visit to Puerto Rico!