Monday, November 23, 2009

Whewy! Whirlwind to Puerto Rico

Ok, Note to self. Do NOT go to Puerto Rico with only one full day to spend there. Wow! First I have to say, how incredibly happy we were to be leaving this island for a little bit. We had a run-in with Big Brother, which I found rather discomforting, had a little meltdown, and then decided to go on as before. Cryptic? Yes. Yes it is...

We put out some cat food, put lots of kitty litter in the box, locked up only the downstairs windows thinking a criminal would need a ladder to get to the 2nd floor so we'd give the cats some air, grabbed our suitcase simply consisting of another empty suitcase, set the alarm and headed for the airport. We hadn't even sat down to wait for our plane when the property manager for our place called and told us our alarm was going off. %$*! Now THIS is when it's nice to have neighbors; one that happens to be the property manager with a key and alarm code is even better. That settled (thanks Bernadette!), we boarded the plane and got ready to rumble.

We got in around 4:30pm, took the bus to the rental car place, and then proceeded to spend the next hour lost looking for our apartment. We got directed in via cell phone (luckily my US phone was working, since Mike's battery died and he didn't have his charger). Once again, we got really lucky taking a chance on a small, inexpensive, homey kind of place in a normal city neighborhood. Posada Colonial is located in Condado, about 10 minutes from the airport, another 10 minutes from the mall, 10 minutes from Old Town, 3 blocks from a beach, etc. so was a good central place to be. We were in a 2 bedroom the first night, since that was all that was available and then switched to a 1 bedroom the 2nd night. Both were cute, clean, had nice tile work, and were just what we needed - a place to stay near San Juan for under $100 ($70 to be exact).

Here's the 2 bedroom:

Here's the 1:

We were hoping to get together with Jose, our Puerto Rican St Kitts pal, for dinner but he couldn't meet up with us until 7:30 and Mike was about to go rabid with hunger. So we walked around the neighborhood hoping to stumble across something that wouldn't break the bank. Luckily, we ran across the San Juan Gallery Plaza, with a nice fountain in the center (very Scottsdale, AZ) and a couple of restaurants. One of them, the Alquimia Bistro Club had a pazillion vegetarian choices on the menu for reasonable prices, so we almost knocked the hostess (!) over in order to hurry to a table. Tablecloths, delicious bread, piano music. No, seriously, look behind us in this picture. That's a bar enclosed in GLASS. When we finished gorging on the bread sticks and rolls, the waiter came over and actually scraped the crumbs off of the table. Mike & I ended up in a giggle fit over this, which required an explanation, and then we discovered that our waiter is...waitering...because he wants to buy a boat and do what we just did. We had some stuffed mushrooms for an appetizer and then I had pesto raviolis, while Mike chowed down on a stromboli that was almost all veggies and not just a ton of cheese like they do in Philly. It was delicious! Plus they kept refilling our soda glasses for free (how rare is that - anywhere?!). Jose joined us a little later, ate a little, drank a little (even paid for the meal - how nice was that? - Thanks Jose!!) and off we went to bed by 10 so we'd be ready for our mad rush to the mall Saturday.

Out by 8:30, we headed for the Walmart in Carolina. What's this? Is this a traffic light? Is that a cop on the left? Is that traffic??? Of course, we both kept heading for the wrong side of the car, kept having to think about which side of the road to turn on, kept flipping the windshield wipers on instead of the turn signal... Got lost for a while and eventually got pointed in the right direction, and finally pulled into an already crowded Walmart parking lot. Lots of $ later, we were done with that stop (even found our Christmas hash outfits!) and headed for the big mall back towards San Juan. Got lost and ended up in Old San Juan. Oops, but well, it was apparently the only way we were going to see it this trip, so took it in while we tried to find the right highway. After some circling and more directions, we were at the mall. After hours of non-stop walking, store after store after store, and a call to the credit card company to unfreeze our account (AGAIN!!), we walked out around 5:30 still needing to hit K-mart (Mike got a great deal on steel-toed work boots there), get the key for our apartment switch, and head to Fajardo to visit our boater pals, Amanda & Kevin on Solstice. As we had feared, the stores were filled with sweaters and coats, on a Caribbean island for Pete's sake, and when we were able to find something, we either couldn't afford it or couldn't find our sizes. It was so incredibly frustrating. Mike made out pretty good, but fitted, graphic t-shirts for both of us were out, nor were sneakers or bathing suits in the cards for Mike either.

We hit the highway for Fajardo around 6:30, got lost, called for further direction and then proceeded to pass an outlet mall. Hmmm. We really, really should have stopped and tried to find the outstanding items, but we were just so tired. We couldn't deal with air conditioning, screaming children, never-ending lines, and/or blaring Spanish music for another moment. Our blistered feet weren't going to have any more of it either, so we figured we'd hit the outlet in the morning. We pulled into the marina, tried to walk to Solstice's pier and got lost. They came to steer us in the right direction and then offered us something we needed very, very badly. A drink. You have to admit the above are the perfect tropical beverages. Considering we were coasting on Burger King hashbrowns and a soft pretzel, the cheese & crackers were welcome too. That's Amanda happy to be clean and to be in her clean boat after she & Kevin have spent 2 weeks loading, cleaning, and repairing after an 18-month absence. Off we went for pizza, which was pretty good, and then back to the marina. It was a short visit as they were getting up at 6am to motor over to Culebra and we still had to find our way back to our place (and we didn't get lost this time!!). We were snoozing by 11.

Sunday morning we were supposed to be at the airport by 11:40am. The outlet stores didn't open until 11. Hmmm. We headed there at 10am (check out the empty highway) when the food courts opened and wandered around looking in all the stores to see which ones we'd hit. Mike would run into Nike first while I would stand in front of one that looked promising for t-shirts. Of the 5 stores we wanted to check out, only 1 opened on time, 1 couldn't get their gate up, and the other ones stayed dark (uh oh). We divided & conquered anyway (just grab & run - no trying anything on - hurry, hurry!) and breathlessly met back at the food court at 11:40. Raced to the rental car place, grabbed the bus back to the airport, waited in a looong line at the check-in, got singled out at security, and made it to the gate 10 minutes to boarding. Whew - nothing to it!!

We and our 2 now-full bags got into St. Kitts around 3, but it took quite a while to get through customs (thanks to 2 other planes that had landed at the same time), and I was starting to feel really badly about the cats, knowing they hadn't eaten since 5am Saturday morning. We got back and found that all our upstairs windows had been closed - obviously for security purposes - but it had to be over 100 degrees in our place. Now I REALLY felt bad for the cats. Needless to say, they were happy to see us. Once again famished, Mike wanted a veggie taco and fries at Shipwreck so out we went again. First we hit The Godfather to give a kitty gift to Tina and some Christmas lights to John for his bar, and then off to food. Ran into friends, watched the sun set over the water, enjoyed what seems to finally be a break in the humidity, and remembered what we liked about this island (there are several reasons we picked this one out of over a dozen). Let's just see if we (mostly I) can stay out of trouble...