Tuesday, August 12: Today the weather forecast is for sunshine in the morning followed by rain all afternoon. We decide we’ll take advantage of the outdoors in the morning by walking to Quiznos for coffee and taking a long walk on the beach.
We see a local man wading in the surf, and he’s quite a photogenic fellow. Sadly, I’m always afraid to approach strangers to ask if I can take a photo. I feel like it’s invasive, so I don’t ask. I wish I could be bolder in this regard.
As we walk close to the point where our curve of beach ends, we can see Condado around the corner on its own arc of beach.
After our walk, we return to the hotel to put on our bathing suits and then head back out to relax on the beach for a while, dipping in the water whenever we get too hot. The water is so clear and refreshing. A number of boot camps are being conducted on the beach. A group of women is doing sit-ups directly on the sand, without benefit of towels or yoga mats; this looks like pure torture. I don’t like getting covered with sand on the beach anyway, and I certainly couldn’t stand sweating and then rolling in it!
After our time at the beach, we drive to the north side of Old San Juan and park in a garage near El Morro. We’re headed to brunch at El Convento, and we pass some familiar landmarks along the way.
Walking toward El Convento, we follow several people who walk into this pretty courtyard full of turquoise arches. I overhear a woman say it is, or was, some kind of school.
We pass by a tapas bar, El Picoteo, with its pretty yellow walls and cool statue.
And across from El Convento is the Catedral de San Juan. The clouds are gathering overhead.
Before going into El Convento, we get a glimpse down a cobblestone street.
We take a seat in the open air courtyard, as the predicted rain hasn’t yet made its appearance. I order a mimosa, even though it’s really too early to be drinking. 🙂 I also have a most delicious El Convento Caribbean Benedict: poached eggs with roasted pork and hollandaise sauce served over sweet ripe plantain mash and red bliss potatoes with onions and peppers.
Mike forgoes the alcohol and goes for the lemonade to accompany his crema de maiz: corn hot cereal made with cinnamon infused milk, vanilla bean (sauce) and pure vanilla extract. It tastes like a liquid version of flan. Quite yummy.
After brunch, we walk toward La Fortaleza, passing more colorful homes along the way.
When we reach La Fortaleza, we’re told we just missed the English language tour and there won’t be another one for a while. We find out the schedule and vow to visit another day. We stop near the Chapel of Christ the Savior, built in 1753-1789 on top of the city walls. Legend traces its origin to a miraculous happening at the site.
Behind this we enjoy a panoramic view of the Bahia de San Juan and the city under a darkening sky.
We make our way back up the hill to the parking lot as the clouds begin to weep. Right before we get to the garage, we’re soaked by a sudden downpour.
Back in the car, we try to find the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, housed in a neoclassical building from the 1920s, formerly known as the San Juan Municipal Hospital. It is one of the biggest museums in the Caribbean and a local house for collections from the 17th century. The museum is in the heart of Santurce, steps away from the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art.
It also has a 2.5 acre sculpture garden.
It takes us a while to find it as we keep getting lost and driving around in circles.
We walk out back and into the sculpture garden since the rain hasn’t yet started, though it’s threatening.
Just when we’re about a third of the way along the path, it starts pouring, and we run inside for cover.
Inside, the museum’s collection is spectacular. Sadly we’re not allowed to take pictures. We enjoy the silkscreen posters supported by the Puerto Rican government for “cultural education.” One room has a huge and colorful barbershop installation titled: “Don’t cry in the barbershop.” This I would have loved to photograph.
I love the painting of a foreign woman walking among a group of sinewy slaves by Carlos Cancio, titled: “Por la encendida calle Antillana va Tembandumba de la Quimbamba” (2003) and the religious painting by Marta Pérez: “La Virgen del Café” (1981-1983).
I also love the exhibit on the Puerto Rican diaspora, including the tent by Rafael Ferrer: “El gran cannibal” (1979).
There’s also a modern-day version of an old painting by Francisco Oller, created in three dimensions, about the weird Spanish tradition of celebrating a baby’s death at a festive wake, by Rafael Trelles: “Visitas a “El velorio” (Homenaje a Francisco Oller)” (1991).
One whole exhibit is about the relationship that Puerto Ricans have with the venerable plantain. Some of the paintings and photographs are quite sexually explicit.
There’s another room with empty journals displayed on every wall. The covers are artistically decorated by various artists. As a person who’s always attracted to journals, I could spend a couple of hours just studying these covers and imagining what could be written inside.
This is a wonderful museum that I highly recommend people visit when they go to Puerto Rico.
After we’ve finished walking through the exhibit, we poke our heads out the door to see if the rain has let up. It’s stopped, at least momentarily, so we go back out to finish our walk through the sculpture garden.
After leaving the museum, we return to our hotel room to relax for a while. Later, we head out to soak in the jacuzzi with our afternoon cocktails of rum and orange juice. A couple from Buffalo, New York is in the hot tub too, and we chat with them for a while. They are heading to a bioluminescent bay tonight. We wonder if we should explore that ourselves, but we never get around to it during our stay.
Later we drive to Mango’s for dinner, where it’s packed because it’s Happy Hour Tuesday. This isn’t quite the quiet atmosphere I envisioned from our first visit here on Saturday. We sit at the bar, where we share a bowl of the pumpkin, coconut and ginger puree soup. I eat spring rolls with pork and plantain, a huge-portioned appetizer, and Mike orders Mahi Mahi with mashed cassava and red beans and rice. We have Corona Lights since they’re the happy hour special. It’s very loud and lively, and it’s fun to watch the people, mostly locals who have come by for after-work socializing.
After our dinner, we take a drive to Isla Verde, which is much more commercial than the neighborhood area where we’re staying. We’re happy after seeing the much touted resort area that we picked our charming hotel in Ocean Park.
Today we’re feeling exhausted from all the walking we did the first couple of days, so we return to our room and watch our Tuesday night episode of Tyrant, which we’ve been following for its whole first season. Tomorrow, we plan to drive to the south coast and Ponce.