Sunday, August 10: The first thing we encounter when we climb up to the grounds of Castillo de San Cristóbal is an iguana trying, but failing miserably, to camouflage himself in the green grass. We spend some time taking pictures of him, and he doesn’t seem at all fazed by our attentions.
Castillo de San Cristóbal is a fort built by Spain to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan Historical Site and is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. When it was finished in 1783, it covered about 27 acres of land and basically wrapped around San Juan. (Wikipedia: Castillo de San Cristóbal (Puerto Rico))
We spend a lot of time walking around the extensive grounds and enjoying the amazing views of Old San Juan, the Bahia de San Juan, the Capitol building, the Atlantic Ocean, and the other famous fort in San Juan, El Morro, on the western end of the city. Being on a hill, we also enjoy a bit of a cool breeze, offset by the sun beating down overhead.
Castillo de San Cristóbal is considered to be San Juan’s second major fort, after El Morro. During its heyday, it covered 27 acres with a maze of six interconnected forts protecting a central core with 150 ft. walls, moats, booby-trapped bridges and tunnels. (Lonely Planet Puerto Rico)
Construction of the fort began in 1634 in response to an attack by the Dutch a decade earlier, though the main period of expansion was from 1765 to 1783. In 1897, seven acres were chopped off to ease congestion in the old town, and the following year the Spanish marked Puerto Rico’s entry into the Spanish-American war by firing at the battleship USS Yale from its cannon battery. (Lonely Planet Puerto Rico)
The fort became a National Historic Site in 1949 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
By the time we finally leave Castillo de San Cristóbal, we’re famished, so we head directly down the hill to the SoFo area to seek out a lunch spot. We walk past numerous colorful buildings.
We spot this interesting character, and when we turn the corner we find ourselves at The Parrot Club. We head inside for some cool breezes and Nuevo Latino food.
For lunch, Mike orders the Parrot Club Signature Quesadilla, a monterey jack & Spanish chorizo quesadilla, topped with chicken chicharrones, chile colorado sauce y queso del pais. I want something cool, light and refreshing, so I order the Rainbow Ceviche: tuna, shrimp y mero con fresh lemon – lime juice y charred tomato salsa and plantain chips. We also share some chicken bites with a tangy sauce on top.
After our relaxing lunch, we head back out into the heat of the day, and as the sun wraps itself around us, we traipse up the steep hill to the Atlantic side, so we can see the fort at the west end of San Juan, El Morro.