Monday, December 22, 2014

A Full Day in Old San Juan

Well I use the term full day loosely because I woke up at 11, but you get the idea.

We read about this cool sounding dish, mofongo which is like a big pile of mashed plantains or cassava. You can get it with a meat or fish filling, in which case it is called mofongo relleno. I looked up some good restaurants for this interesting dish, and what do you know, there's a place called Cafe Puerto Rico that serves it right on Plaza de Colón where we are staying. Done deal.

We had a couple of rum punches while waiting. Lydia managed to pick up a delightful cough from one of her kids from school right before we went on vacation. I think that some good Caribbean water should fix that right up.

Lydia got an order of sorullitos de maíz, which are like little sweet corn meal hushpuppies.

The chicken mofongo came with a garlic cream sauce that was really good.

In San Juan at least, the police cars have blue and green lights. Culture shock. Too much.

I commented multiple times on how cool and plentiful the statues were in the city.

Many of the roads in Old San Juan were narrow little things paved with these really cool blue glazed bricks.

They are really big on the Three Kings around these parts. According to this article, in many cultures of Spanish origin, the Epiphany is more important than Jesus' birth, and the present toting kings are thrice the real deal. It does make sense that royalty would get you a way better present than a baby. Just sayin'. 

Kids write their wish lists to their favorite king (Melchor, Baltazar or Gaspar), and they leave out snacks for the Three Kings (and grass for their camels) before they go to bed. On January 6th, there are huge family gatherings with lots of traditional foods. It’s lots of fun to participate in these traditional celebrations.

Our first tourist stop of the day was the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. It is a fortress that began construction in 1539 by order of King Charles V of Spain to defend the port of San Juan.

I thought it was kind of cool that the place is a National Park even though it feels kind of foreign.

From right to left the flags flying above the fort are US, Puerto Rico, and the Cross of Burgundy, which is an old Spanish battle flag.

An army-vet park ranger explaining how you would get destroyed no matter what angle you attacked the fort from.

There was a cool lighthouse on top.

We decided this statue reminded us of Dr. Seuss.

I guess Old San Juan was walled in as well, and there are some giant doors remaining that used to control access to the city.

There was this wild biblical story diorama set up in some sort of religious building near the governor's mansion. It really reminded me of the trippy scenes at Rock City.

We overheard a tourguide tell the legend about the Capilla del Cristo that a guy in a horse race fell over the city wall at this spot and survived. He built this little chapel in thanks, and also to block the road so additional knuckleheads wouldn't fall over.

San Juan is home to the remains of Juan Ponce de Leon, explorer, conquistador, and first governor of Puerto Rico.

We changed gears at this point and took a little rum break.

We stopped at the Parrot Club for an appetizer. They had these awesome giant bread stick snack things that I demolished. They were slightly cheesy, reminiscent of Pepperidge Farm Snack Sticks.

Lady and the Tramp happened.

We stopped for a little beer sampler at Old Harbor Brewery. It was not good. It tasted like someone had just discovered that hops was a thing and needed every beer to taste like hops. Bleh.

Well our $5 entry fee to the National Park covered entry to another fort. So now refreshed, we got fortin' over at Castillo San Cristóbal. This one was built to repel land based attacks.

The US built some little bunkers on top of the fort during world war II. I thought that was cool.

We decided to do something a little bit less touristy and went and saw a baseball game. Our cab driver confirmed that tourists don't usually want to do that. I am so legit. 

Yadier Molina, catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals is apparently Puerto Rican. I did not know that.

The day's match up was the Cangrejeros (Crabbers) de Santurce and the Gigantes (Giants) de Carolina. The Crabbers were the home team but are apparently not good and got stomped. This was what the stands looked like 15 minutes before the game started. We were worried we were in the wrong place or wrong time. Nope.

The game was pretty dull so we took a quick intermission to check out the very impressive mall just across the street. It was packed with Christmas shoppers. I would say the stores are 75% what you would find in a mainland American mall. Especially amusing were all of the Christmas sweaters on sale at Old Navy. Don't really need those around here kids. Somebody needs a globe.

The Three Kings ganging up on poor Santa.


  1. Hi John. Congratulations on your adventures. Looks like a lot of fun. Had to comment on your use of the word "sirens" where you were referencing lights. A siren is the audible warning system on emergency vehicles. Just wanted to clarify that emergency lights are not sirens.

    1. Fixed! Thanks for pointing that out.