Taking a red-eye flight having had just few hours of sleep can be really exhausting. But after landing at San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport and seeing my old friends (and new ones) was rewarding. For every time I travel, I keep an open mind and have no expectations. Surprisingly, Puerto Rico came out as one of the more memorable places that I have visited.
While our first day was spent looking for tasty Puerto Rican cuisine and soaking up the Caribbean sun, day two began with rum-tasting at the Bacardi factory and walking on the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.
Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan is a neighbourhood steeped in history. It’s one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Christopher Columbus named the island “San Juan Bautista”, in honor of John the Baptist, when he landed on this unincorporated territory of the US during his second voyage. But it was not until 1508, that the Spanish government appointed Juan Ponce de León as the first governor of the island. In the year 1521, Ponce de Leon named the city as Puerto Rico, which means “Rich Port”.
There is something about cobblestone streets that make me fall in love. Even the clumps of dirt in between old cobblestones were beautiful! Vigan and Cusco, for example, are a couple of places that I would love to come back to and visit again soon because of this. The fascinating streets of Old San Juan are adorned with pastel-colored buildings. I think you couldn’t be sad wandering around them since the streets are lined with happy hues of yellow, blue and green, with flowers dangling from dainty balconies. What a sight! With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is easy to forget that this preserved area is over 500 years old and it has seen many wonderful and terrible events in history. As I was walking, I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories that these walls would tell if they could talk. Stories about politics, of history, of love perhaps.
Castillo de San Cristobal is one of the two forts in Old San Juan. Also known as El Morro, it is one of the largest forts built in the Caribbean by the Spanish and took over 200 years to build. This is the place to live out your pirate fantasies since there is a lot of room for running around, with turrets and cannons just by the corners. The big bonus was you get an amazing panoramic view of the brightly-painted buildings of San Juan, set against a backdrop of the beautifully serene, seemingly endless ocean.
We didn’t make it to Castillo San Felipe, the other fort in Old San Juan which is further away from the main area of the city. But I would love to see it someday. Still, I’m glad that I got to spend some time in El Morro because it gave me an entirely different perspective of the history of Puerto Rico.