San Juan, Puerto Rico
The ship docks early in the morning. It is still dark outside!
The disembarking begins before breakfast is actually served. Susan and I eat on the lido deck and then head off ship. We arrive at our hotel by 9:30 am. We are staying at the Condado Plaza Hilton. I chose the hotel in NYC so Susan chose the hotel here in Puerto Rico.
The hotels here are used to cruise passengers getting off way before check-in. They collect your luggage and put it in a holding room. When your room is ready they deliver it to your room and notify you your room is ready.
The first place I want to go is to the Bacardi Rum Distillery. So back to the dock to take the ferry across the bay and then a bus ride to Bacardi. Susan keeps shaking her head and saying “Isn’t it too early for rum?” “No Susan I want to go here first and then we can come back to explore Old San Juan.”
I have this thing about always starting out at the furthest place you want to go and work your way back. It just makes sense to me. I want to be close to the finishing point at the end of the day not the furthest away and have to come all the way back. This is just one of my things.
Bacardi is already full of tourists when we arrive. We wait our turn for the next tour. This is a set up tour and not an actually tour of the process. Still it is interesting. The best part of the tour is at the end. The tasting room, where you get to one taste of one of their best rums.
he tour ends in the outside bar area. Here you get 4 drinks – Free. The tour includes 4 drink tickets and yes the tour itself is free! At the bar you get to choose from several different rums and mixers to create your own combination drink.
Susan doesn’t want to drink this early so I have a couple more drinks and we bring a couple of tickets home as souvenirs.
We also go into the gift shop and by a couple of shot glasses. Most people buy rum but I pass this trip.
Old San Juan is like stepping back into history. I love the architecture of the buildings and the cobblestone streets. We meandered up and down the old streets and alleys, in and out of shops, admiring the buildings, and exploring some of the history of San Juan.
Flashback: I have one clear memory of being here in Puerto Rico. It was a tour of historical sights but the only one I remember is a church with gold pillars and statures. What I remember most is being afraid because I was told it wasn’t safe and not to go anywhere on our own.
As we walk the streets of Old San Juan I feel very safe. On every street corner is a police officer. Everywhere we turn there is an officer. I have never felt so safe walking around a city before.
Now I am very hungry and we begin checking out restaurants to have lunch. I am not fond of spicy food and so I am not wanting to eat authentic Puerto Rico dishes. We continue to stroll down streets trying to find a restaurant with some American food. And then Susan sees a sign down a street.
“Look, Cathy. It says the oldest Italian Restaurant in Puerto Rico”
“Let’s go! I’m there!”
Not sure what an Italian restaurant in Puerto Rico will be like but I am game to chance it. After all a bowl of pasta isn’t difficult to make. Walking inside we are immediately impressed. The wood bar is exquisite.
We are seated at a table that is against a half wall that looks over the entranceway and the bar. I order a glass of wine and spaghetti. Susan does the same. We are so very hungry now and a bowl of spaghetti sounds like heaven.
Talk about being pleasantly surprised we were blown away. The fresh warm bread, the pasta and the sauce was not only more than we hoped for but was one of the best I have ever had in my life including the amazing pasta I just had in NYC. Maybe it was the fact that by now we are famished but we feel like we have just discovered the most wonderful Italian restaurant ever! The whole dining experience, the food, the attentive service by the staff including the chef surpassed our expectations and even anything we just had on our cruise experience.
While we are finishing our meal, I get a text that our room is ready at the hotel. Now to go settle in and head out to the pool to relax for the afternoon.
The Condado Plaza Hotel
The Condado Plaza Hotel is located just over the bridge connecting Old San Juan with the heart of San Juan overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It has all the amenities you would want, spacious guest rooms, some with balconies overlooking the ocean, shops, restaurants, pool, and beach.
Our room is spacious with two queen size beds. One wall is dark red as is the curtain covering the door to the balcony. It makes the room dark but it is my favorite color.
The Bathroom is the most spacious bathroom I have ever seen in a hotel!
The beach is a small bay and not much of a beach at all. The grounds area is beautiful. The pool area is inviting and comfortable so we hang out there for the afternoon.
We have dinner in a restaurant at the hotel. Susan goes into the casino and gambles for a while. I meander around and check out the casino. In the past I sometimes played Roulette but I only watch tonight.
We fall into bed exhausted from 9 days of activity and staying up late into the night.
And the day has come to go home. I think Susan is ready to go home. I never am ready to go home. I wish traveling was my home.
I really don’t want to ever get off the ship. I could live there. I don’t want to end our trip at all. Every minute has been life affirming. I love traveling and experiencing new places and meeting new people. I could live this way all the time. I don’t need a home base. My home base is the ocean anywhere anyplace.
It is comfortable being with my sister. We are the only family we have now- each other, except for our own kids. Mine are off having their own lives across the country. Susan’s are growing up. I still miss my dad very much. We both know he would love this! He would be here partying and enjoy the ship and traveling to new places as much as we do. Mom, well, she would be happy that Susan and I are spending time together but this traveling she would hate. She would rather we be back home having family dinners and just being a family all in the same familiar place. Her heart was in one place, a stable home base. My heart is at ocean and in discovering new places.
I feel more at home on a cruise ship or being someplace new, exploring the places, cultures, the history and the everyday life of other people. I love enjoying good food and wine, live music venues, meeting new people. It awakens me. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel real. Most of my life I have felt phony, like I was trying to be someone else. Now I have broken free and am being myself. It took the beach and the ocean, a new place and new adventures to set me free. If I stay in one place too long I feel the itch, the unsettling that I am stuck and stagnant, that I am dying a slow death. When I begin to feel that way it is time to begin a new adventure.
Now Susan and I are making sure we those adventures. We always have one planned. Knowing an adventure is coming helps keep the momentum and keeps the spark in myself alive. Thank goodness I live on an island at the beach. I can find myself, my center, my being in an instant by walking across the island and going to the beach. As I catch that first glimpse of the ocean over the dunes I am home. I am free. I am me.
Mom’s last week’s especially those last eight days drained Susan and I. Watching someone die is the hardest thing I have ever done. Susan did the caring those last years and months. I was the one who was sitting there beside her when she took her final breath. All of us are Free now. This was our Freedom cruise to regain ourselves and our lives. It is imperative that we enjoy our life to the fullest. Which means overcoming mom’s hold and taking flight. Some people will never understand the sense of freedom we feel being on our own but it is a bond between sisters that we will always have.
Our Sister Adventures have taken flight and we intend to continue on with them!
As soon as we arrive home we start planning the next one.
This cruise took place October 2014. I continue to catch you up on our past travel adventures. I am working my way up to the present. My next installment is the cruise where I suddenly realized I should be blogging our adventures. After that you will be up to date when we head out on our next Sisters Travel Adventure, October 2016.