Thursday, December 31, 2009

Long time, no post..and Feliz Ano Nuevo!

...Thats Happy New Year in Spanish!

Its been a while since we've posted, but lots has happened and I'm not even sure it I'll have room to post all the photos I want!
Firstly...and most importantly, we've found and settled in an apartment! After lots of hunting, and finally deciding on one in an area of metro-San Juan called "Miramar", we chose a beautiful 2-storey apartment and even got a good deal on it. For a little more info, visit:
What attracted us to this area was that it was VERY clean (they collect garbage every single day....sadly at 6am...and they dont make it quiet), it was small - just one main street (Ponce de Leon) with lots of smaller residential streets coming off it, it had all the essentials - pharmacy, post office, small grocery store, bank, $2 store...and even a tiny cinema playing older movies for a cheap rate. Theres a few cute little restaurants too, as well as a couple of takeaway places (which we lived off when we didnt have power for the first few days!)
We are just a short walk away from the beach - and once we get a car, the entrance to the highway is about a 30 second drive. Theres even an Events company here which I've been meaning to google and find out more info. All in all, we've been really happy so far with this part of town.. it feels very 'safe' too - and white person friendly!

As we still dont have a vehicle, collecting household items and groceries proves to be a little difficult - but we ARE finding out our way around with the bus/train/ferry system quite well. The buses here...are not like buses elsewhere in the western world - there is no schedule! geoff and I have waited up to an hour and half on one bus... yeah it gets a little old, but i guess thats part of what living on an island is all about. We are hanging to get the truck though (Monday!)..

We've collected all of our household appliances (a few taxi rides), have the cupboards relatively stocked and are now just waiting until geoff starts work to make some more, bigger purchases, like furniture etc. We have so many bedrooms and want to fill them all! :-) We were lucky that our realtor left us with some items - fridge, microwave, bed, desk, oven and outdoor furniture setting, which means we dont need to eat off the floor at least!

My birthday - and thank you for the birthday wishes everyone - was FANTASTIC! Going from waking up in the morning and not having a clue what the day would bring ended up into a lot more than Geoff and I could've ever hoped for. I was spoilt with breakfast in bed, followed by an (quick for once!) bus trip into Old San Juan for a bit of a stroll and checking out the main tourism office there for some info on New Years Eve happenings... we had lunch at a mexican restaurant on the waterfront, and watched all the cruise ships come in (which we can also actually see from our balcony at home!). Then..the real fun started... we booked ourselves in for a sunset ATV tour with Tropical Trails - starting at 4pm. We were taken out to Campo Rico just past the airport in San Juan... to a place we didnt even know existed! Inside this ranch, you would'nt even guess that you were near the city... it was lush and green with mangroves, forests and ponds everywhere - beautiful! Just being there would've been enough to make me happy for that day - it was so nice to feel as though we were out the smog and concrete of the city.
Shannon, the manager greeted us and introduced us to Nate, our tour guide. What a great guy, he was very laid back and made the tour informative yet fun. We rode around a little, went on some dirt trails and up and down some rocky hills. We stopped about half way through our tour in the forest, where we got off our bikes and walked to some caves... these caves we were learnt were inhabited by Taino Indians and consisted of limestone, ponds and LOTS of bats and cockroaches. The others in our tour stayed behind with the quads so it was just Geoff, myself and Nate.. it was so much fun, especially since it was starting to get dark. We got our torches fired up and began to climb down the caves... As you can see from the photos, there were petroglyph's on the inside of the caves from the Indians !
Our tour ended up with the best part - MUD!!!! We put the Honda's into 4wd and let them rip.. up and down hills..through shrub...what a great way to finish this tour!
We highly recommend Tropical Trails to anyone coming to Puerto Rico and wanting a bit of action on ATV's... we had a blast - the surroundings are beautiful, the ATV's were of high quality (brand new actually) and the staff are professional and outgoing.

I'll leave it here for now (getting carried away since its been about 10 days where we have had lack of internet and no uploading) and Feliz Ano Nuevo to everyone!!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum (or 2)

Saw Casa Bacardi, it was boring...big let down!!! The "tour" consists of a short (100 metre) bus trip to a visitors centre where you walk around a bunch of staged displays before watching, Thomas the world's slickest talking bartender show you how to make a rum and coke, also known as a Cuba's pretty tough! We got 2 free drinks each - Mojito = poor effort, tastes like lemon cordial...Dragon fruit - not bad actually, best part is its native to Hawaii...Apple - tastes like an apple. Oh and we got free key chains for saying we liked it there on their little survey. They really need to do a proper tour where you get to see how rum is actually made and how the plant works rather than look at videos and stationary displays depicting 120 years ago. Oh they have a nice building though and a good view for the workers...advice wait for the bus if you go, everyone takes the $3 "publico" tourist taxi but the bus is just as easy, supposedly every 15-20 minutes and costs .75 instead, only a 5 minute trip.

On a side note the Casa Don Q in Old San Juan, while a big tourist trap, is a hell of a lot better...unlimited drinks, they mix em good and have good mix the rum is a lot better and even their pictorial historical description of the manufacturing and company history is more interesting!!! Yummy stuff...Passion fruit rum and their Mojito mix is great and yummy minty - so good we have 2 bottles in the freezer now...Now we just need to find a supermarket that doesn't sell mint by the kilo and charge $9 a pop.

Fort El Morro

Since we arrived, Geoff has been dying to visit the old forts in Old San Juan. After a two hour bus trip (what should've taken only 10 mins) we arrived in Old San Juan and hiked our way to El Morro - one of the two old forts in Old San Juan. This fort dates back to the 1500's!! We first did the sea side path at the base of the wall, roughly 1.5 mile round's a dead end! Well there are stairs at the end leading from the rocks below up to the fort but they're off limits. Beautiful but hot, the sign is right when it says very tiring!! Perched high above with a great view is the well guarded governer's mansion (blue building) that looks like a massive old castle and is under 24 hour lockdown behind gates, fences and a large police presence.

It was breathtaking - and very interesting to learn about the history of the Spaniards and the horrific events that happened over the centuries leading up to today. The fort had 6 levels to it, each one we explored fully and as you can imagine now, we are absolutely exhausted! There is not a lot of shade around the fort and limited water fountains, we took it pretty slow and took in each view with a break.

We bought ourselves a double pass so we can explore the other fort (Christobel) on another day. The double pass is cheaper if you plan on seeing both - and you've got 7 days to use it, so we'll head back next week sometime and check that one out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Apartment Hunting

As a few of you know, Geoff and I had plans to look for a place in a quiet country area away from the hustle and bustle of San Juan. Well I guess you can never plan too much because since we've been here, we've decided on another course of action.
Our shipping company (Total Car Shipping) have been screwing us around BIG time and what should already be here by now, still hasnt even been picked up yet! We've been on the phone with them several times a day, every day and they are just not willing to co-operate.

Geoff has also been applying for jobs here in San Juan and has already received a response! We thought with our costs accumulating and our bank accounts depleting, we'd take out a short term rental contract for something in San Juan and just focus on getting the truck from Seattle, getting jobs, learning the culture and language in an area where we can have a gradual and safe transition to all the differences.

So the hunt has begun... from apartments in Old San Juan to cute little places in some of the suburbs of the CBD area..of course we always allowed enough time in between places for some sightseeing!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Isla Verde and beyond

Yesterday Geoff and I wanted to start getting cracking with our chores, but with all the travelling we totally lost track of which day of the week it was and of course everything was closed being a Sunday. So instead, we decided to explore our local area.. instead of heading west like we did on Saturday, we went east this time.. which ended up being a 6 hour walk!
It was great though, we passed a little garage sale where I picked up these really cute mugs, handmade from the Dominican Republic. The handles are whales tails! The start to our new household collection...

We passed through Isla Verde (the touristy area of San Juan) and kept walking, walking, walking until we reached Boca De Cangrejos - this is the sort of area that Geoff and I have been looking for since we arrived! It was all locals, enjoying their lazy Sunday on the beach with their families, listening to the spanish salsa pounding from the little beachside restaurants. We just had lunch, but we HAD to eat again! We treated ourselves to a pina colada and tacos de camarones (shrimp taco) and got chatting to the owner there - who also happened to be a spanish teacher! He gave me the menu which had both the english and spanish names for everything and also showed me all of his salads that they had, explaining to me the spanish names of each of them. We've discovered that in general, Puerto Ricans will not give you the time of day unless you show an interest first - I often smile or say "Hola" to someone, and all of a sudden their entire face changes and they will blabber something in Spanish to me, or offer me a smile in return - and are ALWAYS more willing when you make an effort to speak in their own language! They really are beautiful, helpful people once they know your intentions are not that of the general white tourist that is there just to spend money and get drunk.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old San Juan

Our first day in our new home so we wanted to get out and explore!
We actually wanted to visit a tourist info office and pick up some maps so we could start getting our bearings, so we thought we'd venture to Old San Juan where there was one. We ended up getting sidetracked and could'nt stop exploring all the nooks and crannies of this beautiful part of the city. This was everything that i imagined - brightly painted buildings, cobblestone roads and old forts. We had lunch in a little alleyway - traditional Puerto Rican fare coupled with salsa music and friendly wait staff. Pina Colada icecream to follow!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Below are a few photos from our 3 days in Miami on the way to Puerto Rico. It was my first taste of the Carribbean and all the different cultures, accents, foods - and I LOVED it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The wrap up to Miami

Well our last few days here in Bellingham certainly havent been quiet!
We worked till 2am on the truck last night..its up and running! All our rush for nothing though, because the shipping company emailed and said they wont be here till Thursday...ggrr....

She's all fired up though and pretty much good to go.. some things still need fine tuning and installing (pump, wiring for lights, new seatbelt) but the main thing is, the truck can run.

Our last day of cold weather was spent in Seattle, Geoff had a pre-op exam for his laser eye surgery and I finally managed to pick up my medical forms. One last dinner at my mother-in-law's and we had an early Christmas - ham and pressies!

Warm weather - here we come!!

Friday, December 4, 2009


Geoff and I have read alot about plantains. Plantains come from the banana family, but is more used like a potato and it the staple in a Puerto Rican diet.
We came across one at the store here and thought we'd give it a go, to wet our appetite for Puerto Rican food. At first we had great difficulty peeling it, since it resembles a banana in every way (just a little bigger). Geoff cut it in long slices, and fried it lightly in a frying pan. Many recipes said to flatten it after cooking ,so it looks and tastes similar to a potato chip. Not bad actually. I can see us making this dish more often to accompany veggies and meat.

With the rest of the plantain, we caramelized it with brown sugar, cinnamon and milk. No recipe - just our own invention. The result - YUK! Tastes like a stale potato covered with sweet stickiness.