The Amazing Puerto Rico (part 2 of 2)

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San Juan Puerto Rico is the largest city and the capital of Puerto Rico. It was about a 2 hour drive from the small town that we anchored near. San Juan had three very important things that we really wanted to visit. One was a West Marine. West Marine is a marine and boat supply store that has any and everything a cruising family needs to keep their boat operating smoothly. The last time we were in one was back in Florida and after a few months of hard sailing and constant cruising Samadhi needed a few things that cannot be found at a normal store. Second thing on our list for San Juan was a Costco. I have mentioned this before but I will say it again. Cheddar Cheese is really hard to find in the tropics. And if you do find it, you nearly need to take out a second mortgage on your home in order to afford it, particularly in the quantities that this family eats it. So yes, Costco was a very important place to visit before leaving Puerto Rico. And finally, the fort in San Juan called Castillo San Felipe del Morro was a must stop as both Alexander and Victoria love learning about the history of the places we visit. They both love to learn about the naval history of the Caribbean.

We awoke early on a Wednesday and loaded up into the dinghy. We tied the dinghy up at the marina and were in the car on the road by 6am. We stopped at a Starbucks for breakfast in the car in order to have as much time in San Juan as we could. Due to the distance we were hoping to check off all three things in one visit. We got to Castillo San Felipe del Morro in the late morning. It is a huge tourist attraction and a cruise ship was in town so the place was packed! Luckily for us we were able to find a parking spot close and squeezed our way through the throngs of tourists taking pictures of the views of the ocean outside the gate to the fort. The four of us still had the beating that that “beautiful ocean” had just handed us on our minds, so we were in no mood to dote upon the ocean. Once inside the fort the kids were like, well, kids in a candy store. Well actually for these two it was like two kids in a fresh produce store. (Yes that is right; they still do not eat candy.) The fort is magnificently restored. There are descriptions everywhere depicting what life was like when the fort was in operation. Every room was full of history and explanations of the past and how the fort was used to protect the island of San Juan as well as the history of the Caribbean during colonial times. We looked at every single room, cannon, guard post, outhouse, hen house, and nook and cranny of that entire fort.  All the while we were taking in (begrudgingly at first) the beautiful view of the ocean below.  We finally left the fort at 4pm and had to make a mad dash to West Marine before they closed. Then on to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (I know, I know we traveled all this way only to eat at the Cheesecake Factory) but it was near the Costco and we knew they had vegetarian options. After dinner we rushed over to Costco and purchased more cheese that could possibly make sense just before they closed. A not so quick stop for some ice cream for the drive home and we headed back to the marina.  We got back to the boat just before midnight and we were all sleeping minutes after our heads hit the pillows. It was a long but very productive day!  

On the east side of Puerto Rico is a National Park called El Yunque. It is a rainforest with beautiful trails, rivers and views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It also is very difficult to get a pass to access the park. A pass needs to be purchased months in advance. There is a lottery held every morning for 90 park entrance passes for the next day. The lottery happens at 8:30 each morning and 15 seconds later all passes are be taken. Ashley tried for weeks to get us tickets. On our last few days she was successful so we were able to explore the park. Now, at this point we had already been on some amazing hikes in Puerto Rico so all four of us were wondering if the 3 hour drive to the far side of the island was going to be worth it. But Ashley had been trying so hard to get us tickets so we could not waste them. It turns out it was one of our most memorable days in Puerto Rico. We hiked breathtaking trails! We met amazingly fun people (shout out New Jersey!!!!!! That second peak was not that bad! J) We slid down natural waterslides into refreshingly cool water! El Yunque is every bit worth the effort to visit.

There was one more thing that Puerto Rico gave us that we had been wanting for some time now. And that is pickleball. We were able to play at the local University tennis courts. We were able to play at a very nice man’s private pickleball court in his backyard. And we were able to meet, play with and get to know a community pickleball group in the small town near where we were anchored. The pickleball group played 6 days a week at an old tennis court. There were many people there and not many courts. At first I did not want to take up space in the rotation of players as there were already many people waiting their turn to play. But once members of the group saw the four of us there with paddles they insisted we play with them. They even slowed down a few games to get Alexander and Victoria into play (it has been awhile since V and A have played so their games were not what they used to be).  Within minutes of us joining their group we were just like everyone else. The way we were invited in with no hesitation, no agenda, no reason not to and then treated like one of their own, a member of their community, a member of their group was indicative of our entire experience in Puerto Rico. PNW if the four of us never return to live in the PNW you are welcome to visit us at our new home in Puerto Rico. It is that amazing of a place and they are that amazing of people!

Castillo San Felipe del Morro
This is overlooking the harbor in San Juan. The fort was built to protect this harbor.
For those who can take their eyes off this beautiful woman, I am told that that is the Atlantic Ocean behind her.
The iguanas love the warm stone.
Not a bad view to stand watch.
The courtyard inside the fort.
The Atlantic ocean on the right and the entrance to the harbor on the left. The fort was very strategically placed.
You don’t think we are going to be surrounded by all this history and not have the kids do some school work do you?
Victoria and Alexander studying history in the exact place that history took place.
Another must see spot in Puerto Rico!
This structure was erected on one of the hill tops in El Yunque
I nice view from the top of this hill but there is still more up to go.
Thank New Jersey for the excellent picture!
Alexander is pointing to the hilltop in the previous pictures. It was a tough climb but reaching the highpoint in El Yunque was worth it. Besides from here I think we will go find a waterslide.
That is not exactly what the kids were expecting when I told them there was a waterslide nearby.
As always Alexander does not need much convincing to try something new and exciting!
These people all got the nerve to go try it once they saw Alexander and Ashley walk up to it.
And he’s off!
An unanticipated sharp right turn but he pulls it out.
Another turn, this time to show his sister it is actually fun. Notice no one else is in line to try again.
With more than a little trepidation she gives it a go
Begrudgingly she says it was very fun and then goes again and again with Alexander.
Our new pickleball family having a game with Alexander.
Being welcomed is just part of visiting Puerto Rico!

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