Tuesday, August 28, 2012

San Juan, Puerto Rico

To my blog readers...sorry if my posts are long and rambling. I decided to document our trip by location to split it up some so it won't be so long and rambling...

This year we were planning for months to go on Vacation with the Oleson's. We started our tradition years ago to vacation together as a way to get cousins together and see stuff at the same time. 

Joel proposed a trip to Puerto Rico with a cruise (which neither of us have been on) as a way that the kids could hang out but we could have time to sight see as well. After Jeff got over the fact that he would be gone almost 2 weeks (he doesn't vacation that long) we started looking forward to it. 

Of course like all long awaited things, once it got here it seems to sneak up quick. 

We got to LAX with all our luggage waiting for our red eye to take us to Florida and then 2 1/2 hours to Puerto Rico. We've found that when we take red-eyes and nobody will be sleeping in a bed that night it's better if we take a dose of Benadryl just to help us relax and sleep on the plane. 

So right before our time to board we did. 

Then our plane was delayed for over 2 hours with electrical problems. 

So we all sat around the terminal in front of our gate falling asleep. 

The TVs in the plane didn't work because of whatever the electrical problems were....oh well we wanted the kids to sleep anyway. 

Taylor sat next to a stranger on the flight out. I guess the guy bumped Taylor on accident with his leg...and Taylor in his sleep smacked the guy on his leg really hard. He woke up as his hand is hitting the guy next to him, hard enough that his hand hurt. He was so embarrassed. Ha ha!

Jeff and I were worried the whole time we were going to miss our connection. We missed it time wise but we found out as we were landing that the plane we were on was the one going to the next leg so we didn't miss it after all. Whew!! But now we were stuck with a plane with no TVs again and everyone was awake.

Once we got to San Juan we rented a car (too small for all our luggage and us but we squeezed some how) and headed to our hotel. 

Joel and Virginia got in within a couple of hours of us. 

Once we were all there we checked out the hotel pool. It was an infinity pool with a great view. 

Our view from the pool. 

The pool had a pretty good set up too. On the other side there was a hot tub where we could hang out right next to a kiddie pool with a waterfall where the younger kids could hang out. 

Dean ...

and Ashley liked the waterfall.

The boys liked playing chicken

Pretty impressive Taylor...Jacob is a boulder.

But I have to say this is more impressive.  Jacob barely has his head above water holding onto Jacob. 

That night as we were leaving the hotel to go find dinner we were met with pumping music and these girls who were contestants for Mrs. Universe. 

It seemed like there was always a party going on in the lobby of our hotel!

One thing I learned about Puerto Rico is that everyone likes LOUD music!!

Taylor was more than happy to meet one of the girls. 

He commented on how tall they were!
 (And the fact that he wouldn't mind posting this picture on facebook ;)

We checked out Old San Juan at night and it reminded me of Europe. The whole place reminded me of a cross between Spain and Mexico. 

We found this restaurant where we ordered some chicken and rice and beans, and some fried plantains. 

The only bad thing was it took like an hour and 1/2 or 2 to get our food. 

Try telling a 3 year old that he will have to wait a couple hours for his food, let alone sit at a table quietly. 

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a local grocery store for some stuff to buy for snacks and breakfast the next morning. 

It's always interesting going to grocery stores in other countries. Along with snacks and produce we've never seen before we were checking out the fish display that looked like a fishy horror movie with all kinds of sea creatures clawing and eating other sea creatures!

The next day we took a drive to the interior of the Island to visit El Yunque which is technically the only rain-forest in the United States. 

Some of the roads were like our freeways...then we turned on to a road that was slower with more stop lights then we turned onto local roads that twisted and turned and didn't have a lot of signs. We finally made it to our destination. 

Taylor checking out starfruit.

We climbed this tower in the middle of the rainforest...to get a better view. 

This was the view from one side....

and here is the other...you can see the city way in the distance. 

Walking up lots of steps in the sticky heat. 

Afterwards we hiked down a trail for about 1/2 hour to try and get to a waterfall. 

Everyone did pretty good on the hike and even Dean and Ashley walked by themselves the whole way. 

Finally made it to the waterfall. 

It was crowded with tons of people!

It felt refreshing to get in and enjoy the cool water after all that hot hiking. 

Standing under the waterfall was hard. There was a deep spot right before you get to it and you had to scramble your way close to it to try and stand under it. The water was flowing down rocks and pounded you pretty good. 

Joel had to help Jeff get there...

Whoo hoo!

Taylor went back for round 2 to try out his rock climbing skills. 

He made it about this far with the water pounding on him...

then he jumped/slid down. 

Taylor was excited to meet a contestant on American Ninja there. 

(He had been climbing the rocks before Taylor did...probably his inspiration)

Joel and Scott

Virginia and Dean are smart and just enjoyed wading in it. 

Trying to get Jared up...

We'll just wade in the water too thankyouverymuch.

We hiked 1/2 way back (about 20 minutes) when Taylor realized he left his vans back at the waterfall. So a couple of us waited for him to go back and get them!

On our way out we stopped at a local place for lunch and tried some empanadas.  They were like fried pizza and meat pockets. We all like them. 

Joel also got a fresh coconut for us to try. You drink the coconut milk and then the guy splits the coconut so you can eat it fresh. 

I didn't like it. 

I guess I only think of coconut in it's sweetened version.

Driving back into San Juan (not the old part)

That night we ate at Sizzlers. I couldn't believe the crazy lines to get into that place! It's Sizzler!

We ate the salad bar but it took almost an hour to bring our Malibu chicken and a burger! Seriously. 

(You can see that the kids are getting sick of picture taking already. Notice my children doing everything possible to block their faces)

The next day we got up and checked out more of the Old San Juan. 

(Did you know the whole island was originally named San Juan for the guy who colonized it and San Juan the city was called Puerto Rico. Some person got it backwards on a map and it ended up sticking)

This cemetery was very interesting. 

The city had a wall surrounding it by the ocean, to protect it. There were two castle/forts as well. This was Castillo San Cristobal. We just saw it from the outside but you could go on a tour inside. 

We took a free trolley ride around the town. I loved all the vibrant colors and the beautiful buildings in Old San Juan. 

Some of the places felt like you were in Europe, some in Disneyland.

Here was the fort we were going to visit...El Morro. 

It was a loooong walk from the street to the entrance...luckily the tram brought us right to the entrance. 

This picture is on the licence plates in San Juan. Now I know what its from. 

An inside view of the turret.

We crossed this bridge that spanned a moat to be able to get into the entrance. 

El Morro was built up and added on over the years. They  built it to protect the port from attack by sea. San Juan was the first good harbor to help sailing ships en route to the new world. After a one to two month journey ships could be refueled with water and food. 

Spain started this fort in the 1500's to protect their investment. For over 350 years the fort protected San Juan from attempts at take over from the English, Dutch and others. 

When the US came in World War II only 28 of the 40 cannons worked, and those that did were no match for modern warships.  The US warships came and in 2 1/2 hours they had taken over Puerto Rico and were sailing on to Guam. 

The 3 flags that fly over El Morro are the US, the Puerto Rican flag and the flag for Spain's military. 

The stairs were steep but the ramp that they had to push the cannons up and down was much steeper. 

Most of Old San Juan is surrounded with a wall that looks like this. 

From the 1500s till now. Pretty impressive. 

Here is a view of the fort after you descended into it and turned around. 
(The staircase in the background is what I just walked down) 

The fort had lots of levels, staircases and secret places. We just explored the basics quickly because we had to catch a ferry to our next destination. 

Here are one of the giant cannons...impressive until you realize they probably wouldn't do much of anything to any of our modern warships. 

Jacob and Ashley were hating the whole El Morro experience. They were hot, tired and didn't want to walk around. 

They pouted and I heard "Why do you spend money on stupid stuff nobody wants to do!"

At the very last lookout we saw this big Iguana. 

They didn't say anything but I could tell they at least like that part of it. 

There were things I learned in Puerto Rico that I never knew before. 

The residents are considered American citizens, though they see themselves as Puerto Ricans.
They vote in our Primary elections but aren't allowed to actually vote for our president. They had their own delegates to the Olympics, but admitted that they don't get very far, so then they'll root for America.
They have their own delegates for the Mrs. Universe pageant (which we met), there were lots pretty girls in Puerto Rico...I'm sure lots of potential contestants.
Only those who work for the federal government have to pay federal taxes.  
If you run a service oriented company that you bring to Puerto Rico your taxes in all are a flat rate of 4%. Pretty nice incentive to bring your business out. 

We asked residents at different times what they thought about America making them a state. Some of them said things like...

"If they really wanted us we would already be a state by now. Look at Hawaii"

"It might be happening soon. But if it doesn't happen soon it won't happen at all"

"About 1/2 of the people want to become a state and about 1/2 of them don't want to"

"I don't think it will happen"

"I think it will happen"

Basically we got a different opinion from everyone we talked to.  Whether it's a state or not its a great place to visit. People speak Spanish but enough people speak English that it's no problem communicating and getting where you need to go. 


Sarah Osborne said...

Wow, a 2 week vacation!! I'm so jealous of your destination.

Erin said...

what a fun trip. very interesting facts. Some day we want to go there. welcome back to reality! :)