Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Puerto Rico

A couple of weeks ago we went on our annual New York life trip with Jeff. This year it was in Puerto Rico. We pulled Ashley out of school and put her on independent study and Taylor made arrangements with his professor because he was going to miss his first day of college but Jacob decided to stay home when he realized all the stuff that he would be missing. So we cancelled his plane ticket and hired his cousin to stay with him and we were off.

We started out on a red eye flight from LA. We flew out at 10:00pm our time and got to Puerto Rico 11:30am local time the next day. We planned a couple of days on our own and we started out at the Caribe Hilton that we visited last time we were in Puerto Rico. 

It was nice to be back. We enjoyed the pools and the private beach that is at the hotel. 

After some swimming we headed to downtown San Juan to try out some local food. We went to a restaurant recommended by locals and yelp and weren't disappointed.

(Some of the businesses were boarded up and said they were taking the whole month off since it was their off season) 

We tried mofonga which is a plantain bowl filled with meat and garlic butter sauce in this case. The restaurant did a great job and we all enjoyed our food.  

The sunset from the rooftop restaurant was nice too. 

Since we didn't take a nap after our long, through the night flight we went to bed early that night. We were woken up with a jolt an hour later however when the hotel had a fireworks show right outside of our hotel window. Scared us to death at first! Ha ha.

The next morning we got up to do some more exploring in the city of San Juan. 

We wanted to go to the fort of San Cristobal that we didn't see last time. We tried to find parking close to it...impossible. After winding through one way, narrow, cobblestone streets in our rented mini-van we decided to park at the capital and just walk the rest of the way. 

The capital building was impressive!

The walk was hot and sticky but we were rewarded with an iguana sighting. I love how bright green he is, I guess he blends in with his bright green surroundings. 

We watched a short movie about the history of the castle forts of San Juan and how they protected the island for over 400 years from invaders. 

By the time the US invaded everything was outdated and only a few of the cannons still worked so they surrendered. Our military ended up taking over the forts and using it for awhile and now they are national landmarks. 

In World War II our military built this cement look out to watch for enemy subs. 

It had a great view of the city.

My favorite part was walking through the tunnels that led to the dungeons where they kept the prisoners. This is prisoner grafitti. It's a ship most likely drawn in lamp black from a pirate waiting to be hung. Interesting. 

The next stop was driving to El Yunque which is the rain-forest that is in the interior of the island. We stopped at Coco falls which is right off the road. 

Ashley climbed up to join them for a picture. Its more precarious that it looks but they had fun climbing up.

Our next stop was a lookout tower.

You could see all the way over the rainforest and to the water. Doesn't look very impressive in the picture but it was when you were there. 

Our last stop was a short trail to get to this area that was created by civil servants back in 30's. 

There was a trail and this bridge/dam. 

On one side you looked over the edge and water was flowing down the wall of a dam and then...

you looked on the other side and it was a swimming pool that is now closed to the public. It looks like it would'be been a cool place to swim at one point but I guess it's been closed for awhile. 

That night we headed back into the city to eat at another local restaurant. We walked around downtown and met a local artist and checked out some of the stores. While we were walking we heard some of the native Coqui frogs singing.  We were looking for one that sounded really loud and sure enough it was on the wall right in front of us. It was a really small frog to make all that noise. 

We joked about taking one home but local legend  says if you take them out of Puerto Rico they won't sing anymore. I would be more afraid it would sing in your suitcase and then everyone would know  you were trying to steal one!

The next day it was time to give back the car and then head to our resort with the New York Life bus. We stayed at El Conquistador. 

It's set high on hill with the ocean on one side and golf courses on the other side. Our view from our room was of the golf courses. 

While Jeff was in meetings I took the kids on the ferry over to the private island of the hotel. The hotel is on a rocky coast so there isn't beach access. 

The island was great. Since it was the off season we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves for the convention. 

The heat was draining. Taylor is tuckered out..until he met a new friend that is. 

This guy jumped out of the trees chasing a smaller rival and ran from under the chairs to the beach near us. 

He was huge! It scared us at first but then...

Taylor started feeding him french fries. 

All the people around us were getting a kick out of it but nobody else was brave enough to try it. 

Except Ashley.

Taylor even got a quick pet in. 

Once the iguana got tired of the fries we left him alone. 

During the rest of the trip a few people recognized Taylor as the guy that fed the iguana the fries. 

After Jeff got out of his meetings we took him down to the lower level (to get there we had to ride down a funicular) and tried out the waterpark. 

It wasn't very big, but it was big enough and a fun place to hang out and escape the heat. We liked the lazy river the best. Along the route it was common to see iguanas and we would watch for them.  It was more fun to see the other guests notice them almost too late and freak out because they were scared of them. 

There was one big slide but all of the other ones Ashley could easily ride down. 

That night was the honor dinner where Jeff was awarded a special watch for being with New York Life for 20 years. 

I was glad to be there to celebrate with him. 

Congratulations Jeff!!!

The next day Jeff had some free time so we went back to the island and hung out with him. We even rented a kayak and went over to a little sand spit/island where we snorkeled some. (Someone said they filmed part of The Pirate of the Caribbean there.)

That night we went to a New York Life dinner together and then set out with a group of friends to go to the bio-luminescent bay. We opted for the electric boat instead of the kayaks. We read reviews of the kayaking and our friend that did it complained it was long and a bit scary getting in and out of the lagoon. So we were happy with our boat. 

We got to dip our feet in the water to make it light up. My favorite thing was scaring the fish so they would swim away, lighting up the water like a shooting star. 

Unfortunately none of the bio-luminescence showed up on camera. 

Our last day Ashley was signed up for the family Olympics back at the island. Taylor had a migraine so he stayed in for the second time that week. 

We split into teams and they had to do tasks. Ashley rolled her eyes at me and I assured her I would stay with her and she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to. 

Her first task was to be rescued ie. dragged across the field on this tarp. I laughed when another pre-teen girl on her team was throwing daggers with her eyes to her mom as she was being dragged across the field. Ha ha. 

Most of the other tasks weren't so physical and Ashley humored her team for the most part. 

All Ashley really wanted to do was get back into the water. We jumped in as soon as the games were done. We figured if we could take the Caribbean water temperature and bring it to our beaches with our waves we would have the perfect beach. 

Ashley found this shell in the water. I was excited for her to take it home until she said she couldn't because there was an animal inside of it and it was alive. So she checked it out for awhile and then put it back. 

Our last night in Puerto Rico. We had a great dinner together. Well strike that. I always thought our dinners were great but the kids both said they don't like fancy food! They would both prefer the simple stuff. Ha ha. 

For the last night finale, New York Life booked a private concert of BoyzIIMen.

The kids didn't know who they were but I remembered them growing up. 

We got right up close and Jeff got some good pictures and got to shake hands with them while they were performing. 

You can see there was a lot of people that were excited that they were there. I have to say I could see who was before or after their time because they weren't as excited. 

Jeff made sure I got a rose when they were being passed out :)

Our last morning and we are waiting to get on the bus but kicked out of our room. Ashley made friends with the bird in the lobby. 

Hard to say goodbye. We were glad for our trip but glad to be getting back home as well.