A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: zihuatcat

Puerto Rico Day 2: Weather Woes in Old San Juan

We didn't get a whole lot of sleep. I loved our little apartment. It felt authentic and was right in the center of Old San Juan, just off a main square called Plaza de Armas. But with that came a lot of noise...people yelling in the streets after the bars closed, in the morning going to work, garbage trucks, and just street noise in general. This particular morning also brought dreary rain. We planned to do our own walking tour of OSJ. The rain was a letdown but we forged ahead to see how far we'd get. Turns out it wouldn't be far.

We walked from our apartment down to the first stop, Castillo San Cristobal, one of two forts in OSJ. Cristobal is the largest fort the Spanish built in the Americas and it was completed over a period of 150 years in 1783. The fort helped to defeat a British attack in 1797 and in 1898, the first shot was fired from a cannon here against US navy ships which entered Puerto Rico into the Spanish-American war. Six months later, Puerto Rico became US territory after the end of the Spanish-American war. Cristobal remained an active US military base during WWII and until 1961 when it became part of the US National Park Service.

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Map of OSJ. Cristobal is on the north side of the island on the east side of OSJ.
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Inside the fort. The yellow building contains an altar and the white building houses barracks and access to the roof artillery.
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The main plaza of the fort where troops performed drills
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View of the eastern edge of OSJ from the top of the barracks
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Alex walking under the US flag, Puerto Rico flag, and the Cross of Burgundy (Spanish military flag)
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View looking west from the top of the barracks
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You can see the first fort built in Puerto Rico in the late 1500s, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, on the northwestern edge of the island. The colorful buildings just below is a neighborhood called La Perla and that's where we were headed for lunch.
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On the way there, we passed by the basketball court built by Carmelo Anthony, a native Puerto Rican and NBA player.
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We had to walk down into La Perla which is not advised at night but relatively safe during the day. I felt fine going with Alex but probably wouldn't have gone otherwise. He did get asked if he wanted to buy some weed. :) La Perla is basically a shantytown with houses built on top of each other. The neighborhood was built around a slaughterhouse in the 1700s. During that time, slaves were not allowed to live inside the city walls so they built their houses here. La Perla was very hard hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and the slow disaster response was brought to national attention when the video for "Despacito" was filmed there later that year. To be honest, the entire neighborhood looked like an electrical hazard and fire waiting to happen. We made it safely to La Garita, a seafood restaurant on the outer edge of La Perla with a view overlooking the neighborhood.
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I ordered a drink that matched the colorful houses.
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For lunch, I tried the local specialty, lobster mofongo (mashed plantains)
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Alex had the stuffed snapper
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This turned out to be the best meal of the entire trip.

The torrential rain started just as we were finishing lunch. We wanted to walk next door to the Morro fort but we were getting soaked even in raincoats and umbrellas. So we walked BY the fort and called an Uber to take us back to our dry apartment.
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Next door is the Santa Magdalena Cemetery which dates back to the 1800s and is the resting place for many famous Puerto Ricans.
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Our Uber finally arrived and we retreated back to our apartment to wait out the rain.
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By late afternoon, it was just drizzly instead of a downpour so we walked a couple of blocks to check out the Coach store and then drove to a Walmart to get some supplies. The Walmart was a two-story store and the escalator was flat for buggies. I thought this was the coolest thing and don't understand why we don't have that here at home, especially in airports. I have literally never seen this anywhere else.
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Finally the rain cleared out and we got dressed for our fancy dinner at Marmalade. I took a selfie on the balcony and didn't realize I was putting on a show for the diners across the street. They yelled out to me when I snapped the pic which made me smile.
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Marmalade was a short walk away so we arrived for what would be a five course dinner. Alex started with the Ahi Tuna Tartar which was made Moroccan-style.
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I started with the "popcorn shrimp" which was actually grilled shrimp with popcorn pieces. It was my favorite course.
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The second course was chef's choice and that was a white bean soup with mushrooms.
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For the third course, Alex got scallops.
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I got a homemade pasta but I can't recall the protein involved. I do remember that it was very rich and earthy tasting.
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For the fourth course, Alex got a seafood risotto.
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I had the beef tenderloin.
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We still had the dessert course left but we were stuffed. Alex boxed up most of the fourth course already so we had them box up dessert for us and we took it home for later.
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We were full and tired so we fell into bed hoping to sleep through the noise.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:29 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged san puerto rico alex juan Comments (0)

Puerto Rico Day 1: Weather Woes on Travel Day

The day started early. Very early. 4a early. We were up and headed to the airport by 5a for our 7a flight. I was closely watching the weather as there was a tropical storm moving into PR as well as bad weather in the forecast for Houston. I wouldn't have been worried if we were flying directly from Dallas but I was using COVID cancellation credits on United so we had to go thru Houston first. We got thru security fine and I grabbed some pretzel donuts for a snack. We were planning to grab food on our Houston layover. Things went well at first. We boarded and were just about to take off when the pilot said they had grounded all flights in Houston due to lightning. We only had an hour and fifteen minutes in Houston to begin with so the longer we sat there, the more I was convinced we wouldn't make the flight. I'd already found one more flight out of Houston later that day if we had to reschedule. Luckily we were only delayed about 45 minutes so we were able to make our connection without an issue. That did mean, however, that we didn't have time to get food. I ordered some snacks on board the flight but they were seriously lacking in fulfillment.

We arrived to a beautiful, sunny afternoon in PR. Thankfully our luggage made the short connection and we picked up our rental Jeep and drove to our apartment in downtown, Old San Juan. Our apartment came with a parking spot about a block away so we hauled our luggage down the street and up to our 2nd floor apartment.

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We set our luggage down and Alex was STARVING. Just around the corner from our apartment was a Wendy's and we made a beeline to go there for anything that could keep a migraine or sugar drop from starting. We stood in line forever but finally got some chicken nuggets and fries which we scarfed down on a bench just outside. We went back to the apartment to relax for a bit and one of us relaxed a little too much.
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I had made dinner reservations but didn't want to wake Alex so I canceled them. When he woke up, we decided to go to a little empanada bar, Dehistoria, around the corner for a drink and some snacks.
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These were the strangest looking empanadas I'd ever seen but they were pretty good. We shared an assortment of flavors and had a couple of drinks before walking back to the apartment. Around 11p or so, Alex was hungry again (we hadn't really eaten a full meal all day) so off we went again to try and find a place with food. Pickings were slim at this time of night even on a Friday. We finally found a hookah bar serving....you guessed it....empanadas. These looked much more like what I'm used to and according to Alex, tasted much better as well.
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Here they gave him loads of homemade hot sauce, too.

We stayed for a couple of drinks then walked home to fall in bed after the long day.
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Posted by zihuatcat 22:09 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged san puerto rico alex juan Comments (0)

Nashville Day 6: Biscuits, Bandit, Bridges, and Bars

Instead of flying out on Monday with the rest of the festival go-ers, we decided to stay another day in Nashville to enjoy the city with less crowds. During the festival, Broadway was such a nightmare that we spent no time hanging out there. We were hoping that would be different today.

We started the day off with the highly recommended Biscuit Love. There was a line to get in but it moved pretty quickly and they provided umbrellas for sunshade and a water station for hydration. These guys were pros.
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We shared the biscuit donuts which were wonderful.
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Melissa had some healthy, granola stuff while I had the East Nasty - over easy egg, fried chicken thigh, and gravy on a biscuit.
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After breakfast, we took an Uber to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. The museum was huge and filed with a ton of interesting displays.
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One guess as to whose dress this is.
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Outfit worn by George Strait.
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Along with his belt buckle from the Kingsville rodeo where I went to see him some 30 years ago before he was a superstar.
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The Smokey and the Bandit car...I so wanted to climb in thru the t-tops.
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Original, handwritten lyrics to "Swingin" by John Anderson, a song that always reminds me of my dad.
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Original, handwritten lyrics to "I Was on a Boat That Day" by Old Dominion.
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After the museum, we headed back to the condo so we could get packed up for our flight the following day. Then late afternoon, we walked down to Broadway to hit some of the star's bars. We found a table at Luke Bryan's 32 Bridges. They had some great live music so we stayed for drinks and dinner.
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I had a good old burger and fries.
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Melissa had the roasted chicken.
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This guy and his funny sign were just outside.
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Before it got too dark, we walked to our bridge for some pics when it wasn't so crowded.
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On the way back, we stopped off at Florida Georgia Line's bar for some more live music and a couple of drinks.
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One final shot of our bridge borrowed from someone else before the trip ended.
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Posted by zihuatcat 01:25 Archived in USA Tagged melissa nashville cma Comments (0)

Nashville Day 5: "No Hard Feelings, No Bad Vibes"

It was the last day of CMA Fest and we had high expectations of spending the day at the Riverfront for concerts. We got there early and were able to snag two chairs, table, and umbrella. But just barely. Paying so much extra for the VIP tickets was such a rip-off. We watched two or three acts perform
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and had some lunch
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and then I just couldn't bear the heat anymore. I learned on this trip that I am not the all day, drinking, stand in the sun concert type. I had no issue with the nighttime stadium shows but the daytime gigs were not for me. So we walked back to the condo to hang out until dinner. Dinner tonight was at another little place in Germantown called Butchertown Hall.

We had a taco assortment.
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We walked across the bridge for the last time in the daylight. We greeted our friends in front of us for the last time. We took some final night pics from our seats.
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The show kicked off with Sara Evans, another 90s favorite.
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Then Lady A with special guest, Breland.
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Elle King, one of the official hosts of the show, with special guest, Ashley McBride.
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An edited version of several performances was to be televised in August and since Elle King and Dierks Bentley were the co-hosts, in between acts they would video them introducing the acts, even those from previous nights. They would ask the audience to make noise. It was interesting to see the process of how they put this together that night and then compare it to how it aired months later.

After Elle and Ashley we got a couple of songs from Parker McCollum.
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And then our favorites of all, Old Dominion, who we had also seen the previous week in Dallas with Kenny Chesney. We could never see them enough though so we didn't mind at all.
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The final act of CMA Fest was Dierks Bentley. We had mixed feelings about him as we saw him a couple of years ago at Choctaw and he was terrible. He played for about an hour that night even though he was the only act. It was a waste of money and time. We were giving him a chance to redeem himself tonight. He fell short. It didn't help that his special guest was Billy Ray Cyrus. Double ugh. Melissa dubbed him Hillbilly Jesus.
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The festival was officially over. What a great four days/nights of music!
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We made that last trip back over the bridge in a crowd of people singing the concert songs.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:32 Archived in USA Tagged melissa nashville cma Comments (0)

Nashville Day 4: "Country Girl Shake it for Me"

It was Saturday and we were at the halfway point of CMA Fest with two more concert nights to go. There wasn't really anyone playing during the daytime that we cared about seeing and at least one of us was done with the heat so we decided to sleep in a little and go to brunch. We walked the mile or so to Broadway and then one block over to Hampton Social, a cute little place with a New England-focused menu.
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We started with some brunch-y drinks.
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Melissa had the french toast.
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I had a beet salad (beets are a new discovery for me)
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And grilled octopus
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The food was great and we entertained ourselves watching the big groups of women in and out of the restaurant for what looked like bachelorette parties, birthdays, and baby showers. It was already getting hot so we took an Uber back to the condo to relax until dinner.

Some time during the afternoon, we noticed smoke coming from across the river from our condo.
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It got worse pretty fast and we were both hoping that it wasn't the concert stadium on fire. Turned out to be a warehouse and thankfully no one was hurt.

At our usual 530p dinnertime, we walked down the street to Sedona Taphouse, a restaurant in Germantown which was the name of the area where we were staying. It was an historic-looking area with $1M restored homes lining the street. After our big brunch we weren't that hungry so Melissa just got a flatbread.
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While I got crab cakes with brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes.
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Then it was time to walk across that bridge again. This was our view each night while walking.
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We usually arrived to our seats about 30 minutes before showtime.
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The oldie opener tonight was Randy Houser who I'd never heard of.
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Next up was Brothers Osborne who were a big disappointment. We were looking forward to seeing them but they focused way too much on guitar solos for our taste.
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Then on to Luke Combs who really got the stadium rocking.
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During the bathroom break, Mitchell Tenpenny sang a couple of songs.
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Up next was my favorite of the night, Luke Bryan. He put on a long show. I heard rumors online that he was usually the closer but they didn't want him closing anymore because he always went over time. Sounds about right.
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The closer of the night was Carrie Underwood, who the two of us cannot stand. Ugh. We contemplated leaving but in the end we decided to stay for the show since we paid for it.
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Back across the bridge we went again after the show to figure out how to get home. I saw from looking at a map that we could walk two blocks west and go north to our condo and stay on busy streets with plenty of people around. It was better than $40 and 40 minutes to go the same mile in an Uber so that's what we did and it worked out fine.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:32 Archived in USA Tagged melissa nashville cma Comments (0)

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