Summer adventuring has distracted me from the blog, but it’s time to get back to it to document all that we’ve been doing.
My dad is from Puerto Rico and much of our family lives there. Dad has been anticipating Justin’s first trip for years (so have I) and the time finally came over July 4th weekend. We took a red eye flight and from the moment we touched down on “La Isla del Encanto” until the time we left 5 days later, it was non-stop eating and exploration.
Day 1: Soon after arriving at my grandparents’ house my grandma, who we call “Brigie,” stuffed our hungry bellies with fresh mango from the tree in their backyard and arepas (fried flatbread). A nice little carbo load before we squeezed into our swimsuits and hit the beach with my dad to work on evening out our awkward runners tan lines. Justin and my Dad swam in the ocean and explored the beach while I enjoyed a delicious nap in the sun. We had a dinner of tapas in Old San Juan and it was early to bed after such a long travel day.
Day 2: We drove out to Orocovis for a zip lining adventure at Toro Verde Nature Park. This was Justin’s first time zip lining and Dad and I couldn’t wait for him to experience the thrill! In the morning we did an 8 zip line course then took a break for lunch. Of course I had to take a picture of my food – ahi tuna and the most refreshing salad made with vegetables grown at the Nature Park and topped with passion fruit vinaigrette. In the afternoon we did a harnessed bridge tour and rappel ending with one last zip ride – weeee! The open air truck ride that took us back up from the zip lining area to the main building was quite the adventure itself over a steep and bumpy road!
Day 3: My uncle took the day off work and we went paddle boarding in the Laguna del Condado. The highlight of this was seeing the manatees swimming in the lagoon. They are such gentle creatures. We were out longer than anticipated because the tide was going out when we started paddling, which meant that it would be more challenging to paddle back in once we turned around. For a while I was blissfully oblivious to the fact that I was not making any progress in getting back to shore and the guys suggested they come pick me up in the car. Ha! I was bound and determined to make it in on my own so I paddled and paddled my hardest (with the occasional assisting push or pull) and eventually made it to shore! Too bad by this point Justin’s feet and calves were so sunburnt they were practically purple. 🙁
In the afternoon, we took a trip to the Plaza Las Americas (huge mall) to pick out a birthday cake for Brigie. We did some serious cake tasting and I was even able to get some blogging done (read it here). Craving pizza for dinner we sought out the purportedly best pizza in PR at Pirilo Pizza Rustica and were sorely disappointed. Short story – bad service. bad pizza. Next time we’ll stick with the Pirilo restaurant in Old San Juan over the one in the Ocean Park neighborhood.
By this time we were feeling pretty sticky-icky due to being unable to have real showers. Puerto Rico is experiencing a major drought resulting in water rationing for residents. The water schedule while we were there was water on for 24 hours then off for 48 hours. So on the days the water was off it was bucket showers for us. Not really quite as bad as it sounds, and it gave us a real appreciation for the luxury of running water! [Don’t let this deter you from travel to Puerto Rico as hotels are not impacted by the rationing]
Day 4: Fourth of July! Also Brigie’s 85th birthday! Started the day with a group run with the Fit Factory Running Club followed by a big delicious breakfast. [Travel Tip: Looking for a good gym in Puerto Rico? Check out Fit Factory, owned by my cousins and specializing in group fitness (spin, rowing, circuit training, yoga) and martial arts.]
In the afternoon, Justin was schooled by Brigie in the game of Chinese Checkers while I posed for pictures (like a dork!) in front of my grandparents pretty teal house. We took Brigie out for a birthday lunch where I was impressed with Justin’s enthusiastic consumption of mofongo (a dish of fried, mashed plantains with pork or other meat) — the stuff is heavy and not for the faint of stomach. Shortly after the meal I developed a really attractive blotchy red-rash on my face and torso, likely in reaction to the fish I’d eaten. Lovely. Lucky for me, 1. the hives were not painful or itchy and 2. my aunt is ultra-prepared and carries Benadryl in her purse at all times. That evening was spent exploring Old San Juan. Brilliant idea by my husband because we were able to beat the crowds and escape the heat. Plus, El Morro (historical military fortress) looks really cool lit up at night.
This is also the day that I got to taste the BEST parcha (passion fruit) of my life! What was so special about this passion fruit, you ask? My grandparents know how much I love passion fruit so they planted a passion fruit vine in their backyard, which they very carefully tended and protected – apparently iguanas like passion fruit, too. They only ended up with one piece of fruit, but it was perfect. I could taste the love and care as I enjoyed its tart and vibrant flavor.
Day 5: We drove through El Yunque National Forest. Unfortunately there was not much time to explore as we were on a time crunch to catch our flight home in the afternoon. On our way back from the rainforest we stopped at Luquillo beach to get pinchos (grilled meat skewers), which we brought home to have for lunch alongside Brigie’s homemade arepas, fresh mango, and frozen coconut dessert.
Do you even have those moments where you suddenly realize you are abundantly happy? I don’t mean an overall feeling of happiness or satisfaction with your life, rather a single point in time that is so divinely perfect that all else fades away and for that one sweet moment you are completely content. That happened to me when we were getting the pinchos at the beach. We had just gotten our order and I grabbed a chicken skewer fresh off the grill. As I started to eat I became aware of the sensations of the hot Carribean sun toasting my skin, the booming Reggaeton music vibrating my chest and my body’s compulsive response to start swaying my hips. And I was happy. So happy. Just eating that delicious chicken in the sun.
Truly such a special trip! Mostly to see Justin so whole-heartedly welcomed into the family and experiencing some of our favorite sights and flavors in Puerto Rico. Can’t wait to go back!
And this photo shows the aftermath of our trip. Complete exhaustion from so much fun!!