San Juan: Visit to El Morro Fort and Old San Juan

Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 08, 2009

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Dear Blog,

Got up early this morning full of energy after a restful sleep.  Had to go out and see the sunrise.  Woke up Mi and headed outside afterwards to the beach.  Made it on time.  However, due to our location, we could not see the sun but knew that it was starting to rise because we could see its rays shining a pinkish and yellowish colour through the clouds.  We were the only ones on the beach contemplating the beauty of it under watchful eyes of the hotel's guard.  He must have thought we were crazy being out so early. 

Afterwards we made out way back to our room for a quick change of clothes and headed out for breakfast hunting. After having walked a few blocks, we opted to eat at Burger King.  How original can it be. But hey, it had free internet!  :)

I had planned ahead of time my itinerary for day 2 being:  a visit to Old San Juan, the El Morro Fort and the cemetary.  Not being walking distance to those sites, we jumped into a taxi from the hotel.  The driver was quite pleasant and explained to us in a broken English different buildings along the way.  As for myself, I had the luxury of practicing with him mi hablo Espanol un poquito. Si senor.  Gracias!  The taxi ride cost $15.00US for around 20 minutes.  Quite enjoyable! 

Our first stop was the El Morro Fort.  It is a sixteenth century citadel which lies on the north-west point of the islet of San Juan.  It was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan's bay and defend the city of San Juan from seaborne enemies.  It is also the largest fort in the Caribbean.   It took 250 years to evolve to its current shape.    It has a maze of ramps, outposts, barracks, dungeons and tunnels.  Luckily for us, we did not get lost inside!! especially with Mi's sense of direction... :)

The entrance's fee was 5.00 US$ per person.  We opted for a self-guided tour and followed the map and explanations that were given to us.  We went at our own pace and enjoyed every little bit of it.  The fort is huge and each corner of it has its own history.  From the top, we could see far away the ocean and the waves breaking along the rocks at the bottom of the fort.  The sky was perfect blue with white cotton clouds and the ocean, a beautiful turquoise colour.  Took lots of pictures.

Afterwards, we made our way to the cemetary which is called "The Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzes" which lies close to the fort and which borders the ocean. It had beautiful gigantic marble statues as tombstones.  I wondered as I walked past each monument who were the people buried here and their history.  They must have been notable Puerto Ricans.  

We then proceeded to the Old San Juan shopping section which was one block away. The area is very charming with cobble stones and beautiful homes painted in different vibrant colours.  It is as if you step back in time with the old Spanish architecture and numerous statues.  We walked along numerous streets in which their names are engraved in mosaic on each corner of the street's buildings.  You definitely feel the rich culture with a variety of local shops, plenty of bars and authentic restaurants. There is also a lovely Cathedral (San Juan Cathedral) which was built in 1540 and is where the body of Ponce de Leon is entombed.  The Cathedral has authentic medieval architecture.  It was a lovely site to visit.   It is extremely easy to get around, the people are friendly and in most places speak English and Spanish.  You can walk most of Old San Juan in about half a day.  There are lots of hills though.  My poor feet.  :(

We stopped along the way for lunch.  Mi had a beer and myself a soft drink with tacos.  Yummy!  Gracias senorita!

Around 4:30pm, having finished all of our places we wanted to visit, we jumped into a taxi making our way back to the Marriott.  Visited the park close bythe Marriott Hotel before getting ready for dinner.

Couldn't have asked for a better day weatherwise.  It was warm and sunny all day.

That evening, we had a nice dinner at the Hotel's Restaurant and a short visit at the casino.

Thankful for the history,


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