I've already mentioned this on my introduction page and I think Puerto Ricans will be the first to admit that there are many bad drivers on their otherwise wonderful island! Someone explained to me that Puerto Rico has a population of 4 million people, and that there are 3 million cars registered on the island. That's quite an impressive car to people ratio! It should therefore come as no surprise that traffic can be pretty bad, especially going in and out of San Juan. Many Puerto Ricans, who are in general very laidback, have a rather aggressive style behind the wheel, constantly switching lanes, tailgaiting, honking, cutting in front of other cars, breaking at the last minute... I was sure glad we'd decided not to rent a car!
I'm a big-time cat person and I always miss my cat Fitzwilliam very much when I travel - that's why I tend to get very excited whenever I see a cat as I'm exploring a new city. Needless to say, walking around Old San Juan was a very exciting experience for me! It seems to be the custom there to leave big bowls of cat food lying around for our four-legged friends. As a result, you'll see plenty of very healthy stray cats in the streets of Old San Juan. There was one small street especially (calle del hospital) where we saw a dozen of cats lying around in the shade. Some don't mind being petted, and they definitely don't mind getting their picture taken!
We drove by the Barrachina Restaurant, which had a plaque on it stating that in 1963 - Don R. Ramon created the “Piña colada,”. We didn't have time to go in and sample it though.
There are a lot of other stories though. One of them states:
Ricardo Garcia, who started mixing drinks at age 4 when he slipped behind his Grandfather’s bar, is accredited with this creation. This drink, like many others, was discovered entirely on accident, in 1954. Ricardo was working at the Caribe Hilton Hotel where the guests were served a complimentary drink called the “Coco-Loco,” which is a combination of coconut juice, rum, and cream of coconut served in a fresh coconut.
At this point in time the coconut cutters union went on strike, and as a result there were no coconuts for the drinks to be served in. Being the inventive man that he was, Ricardo noticed an abundance of pineapples, and decided to cut the tops off of the pineapples and serve the drink in the pineapple instead of a plain glass.
This new way of serving it provided a hint of pineapple that spruced up the drink. To add a little more flavor to it, he added crushed ice and strained pineapple, which in Spanish is “Piña colada,” and thus the drink got its name.
Source: Suzanne Kelly - Clubplanet
Other stories say that the cocktail dates back to the early 1900s and was not invented in Puerto Rico at all. In spite of the nay-sayers, in 1978, the cocktail was named Puerto Rico's official national drink.
The original recipe:
2 oz. rum
1 oz. coconut cream
1 oz. heavy cream
6 oz. fresh pineapple juice
1/2 cup crushed ice
Mix rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream and pineapple juice in a blender. Add ice and mix for 15 seconds. Serve in a 12-oz. glass and garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry.
The virgin version of this is one of our favorites (photo 3 and 4)
2nd visit to the festival January 2011
The San Sebastian Street Festival takes place on the 3rd weekend in January, in 2010 we wandered into Old San Juan having no idea that a huge festival was going on that day, when we arrived into town around 11am they were just setting up for it and we didn't realize how big it would be. We took the ferry over to Catano and then we couldn't get back as the line for the ferry was a couple hours long and no one seemed to be interested in taking a taxi although we did finally get enough tourists together and found one cab to take us back.
The festival has been taking place for more than 50 years, it was created to give artists a venue to exhibit their work at and to bring business to Old San Juan and I have to say that it was been very successful as both times Old San Juan was mobbed with people. Some of the locals we talked to seemed a bit annoyed by it as it creates massive traffic jams and lots of people overimbibe and stay out way past when the festival ends but most people just seemed to be enjoying themselves. Lots of food vendors, several stages with musical acts, groups of people jamming in the streets and wall to wall people on the streets of Old San Juan, at the intersections on San Sebastian Street there would be large groups of people, banging on drums or chanting, surrounded by more people watching or trying to push their way through to somewhere else, some wearing traditional Puerto Rican Masks (vejigantes) in vibrant colors carved into grotesque shapes. We weren't around in the evening on either visit but apparently things get even wilder in the evening with live music, dancing in the streets and lots of alcohol.
Puerto Rico has very many friendly people. They have a very relaxed culture. Just be yourself and hopefully your a friendly person as well : )
I took a pic of this man...he is so relaxed just enjoying his surroundings, and even though his face does not show a huge smile in the pic, when I asked him if I could take his pic. He was happy to allow me.
The Puerto Rican flag much like many other flag holds a lot of symbolic significance. It took a while of researching but here is what I found.
Although the first Puerto Rican flag was first used in December of 1895 it wasn't adopted until 1952.
Each color represents different things:
White - peace and honesty
Red - hardiness, bravery, strength & valour
Blue - vigilance, truth and loyalty, perseverance & justice
The white star represents the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The red stripes, there are three of them, represent blood.
The white stripes, there are two of them, represent freedom of the individual.
The 3 sides of the triangle signify the 3 branches of government
I was amused by these advertisements. Actually I find that Condom World is a chain of stores dedicated to the sales of condoms, oils, pornographic movies, magazines, sex toys and other types of sex related products. The chain started in the late 1980s averages 2,000 square feet per store in key towns in Puerto Rico. Twenty years later they have more than 26 stores.
There is of course an on-going controversy caused by protests of church (especially the Catholic church which is anti-birth control) and other conservative groups each time a new store opens. Condom World's defense is their claim that their aim is for people to have safe sex and a happier couple life.
"Condom World" offers movie rentals and sales including sex toys and magazines, averaging two thousand square feet stores in key towns, they had about 26 stores by 2007.
The annual Feast of San Juan Bautista, the city's patron saint, every June 23rd is a colorful and lively festivity. It is a national holiday with the city being enveloped in a festival atmosphere all day long. Thousands of people gather around the sea where they walk backwards three times at the strike of midnight to seek a better fortune for the future. I dunked myself in the water at midnight and found the experience to be exhilirating. It does not matter whether or not you believe in any of this, but the experience is worth trying at least once.
Enjoy this wonderful feast!
Because of hurricanes, the light poles aren't wood - they are made of concrete. I hope this makes them less likely to go down in a high wind because the electric lines all over the place are not really very pretty.
I noticed that the bottoms of the poles were painted in various patterns and I asked Mariam about it. She said that each suburb or town painted their poles in a different pattern. These are yellow on the top and then green
One cultural note: don't overlook San Juan's new Museum of Puerto Rican Art in Santurce. It's a bit off the beaten path, but even cruise ship passengers should visit this beautiful new lavish ($42m) building, which contains a fine collection of Caribbean art, and showcases modern PR artists as well. There are several good restaurants on the premises and the grounds are lovely.
What is going on with the roaming roosters and chickens and why would I want to pay to have my picture with them? This is an odd thing and I don't understand it...but there were people wanting to touch the birds and take picturesd with them.
With all the history surrounding you, especially the military forts, it's not surprising to see some history buffs re-enacting 17th and 18th century events. We were fortunate enough to watch a small military brigade march from San Cristobal Fort down to La Rogativa, practicing for a future event. There is no set schedule as of yet, so it's just a chance thing. But it certainly makes history come to life!
The local beer brewed in Puerto Rico is Medalla beer. It's quite good and the majority of the people who drink beer usually drink this one.
The Museum of Las Americas features an exhibit of the local carnival and festival costumes of people throughout the Carribean.
This young girl was having some professional photos taken outside of El Morro.... 'click!' and I captured her on film as well......