Tagged: puerto rico

Ottawa – Part 1.

Hey internet. I’m in Ottawa for a fancy women’s convention thing. I drove up this morning with my coworker / manager K and have spent much of the day in the car watching the rain and listening to country music.

This is a representative picture:

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Funnily enough, our booth is a few booths down from the See Puerto Rico group, which is essentially my favorite place in the entire universe and also major competition for Place-Where-I-Live.

Because, y’know, why travel to Place-Where-I-Live in 50-60 degree fall weather when you can fly to a tropical paradise.

Anyways, we stopped in a charming little town right outside of the Thousand Islands for lunch and now I’m jotting down a few lines before we foray into the city for dinner (also shopping).

You know what’s awesome about Ottawa?

1. Ottawa is the capital of Canada.

2. Ottawa is the fourth largest city in Canada.

3. Ottawa is the fourth cleanest city out of 300 major cities ranked around the world – at least according to Forbes.

4. Nearly half the population is under the age of 35 – making it one of the youngest cities in the country.

5. Moneysense ranked Ottawa for the third consecutive year as the best city in Canada to live in.

(facts source from Hike Bike Travel)

Also, it’s mind-numbingly beautiful here.

ottawa_rideau_canal Ottawa-Best-Place ottawa-panorama1 11

Jealous yet?

 

My vacation in GIFS.

I’m super not into this today, internet. I’m tired after a long, wonderful day. I went on a splendid hike with Barney Stinson through the local nature preserve and we probably did about 5 miles of up and down and around. So I’m going to bed.

But first – one last vacation related post, and then I’ll shut up about it.

How I felt going to Puerto Rico:

The first day on the beach:

After getting inside and realizing I was sunburnt:

But then we went to a bar and it was okay:

Driving around Vieques and seeing wild horses everywhere:

Snorkeling and trying not to think about sharks when inside I was like:

Everyday at the pool like:

And then sleeping in the next morning like:

Unfortunately, I had to come home:

And now I just wanna go back like:

The Puerto Rico List.

I’m back on an airplane again, internet. We left Puerto Rico at 7 in the morning (ish) and it is currently 9:28, somewhere over the Atlantic. Current soundtrack? Tales of Girls and Boys and Marsupials, by arguably the best band of all time (if not, certainly my favorite band of all time) The Wombats. Current occupation? Not reading the crappy book I picked up at the drugstore the other day. You’d think 9 books would be sufficient for a 12-day vacation. Apparently not. Yet I digress (is still my favorite English idiom).

It is extremely hard to wax romantic about the intense beauty of Puerto Rico on a dingy grey airplane whilst listening to energetic English pop-punk boys sing-scream about female doctors, but I suspect it’ll be worse sitting at home with my two golden retrievers constantly head-butting me in the thigh. So here we go, the grand takeaway, the end-all-be-all, the moral of the story. The list of the absolute must-do’s in Puerto Rico, speaking as someone who has been to the island thrice and knows more of the layout of the place then I know about my home state.

To the engaged couple stumbling upon this page looking for honeymoon tips, the eager traveler, or the businessman with refined tastes and people to impress, welcome to hnw cassandra. Sit down and stay a while, why don’t you.

The Top Expensive Restaurants in San Juan/ Condado.

1. Budatai for the pork belly profiteroles and the harame.

2. Trois Cent Onze for the duck and the dirty martinis.

3. La Pearla for the lobster bisque.

4. Il Bacaro Venezia for the pasta and the awesome service!

The Top Inexpensive Restaurants in San Juan/ Condado.

1. Inaru for the ceviches and the sangria.

2. Via Appia for the chicharrones de pollo.

3. Ceviche House for the fried snapper.

4. Mojitos, for the mofongo.

The Best Breakfast Spots in San Juan / Condado

1. Café Saint Germaine for the Sunday Brunch.

2. La Bombanera for the mallorcas and the fresh pineapple (but it’s being renovated, so make sure it’s open).

3. Di Zucchero for the coffee.

4. Punk for the acai bowls.

The Best Adventure-y Things to Do

1. A combined trip to El Yunque and the Bio-Bay – or at least the Bio Bay! It’s stunning.

2. El Toro – Unless you have a serious fear of heights. But the views can’t be beat and neither can the adrenaline rush.

3. Go snorkeling. Just do it. You won’t be sorry.

 

Things That Are Over-Hyped

1. Marmalade – expensive, snobby, and they tend to drench everything in truffle oil. I’ve been twice and it’s just not worth the price tag.

2. The Bacardi Factory Tour – there’s just not a ton to see.

3. Flamenco Beach on Culebra – pretty, but crowded. Go to Playa Sucia near the south- east tip of the mainland or Playa Pieta on Vieques instead.

Things That Are Under-Hyped

1. The taxi services and police are very friendly and generally willing to offer directions or advice. English speaking abilities vary, but the taxi drivers are very knowable and organized.

2. Pinones is a boardwalk that you can wander or bike with beautiful beaches and a bunch of kioskos selling cheap local food. Definitely make sure you have the number of a taxi service with you to call for a pickup, however! They’re a little out of town, but well worth it.

3. Wandering around Old San Juan is breathtaking, especially during the morning or at night when it’s not too hot. Sundays are a little sleepy, but it’s still worth getting there to meander the perimeter along the wall.

4. There are multiple vendors wandering around with carts of ice-cream. It is absolutely worth getting a cup. I had the coconut and it was unbelievably fresh!

 

If You’re in Town Around

1. The first Sunday of the Month, go to the local market in Condado, next to the La Concha hotel.

2. If you are in San Juan while they are running the Saborea Food Festival, definitely check it out.

3. Ask your concierge when the cruise ships will be docking in Old San Juan – there are generally sales going on in town.

Random Advice

If you’re trying to decide whether or not you should go to one of the little islands off the coast, definitely go for Vieques. There’s a lot to do and see and the beaches are extremely beautiful. Culebra is idyllic, but there’s not a ton of food options and the beaches can be crowded.

Tiny plane, or, that time I rode shotgun.

Madre and I took an amazing little journey to Vieques today, which is this tiny little island off the coast of Puerto Rico. It was, in a word, surreal.

We got there by flying in this teechy little plane that I got to ride shotgun in – I took some amazing aerials that are interspersed all over this blog.

It was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had. Let me preface by saying that I’ve always sort of had this desire in the back of my head to learn how to fly a plane. I don’t quite know how I picture this happening. I guess if I was in the right place at the right time with enough money kind of thing, you know? Like learning to scuda dive or drive a motorcycle or operate heavy machinery or make a souffle. One of those things.

Let me tell you right now that that desire has been throughly renewed. Refreshened.  Fuelled. Whatever the word.

I got into this tiny plane next to this guy who drove a plane like he was watching T.V. and eating at the same time. Have you ever watched someone who really knows what they are doing on makeup? It’s like there are all these different brushes and pads and cremes and colors and consistencies flying around and the girl looks like she could do it with her eyes closed riding a motorcycle and still look good. It was like that. The dude taxied out with his arm half out the window like a truck driver and then starting flicking this and turning that and pushing the other thing, and then Whiz Bang Pop we were driving down the runway and the ground just sort of fell away.

And yeah, I know everyone who has ever been in a plane has watched the ground kind of disappear, but this was a different thing entirely, watching it from right in front of you and all you see is sky and the nose of the plane swaying all over the place. Have you ever driven a car through a bad wind and you can feel the air pushing against you and you have to steer into it? Like that, but from every direction.

Oh, and speaking of steering, this little eight seater had a GPS in it that i could almost swear is the same one I have in my car, but instead of the car it’s a cutesy little airplane, and instead of freaking out about going over water, it’s nonchalant.

hnwcassandra gps

Honestly (predictably) landing was the worst part. Taking off was like whoosh yey!! Coming down was like NO. NO NO NO. NOT LIKE THIS.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In sum, probably everyone I know should now do everything in their power to prevent me from ever being in a situation where I could conceivably learn to fly a plane, because I already drive a car and that’s dangerous enough for everyone else involved.

P.S. – This has nothing to do with anything, but happy birthday to the most perfect man alive aka David Tennant aka Ten aka Casanova aka probably not my future husband but everyone needs dreams.

The beach.

Oh internet. How I’ve missed you and your fickle nature. Missed you so much, in fact, im doing exactly what I told you I didn’t want to do- I’m writing this from the beach, book waylaid, beer in hand. Of course, by the time y’all read this I’ll have been back in dreary, cold, wherever I live for a few days, but thus is the power of time travel.

I’m starting to convince myself I could happily move here for a month or two. Not forever, just long enough to bury my toes in the sand and forget about the real world for a while. Mammia Mia and I ate at our favorite little Italian place the other day, Il Bacaro, and watched people drift in and out of their adorable little apartment complex with their dogs. It was lovely. And the fact that the all-male staff were very accommodating with the bread and the wine certainly helped. Sidenote – what is it about Italian restarants and their men and their big doe eyes that gets me everytime? I just want to sit in the window with a glass of red wine and a bowl of homemade pasta and an Italian man. That’s all I want out of life. Well, and maybe something chocolate for dessert. And a puppy. And a million dollars.

This sucks.

This sucks.

Anyways. Me. Beach. The humid air. The softly lapping waves. The cold beer. Its all very Hemmingway. My ex-boyfriend Dali (speaking of Italians) would be proud. It was his birthday just the other day, by the by. Many happy returns.

If I could wax romantic for a moment (which is something I very rarely deign to do) let me just say how much I love the ocean. I read a line in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians just the other day, which of course I can no longer find, but it was something about the comforting stability of a place with water. But like, better. You get it.

 

Puerto Rico.

Hey internet. I know, I know, it’s Yoga Tuesday. But I’m just really not in a yoga mood. So I’m continuing the Puerto Rico party.

Let me tell you about Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a place that defies convention or explanation. It has cities built into the sides of craggy mountains and citadels perch on the edge of the sea. You can explore a lush rainforest by day and be back in time to change for dinner at an exclusive club. There are mangroves you can kayak into at night where the water lights up underneath your vessel like you’re Peter frakin’ Pan. All of this and you can still drive from one end of the place to the other in an easy afternoon.

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If you told me about this place and I hadn’t already been here three times, I’d have said it was the fictional setting from a C.S. Lewis novel.

If the U.S. is a Norman Rockwell painting, Puerto Rico saw the painting, thought ‘Fuck it’, stripped off the canvas, blended it up with rum, and made a daiquiri with it.

I’m staying at this crazy hotel called La Concha where it’s far easier to just assume that everyone you see is famous or rich or fabulous in some way. Seriously. Three years ago, I ran into J.Lo and Marc Anthony and Jennifer Hudson (not all at the same time, but still). Last year Johnny Depp was there. This year, knowing my luck, Marc Summers is probably my next door neighbour. Mi familia and I went up the elevator last night with a model and a photographer who were definitely about to breech a clause of their contracts.

So I’m surrounded with all this poshness and wealth and exclusivity, and I can walk down the street and see homeless people next to a run down pub next to the Ritz next to a condemned building. We walked down a boardwalk to a meager little group of kioskos the other day, followed by stray dogs, and passed by a photoshoot with a car that Barney Stinson identified as a Lamborghini Murcielago.

There's probably a famous person in this car.

There’s probably a famous person in this car.

Casual.

The Chicken.

Holy Frak, you guys. I HAVE FOUND THE BEST CHICKEN ON THE PLANET.

Technically, I’ve known about this chicken for an entire year, but I had to wait to make sure.

You know when you eat something spectacular, and it lives in your mind as this awesome experience, and it grows on you and preys on your weaknesses and then it’s so built up that when you go have it again, you are thoroughly disappointed because it doesn’t taste how it does in your memories?

This is nothing like that.

This chicken tasted the same as it did a year ago when I had it the first time.

Maybe even better.

This chicken can be found at Via Appia in San Juan, Puerto Rico. No, I’m not giving you an address. Work for it a little, punk.

Via Appia is technically an Italian restaurant. It is vivid and lively and always brim-full of people who do not speak a lick of English.

You will be tempted to order Italian food.

Do not do this.

Get the Chicharrones de Pollo with a cold beer. No, it’s not on the menu. It might be listed on the specials board. It might not. Roll with it. Smooze the waiter a bit. Flirt. Bribe him if you have to. DO NOT GIVE UP ON THIS CHICKEN. IT IS WORTH THE ELBOW GREASE.

When it comes out it will look like this:

hnw cassandra chicharrones

I know what you’re thinking. This is not a pretty dish. You want it served to you on a cloud floating gently down from heaven. You want a chicken wearing a delicately woven crown of truffles and pixie dust. You want to be romanced with a chicken that sings you a love ballad as you masticate it with your pointy canines.

Shut your face. You can deal with it, pansy. And no, that’s not a Heineken, you putz. It’s a Medalla. Get with the times.

This chicken could make a Yakuza mob boss cry tears of joy. This chicken could probably end a war. Maybe even a World War. I wish this chicken was around when Hitler was just getting started, is basically what I’m saying here.

Maybe you think I’m overreacting a little bit. Maybe I am. All I’m saying is that I just watched the ocean come and go for like an hour and I’m feeling poetic and beautiful and a little bit romantic and that this chicken was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Via Appia, San Juan, Chicharrones de Pollo.

Do it.

The true story of how I didn’t meet Marc Summers, part two.

So there I was, wandering drunkenly around a beautiful food festival in Puerto Rico trying to find Marc Summers. Every once in a while we sat and watched people make food. Those people were not Marc Summers.

Bastards.

Bastards.

Every once in a while we stumbled upon a stray fashion model who had apparently gotten lost and in the wild and, bewildered, was playing possum the only way it knows how – by posing.

hnwcassandra fashion 1

hnw cassandra 2

hnw cassandra fashion 3

None of these models are Marc Summers.

I tried out being a fashion model, but it didn’t turn out as well.

I also am not Marc Summers.

I also am not Marc Summers.

I resigned myself to eating without finding my third favorite Food Network television host and ate vast quantities of delicious, delicious food. There was a zesty tilapia ceviche, several varieties of steak, chips and dips and energy drinks, a malanga root soup, chicken on a stick, and the enormous, spicy, and wildly seasoned paella. I had a cheesecake made from avocados and a delicate quesadilla filled with pork. There were a lot of things that I ate without the slightest clue what they were (I do not speak a lick of Spanish, unfortunately). Mostly everything was delicious.

Still, internet, I was secretly searching for Marc Summers, with a plastic fork in my hand like a sonic screwdriver and an ever-growing bag full of cheap goodies, and with every new cocktail, I was growing more and more despondent. He was nowhere to be seen, neither high nor low, drunk nor sober. I kept getting annoyed at everyone I saw who was not Marc Summers, which turned out to be 100 percent of the people (minus the bubbly lady serving sausages. She was a rockstar).

Was I wrong in wanting so badly to meet Marc Summers, the voice of my childhood, the smiling face from Nickelodeon and Food Network, the kindly man who answered all the questions about Twinkies and Jellybeans I had not thought to ask? The frequent visitor of that mysterious diner with the all-encompassing menu? The ultimate darer of dares? In retrospect, even if I had met the guy, I have no idea what the hell I would have said to him, beyond “Hey man. What’s cracka-lackin’?”.

I was dispirited. Yet my salvation was nigh, people, because it turns out there was totally a dessert section. And while I did not find Marc Summers, I did find chocolate, which is essentially the same thing.

The true story of how I didn’t meet Marc Summers, part one.

I did not meet Marc Summers today, internet. Which, in retrospect, makes this day somewhat indistinguishable from all of the other days that I did not meet Marc Summers, which is all of them. All of the days. I’ve never met Marc Summers, is what I’m saying.

Let me back up a bit.

The thing is is that today I was actually fairly certain I would meet Marc Summers, because I’m in Puerto Rico and we went to this crazy food festival thing today where Marc Summers was supposed to be and where Marc Summers was, conspicuously, not.

We first learned about this food festival on the beach yesterday where we where just sort of lazing around getting sunburnt and Madre happened upon some article in some magazine about this crazy food extravaganza and she was all like, we should go to this and I was just like, mhmmmm, because let’s be honest I was already a cocktail or four deep at this point and I probably would have said yes to dying my hair pink and dancing la bomba with a kangaroo (full disclosure – I am currently a cocktail or four deep and that absolutely sounds like both a plausible and fun situation).

Anyways, we went to this food festival. It was called the Saborea, and it was wild and exotic and very, very different from all of the other food festivals I’ve ever been to.

The trouble, however, was that we looked it up before hand and discovered Marc Summers was going to be there and this deep, aching longing I never knew I had welled up inside me, and that longing was screaming I HAVE to meet Marc Summers. I Had to.

It was a set-up for failure.

Not pictured- Marc Summers.

Not pictured- Marc Summers.

There were many things that made the Saborea different from other food festivals I’ve been to, the first and most notable of which was the alcohol. The copious, copious amounts of alcohol. I’d been to other fairs and whatnot where you could buy a beer or two for a separate fee. Not at Saborea. No. Not only did they have an entire tent devoted to alcohol of various types, every other food vendor was hawking their own type of shot or cocktail or wine or beer or whatever. They were pouring beer into their freaking food, for frak’s sake.

The ballingest paella ever?

The drunkest paella ever?

In our little swag bags, they even gave us our own wine glasses to pour liquid ambrosia into.

Oh, on that note, yeah, we got swag bags, and it seemed like every four feet people were giving us freebies. Little sunscreens and fans and bottle openers and coupons and individual servings of salad dressings. I spent at least three minutes trying to track down someone handing out the most pimpingest orange sunglasses, but then there was someone handing out sangria and I got distracted.

Oh, also this was happening.

Buh?

Buh?

to be continued…

Flights, part 3.

It is criminally early in the morning and I’m sitting in the Charlotte airport. There’s a kid running around with his brother- one of them’s like 5, the other is maybe 2 and a half. The younger one is just starting to get the hang of legs. He’s stumbling around like a college student on spring break and he keeps going back and forth from “I’m fine” to “I’M NOT FINE EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE” to “oh wait actually I’m pretty okay”. Kids.

I just spent the night in Charlotte with mes parents and we are finally off to Puerto Rico. Although, incidentally, by the time you read this, it’ll be 5 or 6 pm on Wednesday night and I’ll be halfway through my trip and probably getting ready for dinner or something. I know it’s a complicated situation, but that’s how the internet works, and guess who has two thumbs and isn’t about to spend her time on the beach writing blogs for y’all? This gal (sidenote- does this expression still work if you can’t see me pointing obnoxiously at myself? No? Deal with it.).

Our stay in Charlotte was largely uneventful save a stop at Yoga One, which I posted about yesterday (haha I totally haven’t yet! I haven’t even written that post yet! I’m totally screwing with your mind! THIS BLOG IS A IS WIBBLY WOBBLEY BALL OF TIMEY WIMEY STUFF!!). It was cold and raining and I got pretty sick last night with the plague. We did go bowling, which only re-enforced my suspicions that I am a terrible bowler (reasons why I’m single #19 – I’m a terrible bowler).  Final scores? Padre – 91. Madre – 58. Me – 55. I even drank a White Russian so I could try to channel The Dude. No such luck.

We’re now on the plane stuck on the runway waiting for a half hour for the plane to take off because something something air flow planes Atlanta yadda ya. We are sitting in business class surrounded by Frowny Scowls McBusinessmen who spent the entire pre-flight grimacing at their smart phones, turned them off for takeoff, and sat there with their index fingers hovering over the on buttons during the taxi out. Cheer up, Mr. Pinstripe suit guy. That bag of mini pretzels can’t be that bad.

Tata for now.