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.
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.
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.
This week I’m using a prompt from Flash Fiction Friday:
“Give us a peek into the life of someone with a form of OCD and tell us how it plays into an event in their life.”
The pre-wrapped sandwiches in the cooler were falling down into the yogurts in the lower level and I had an uncontrollable itch to straighten them as I waited for my food. I took all the ham and cheese sandwiches out and put them on top of a row of lasagna in plastic containers and started stacking the turkey clubs in the far right corner. The problem, I quickly realized, was that the curved bottom of the baguettes they had used didn’t stack neatly onto the equally curved top. However, if stacked in a tight enough formation, they could balance.
“Tim?” the woman behind the counter called, and it took me a few seconds to realize that had been the name I’d given to them. I never gave my real name to food people.
“In a second,” I called, shuffling the peanut butter and jellies to make sure that the diagonal lines of their cuts down the middle were all facing towards the bottom left corner of the cooler. Satisfied with my work, I looked up and realized the counter person was staring at me, the smudged line of her neon blue eye shadow wrinkled with confusion. I slowly took out the hand sanitizer I had in my pocket and dolloped out a double pump.
“Here you go,” she said, trying to regain her cheerful facade as she watched me briskly rub the gel into my skin. Satisfied, I took the plate, careful not to let our fingers touch under the lukewarm recycled fibers, and inspected it. The gelatinous drip of the gravy they’d poured over the thin slices of roast beef had soaked into the porous roll and infected the green beans and carrots, which were horrifying mingled on the far side of the plate. My stomach roiled. I put the plate back down.
“No. No. I’m sorry, I can’t eat this. I explicitly told you that the food groups were not to touch.”
The counter girl looked down at the plate, and back up at me.
“I’m sorry?” she asked. The smudge of her eye shadow extended from the top rim of her eyelid out across the top of her cheek. I felt sick to my stomach.
“You’ll have to redo it.”
“I ain’t redoing it. It’s fine how it is.”
“I’ll have to see a manager then.”
“I am the manager,” she replied coolly.
We stared each other down across the fingerprint smudged metallic surface. She was pretty-ish, in an unkempt, asymmetrical kind of way, like someone who was on the fringes of popularity in high school, just popular enough to think that she could get by on it in real life, but lacking in the easy grace and charm of the really popular kids. She looked like a person who had applied to college several times and failing that, applied to several ambitious jobs she was denied from, and eventually reconciled herself to the idea of working as a manager at the same fucking place she’d been working at since high school, eventually drawing from her title the smarmy self-satisfaction she’d been denied in life by everyone and everything else. In short, she looked like a huge bitch.
I decided to give it one more shot.
“Listen, I know it sounds weird, but I really can’t eat it like this. I’d much prefer if you could please redo it so that the food items are not touching. I am physically repulsed by them touching on the plate. I cannot eat it as it is.”
She laughed. The bitch laughed at me. I re-sanitized my hands in annoyance as she stood there gasping for breath like a dying horse, double chins vibrating, upsetting the whole atmosphere with her staccato chirping.
“Are you serious, buddy, or is this a prank?” she asked.
I pursed my lips.
“Well then,” I said, leaving the plate on the counter. I took a step back.
She looked momentarily dumbstruck, as if the realization that I wasn’t kidding had finally permeated her thick skull into her presumably tiny brain.
“You really aren’t going to take it?”
I shook my head.
“Lunch is on me, sweetheart,” I replied, and casually flicked the pile of sandwiches I’d meticulously arranged so that they fell in a glorious cascade from the top shelf and settled in the dairy section, a chaotic tangle of meat and vegetarian options. Resisting the urge to sanitize my hands, I turned on my heel and walked briskly out, leaving the manager staring fish-faced at my back.