March 8 - March 21, 2020: Rincon, Puerto Rico
After we left Martorell, Puerto Rico and finished our volunteer gig with All Hand and Hearts, we headed to Rincon (population 8,836) for the next month.
Lizette from the AHAH base offered to drive us from the Yabucoa Base to Rincon which was about 3 hours on the West side of the island. We had a good and uneventful trip through San Juan and Lizette dropped us off at the Aquadilla Airport so we could pick up our rental car. We opted to get our rental car from here because this is the airport we are flying out of on April 6.
I just love seeing guys riding their horses along the side of the roads : )
In Rincon, we stayed in our friends (Dave and Vicki's) AirBnB. I worked with Dave at Micron in Boise, Dave and Vicki still live in Boise, but have a vacation rental in Puerto Rico! What a small world.
Wow, what an awesome house!!! The location of their house was perfect, within walking distance to a grocery store, the beach, and a few restaurants.
As soon as we arrived at their house, we felt instantly at home and like we had won the lottery. Their house is 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and a great little patio off the carport/kitchen area. I twas equipped with everything we needed and then some. Of course, I LOVE the colors and decorations : ) What an incredible treat, especially after living in a dormitory setting and sharing everything for the last month.
As a side note, if you are visiting Puerto Rico and want a fantastic place to stay, contact Dave and Vicki. Here is the link to their home: Cozy Home In Quiet Rincon. I have already decided that WE WILL BE BACK... ; )
Once we got settled, we visited the two different grocery stores to get our supplies. One of the things that is really cool is that one of the stores has the kitchen supplies (pots, pans, utensils, etc.) in the same aisle as the food that would you normally use with those utensils. For example, next to the baking ingredients, you have the cookie sheets, cake pans, spatula, hot pads, etc. needed to make your cakes and such. Below is a picture of the coffee/tea section with the cups, tea infusers, etc. needed to make your drinks. It is just a cool and clever idea I have not seen before.
March 10 - 19, 2020 Russett Visit
Craig and I stayed in Rincon for a day then headed to San Juan to pick his Mom, Russett, up at the airport. She flew in on March 11 at 4:30am, so we got an AirBnB in the Condada part of town.
San Juan is the biggest city in Puerto Rico with a population of 395,326, not including the surrounding neighborhoods.
The AirBnB was a 2 bedroom/2 bath unit. In the main entrance, there were two twin beds and in one of the bedrooms, there were bunk beds. So in reality, it could sleep 8. We had the 2nd floor apartment and the 1st floor apartment was also an AirBnB. We stayed for 3 days in this AirBnB and during our stay we had two other sets of people in the 1st floor apartment. You ask, "how were your downstairs neighbors?" Well, they were two separate groups of 4 who were there to party. Loud music, talking, and late nights. They were wonderful neighbors...NOT. I guess that is what you should expect when in this area. It was all good and they did not ruin our trip, were just irritating.
However, the AirBnB was in a great location. Within walking distance to a grocery store, shops, restaurants, bars, beaches, etc. No wonder we had partiers below us ; )
Craig and I got settled into the AirBnB and then we walked around a little bit to get a feel for the neighborhood. Russett was not arriving until 4:30am so we had lots of time to wander around. We visited the beach, ate lunch at Bebo's, and then ate dinner that evening at Calavera Cantina.
We picked Russett up about 4:30am Wednesday morning, came back to the AirBnB and slept until about 9:00am. We were pretty lazy that first day and the weather was rainy, so we decided to walk and visit the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.
We walked through one of the neighborhoods to get there and ran across the Ronald McDonald House which was pretty cool to see they have one in Puerto Rico.
Below are various exhibits from the museum that we enjoyed:
We all loved the color of this piece, however it is very morbid if you look closely.
This was Russett's favorite.
This was one of Craig and my favorites.
As we left the museum, we met Bill who is from Aurora, Colorado. He was in town for a real estate conference and had just finished visiting the museum as well. We invited him to join us for dinner, so we walked to Bebo's Cafe and enjoyed some authentic Puerto Rican food: mofongo with chicken, stuffed avocado with chicken, and beef risotto. YUM!
Thanks Bill for hanging out with us ; )
This was our typical evenings back at the AirBnB. Chilling on the back patio either chatting or reading our books. It is really hard to take a selfie while laying down, over your head, and not looking at your camera : ) This is the best picture I could get. Of course, I could not get up from my reclined positioned to take a descent selfie ; )
The next day we visited Old Town San Juan and the Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Our plan was to do the Castillo first and then wander around Old San and grab a bite to eat. So...off we went to Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Below pictures as we drove into and through Old Town San Juan.
The Castillo San Felipe del Morro was really cool. Construction began in 1539 and had additions or modifications made to it up until 1790. It was attacked many times by the British, but Spain continued to defend it until 1898 when Spain ceded it to American forces during the Spanish-American War. In 1961 it was officially retired as a fort and became part of the National Park System. In 1983 it was made a World Heritage Site.
Up to this point, all of the forts we have visited have been in a the shape of a star. Castillo San Felipe del Morro (commonly referred to as El Morro) was in the shape of a bull's head with horns and is 6 levels. Wow...what an intricate building process.
Also, one of the most fascinating things to me was how each level had a trough between the floor and wall to create a "river path" and collect the rain water for use by the fort. What an awesome idea!
Next to El Morro is Capilla del Cementerio Santa María (2nd picture below). We had hoped to visit the Cemetery after visiting the fort, however, we were tuckered out and did not do so. We will try to catch it another day during our stay.
Below are some pictures of our adventure at El Morro:
As you can see there are many steps at El Morro. We climbed all of them and saw all 6 levels of the fort so we were pretty tired by the end. We decided to skip the Cemetery and wandering around the town of Old San Juan. We will come back for both of those over the next month.
On the walk back to our car, we stopped by a little cafe in the plaza below and enjoyed a sandwich and nice cool beverage. Once we got back to our AirBnB, we spent the rest of the day enjoying a nap or reading our books.
The next day we headed out of San Juan and back to Rincon. We decided to make a little detour and see El Yunque National Forest which is on the East side of the island. It is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System with over 240 different species of trees.
Once we entered the park, the road was paved, very narrow, and steep in some spots.
Next we visited the Yokahu Tower and then enjoyed a snack after we were finished.
Our last stop in El Yunque was to Juan Diego Creek. This is a popular spot for people to swim in either the lower or the upper waterfall pools.
As you can see the walk in was a little steep, narrow, and muddy. However, there was some good sightseeing along the way (look close at the picture of Craig on the trail with the other hikers - smile).
Russett and I hiked to the lower waterfall and then Craig hiked to the upper waterfall and got some great pictures.
Since El Yunque was 40 minutes in the opposite direction, we had about a 4.5 hour drive over to Rincon. We made good time and then relaxed once we got settled back into Dave and Vicki's place on March 13.
One thing to note about El Yunque and Puerto Rico in general in the Coqui frog. This little frog is about the size of my pinky fingernail and makes the most beautiful sound. And...a very loud sound it is! The species is named for the loud call the males make at night. This sound serves two purposes. "CO" serves to repel males and establish territory while the "KEE" serves to attract females. You can hear the Coqui throughout the island, however in forested areas, holy cow...it is loud and abundant!
The next day (Saturday) in Rincon, we lazed around and read books, catching up on the last 3 days of sightseeing in San Juan. We headed to downtown Rincon and wandered around the shops and enjoyed a relaxing coffee and dessert while we people watched.
The next day was Sunday, March 15, 2020.
Russett and I took a trip to Sandy Beach looking for sea glass. Puerto Rico is suppose to have some great beaches for sea glass, so...we thought we would go 'shopping' at low tide. SCORE....below are the pieces that were found that day.
If you do not remember, the COVID-19 Pandemic was happening during this time. Up to this point, main land US States and other countries were imposing bans, closures, etc. And even the All Hands and Hearts temporarily suspended their operations World Wide until April 30, 2020 and were sending all volunteers home. However, the Puerto Rican Government had not done much yet because they were waiting for lab results from the CDC. Well, lab results came back and Puerto Rico had 4 confirmed cases.
Therefore, the Puerto Rican Governor declared a State Emergency, issued a curfew of 9:00pm - 5:00am, and closed all business except hospitals, grocery stores, and banks. With those having limited hours and limited people inside at one time.
So...before the bans went into effect at 6:00pm, Craig and I stocked up with food from the grocery store and then Craig, Russett, and I enjoyed our last meal out. We went up the street to Cowboys and had an awesome dinner!
Well over the next few days, Craig, Russett, and I hung around the house practicing social distancing. We occupied our time with chatting, reading books, and watching movies. Most of the time was spent out on the side patio just enjoying the wonderful weather. Below are a few pictures from around Dave's house, his flowers, and a cool lizard that was fun to watch. I had a great video of the lizard digging and eating and...ya...I accidentally deleted it - doh.....
Well after practicing social distancing for about 3 days, following the news around the world, and getting updates from friends and family. Craig and I decided we would cut our vacation in Rincon short and head back to Mainland US. Since we could not do much in PR, it did not make sense to stick around and figured it may be best to get back where we could manage our situation easier.
We would fly into Fort Lauderdale, Muthu would pick us up and take us to his house in Punta Gorda, where we left the truck and trailer. We would then get the truck/trailer ready and start our drive back to Boise, Idaho.
Cindy from Punta Gorda, FL was going to come and visit us at the end of March, so she went ahead and cancelled her trip also : (
Russett was scheduled to fly out on March 19, so she kept her original flight and plans. Craig and I cancelled our flight for April 6 and rebooked to depart on March 21. This gave us 4 more days on the island.
During that time we continued to practice social distancing, except....we had purchased enough food to last the month, so we invited a friends daughter Piper over for dinner. Piper is the daughter of my friend Jenn who I worked with at Micron. Piper moved full time to PR on February 15, 2020. We had a fun dinner at the house, great conversation, and yummy food! We also had fun putting on temporary tattoos that Piper brought over ; )
Luckily, Piper is here because when we left Rincon, we gave all of our remaining food and left over supplies to her.
Thanks Piper for coming to dinner and hanging with us!
Over the next 4 days, we continued to read books and watch movies. However, I was going stir crazy and figured that I could practice social distancing hunting for sea glass at the beaches. So I took 2 more trips to Sandy Beach and had great luck hunting. I have a couple of craft projects I want to make once I get back to Boise using the sea glass, so.....I made sure I had a good selection.
The first day on the beach, there were about 10 other people 'around'. Two people blew whistles and waved me off, so...I stopped and hunted where I was at. The next time I went, I was the only person on the beach. Nice!
The big rock shelf area produced a few pieces of sea glass. However, after the rock shelf was where there was a treasure trove! If you zoom in on the 'small rock' picture, you can see many pieces of sea glass.
Clear is the most common color, then amber, then green. Orange is the rarest (I found a tiny tiny piece of it), red (found a few pieces of it), and then blue (found some of it).
Below are my finds from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3!
My favorite find....in the last picture. A LARGE white shark tooth! It has been tossed in the ocean for quiet a while because the razor edges have been sanded nice and smooth. SCORE!!!
I was sad to leave Puerto Rico early because there is still so much to see and explore. We also have another friend, Alexis who lives in Mayaquez (former Micron co-worker) that we did not get a chance to visit. I guess that just means that we need to come back again ; )
THANK YOU Dave and Vicki for letting us stay at your home. It was such a wonderful place and a huge treat after living communally for 30 days. Your location is perfect, neighbors are friendly, and walking distance to the beach, a few restaurants, and grocery store.
THANK YOU AGAIN - WE WILL BE BACK!!!