I like how there's a built in pocket for my bear!
I like how there's a built in pocket for my bear!
Dining in Puerto Rico would have been perfect for critique meetings….if we were all rich ;p The wind calmed down so we enjoyed temperate evenings with lots of comfy outdoor seating. We had to plan in advance…if we got to the restaurant hungry, we were starving by the time food came. Everything was soooo slow but I guess dining is an Event. No one ever rushed us out like the staff at Barnes and Noble do when I'm at a meeting (okay, okay I *guess* the employees shouldn't have to wait until we finish at midnight). Everything was pricey though and came in huge portions. A microwave in the hotel room would have saved us a lot.
Eating out at fancy places makes me appreciate Macaroni Grill. They're happy to not only split meals but they go out of their way on the presentation for both so Chris and I get portions we can actually fit in our little tummys. Their dishes also hit enough of the food groups that I feel not just full but satisfied, like my nutrient requirements have been met ;) Some of these places were fantastic taste-wise but all we got was meat, meat, and more meat. I need some bread, fruit, and veggies!
Below are my experiences and recommendations for anyone interested in San Juan's dining.
Cielito Lindo - Mexican
YUM!!! Cute inside with quotes on the walls, great chips like in Mexico, awesome corn tortillas. Wish we could eat outside, but otherwise this was my favorite meal in Puerto Rico next to Anwel's grandmother's food (: I also vaguely remember a song about 'Cielito Lindo, happy together~!' I always thought it was about a pretty little girl.
Marriott Buffet Breakfast
…was a buffet. For being at a resort I expected it to be a little something more than just ridiculously expensive. $20…plus tip, seriously?? It was 'included' in our stay but we had to sign receipts so I guess that's what we'd pay if we didn't get a incentive package. And how do you tip for a buffet? I hike up and down three flights of stairs in six buildings at work, often carrying luggage for people, and I don't get tips!
I'd eat a banana, a french toast stick, toast, one piece of sausage, that's it. Hardly $20+ worth of food and sometimes the cut fruit had that chemical preservative taste.
If you get it for free, great, but otherwise I'd just keep some fruit and cheese in the room's fridge.
??? Carribean sidewalk cafe on the side of the square by the water, Old San Juan
This is where we learned that dining is all about the experience…not speed. It set the meandering pace for the rest of our meals. Perfect for critique meetings but we'd get tired and just want to eat and go to bed! The food was good but a little on the weird side for me and very rich. I got the 'lollipops.'
More upscale than I thought at first glance. Their house salad was the epitome of salad…like, I've had salads that try to be that good but have too much cheese or dressing or the mandarin oranges aren't ripe, this is what those strive to be. We went back for our last night, it was that good. I had empanaditas with cheese/meat/seafood. The sauce with the seafood took some time to grow on me but I liked it. The best part was that the (very comfy) seats + table swung back and forth on a slider! Way cool :)
I love hibachi! I wouldn't go if I was living in DC near Bansai or Sakura, but I'm in Savannah where the Asian food isn't ever quite right for me. I've never had tori soup before so I tried that instead of miso. It was good but salty. I appreciated that the staff knew it's traditional to drink from the soup bowl, I've never heard that anywhere else. The salad had some weird red mayo type sauce instead of the usual ginger dressing. I just poured my <3 ginger sauce <3 on the salad and it all worked out. Our chef did some impressive flipping of our rice bowls but no appetizer toss/catch. The important part: the shrimp/streak/veggies melted in my mouth (:
Tour guidebooks highly recommended this one. Nice view of the city square but I thought the unnamed sidewalk cafe had a nicer view–bit of the ocean. Hilarious LCD fireplace. AMAZING strawberry smoothie…er…frappe? My veggies could have been less cooked but I like them raw heh. Everything was excellent, especially the sesame tofu which was a perfect portion size for me.
Ummo - Argentinian (yes, Ummo is really the name)
MEAT PERFUME! I could smell this place across the street. A benefit of outdoor dining (: The au gratin potatoes were like butter+butter+BUTTER+cheese…but soo good, great for dipping bread. My mom and I shared one of the sample platters which came out on a grill. She didn't want us eating the sweet breads because of all meat types, the brain and junk in sweet breads are most likely to carry mad cow disease. The lemon chicken was the best, delicious variety of herbs on it. The ribs served as lollipops because they were too fatty for me to get through but the flavor was like a dessert. We managed to stuff down a chocolate souffle/volcano too but I'd definitely ask for a second scoop of ice cream with it. I dunno what season is best for strawberries but ours was more tangy than sweet.
It was surprisingly worthwhile to get on an excursion to the beach given the PERMANENT RIP CURRENT, SWIM AND DIE signs at the hotel beach. People swam anyway. I might have tested it if I had my boogie board with me but baggage fees prevented the presence of my emergency flotation device. I splashed around about knee-deep on Condado beach at the hotel but the real swimming came with the Elegant Tours trip to Culebra island.
We took a speedy catamaran crewed by rum-touting pirates. I heard from guests on other tours that sometimes they spotted whales. No such luck but I did see a school of silver fishies hopping through the wake. While travelling, we got lunch but when our guides brought out the sandwich fixings a horde of flies came out of nowhere and never left! We were in the middle of the ocean, where did they come from?!
The first stop brought us to a reef with a gorgeous view of the surrounding islands. We snorkled around humongous brain and fan coral. I expected it to be more colorful but it was all grey-yellow or brown. When I was little, we went to Hawaii and snorkled by a sunken volcano crater–I remember the fish being much bigger and more colorful (and I saw an eel!) but I may just have been a lot smaller in comparison!
I did see little iridescent blue fish and rainbow fish. Wish I had gotten my hands on the reef chart so I could name them! The yellow ones swam right up to my mask, real friendly! I didn't notice the jellyfish at first but they were all over–very tiny and floating near the surface whereas I was usually looking straight down. I really want to swim with sea turtles but I didn't see any. It's the Ninja Turtle geek in me. I got a sea turtle shirt later on but I feel like poser because I didn't actually see any.
Next we sailed to warmer waters off the coast of Culebra island. Unfortunately, people have walked on the coral and killed a lot of it so there was less to see. But we did get the opportunity to swim from the boat to Flamenco Beach which is supposed to be one of the top three most beautiful beaches in the world. I haven't seen enough to make any judgments but I enjoyed the warm water varying in shades from clear to aqua to deep azure. Sinking into super soft sand…forgive the alliteration…was also awesome. Better than a spa ;)
I should have asked what the bridge was for…maybe an ancient dock?
Wish I had all day here…or all year….or forever (: (Well, my boogie board would require more waves)
Just don't look back, you may not see the bottom… and that sucks when your bladder's about to explode.
Eat a hearty breakfast, they said. There's a bathroom there, they said. Apparently I need one every two steps but once I got strapped into that harness there was no turning back.
Still, our hilariously animated guides (Anwel, Andre, Jorge) made this #1 Ecoquest adventure the cherry on top of my Puerto Rican flan…..or something. They kept us safe, laughing, and soaked. Some sage advice from Andre: be nice! haha apparently they have mean people on the tours sometimes. Mean people should stay home!!
We hiked up a sharp incline past guava and banana trees. Then we splashed through the river to trek deeper into a rainforest laced with vines, each branch speckled with bromides. I really liked one tree Andre pointed out–it twined its branches in and out of the other tree trunks/branches in a wooden knot.
The water was much warmer than I expected considering the prep sheet suggested we bring jackets and three changes of clothing. Exertion helps ;) By the time we reached a pool of water I sank right in. There was a waterfall on the opposite side and Andre kept telling us it was only two feet deep there–yeah right!
From there, we climbed up a rope and I imagined a similar gentle slope for our rappelling later on.
An uphill slog (I love me a muddy slog!) took us to a green platform made of huge bamboo shoots. We peered over the edge but couldn't see past the waterfall's main drop point.
If I had seen this:
…I swear I still would have rappelled.
(The picture is from another member of our group. I went down second and third was my mom who had the camera. But I can proudly say, I was *there*!) They need to hire a photographer/videographer to be the paparazzi for this trip and charge exorbitant amounts of money for the evidence like they did on the excursions in Mexico. I'd pay it!
I've rock climbed at the gym a few times and free-rappelled into that cenote in Mexico. That didn't quite prepare me for sliding backwards down a 90 ft vertical waterfall. It didn't dawn on me how slippery the rocks would be until I was on my way down. My experience did help though, my muscles remembered that I don't *need* footholds, that I can trust the rope. So instead of freaking out when I lost my footing, I just re-oriented myself.
I looked over my shoulder once. I COULDN'T SEE THE BOTTOM! I didn't dare check again so I was still in horizontal position and would have walked my back into the pool of water at the bottom had Jorge not let me know I was done. He offered us some of the best mango I have ever tasted, melt in your mouth ambrosia.
After that I was hoping for a lunch break but instead we flew through the canopy on some awesomely long ziplines. Not as fast as the ones we did in Mexico, but I liked the smoother landing compared to that jerk/recoil.
We trudged through some more mud and crawled down the river to reach BLESSED FOOD! Anwel's grandmother made us chicken, rice, beans, and a plate of delicious things I can't name…I think fried corn, mashed plantains, empenadas with sweet stuff inside. Everything was amazing and we ended the meal with flan that was like cheesecake, mmm. One of our group members said the food was better than at some of the restaurants!
With full bellys we rode off into the sunset….well, it was only 3pm so I hit the hot tub (: Cave rafting convinced me that excursions should end in jacuzzis.
When I grew up, I outgrew playgrounds only insofar as I needed to find a one big enough for me and my 5'10.
While I write always and everywhere from napkin corners to brainstorming at work, I think those Vonage commercials about business travelers finally got to me… When I heard we'd have free Wi-fi in the room, I thought AWESOME! I can write on the balcony with the ocean in the background! …like I need to spend any more time writing :P
But it's a dream come true. The ocean fills me with inspirational serenity on a spiritual level. As much as I moved growing up, I've always been coastal so as the great Stevie Nicks sings:
the sea never changes,not really
it is a constant in my life
I always return here
to the flash of those colors
So those Chimeras waiting to chomp on the next chapter of THE DEEP WITHIN, those writers submitting to us Chimeras, rest assured that I may be lying down (on the beach) on the job, but the job is still getting done!
I vaguely remember a best-selling author who books vacations on distant islands and makes it a tax write-off because that's his work time. Private, quiet, relaxing.
Coming back down to earth, I set up my writing space at home as comfortably as I can since I'll write all of my day off or all afternoon/evening if I have a morning shift. I've got to have a REAL keyboard. The laptop keyboard bugs me. My playlist changes depending on what I'm writing. I keep all space on my desk clear except for notes–cleansing the space cleanses my mind. Sometimes I'll set up a candle, especially since I got a cool salt stone holder (not the lamp, but here's more info). It apparently emits negative ions that cleanse the air. The guy at the hippy store sold me on it by suggesting I stand near it and smell the air–clear, no hint of the incense that clogs the rest of the store. Okay, enough about my rock (it makes me happy). I start out with a hearty breakfast and continue writing with some yummy herbal tea. Usually something fruity and I've started to experiment with infused tea leaves. I also designate intervals for easy meals and snacks. It's very very easy for me to forget to eat while writing but my output quality is higher if I keep myself nutrientified! I like natural light if I can get it and most importantly, a comfy office chair with good back support!
What about you, how do you design your sanctuary? What's your ideal creative space?
Well it was! Absolutely massive with vegetation crawling all over it.
We took the walking tour which was all right but Luray (went there as a kid and for my Halloween birthday party) offered more diversity. Given the long drive from San Juan to Camuy, I really would have preferred ziplining into the entrance and splattering out the mudslide exit with Aventuras Tierras. Unfortunately, they only run excursions on Sundays and they were already full. Guess I have to come back (:
We did book this trip through the hotel and got an excellent driver name Robert. He narrated the whole journey with a combination of personal jokes historical information. Once we got to the caves, we took a trolley down a winding road then hopped off to go under a bridge…watch out for trolls!
Then we reached a bunker and descended down a very slippery path through the caves.
Our tour guide said she had been working with the caves for twenty years so she knew where the spiders were. This one was a sleeping female–they flatten themselves against the rock when they're enjoying a nap. That leg on the right goes on forever, I don't want her coming at me when she stands up!
Not far from the caves, we explored the largest radio telescope in the world at Arecibo. It was built in a limestone crater which insulates it from stray radio waves. The 'eye' circled around it. I would love to see the lab but we just went through a kid's museum. The hands-on parts were fun (: Prisms and magnets and pieces of meteorites. They even had a fog machine to demonstrate atmosphere. The souvenir shop was bizarre because it had the same science toys that I got at museum in NYC when I was a kid!
The perspective isn't as impressive as it should be in this picture because I'm so tall….yes, I'm an Amazonian princess.
These shoes rocked every other exhibit's pants off! They're huge so they distribute the weight of anyone walking on the dish. I want to test them (:
I wish I'd paid attention in history–but would I have learned about Puerto Rico's struggles? I didn't realize huge stone walls protected the city, I didn't expect the forts. The contrast makes me smile, though. Here are ancient signs of war, but now we have people picnicing and flying kites. This is
I love bridges….they're like prehistoric teleporters!
The most peaceful cemetery I've ever seen…I've never wanted to be buried until I saw this:
Defending el Castillo with my mighty umbrella!
Pretty blue bricks. I thought they were slate but my mom thinks they were ceramic. I'm not much of a shopper and wasn't expecting much after my experience in Mexico where everything looked like it came out of the same factory. But I found more variety here, from musical instruments to tapestries of Vishnu.
The el Gato Jirafo designed by Jorge Zeno. As soon as I pulled out my camera, that kitty rushed to pose beside it!
La nave de los pinguinos…the boat looks like it has an evil cat head!
I totally want to go back to Orasco and order the Alien….YUM!
We ate tapas outside near the pier. Good but heavy and lacking in the food pyramid balance. I need my veggies and fruits!
I hung out here while waiting for the food to arrive. Please do not park in the water!
I'm pretty confused about the people feeling driven into depression after seeing Avatar because "it showed something we don't have here on earth." Really? Step out of that basement and live. Save a little at a time and you can go somewhere miraculous, or –for free– you can find the miraculous in the world around you. I dunno, maybe I'm easily entertained but I can lay on the grass for hours meditating on the microcosm.
I'm in Puerto Rico right now and got the chance to experience a moment I wrote about in THE DEEP WITHIN. Mayuri and Alorah traveled through a river of starlight, like the milky way. Below them, glowing greenish fish flit around their boat. As cool as I thought that was, the reality was even better.
I went on an excursion to the bioluminescent lagoon in Fajardo. Thankfully, I'd been kayaking several times before or I would have been crashing into the mangroves in the dark! We paddled down a narrow channel with nothing lighting our way except the red light at the back of the tour guide's boat. I'm afraid of the dark and terrified of black water but our tour guide, Anthony, kept me laughing. He told us that the green light at the front of the boat would help him come and save us if a chupacabra jumps out and starts sucking our necks!
At some point in our journey, I started to scrutinize my paddle. It was bright green. I thought it was far too bright to be the little single-celled creatures we were looking for, that it must be just a reflection from our lights. But when we passed into further darkness under tightly knit trees, each paddle stroke lit up not just the paddle deeper and deeper swirls in the surrounding water. By the time we reached the lagoon, a blue-green aura circled each kayak. I saw something jump into the water with an explosive glow and fish lit the water like comets.
Anthony asked us to throw water on ourselves. The splash looked like a burst of tiny fireflies trailing down my leg. Then he continued the tour by saying, 'these flesh-eating organisms require a steady temperature year-round…' <3 While we couldn't swim in the water because our body oils can hurt the organisms, we were allowed to dip our hands in. A bubble of light burst from me, more beautiful than any CGI magic I've seen.
This is a moment I've checked off my bucketlist and I highly recommend you put it on yours, especially if you're a fantasy geek searching for that hint of something more in real life.