I was all of six years old and I watched the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea slip underneath the wings of our jet, calmly, as I sipped probably the best orange juice I had ever tasted. The flight passed quickly and uneventfully.
As we swooped in over San Juan Bay and Las Palmas, I’ll never forget the sight of the beaches to the north. They were the most inviting sight for any tourist.
Sights that are now seared into my memory, the parking area outside the terminal, the overpass between the airport and the city, these seemingly mundane memories are locked safely away in the mind of a 25-year-old man.
Though they are memories of an exciting experience, marked by sunny days, nice beaches and the fort. Oh what a special monument to the city.
They were lovely times we had there. Our apartment block was located on the 12th floor of a building located ideally for two aviation enthusiasts like my dad and I.
Right by the airport. We spent many happy hours in this way.
We would sit there and watch the planes till dark. The climate allowed us to be out there in shorts and t-shirts after the sun had gone down and we’d eat ice cream out there.
The city itself was quite a bus ride away, at least twenty minutes. However, it was worth it. The fort is an enchanting place where you may find Hispanic music played by amateurs and sit there all day listening to them.
The fort was away from the hustle and bustle of the city, not that there was much anyway. The population of the city in 1994 was just over 400,000, so it wasn’t like New York or Boston. It was a low-key affair.
San Juan’s jewel was its old town, the Isleta de San Juan. A fort lies on the headland and we visited it at least once. The headland was rocky with a tremendous surf kicking up and splashing against the rocks below. The fort was used extensively during the slave trade and still had shackles where these people would have been strung up.
A most ugly and unappealing thought…
One could conveniently forget about this with the location, climate and subsequent atmosphere. This was the city’s charm. Not the fact that it was a resort or playground for the rich.
The aforementioned “resort” factor meant that tourists were abound, so avoid the beaches if you want to avoid them. The cruise ships came into the harbour and most of their passengers stayed aboard.
We had the lagoon between us in Carolina, a suburb, and the city. This was always fun and I loved it greatly, especially because the planes flew right over my head! Sweet! The overpass went from Carolina to Hato Rey, the central banking district.
My dad took me here sometimes when no one was at home to look after me. Those days were far from boring, though. My dad would let me ride the bus and pull the cord. There were many stops and it was always fun.
Did I mention that I learned to swim in San Juan? The pool we had was great for kids. There was a green-turfed sunbed area alongside for the adults and you could swim there without coming face-to-face with a shark.
Minillas, the shopping centre. This was great, it had everything a kid could want. Ice cream, toys, the lot! Not all my time was spent in San Juan, though. A further three months were spent in the northwestern community of Aguadilla.
Aguadilla is a coastal community, widely renowned for its surf and consequent beach-goers. Some of these beach-goers look interesting to me now that I’ve gone through puberty. I’d like to go there again. As for the hotel, it was so-so.
We had a video rental and eatery complex across the road from us and a baseball diamond, so we weren’t short of things to do. There was a pool as well with a diving board and the staff would entertain us with their playful antics. Hiding our toys and play hide-and-seek, that sort of thing.
As for our room, wonderful! There was a gap under our door that let our resident mouse Felix in and cockroaches plus other delightfuls. Felix was there for our entire stay and we fed him pizza from time to time. As for the rest of our time there, we had a selection of about five films from the rental shop.
All in all, Aguadilla was a bit of a ghost town…
This was not least due to the closure of Ramey Air Force Base near by. Of course the famous Crashboat Beach is nearby, where the surfers find their groove.
Pastries, anybody? You’ll find them at a nearby bakery and they are delicious! Apple pie’ s and chocolate biscuits. It was a memorable experience.
Not to mention the baseball as well. I’d developed an interest in Canada and, of course, one of only two Major League Canadian teams, the Toronto Blue Jays were my club.
It was a real thrill, then, when I got a chance to go and see a game at the stadium in Mayaguez, just down the coast from Aguadilla. What an experience! The match, balls flying out the park and me stuffing my face with Nachos and cheese, and, of course, meeting my hero, Carlos Delgado.
A Jays player, no less. Roberto Alomar? Met him, too. Other names like Baerga and Martinez crowded that fine field as well.
Its one of the great sports of the Island, that and basketball plus others. There were sports fields abound, probably largely due to the American influence and use thereof by tourists and off-season sportsmen. It’s a tradition all throughout the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.
That was part of the beauty of it. Having terrific weather and great sports facilities.
What a great Island!
- Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan Designated National Landmark (hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)
- Updates (managingfibro.net)
- Puerto Rico Pictures (crhofmann.com)
- A Puerto Rican island getaway with surf and son (miamiherald.com)
- San Juan, Puerto Rico | The un-beach (repeatingislands.com)
- An oldie but goodie (linniesphotography.wordpress.com)
- Billionaires should beware of Puerto Rico (finance.fortune.cnn.com)
- Lemontree Oceanfront (lemontrees19.wordpress.com)
- 5 free things to do in Puerto Rico (dailyherald.com)
- Puerto Rico Creates Tax Shelters in Appeal to the Rich (dealbook.nytimes.com)