Forts, Dungeons, Cemeteries & Sailing

January 23, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

While I would have been happy to stay at O:live the whole time we were in San Juan (both times!), we spent part of each day exploring the streets, restaurants and forts of the old city.

One our first foray into the city, “we” mis-calculated the distance from the hotel to the center of old town and decided to walk and found little surprises along the way, like this bike chillin on a tree (which I recently learned is a memorial to a cyclist who died in an accident and a reminder to share the road):

And the very cool Luis Munoz Rivera Park where we stopped for fun with photos.

Old San Juan features two forts, El Morro and San Cristobal and while they are similar, they are unique enough that visiting each gave us a different experience.

Castillo San Felipe Del Morro is a World Heritage Site and a National Park.  Built in the 1500’s it is now a well preserved museum with amazing views of the beautiful Isla de Cabras, sentry boxes that jut over the ocean and a beautiful esplanade for picnics, kite flying and strolling.  It was also a filming site for Amistad.  You can tour the tunnels, various batteries, casements, bastions, a huge artillery ramp, plaza and light house.

Castillo de San Cristobal is know for being the largest fortification built by the Spanish when it was finished in 1783.  While some of it has been demolished and lost since then, it is still immense and has beautiful quarters with grand windows, great views of the ocean (and you can explore the dungeons below!).

Cradled between the two forts, lies the picturesque but locals-only neighborhood of La Perla and a colonial-era, above-ground cemetery.  Entry is free, but we explored it through the vantage points in and around El Morro.  We’ve visited some exemplary cemeteries in the past couple of years: New Orleans, Savannah, but this was the most beautiful.  It sits on the waters edge and the sun shining down on top of the graves and sculptures bring the colors and shapes to life.

One afternoon, after exploring from land, we went on a sunset sail with Sail PR around Old San Juan and saw these beautiful sites from the ocean beneath a setting sun.  We had great wind, dramatic clouds, a beautiful ocean and the spectacle of these old and massive man-made forts and walls.  It was breathtaking.  Our captain, Francisco, was full of interesting facts about the history and politics of Puerto Rico and we had such a great time chatting with him and his first mate.

All this exploring has left me hungry!  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is coming up next…

 


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