Note: This post is in continuation of two previous posts, including:
March 17, 2015
It's St. Patrick's Day and I'm in Puerto Rico! I was still geeked off of getting there for $120 from St. Thomas on JetBlue. It was my first time flying with them and it was pretty impressive. I had an early flight scheduled and I'm glad I arrived early, because the customs line was a bit intimidating. I was grateful I had no items to claim and no baggage to check! I was also mentally patting myself on the back because I was able to tell the taxi where I was going, in Spanish, and arrived at the correct location.
My AirBnB host Jenni (who was a GODSEND, and my new Puerto Rican mother, and super freaking knowledgeable) allowed me to drop my luggage off at her home and change my shoes prior to my official check in time. Immediately upon my arrival, she greeted me with the warmest hug, and I knew that I would enjoy staying with her. Jenni's maid was still preparing my room and I was in desparate need of a manicure due to my overdose of salt water. She gave me a makeshift map with her recommendations and off I went into the city of Old San Juan!
Old San Juan was remarkably colorful, like Miami but better. The blue cobblestone roads added a perfect touch of charm, although I had to make sure I wouldn't bust my behind on it. I also noticed that every race was represented on the streets of San Juan, as well as the age demographic...and the men were fine (wink wink). I could overhear a variety of languages including English, Spanish, and German. There were cars travelling, but not too many because most of the inhabitants had adopted the wise practice of walking. Anything I needed to see was within a two-mile radius and I couldn't imagine using Uber during this stay.
I knew that before I wanted to get my nails done, I should probably eat. I had an address, I had my GPS, but I STILL got lost!! I took it in stride laughing at myself and admired the statues, buildings, and cruise ships that were in my immediate view. The good thing about Old San Juan, was that the streets ran together in somewhat of a loop, so I would eventually find my location, even if I needed to walk the entire perimeter of the area...which I did. I had made some notes via Yelp Reviews about where to eat and decided to have my first bites at Cafe Berlin. They served me the cutest coffee and I enjoyed my omelette (no matter where I go, I'm having some eggs). My favorite part about my pitstop there was the sign I saw in the ladies' room. It resonated with me in so many ways and made me feel comfortable about being alone, and the current job search that was going on in my life.
After my late "brunch", I went to get my nails done at Anam Spa & Cocktail Lounge, as they were a bar and nail salon (don't worry, the areas were separated). Having a freshly made strawberry mojito and sangria while receiving a mani / pedi was just what the doctor ordered. They were a new salon and I could see some details like unpacked boxes that testified to the new opening of the salon, but I can tell that in a few months, it will be a true 5 out of 5 stars. The best part of it was that my technician was not rude at all and had the right amount of conversation, not too much, not too little. She actually was a native of Mexico living in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend, but used to live in Las Vegas. I would have never guessed.
I walked back to my AirBnB home and formally checked in. Jenni had taken the time to provide a detailed map of landmarks within the Old San Juan radius. She numbered her favorites and organized them by categories. There is a reason why this woman is a "Superhost" in the AirBnB world!! I changed clothes because I wanted to be as colorful as the buildings and went back out for happy hour bites and dinner.
I had an absolute ball visiting different stops on Jenni's list and trying out the light eats. Tacos, charcuterie, meatballs, wine, and mojitos! A well fed Courtney, is a happy Courtney. I even ran into some young black adults that were from New Jersey and New York. Let's talk about fate! We whooped it up at PapiJoe's Shots and Burgers and the bartender even hooked us up with flaming shots. After the twerkfest we decided to get some hookah, and ended up getting it free due to my negotiating skills. However, it was nearing 11:00pm and as I arose at 5:00am, Granny CJ was a bit tired and needed to retire.
The next day, with the recommendation of Jenni, I visited El Yunque National Forest. We have already established that my definition of "outdoors" is the beach, but I am proud of myself for taking a chance. Upon his arrival, my tour guide Jerry let it be known that he was in love with me and I would be spoiled throughout the day, which I graciously was. He was extremely knowledgeable about the island and we [the entire group] dipped off into private areas off the pathways including our own waterfall that was not full of the cruise crowd. I found myself climbing over rocks to get closer to trees and streams. I never envisioned that for myself, but that's the beauty of travel. When you're out of your normal element, you find yourself trying and doing new things.
I'm pretty sure that if any of the rocks I was climbing over had moved I would be screwed, but I had a certain element of trust with nature and with Jerry for leading us into certain areas. I was relying on stairs made out of tree roots and identifying the type of plant we were encountering due to the shape of its leaves. Look at how the city girl is growing. We definitely worked up a sweat and were extremely appreciative of the delicious Mom and Pop restaurant we stopped at in Fajardo. I had steak, salad, beans, and plantain for TEN DOLLARS. #LookAtGod The mojitos only cost $5. I was living!
Our last stop on the trip was a nighttime kayak experience on the bioluminescent bay. This was another page in my "I usually don't do this..." book, as kayaks [previously] made me nervous. It eased my mind that the water was warm in Puerto Rico and the water was 3ft deep at the most. My kayak partner was less than ideal, which led to me taking the lead in most of the paddling from behind, however the super cute boat tour guides were more than helpful and had my partner and I engaging in a Disney sing-along. My night was another testament to #LookAtGod, because while I was a bit bummed that there would be no full moons during my trip, our guides told us that new moons helped you see the plankton sparkle best and we were out on a perfect night. Man plans, God laughs. I had good intentions of meeting up with my new friends when I returned from my trip, but as I hiked, swam, kayaked, and ate, Granny CJ was perfectly content with an evening full of slumber upon her return to her home.
On my last morning in San Juan (Thursday), I went to visit Caficultura for breakfast and to get some souvenirs for my family. I ventured into a funky place called The Poet's Passage and loved the hand painted artwork and poetry all throughout the building (Sidebar: It looks as though they are setting up a GoFundMe to keep their place open. Please contribute if you can!!) I was really geeked when I went to Marshall's (yes, in San Juan) and found the cutest Betsy Johnson carry-on luggage piece. Now, I know I had said I was against checking bags, but I just could not resist the opportunity for duty-free shopping in San Juan or in St. Thomas, and decided to bite the bullet and pay $25 to transport my liquid goodness. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to Jenni and her immaculate home, but at least I would be meeting up with my college mentee back in St. Thomas that evening.
The remainder of the trip, Thursday-Sunday
St. Thomas & Miami
When I got back to St. Thomas, I had an amazing seafood dinner from a local restaurant in downtown Charlotte Amalie. My mentee and I each took naps and then hit the town to see where the party was. After initially trying out one bar and being one of five people, we took it to Red Hook and thankfully the same bartender from Saturday night was working. Of course, I got a hookup along with a free shirt!
I was due to leave for Miami at noon, but I was dying to go to the beach one more time before I left. My mentee and her mother dropped me off at the beach around 7:30 and I spent four glorious hours at the beach getting friendly with iguanas, my BBC beverage, and my book. I scrambled to get dressed and booked it to the airport so that I wouldn't be stranded on the island.
My time in Miami consisted of the usual: turning up with my brother, hanging out with some sorority sisters, and drinking "slushies" on the beach. I was able to see a lot of my college friends at a party my friend was hosting, and slept the entire flight home to Houston.
I am so proud of myself for stepping out of my box and taking a leap of faith. I am so grateful that God was with me in unknown scenarios and gave me enough confidence to do new things without fear of making a fool out of myself. I got to see parts of the world that I could have only dreamed of years prior. I got to relax and sleep (thank you!!). I made connections that I still utilize to this day. I knew that after my 10 day escapade, I would forever be a travelista and have been salivating at the thought of another trip. I'm pleased with the amount of the pictures I took so I could relive these moments as much as I wanted to. I refused to let fear of the unknown get in my way and gave it a "suck it sandwich". Thank you, Father.
What has been your BEST Spring Break ever? I'm curious! Talk to me about it in the comments.