Saturday, November 7, 2009

Photos from El Morro

Sunset from El Morro

Sunset from El Morro

Sunset from El Morro

Sunset from El Morro

Entrance...note the Cruise ship trolleys that bring you to the site. You can walk to El Morro if you're fit, don't let them tell you any different. It's a nice walk!

El Morro is a pretty good place to bring kids. Kids love to play with real cannons...

So I've had some people ask about specific recommendations around San Juan, and a few about El Morro. El Morro is a large fort in Old San Juan that "back in the day" guarded the entrance to Old San Juan bay. You can read about El Morro in wikipedia, but I highly recommend the video below.

So should you go to El Morro while in Old San Juan? The answer is a bit complicated. I will say that Yes, you should go to El Morro site. There are a few reasons for this. This section of Old San Juan is beautiful, you will see a lot of great views, there is a terrific sunset, and lots of people fly kites and picnic in front of the fort. It's definitely part of the Old San Juan experience.

I personally would also pay the $5 admission to go inside the fort because:
1. I am interested in the history of Puerto Rico
2. $5 is not a bad price and it goes towards the maintenance of the fort and grounds
3. public bathrooms.

That being said, it could take you quite some time to walk around the entire inside of the fort and, if you aren't a big history buff, you might be a little disappointed. So if you're low on funds or time, you can't tolerate school field trip groups, or you don't care much for history, I would pass on actually entering the fort. You can still get a lot of the El Morro experience without actually going inside.

Timeline of events at El Morro
A guy who is WAY excited about El Morro (video)

Friday, June 12, 2009

2009 Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City!

Reminder: This year's Puerto Rican Day Parade NYC is this Sunday, June 14th on Fifth Ave. Come early!

I, unfortunately will not be in attendance. I am studying for the boards. :(
I have been to the parade in the past however, and I have to say, there are few days of the year so vibrant (and maybe even a little crazy) in New York City, so it's something you should do at least once! Let me know how it goes!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Andrew Zimmern Eats Puerto Rico!

At last!
One of my favorite travel shows is hitting up Puerto Rico to do my very favorite thing, eat!

Although I totally think that I should have been the one taking Andrew around, I'm sure the young lady in the preview showed him a fantastic lechón-filled time. Andrew adores pork, I'm sure he loved Puerto Rico.

But what is that fruit that he doesn't like?! To me it looks exactly like the cherimoyas I ate in Ecuador, but that can't be right...cherimoyas are delicious! What is it? Guess I'll have to watch to find out...

P.S. It's on tomorrow, June 9th at 10 p.m. eastern time on the Travel Channel. Stay tuned for my analysis!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Day Trip to the West Coast

This was one of my favorite day trips that I took while in Puerto Rico. I did it on a Saturday, so make sure you check schedules/availability if you do it any other day. I am going give you an itinerary largely in pictures, since I am too lazy to write a detailed description. Plus, pictures are worth a thousand words. :)

Step 1: Rent a car. May I suggest Enterprise Car Rental? They were really amazing, and offer convenient pick up.

Step 2: Call the folks at Tropical Trail Rides and make reservations for the sunset tour at 4pm. (787) 872-9256

Step 3: Plan on arriving in Aguadilla at least an hour and a half to two hours before your scheduled ride so that you can have a drink or lunch. Better yet, get there even sooner so you can digest and relax on the beach!

Step 4: Drive to Aguadilla (directions found on Tropical Trail Rides website).

Step 5: Arrive and park your car at Tropical Trail Rides. Tell someone there that you are there for the 4:oo ride, and that you are going to walk down to the beach and have a drink beforehand (they won't mind).

Step 6: Follow the road down to Villa Montana, a stunningly beautiful resort on the beach in Aguadilla. Honestly, if I ever go back to Puerto Rico, and I have money, I will come to this resort, it is gorgeous. Plus Aguadilla is really one of those sleepy beach towns, a polar opposite from the hustle and bustle of San Juan, and I'd like to experience that aspect of Puerto Rico more.

Step 7: Stop by Villa Montana's beachside bar/restaurant, Eclipse. This place takes the cake for "most beautiful restaurant" I visited in Puerto Rico. I wish I had arrived in Aguadilla sooner, I would have loved to have lunch here. I did have a piña colada, of course.

Step 8: Go back to Tropical Trail Rides by 3:30 so you can fill out forms and get your horse. Here's me on my horse:

Step 9: Follow your guide through some greenery on your way to the beach.

Step 10: Horseback riding on the beach in Aguadilla. What else could you ask for?

Step 11: Stop so the horses can rest a while and you can explore caves, the beach, and some cool coral that has shells inside of it.

Step 12: Take shadow pictures of yourself on a horse (totally optional).

Step 13: After your ride, be sure to tip your guide, then head back in the direction of San Juan, stopping at Molina's Restaurant ( Carr. #2 Km 117.6, Bo. Ceiba Baja
Aguadilla, PR 00603) for a delicious seafood dinner. It's a little pricey, but definitely worth it, since you will be tired and hungry after horseback riding. Additionally, on Saturday night they had an amazing band playing (see video below). It was a perfect ending to a perfect day. P.S. I had the shrimp cocktail and the surf and turf, both were amazing and I even had leftovers. I also had a piña colada. Of course.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Soleil Beach Club: A Warning

I couldn't even look at my fried snapper. Not pictured are the almost-but-not-tolerable appetizers.

Few restaurants are as highly marketed to San Juan tourists as the Soleil Beach Club in Piñones. You will see their pamphlet in just about every hotel lobby, along with a very impressive menu and a voucher for a free piña colada.

So my gut is to tell you that this place is a scam. That might be a little unfair, however. Perhaps if I had been wondering around Piñones beach in the daytime and stumbled upon this place, my opinion wouldn't be so harsh. But I feel I was tricked into believing that this place was something that it's not, and was wholeheartedly disappointed, maybe even a little angry, about the experience. Let me explain.

I should have known right away that any restaurant that needs to advertise that much and provides free transportation might be a little suspicious, but I totally fell into the trap. I actually thought that free transportation sounded great, it meant we could drink as much as we wanted and would get picked up and dropped off at our door. Trying to arrange for a pick up was a fiasco in and of itself, and we were greeted by what was by far the most psychotic and reckless driver of all times. I think the drunk girls in the back of the van thought they were on a roller coaster, screaming every time we almost hit another car or pedestrian, and yelling at the driver when we would veer into oncoming traffic. This is true, Abby can vouch for it. On top of that, when we were done with our meal, the driver "didn't feel like" making two trips back to San Juan, so we had to wait for those drunk girls to finish getting MORE drunk (a good 45 minutes) before he would take us back. And THEN, his driving was substantially worse on the way back, so much so that eventually we had him pull over and drop us off more than a mile away from home because we were convinced we would be in an accident.

As far as the vibe of this place. Well, we went at night, so it's a little harder to say, but it is definitely NOT as luxurious as it looks in the pamphlet. And I suppose you could say it is beach front except you have a better view of a huge parking lot in front of the beach than the actual beach itself. There were very few people there, everything was dark, it was kind of scary, actually. I really think they used a lot of trick photography for their advertising. But let's talk about the food. Yuck. Probably one of my worst meals in Puerto Rico. The appetizer was gross, my fish was so gross that I just covered it up with my napkin so I didn't have to look at it. Abby was not impressed with the chicken either. I think the piña coladas were okay, made with the same Island Oasis drink mix that far too many Puerto Rican bars and restaurants have adopted. We left wholly unsatisfied.

Abby was positively underwhelmed by her chicken.

Overall, if you are on a romantic vacation and expecting an elegant "beach club"/fine dining dinner experience, be forewarned. If you're already at the beach in Piñones and are super curious, go for it. Just don't say I didn't warn you. I would also like to mention that there are lots of other smaller "mom & pop" type places to eat in Piñones, and I really wish that I had visited them instead of being sucked in by Soleil's marketing scheme. If you've had a different experience at Soleil, I'd love to hear about it, but suffice it to say that I will not be visiting Soleil on my next trip to Puerto Rico.

Carretera 187 KM 4.6
Piñones, PR

Monday, January 12, 2009

SWF seeks Arroz con Gandules Recipe for LTR

Okay, I've tried making Arroz con Gandules in a number of ways, and I just can't find a recipe that I really like that I can stick with. I know there are many ways to make it, but somehow whenever I do it, it ends up too bland or too salty. Anyone have any specific suggestions or tried and true recipes? I'm getting a little desparate! Help!

*By the way, this post was triggered by Tyler Florence's episode of "Tyler's Ultimate," where he makes smashed caramelized plantains, pernil, and apparently "arroz de gandules." I have to give him a wag of the finger for getting the name of such a popular Puerto Rican dish incorrect, but I will give him a tip of the hat for at least attempting to feature Puerto Rican food on the Food Network.

My Puerto Rico mommy serving up some rice and beans