A Quick Visit to San Juan
A Glimpse of San Juan
I recently went on a cruise. One stop on the itinerary was Old San Juan. A good reason to go on a cruise is to see if you would like to vacation there on a longer visit. The reason not to go on a cruise is you can’t stay in a place that really peaks a visitor’s interest for as long as the visitor may want. San Juan was that case for me. I had heard wonderful comments about San Juan, and when my husband was in the military we tried to get stationed there but were never able to get those orders.
I feel that a cruise visit rushes any sightseeing, but in this case I spent enough time to realize what a wonderful place San Juan could be for a longer stay. We were able to get off the ship and find a sightseeing bus that would give a quick tour and some history of the island as we left the port area. Our bus driver/tour guide was a very personable man and spoke very good English, although it wasn’t his native tongue. He provided many interesting facts, and told us that he would leave us at the Old Fort, El Morro. He explained some of the history of the Fort and also explained how to get back to the port when we were finished sightseeing and shopping. On our way up to the Fort, we continued to sightsee, and then it was time for us to explore the Fort on our own
Beautiful San Juan
San Juan is the oldest City under the American Flag. Some of our fellow travelers felt that St Augustine was oldest, but as we know, it was not always under the American Flag. El Morro, a 16th century fortress is truly amazing. There is a long majestic walk way up to the entry. The fort has served to defend the Caribbean during many conflicts. The fort was used during a number of conflicts. Many additions were made over the years and now the fort has walls that are 18inches thick and tunnels that connect one area to another. There were also 20th century turrets made during the 1900’s, but even they didn’t detract from the look of the fort.The fort is now preserved as a National Historic Site. It has barrack rooms and other rooms where period uniforms and arms are displayed. It would have been wonderful to have headsets that could explain more areas in depth. The tour is self-guided. There are informational signs that explain some of the areas, and a gift shop that has maps, etc. The view from the wall out into the bay is breath taking. This is a good place to visit when the weather is cooler. There are few places to sit and a lot of walking and steps to cover.
As you look from the Fort, New San Juan appeared to be a metropolis. There were two areas of sky scrapers that we could see which made me wish for more time. Back on the ship, we met cruisers who had been to San Juan before and went directly to the beach. They had been there several times and couldn’t say enough nice things about the beaches.
From the Fort, one can amble down through the old city with its narrow streets, small shops, and restaurants. The Old San Juan square has four statues and there are vendors there, if you care to shop. While walking notice the beautiful blue stone pavers that were brought over in Spanish Ships as ballast. Moisture, wear, and time have given them a blue tint that I haven’t seen anywhere.
There are many restaurants. We found Tio Danny’s Mexican Restaurant. There were a number of locals eating there which is always a good sign. The server spoke English and was helpful with items that were new to us. The food was quick to come out and was absolutely delicious. It was a nice break from the long walk down the hill from the Fortress. We stopped and shopped at a small shop ran by a man from the continental US. He was friendly and talkative.
When planning your next trip or cruise definitely give San Juan consideration. There are Plazas, churches, museums, and a Fine Art Center waiting to be explored. This is one stop I am definitely glad we made.