Monday, November 7, 2011

Puerto Rico, the shining star (remember those ads from when we were little?)

Oh yeah, so I just got back from Rincon, Puerto Rico. It was pretty awesome. The Man and I both have a little PPRVSD (Post-Puerto-Rican-vacation-stress-disorder).

Here’s a rundown of events, in case you’re interested, or are thinking of going yourself and want a review:

Tuesday night before we left
New England was cold. I got home after yoga with J to a dang messy apartment. It appeared as if the Man was trying to play some sort of pre-vacation joke on me. I tidied up as appropriate. I also vacuumed, threw out some perishables, took out the trash, checked our travel information and documents, and did some other stuff. The Man was at his kickball league championship game. They won. (See how I’m making it seem like he goes out and has fun and I slave away at home? That’s only partially true… He did call the cab company, and pay for the cab and lots of other stuff, and carry my bag a lot of the time. And he drove a bunch. He’s a good dude.)

We got up at 5am and showered, readying ourselves for the 6am cab. It was hella-cold outside.
We got to the airport in plenty of time for the flight so we had breakfast and coffee at Boston Beerworks. Then we had Starbucks coffee and waited for the flight. We sat in the cramped plane for three hours and forty-five minutes while he read and watched satellite tv and I read My Life in France. Finally we got off the plane in San Juan and stripped off our sweaters. We changed from sneakers to flip flops. FREEDOM!
A shuttle took us to the Enterprise Rent-a-Car where the polite rep pretty much forced me to take the $29/day insurance because, as he says, 70% of people in Puerto Rico don’t have insurance and even if they hit you it’s your fault. Boo.
Here began a super-harrowing three and a half hour drive. It started pouring almost immediately into our trip. The directions seemed easy, and the highway parts were, but we got off the highway too early at one point and wandered around some one-way mountain paths masquerading as roads. Then we go off track trying to muddle our way through directions that did not include street names or landmarks that actually existed. At one point when I was about to have a nervous breakdown because we couldn’t have been more than 100ft from the condo, the Man suggested that I navigate and he drive. I agreed. He immediately backed into a fence with the rented Hyundai. INSURANCE!
We drove around for a little longer, growing more and more desperate. Then, finally we found the place. It was a three bedroom condo with a pool out front and a giant roof-deck from which the ocean was visible and easily heard. Amazing.
We walked to a restaurant about a block over (if there had been actual blocks) and sat on lawn furniture under an awning. The place was all outdoor except for a little hut where they made sushi. The bar served $4 rum punches. There was a giant screen where they showed 80s surf movies. I loved it. It was still a bit rainy but that just made the plants seem more lush and the climate more tropical.
After a few drinks and some sushi we tiredly walked back to the condo, stopping at the convenience store next door for some sunblock and two $20 bottles ($5 value!) of wine. CONVENIENCE!

We got up relatively early on Thursday thinking that we’d get a bunch of stuff done. We were both fearful and irritated at the thought of getting back in the car, but we kind of had to if we wanted to explore the various beaches and restaurants and get some basics at the grocery store. We did end up checking out a few different places, after which we (with only a little getting lost) made it to a breakfast place called The English Rose. It was at the tippy top of a huge hill with a crazy winding one-lane (barely) road. We had coffee and wonderful eggs benedict and something called “The Full Monty” that included the very British “bubble-and-squeak” (fried mixed vegetables). After filling our bellies completely we wanted to have some beach time, so I rented an umbrella and chair on the beach right near the condo and the Man braved the humongous waves. I played around in the water and read some short stories and then it was lunch.
We went to Tamboo, a little pub with a deck that had collapsed, but was still attached to the restaurant. We sat at a bar area in the back right on the beach and within spitting distance of the water. The Man had a steak sandwich with a salad and I had a spicy shrimp salad sandwich with tostones (fried smashed plantains – you should have these, like right now).
We also each had a rum punch ($1.87 each) and a Medalla Light (the local PR beer, $2 each). There was a lot of contented sighing and staring out at the beach.

After a quick nap at the condo we were ready to try to find this nearby Thai Place, Ode to the Elephants. What should have taken us about three minutes of walking ended up taking at least ten because again, the directions we had were terrible. As it turns out, the Man and I are not at our best when we’re not sure where we’re going. To be fair, it is stressful, and no one generally raises his or her voice, but, an outsider might think that we don’t like each other quite so much as we do if he heard us at these times. I try very hard (and I know the Man tries too) always to be nice – because if this is the person you want to spend most of your time with, you (I) want things to be as pleasant as possible all the time. Sometimes it’s hard. As I’m sure you know.  
We don’t need to talk about that anymore.

We ate delicious spicy fried sole and ginger shrimp and had dirty martinis. Then we strolled home and had some more wine. 

Wow, life was so hard in Rincon. I’m not sure how we pulled through.

We wanted to get an earlier start so as to maximize surf/beach time. The Man was eager to start the day and so he got up several times before 6am, each time deciding that it was crazy to get up before dawn. I didn’t sleep that well because I kept seeing “Tsunami Zone” signs everywhere and I had recurring dreams that the sound of the air conditioner in the condo was the sound of a tsunami overtaking the condo (it wasn’t). Finally the sun started to rise and the Man made coffee. We drank it, put the surf board and beach gear in the car(slightly farther away beach) and went to the local bakery for lox bagels and more coffee. The waves were huge so we lingered over our breakfast on the beach while contemplating nature’s utter dominance over man. It was intense. The Man put in a good couple of hours surfing and I re-reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Since we were already in the car we drove to a little bar called The Rum shack and had pulled pork and fish tacos and more plantains and EVEN MORE RUM PUNCH. These cups were $5 each, but they were bigger. And delicious. And rummy. We were finding that pretty much everyone there spoke English and was generally low key and friendly. I would say that this particular lunch was when we fully relaxed into the vacation. On the way back to the car I kept asking the Man to sing that Foster the People song and he did (probably because of the rum punches). We then spent some quality time in the condo pool – the water was crazy warm. We took a walk and thought about doing yoga but it seems that food and sunshine and rum and swimming makes people tired, so we nixed the idea of an afternoon surf/yoga in favor of another nap. Then before dinner we had a glass of wine on the roof deck, where I attempted to pull some sea-urchin spines out of the Man’s foot. I was unsuccessful. It didn’t matter much, because DUDE, it’s Puerto Rico…
For dinner we went to a tapas place about a ¼ mile down the mostly sidewalk-less/street-lampless road. They weren’t technically open yet (since it was just the very beginning of surf season) but there were plenty of people there. The menu was quite small, and not on paper yet so they just had a small chalkboard (just one!) that they gave everyone in turn to review. The Man had some beautiful rare steak with sweet plantains and I had a pick plate with spicy chorizo, fresh manchengo and pickled vegetables. It was delightful and not too heavy. We don’t usually have desserts, but we shared a cream puff with espresso and hazelnut cream and some wonderful coffees. Yum.

More early rising and early surfing. This time we just had some quick coffee and a banana before heading out and the Man was the only one in the water for quite some time. By the time other people were heading into the water, we were headed back to The English Rose on the scary hilltop for more wonderful breakfast.
After breakfast we hung out for a little while digesting at the condo and then it was back to the beach. I tried to boogie board, but the water was so powerful that I kept getting pulled back and under. Without flippers I was likely a goner, so I just splashed a bit in the shallow end and then took up my usual position reading on the beach and watching the many many loose dogs sniff their way across the sand, chasing crabs and the waves. (Side note: I named all of the dogs I saw. My favorites were Rufus, a red-brown mutt that lived next door and laid himself as flat as possible in the shade for most of the day, and George and Lenny, a big-dog-and-small-dog duo who dominated the beach.)
Finding that it was lunchtime again (woe!) we went to the place right next door to the condo (Rock Bottom) and had some punch and mediocre food. Sad. To console ourselves we went back to Tamboo for more punch. Two each. Yay, rum!
This time, overlooking the beach was a little melancholy as we knew we were leaving the next morning. Boo.
What better way to make yourself feel better than to take a nap? No better way. Well, maybe with some wine on the deck while you’re watching the sun set… that’s pretty good too.
After the nap and wine/sunset, there was dinner. We went back to Pools, the sushi place from the first night, and had some punch and edamame and wonderful sushi. We also watched more surfing movies, where the waves were so big I was very nervous for the surfers and camera crew (they all made it).
After dinner I actually didn’t feel all that well. The Man wondered if it might be food poisoning, but I blame the fact that we were leaving soon. We sat on the couch and watched a movie and snuggled. I might have napped a little. I seriously haven’t napped so much in the last 10 years as I did on this vacation.
We tidied up the condo a little before bed so we wouldn’t have to do much the next morning because we wanted to go to the beach one last time.

We got up early and went to the beach from about 6:20 to 7:30. Then we swiftly took care of business at the condo, making sure not to leave the place a wreck, and we got in the car. We hit the bakery for bagels and said “See you soon” to Rincon. The trip back to San Juan was clear and mostly traffic-free. We made it in about two hours. The Man drove and I made sure we stayed on course all the way to the car rental place, which we did.
At the airport we cried into our over-priced rum punches and Americanized “local” food. Oh, we did not want to go home at all. The plane ride was equally sad as the Man started to do some work (the first time he had opened his computer) and I began wondering if the kitties had destroyed the apartment and how cold Boston would be (they did not destroy anything and the weather wasn’t too terrible). We made it home in one piece and didn’t do much but talk about going back to Rincon at the first available opportunity.

So. It was great and beautiful and relaxing and we loved it. We definitely want to go back. Soon. It’s true that we didn’t do a lot of tourist-y stuff that I’d planned to do (tour bioluminescent bays, snorkel, hike, kayak to Monkey Island) but we just didn’t want to get back in the car at all after that first day. I think next time we’ll sneak in a couple of touristy things now that we know how to get around a bit better. We’ll probably also stay a little longer. It was heavenly.

Pictures soon.


gilana said...

George and Lenny. Ha. That might be my favorite thing from this post. Well, except for the fact that you got to go to Puerto Rico. That's nice, too.

die Frau said...

I also liked the literary reference. Sounds like an amazing time!