Thursday 3/30/07 Our day at the beach!

We decided that, since the surf on our beach was too rough for the kids to be in, we’d go to a another beach that was more "sunbather and swimmer friendly". The desk clerk gave us instructions how to find a nice public beach in Isla Verde. She said that we should save cab fare by taking the city bus…it costs $.75 cents and "you’d better have the exact change because they won’t accept anything else." Although San Juan's currency is the American dollar, we had to find a bank to get change for the bus. We didn't have to go too far...it was right on the bus line!

San Juan has very narrow streets in this area, and cars park just about any direction they want to. It wasn’t uncommon to see two cars parked front to front on the “wrong” side of the street.

San Juan drivers zig and zag through the streets like crazy and we were happy to leave the driving to the San Juan bus company. But, we had a driver who drove like a potential Indianapolis 500 candidate! It was unbelievable; he started like a rabbit, sped through the traffic, and slammed on his brakes when he came to bus stops. Considering that this was a BIG bus, that was no small feat.

Once when we turned a sharp corner, Jenny was positive that we ran over a bicyclist who had been riding alongside of the bus….but, since we didn’t see a body in the street behind us, we figured he knew how to ride in this crazy traffic. Another car cut in front of the bus while we were making a left turn…..the bus driver barely slowed down. There wasn’t ONE car in San Juan that didn’t have at least one good-sized dent in the fender. Seems if you don’t hit someone, someone will probably hit you.

Isle Verda was a nice place but not a tropical paradise beach either. It was surrounded by tall apartment buildings and the usual assortment of Marriott, Holiday Inns and Sheridan Hotels. The surf was milder here but still pretty rough. Austin and Jean were tossed head over heels by a big one that they weren’t prepared for….we didn’t realize how strong those waves were. Another good one caught Ken and knocked his sunglasses off, probably the first of many sunglasses that would be lost this trip.

The day was cloudy and according to the San Juan natives, much cooler than normal. It rained a little but with no thunder or wind, the sky just opened up and the rain poured out. We had some sprinkles of rain at Isle Verda, which was only a 15-20 minute bus ride from Wind Chimes Inn. When we arrived back after the day at the beach, we learned that they had a really hard downpour. Water was everywhere and dripping off the trees and bushes. But, our rooms were nice and dry.

Jenny has an eagle eye for TACO BELLs and managed to find one near the beach. Our 2nd meal in San Juan….again nothing brave about our eating habits. We had a little problem at this point.....the TACO BELL staff couldn’t speak English, and we couldn’t speak Spanish. But, it's their country so we did the best we could.
I ordered a chicken sandwich by pointing at the photo on the wall which was labeled #2….well, I got my order alright…2 chicken sandwiches!
Rather than try to explain that I only wanted 1 sandwich which happened to be a #2 on the menu, I kept it. Its a good thing Jenny was hungry because she ate her taco and one of my extra chicken sandwiches. She's a growing girl!

We also did some souvenir shopping in a small drugstore/souvenir/miscellaneous store. Austin bought a boogie board figuring that he would be able to use it somewhere during the trip. We stocked up on snacks, sodas and candy to get us through the day and early evening.

We caught the bus back to the Inn…again an adventure in bus riding. But we arrived safely. And, it was time for supper! After being at the beach most of the day, we were hungry! The desk clerk at the hotel suggested a nice Puerto Rican restaurant, but when she started talking about beans and rice and some foods that we had never heard of, we chickened out. John and Austin were willing to go to the Puerto Rican restaurant but was outvoted by the rest of us…..Ken is iffy about eating strange foods, Lisa and I were concerned that we’d come down with “Montezuma’s Revenge” and Jennie’s feeling again was “If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it!”

We decided to explore San Juan in the hopes of finding a restaurant that everyone could agree on. A few blocks down the street was an Old Chicago restaurant …. do it yourself pizzas for the kids, good ole American Style pizza for John and Lisa, fish for Ken and chili for Jean.

Friday 3/30/07 The Hunt for a beautiful beach and a visit to the Rain Forest

John and Ken left the Inn at 8:00 am to pick up a mini-van for the day. John couldn’t find a tour or anyone to take us on a tour for less than $90 apiece (WOW!) so decided that since he has had lots of driving experience in different cities, he would be the designated driver. No problem with that….he was willing and worked cheap!

Wednesday and Thursday had been cloudy, but today was sunny and hot. Yesterday we all got a little bit tanned, but today will definitely be a sunburn day.

John rented a new mini-van and we drove to the El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as The Caribbean National Rain Forest. El Yunque is less than an hour's drive from San Juan and John did an excellent job of avoiding collisions with various people who obviously didn’t know how to drive. Once we were out of the city (?) and onto the highway, we just rolled along.

Then, up in the middle of the highway, we saw a big tent with 20 or 30 Puerto Rican policemen and women lining the highway…standing there with their guns and night sticks ready.....great. At first we thought it was an accident, but it couldn’t be an accident since they probably wouldn’t have erected a big tent over the wreck.
Then we realized that it was some type of protest .......on one side of the highway were a group of people waving flags and on the other..... the police who were lined up on the other side glaring at them. I had visions of “Americans go Home” and being hit with tomatos or something, but got we through it without a scratch.

Later we found out that the highway had recently been completed and this was the ceremony to name or take credit for it. The protestors were there because their Puerto Rican political party, which had been voted out of office, had originally drawn up the highway plans and began work on it. Then an election was held, and another party was voted in. They did a little work on the highway and then it was their turn to be voted out. Finally the newest party completed the highway and they were claiming all the glory of the finished highway. The protestors were from party #1 and party #2 who wanted recognization for beginning the whole thing in the first place. Sounds logical to me. We were out of there before we found out who won....the 1st, 2nd or 3rd party...and who the highway was named for.

Several miles on, we were slowed by a group of horsemen following a white hearse. The horses were beautiful Paso Fino horses....the Paso Fino horse reflects its Spanish heritage through its proud carriage, grace and elegance. It has a lively but controlled spirit, natural gait and presence and responsive attitude and when we saw them, we knew right away what breed they were. (we're from Nebraska, we KNOW good horseflesh!) I’ll have to tell Jim Yeck about them, he owns a gorgeous white Paso Fino mare.

We were told that one of the San Juan Paso Fino horse club members had died and these riders were his honor guard. Paso Fino horses were originally bred in Puerto Rico and the people are very proud of them.

(to be continued)

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