Wednesday, December 4, 2013

a very puerto rican thanksgiving

the week before thanksgiving, we all flew down to san juan, puerto rico. b had a conference there, and the rest of us came along for the ride.

 while b was at his conference, i took the kiddos out into old san juan, which is gorgeous. we had a puerto rican pastry breakfast our first morning there.

 i was happily surprised to see christmas decorations out already.

 our first glimpse of the ocean.

 just outside el morro.

 at el morro. it is a fun place. an old fortress that you can walk through and explore. 


 we were there on the 50th anniversary of jfk's death.

 we went to the old cemetery outside el morro. i love old cemeteries. w is looking for lizards.

 a hermit crab that w found.

 i found it interesting that some of the headstones said RIP since that's not acronym you'd use in spanish to say rest in peace.

 at the other fortress in old san juan--san cristobal.

 the first living iguana we found at san cristobal. we found a lot of dead ones before we saw any living ones.

 then we noticed the rock pile where they all hung out. and we saw tons of big iguanas.

 notice the juvenile bright green iguana.

 the iguana who spit at us.

 w couldn't catch these little iguanas.

 at the square where we often met up with b. w is talking about the pigeons.

 w and b trying to "catch" an iguana.

 they chased the iguana to the fence, and then got scared when the iguana stopped! it couldn't fit through the fence. not sure what to do, we all looked in amazement as the iguana wiggled through the chain link fence.

 such a tough picture of b. 

 b and w outside the building where he had his conference.

 part of la muralla (the old city wall).

 w looking for lizards.

 w with his first lizard.

 we got as much good, good ice cream as we could. street vendors sell it there, and it's so good. i love the coconut, but i discovered that i also love the passion fruit.

 a christmas market we found in old san juan.

 we left san juan and headed south to a small town called guanica. we stayed at a place right on the ocean.

 the building behind s is our room at the "hotel."

 the kids loved playing outside our place. unfortunately, though, we didn't see any iguanas there.

 we got there on sunday and went around exploring the different beaches in the area. it was gorgeous down there. the water was bright turquoise.

 b showing off his new puerto rican hat.

 on the pier outside our place. the boat is the one that took us to the island off in the distance. we took a 5-minute boat ride to the island on monday and spent 4 hours snorkeling out there. it wasn't the best snorkeling of our lives, but it was good. we saw a lot of fish and found some living conchs. it was w and s's first time snorkeling in the ocean, and they did really well. it was great fun.

 another lizard.

 a cool fish we saw off the pier.

 take a closer look to see what w's earring is.

 we went into guanica to try frappes--a puerto rican smoothie drink. they were good, but not as good as a batida de zapote.

 on tuesday afternoon (two days before thanksgiving) we left guanica and headed to el yunque--the rain forest there. we hiked up to our rain forest cabin. the kids were very excited to learn they'd be sleeping outside on the covered deck in hammocks!

 that night we went to a restaurant near our cabin for some puerto rican fare. i had mofongo with my pork, and the mofongo was much better than i remembered it. but b's rice and beans were amazing. puerto ricans know how to make beans taste really good. w got rabbit turnovers, which were really tasty too.

 sleeping in the hammocks.

 w and s managed to stay out in their hammocks all night--through the loud wind, rain, and coqui frogs.

 it was an interesting night for me and b. around 5:30am, i woke up with a start and made a yelp loud enough to wake up brian. he asked what was wrong, and i said something fell on my head. he turned on his head lamp flashlight and shined it around our small cabin (we were sleeping inside the small cabin in a bed). looking up, he discovered a large black rat on the rafters above our head, then he saw the one that had fallen on my head run up the walls and join the rafter rat. b thought if he shined the light in their eyes, it would scare them, and they'd run away. but, it didn't scare one of them--it ran down the wall and stopped and stared at us (about 2 feet away from my head), and then ran away. shortly thereafter, the rats left--although my memory of what happened during the next 15 minutes or so is very limited. needless to say, we got up and got going early that morning and felt sufficiently creeped out during the day. 

the other thing you should notice about the above and below pictures are my shirt. we made puerto rico shirts before we left.

 gorgeous views on the hike from the cabin back down to our car.

 b picking grape fruits for our breakfast.

 officially entering el yunque.

 we also picked up some star fruits for our breakfast. it turned out that our fruit wasn't all that ripe. this is b trying to eat one of our star fruits.

 w eating the tartest star fruit.

 s trying to eat her star fruit.

 we went on a nice hike through el yunque to a waterfall.

 very pretty, no?

 s giving you a feel for how big these leaves are.

 w with a lizard!

 we had to settle with seeing the puerto rican green parrot in its portrait. they are in el yunque, but are very, very rare. 

 blow up this picture. b is pointing to the word indonesia, the native land for the flower in the picture.

 we finally found some batidas de zapote for me. i had been looking for them all over the island. i was so excited to find a place that sold them. sadly, though, they didn't put in much zapote. if you want zapotes, be sure to go the dominican republic, not puerto rico. they are not a big deal in puerto rico.

 w climbing a coconut tree on thanksgiving morning! we swam in the ocean that morning.

 we only stayed one night in the cabin. we were going to spend three, but b and i were pretty disgusted by the rat incident. so we worked out to stay at a house just up the mountain road from the cabin. it was such a lovely place to stay--we each had our own bedroom and bathroom. and the folks who owned the place invited us to eat thanksgiving dinner with them and their friends.

 so on thursday, we went to house next to the one we were staying in and joined in on a puerto rican thanksgiving feast. it was a little awkward at first since the people who invited us didn't arrive until about 45 minutes later. but the group was gracious and helped us feel welcome.

 b and junior became fast friends. junior was so nice and offered us the first helpings of turkey and the plantains they cooked inside the turkey. he also gave us cuello meat to eat (neck meet), and then he gave me the corazon (heart) to eat. i wouldn't have chosen to eat the heart, but it wasn't bad. 

some of the dinner's highlights were sitting on a deck overlooking el yunque (gorgeous scenery), having mashed yucca (rather than potatoes), plantain, avocados (that were so good), rice and beans, flan, and pepsi to drink (only pepsi to drink). there was also some tasty pork. i actually preferred the pork to the turkey (and that says a lot since i love turkey). 

 we played games the family.

 after the dinner, we talked down to the river. it started raining on our way down, so we pulled off huge leaves and used them as umbrellas.

 at this point, our camera ran out of life.

but thanksgiving was our last full day there. we flew home on friday and made it home around 11:45 that night. we slept well that night!