In Old San Juan
San Juan Travel Blog› entry 4 of 9 › view all entries
After two and a half days sail from New York, we reached our first destination, Puerto Rico. At 2:00 p.m. the northern coast of Puerto Rico coud be sighted on the horizon directly ahead. Carnival Miracle was headed straight in. A crowd formed on deck as the San Juan skyline became more distinct. The day was a bit hazy, but couldn't have been brighter! Great weather for an afternoon and evening in Old San Juan!
Beofre long, the stone walls of both the San Cristóbal and El Morro fortifications became distinct There was a spectacular view of El Morro as the ship rounded the point and entered Bahia de San Juan. We were treated to more virtual sightseeing as the old City Wall and the blue La Fortaleza, an early fort dating from 1533 and still used as an administrative center passed by. Carnival Miracle docked at 3:00 p.m. and customs was cleared by 3:30. The four of us were soon of the ship and looking for a taxi.
El Castillo San Felipe del Morro is an impressive sight, to say the least! You can sense this history oozing out of it. It's huge, even viewed form the end of the long pathway leading to the entrance. El Morro, together with Castillo San Cristóbal, form the San Juan National Historic Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was eager to go in and explore. Julia preferred not to, and so she an Susan headed for the streets and byways of Old San Juan while Drew and I walked up the path to enter EL Morro.
I explored El Morro until closing time at 5:00 p.m., going down the steep stairs to the lower Batería de
Not long after that, Drew and I ran into Susan and Julia, also exploring the lower town.
We were now back at Calle Norzagaray and the Malecon along the sea in the uppermost part of Old San Juan. Debbie expained that the long-term plan is to prohibit motor traffic in Old San Juan and restore the 1890s cobblestone pavement. It is hoped that all of Old San Juan will be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We reached El Morro as the sun set. We saw the courtyard at nearby Cuartel de Ballajá, originally a Spanish barracks constructed in 1863. It was used by the US Army until the 1970s and is now restored as the Museum of the Americas. We could not go in as still another wedding reception was occurring at this location! Our walk took us back along the City Wall. Now after dark, the lights of the city shown on the water of the bay. The tour ended at the Catedral de San Juan, begun in 1540 and most recently rebuilt in 1917.
The tour broke up near 9:00 p.m. The four of us went back in the direction of the Sheraton. Julia wanted to meet up at Señor Frogs with friends she'd made on the ship, were they were dancing the evening away. Susan, Drew, and I decided on an easy option for dinner at Chicago Burger Co. After dinner, I walked around Old San Juan a bit more, waiting for Julia and soaking up atmosphere. Weddings. Fiestas. Parades. Skateboarders in the plazas. What a vibrant place was Viejo San Juan! The fiesta and its attendant parades and fokloric dancing were over for the evening. But, the action had moved on to the many local restaurants and clubs. Before long, it was time to reboard Carnvial Miracle for the Midnight sailing.
Once again, Carnival Miracle slipped by El Morro, now illuminated. Far out to sea, the flashing beacon from the El Morro lighthouse could be seen marking the now distant shoreline.