Saturday, May 24, 2008

San Juan, Puerto Rico

As Memorial Day marks the official start of summer, over the next few days I'll be running my old travel posts to give you some inspiration for a summer getaway.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Original post date: March 10, 2005

Mi isla bonita, Puerto Rico!!" -- Jennnifer Lopez upon taking the stage during her first, "live," concert in San Juan.

Ah, Puerto Rico. Don't let its sons and daughters on the 6 Train deceive you, this is really one of the most beautiful places on earth: lovely, sexy people, gorgeous beaches and lots of things to do at night.

What's most striking about Puerto Rico, aside from the sickeningly blue waters and how friggin' gay-friendly it is, is how cosmopolitan San Juan is. The city is 500 years old and yet within the walls of the old fort (El Morro) and Old San Juan, you'll find bars and restaurants where nothing short of Manolos and designer jeans will do.

And the people -- callate (a dismissive term used in Spanish that means "shut up" but can be used to ease people into something shocking. Like, "callate, I just ran over your kid.") SO friendly. Friday night we took a cab to Old San Juan (just tell the cabbie "I want to go to Old San Juan) and ate at Agua Viva. To us, it looked like Asia de Cuba in New York. But instead of drowning in some Eurotrash cologne, we were invited to have birthday cake with a party of ten next to us and then off to a bar with a friendly gay couple from L.A.

"We're in town for the Atlantis cruise."

Oh are you now? Ten minutes later James and I are in some hired car with Karl Lagerfeld (dead ringer, honestly) and a heavier-set Brian Boitano to Eros -- THE gay club out in San Sebastian.

Now, James and I are committed to each other, so we don't get down with poppers, coke and other couples (no matter what James tell you, I'm the one telling the truth) which meant that 10 minutes into our foray to Eros (we had to tip the bouncer 20 bucks to let us jump the line into the empty club) we had to leave.

Which is all fine and dandy, it just gave me more time to work on slow roasting myself on the beach the next day. If you didnt think that baby over here could get suburn, think again. By 7 pm that night I was so burnt I could barely walk and I passed out by 9.

Enough about my woes, what we also loved about PR was the food. Sunday night we hopped in a cab and asked the lady at the wheel (who, like most people in PR have an aversion to seatbelts) to take us to place where SHE would go for dinner. We wanted pork, rice and beans and didnt think that the Radisson (per our moron concierge's suggestion) was the place to go.

Sho' nuff' we wound up in some hot spot with every cross section of Puerto Rican fabulosity was chowin' down on alcapurrias (fried, doughy dumplings with meat), asopao (shrimp soup) and lechon asado (roast sucking pig). What a meal, all for $30.

Monday we went around old San Juan to do some shopping and tour the Old Fort. From a far we could see the cemetery at La Perla, the seaside Shanty that has gained a place in popular Spanish lore as the home of many of the immigrants who left Puerto Rico for a better life Stateside.

If you haven't been, go to Puerto Rico ASAP. You'll love it.

Update: As luck would have it, three years after writing this post I found myself working on the Puerto Rico Tourism Company account at my job.


The fabulous little guest house we stayed at, right on the beach in Ocean Park, Numero Uno Guest House. Highly recommend.

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