San Juan was cool, but after two days of 85 degrees and 85% humidity, and last night here in this tiny box of a room, I could use a change of pace. My drunken travelling partner was kicking on the bed, and a little headache building.
We kept our word and woke up early, made our way up to the big cathedral on top of the hill. A big old hill, with a pretty brutal hangover, and the weather is just getting hotter and more humid out here. We saw the Castillo de San Cristobal, and that was really cool. Walking around up top provided a nice view, but most of this particular fort was closed. It looked a lot like El Morro anyway, so we kept walking, heading for the big steeple that poked up over houses and buildings every now and then.
The cathedrals were REALLY nice. The first one we saw was the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, aka John the Baptist. This place was really cool, especially because it had the tomb of one of my favorite historical characters, a conquistador by the name of Ponce De Leon. Anybody foolish enough to lead whole columns of troops to their death in pursuit of the fountain of the youth is okay in my book. To me it was a great example of how prideful they must have been to actually go out in pursuit of a crazy legend like the fountain of youth. A big part of me wants to scream “what an idiot!”, but I mean, they didn’t know any better.
There was plenty to look at in the old cathedral, from the giant pipe organ, to the creepy Jesus in a box . The whole place was beautiful, but I was sweating my ass off in there, and I just didn’t feel all that great. At one point, I was taking pictures inside, and as I backed up I bumped into a nun. The nuns down there don’t wear the penguin looking outfits we’re used to up here. they wear these dark green and navy blue frocks that look as comfortable as burlap sacks in the balmy heat. I bumped into her going slowly, but she was so small, I felt horribly. She appeared to be okay, but I was apologizing profusely and just wanted to get out of there. Was covered in sweat and even though the cathedral was huge, I felt stifled and needed air.
I kind of chalk that up to my super shitty breakfast. We made the mistake in the early morning of trying to get some kind of egg and bacon in the heart of touristy Old San Juan. It was a really terrible breakfast. The coffee was nasty, the orange juice was actually Tang, but still $3, and instead of hasbrowns, it came with french fries. French fries for breakfast.
We also walked up to the old cathedral, the San Jose Cathedral, which I found out was actually Ponce De Leon’s original resting place. He was moved in the 1800s to the newer cathedral above. This cathedral was closed, but it was also the oldest significant example of construction on the whole island according to everybody around it. Everybody out here seems to be a tour guide, and knows EVERYthing about their city and surroundings. Pretty awesome aspect of the people out here.
So anyway, the old cathedral was closed, but your trusty author managed to sneak a few pics through an open window, and Here’s one, I wonder how old these guys are. Here’s another shot of the old brickwork, looking REALLY old.
I felt a little better after this, it was cooler on top of the hill with the old cathedral and it’s plaza. There was a little bar on the corner with two stools facing the outside, and we stopped in for a variety of different Pina Coladas. The bartender was really friendly, and snapped this pic of us drinking. We had a few rounds, and talked to a couple of interesting couples at this bar. One was from Ponce, a city on the south side of the island, and the other was british, I believe. The bar had a lot of east coast beers, which really made me happy, and once again, drunk.
In the afternoon , I managed to head back to our little dive bar and struck up that booze deal I was so looking forward to. Only been here about 72 hours, already hung over and carrying contraband around with me everywhere.
So the deal was to meet him at noon the next day to make the buy, inside the bar, which blew my mind. Usually, well, out in LA, even a bottle of water from the outside, will get tossed in the trash, or get you kicked out of the bar. Here, a bartender had actually made arrangements for me to buy moonshine off a guy, while I was drinking in his bar.
What hospitality! I felt like the ATF was gonna swoop down on us at any moment, but no, he just handed me a shopping bag, like a plastic grocery bag, with a bottle wrapped up inside. He put the thing on the freaking bar! It was super casual, the bartender was hip, and I put it in my backpack after quickly and quietly paying $20 USD. We had a couple more shots, and walked out.
We did see some cool buildings, and some interesting ruins. By ruins, I mean these buildings where the facade was standing, but you could see that the interior had collapsed. Some were reinforced with steel, some were obviously still crumbling.
In the afternoon at Raices again, and while it was delicious, it kind of dawned on me how we had eaten pretty much ONLY fried foods since we had arrived. I also noted that we didn’t see any veggies anywhere, and you couldn’t get any kind of salad that is worth a damn on this island. I feel really California saying that, but that’s ok. I’d kill for a fruit bag from one of those side of the road cart vendors at the moment.
On the way back to the room, we made a long detour to our new favorite local bars (as opposed to the extreme divey liquor dealing one) La Bahia Tropical. There we re-met up with David, and he was excited to see us. He kept buying us drinks and got us extremely wasted. While we were drinking, there was a protest going on at the capitol building, which happened to be right behind us.
There we were, drinking Medalla beers in the sun, when a group of Labor Union guys came up and put down their picket signs, and picked up beers. It was really weird how casually it went from a big demonstration to what I actually thought was a union organized party. It was just a bunch of them buying each other beers! Weird. We drank with them until we couldn’t see straight, and David was rambling about some party he insisted we come to. He said his DJ buddy, DJ BARRON was gonna be spinning, there would be lots of NENAS which is the female version of a a Coño. We would be treated to an excellent time, but It would mean another day in San Juan, but he had gotten us really drunk, and he was super nice and accommodating so we said what the hell, lets stay another day. So he helped us find a room right there on the spot, and sent us on our way.
What we ended up scoring were two separate rooms in a really nice looking place called “Plaza De Armas” hotel. This place is really nice. The rooms were nice and clean, and completely separate. I have a big bed, and set up all my electronics and stuff to charge up and get ready for the tomorrow, which at this point is still completely unplanned. I want to go to Vieques Island, but it sounds like another tourist trap, I really don’t want to get stuck in that type of town.
Time for bed for tonight, and we shall see how it all goes down tomorrow. Feeling a bit drunk and this room is freezing with the AC. This town has two temperature settings. Tropical heat, and arctic blast.