Sunday, August 14, 2016

AMA's survived Puerto Rico.

View of the city from one of the Fort
Hola Everyone,

Note: As many of you have asked about detail description and tips  from our experience ,this post is a long one.If you need more tips and specific information about where to find things in Puerto Rico, please write to me personally.I have covered the basics.We have done many Trips but this is our first Island vacation and after this I can confidently claim that ,we are comfortable with Island trips.

After the hustle and bustle at the house and airport  We  are on  flight to Puerto Rico on 23rd December 2014  ,luckily our seats were together ,We landed in Luis Munoz Martin airport named after the governor of Puerto Rico who fought to get American Citizenship for PuertoRicans in 1917. Puerto Rico was my suggestion last year but A convinced kids will have better fun in Disney,Florida, personally I think Disney amuses him every time but he agreed  that ,Puerto Rico was a relaxed one.

We booked as a package flight and hotel together , didn't include the car ,we thought its a small island we could do in taxis and local transportation but when we arrived at the hotel we felt like birds without wings ,settled in the room around 1AM .We stayed at Hyatt House ,San Juan ,The first day we spent hunting down a rental car and got one around 2pm ,did some local shopping for groceries ,vegetables as Puerto Rico is not vegetarian friendly.The veggies and fruits are so fresh ,especially the roots.During the whole trip we enjoyed tropical fruits pineapple,papaya,coconut water,small bananas and price wise very economical. Hyatt House -we highly recommend as the hotel was clean,High Quality service on top of all the breakfast spread everyday changed and had varieties like french toast and pancakes altered every other day.Muffins,oatmeal,BF potato,For omelette eaters ,fresh ones made on spot,tropical fruits .Everyday we would eat a heavy breakfast and  not be hungry until lunch.Our room had kitchen and I would whip up a quick mixed rice /sandwich and carry along for lunch.I should explain the driving condition in PR ,we can't expect people to follow traffic rules and all the streets ,drives are in Spanish and they are called "Calle","Salida" for exit.It was a challenge driving ,A did it without complaining and if you have done car driving in India,expect the same situation.We did miss directions ,but got the hang of it after the first day.

As Puerto Rico is all about beaches,history and nature we decided to explore one of the famous one, Ocean Park in Old San Juan , Hyatt House was located in New San Juan,SJ is Capital of PR and a bridge across will take to Old San Juan which was 10 mins drive ,The beach - family/kids friendly and had great panoramic views.All the beaches in PR along the shore had palm,coconut trees.Half of the day was spent on the beach,A & Kids had great fun in the water.I took the photographer job. Kid1 explored the water  by going little deep in the ocean with A.Kid2 is still scared of the water would go near the waves and when they come near her she would run back. The water in all these beaches , are crystal clear ,we can see the feet of our own when the waves fade away.The sand texture is exactly like  in Marina beach,Chennai that would stick to you and leave a trail of mess , unlike the beaches in NJ.Since it was Christmas time, the Governor of Puerto Rico had celebration in Old San Juan until the new year with the usual Xmas stuff lights,ginger bread men houses etc .We spent couple of hours and walked along the coastline and returned back to the room.

Next day ,we did the tour of Old San Juan ,the city is all about history about how Puerto Rico survived during world wars and became part of United States.We parked the car in a parking spot and the PR government offers free trolley for tourists that stops at all the tourist spots .There are paid guided tours.We just took the trolley and would read about the place on our phones and ,through out ,in all these places self guided descriptions are available.With the trolley we had the advantage of skipping some spots when the kids are tired . Basically Puerto Rico was controlled by Spain and to protect the Island from Europe invaders ,two huge Fortress were built that could withstand outside disturbance and could fit a garrison. The biggest one is Castillo San Felipe del Morro and one smaller is Castillo San Cristóbal. We were amazed by the architecture and how in those days the strategic planning in building every feature just awed us.The Views of the sea from the peak of the fortress can't be explained in words.The dungeon to keep the prisoners was built starting high going down like a slope .The guide was explaining the best spot to sleep in the prisoner's dungeon is at the top since all the sh..(it) they do will slide down to the bottom.It was pin drop silence when Kid2 heard the guide she was in a loud voice "Amma,that guy is saying sh.. that's not nice..",it was an embarrassing moment ,I was like aw... Kid2  right catch at the wrong moment :). Kid1 enjoyed going in to the tunnel and climbing the cannons.The entire city of Old San Juan was breathtaking with hidden surprises.Hope our pictures make the justice for the views.

Ok,Let me now explain our food situation ,I was worried about the kids for food but they fairly managed with Mac&Cheese,Noodles and Pizza when we were outside of hotel room.Guess ,who turned in to a baby ,my man .We didn't get buttermilk for first couple of days and I was so surprised how A is keeping quiet and consuming meals with out making fuss for yogurt .I was wrong one evening he just disappeared and as usual didn't pick up the mobile for long.I was about to call 911 ,with the car plate number.As A is known notorious to miss directions ,when we are outside of our home ,first thing I note down the Car plate number . The knock on the door ,he is standing outside with a big glow in his eyes grinning cheek to cheek.First ,I thought he went to gulp down a Mojito,Nah... he drove 20 miles to find a Walmart super center and Voila,he returned with a buttermilk carton.The buttermilk did the Mojito Jinx on him..I can confidently leave him in a land of damsels and he would automatically come to me when his tummy starts grumbling.Advantage of having a husband with layman cooking skills.

After a tiring day at Old San Juan ,we decided to explore another famous beach Isla Verde ,we liked this beach better as they are controlled by municipal,it was lot secure with life guards,restrooms ,especially with kids .As usual A and Kid1 had fullest fun in the water.Kid 2 and Myself took an afternoon siesta.We returned back to the hotel room in the evening .I had to make truce terms with kids and A to leave the beach for the day.The coastline along this beach looked exactly like ECR road in Chennai,with road side shops,food cart vendors .We enjoyed as much as fresh coconut water and banana fritters which is very famous in PR.Another PuertoRican famous dish is Mofongo ,which is prepared using mashed/fried banana with a gravy and rice.The local people consume it with shrimp but it can be special ordered sans meat.

Next day our target was el yunque  rain forest which is world famous .We imagined with proper walking trails and paths ,to the contrary to explore the forest we need to trek the way through the natural forest trails.It was a 6 mile trek to and fro ,down the loop of the trail a wonderful waterfall is located, where tourists are allowed to take a dip .The greenery and view through the trek was worth the time. Kid 1 had major fun in the falls and she never complained the trekking .I had to walk carrying Kid2. Worth the effort.We returned home for dinner and decided to wake up late the next day.Sneakers are the best to walk on these trails.

As this was the final day prior to our departure we decided to do another famous beach Pinones .We had a feel of India in PR as the houses are built with brick and sand and since its a small island ,the Flat concept is predominant .Weather is warm throughout the year and you can catch a glimpse of ocean from anywhere.Again beach fun returned back to hotel and started to pack.

Our flight was an early morning one,we bid a big Adios to Puerto Rico half halfheartedly to leave the tropical weather.7 days stay wasn't enough for the Kids ,they mentioned we should have stayed couple of more days.Back to our sweet Home in NJ relishing the fun ,super tanned.

One other touristy spot that we didn't take a chance is the Bio Luminescent bay ,where in a particular part of the sea ,the fishes,sea organisms they glow in the night which looks like a light show .But the hassle, is only couple of electric boats go to that area in a night and they are all booked for another whole month.Kayaks are available but we didn't want to risk a chance with kids kayaking in the deep sea.

General suggestion,when you travel to any place ,please make enough research and list down and have a general idea of places you want to visit,based on your family preferences and kids convenience.We do that in every trip ,as all the touristy places may not be appropriate with kids for us . A week before the trip I ,analyzed the places which are suitable for our family ,for example Bio Bay on my list was last as I knew if we couldn't get the ticket to the electric boat ,we will not do it and not fret about one of the places being missed .We almost covered all , again whats the objective ,ours was not a trip to do a tick mark of seen places,rather relax.Similarly make a list of things required during the trip simple items  like travel size laundry detergent,tooth paste etc. Remember, its an island any American product that has to travel through the ship is overly priced for example a Banana Boat small sized sun screen cost $13.50.I am not an extremely organised person for everything to go right ,but moderately organised that we didn't have to spend a day sitting in the room thinking whats the agenda for the day or "Oh we didn't bring laundry detergent ,with beach clothes had to hunt down a store to get one"kind of situation.Hope you all like the pics and details.

Adios Everyone.

Hyatt House
Breakfast area in Hyatt House

Prisoner's dungeon
Castillo San Cristóbal


Watch point inside the fort to look out for invaders.

Fort view from the trolley.

Talking  truce terms  with Kid 1 to leave the beach

Can an iyengar survive anywhere without sathumathu and potato curry?

Pinones Beach

waterfall inside the el yunque rain forest

walking trail to the falls.
View from Light house at el yunque.