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Monday, March 24, 2014

Feliz Navidad in Puerto Rico

Wow... the last three months of been a whirlwind of trips both for work and for pleasure.  And I owe you all the stories!  I'm getting back in the groove with a look back at Christmas in Puerto Rico.

As many of you recall, I went to Yacht Week in Croatia this summer and spent seven gorgeous sun-filled days sailing the Adriatic.  I was so entranced I had to experience it again... so three of us originals and four new "mates" would find ourselves booking a boat for Yacht Week in the British Virgin Islands for NYE.  And that's how I found myself in Puerto Rico for Christmas.  Our motley crew had to fly through San Juan in order to get to St Thomas (entry point to BVI) so we decided to spend a few days sampling the Bacardi and sunning ourselves poolside.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

We arrived in San Juan coming off a red eye that got us to the hotel at 1am.  We were staying at the Sheraton which we immediately started referring to as the Seraton because the "h" was burnt out.  I'd called the Seraton three different times asking if I needed to book the night before so that we'd have a room on arrival and they continually told me they'd just let us check in early.  Of course they were singing a different tunes when we arrived.

So... since we didn't have any beds to "make" or "lie in" we made the next most mature decision.  We checked our bags and went clubbing.  Yes, that's right.  Clubbing in sneakers, ankle socks, khaki shorts, a baggy T, my purple eyeglasses I've had since sixth grade and loosely braided hair.

Before hitting the cluuub, we stopped next door at Brickhaus, a sports bar that apparently had decent food and giant fish bowls.  The food was only decent but the fish bowls were super alcoholic and after the four of us demolished one we were quickly ready for the club.


The club was SO ratchet and we were the most ratchet attendees.  The first nickname of the trip was created that night.  One of our crew had wandered out with her backpack on.  Seeing as how we were in a Spanish-speaking country she continually referred to it as her "mochila."  She then preceded to booty-dance like a crazy person, the backpack slapping up and down on her back, that we couldn't have but dub her "Mochila" for the remainder of the trip.

Even the ratchet club couldn't handle us for long as they began to close up around 4am.  Only 8 more hours until our 1pm check-in time!  As we prepared to leave, we spied a decorative Christmas tree ornament that Mochila grabbed and ran out with it.


We spent the next 4-5 hours passed on the floor of the hotel until the pool opened.  We changed into our suits and then passed out there instead. 

After burning away some of our white New Yorker skin and FINALLY checking into our room (which was really nice), we grew hungry (can't live on fishbowls alone!) and decided to wander Old San Juan until we found somewhere that looked good for lunch.

We ended up at Pizza E Birra where we promptly ordered everything BUT pizza which was a huge mistake.  I got little empanadas with some type of meat in them and they were really dry.  Mochila's salad looked pretty great though.  I still had the leftover taste of fish bowl in my mouth so I'm sure that contributed to my disinterest in the food.

On our walk back towards the hotel, we saw this adorable little restaurant called Barrachina which apparently invented the piña colada.  Clearly we need to see this in action so we wandered in, took a seat at the bar and tried them out.  They were SO good that we took roadies to go.


We spent the next two hours wandering the streets checking out the ridiculous touristy stores until we found ourselves hungry again AND right in front of, you guessed it, Senor Frogs.  The guac was good, the drinks were tall, and Erwin the bartender was a gas.  We left feeling goofy in our balloon hats ready for nap time before dinner.


It was about 9pm by the time we got ourselves together and out to get dinner.  Everything was closed and it was starting to rain which was pretty depressing.  I'd been looking forward to an entertaining restaurant with outdoor seating.  We ended up at Pirilo Pizza Rustica where we had an unexpectedly delicious dinner.  We ordered pizza this time which was probably why.  It was so delightful and the perfect end to our first real evening in Puerto Rico.


Inside Joke of the Night:

Monday, December 23, 2013

It turns out that December/January is Puerto Rico's busy season.  Who would've thought all the frozen East Coasters would choose to come South to tropic warmth... apparently not us.  EVERYTHING was booked.  You couldn't find a rental car to save your life, the bioluminiscent pools were fully booked, even the rainforest was booked (how the hell does a RAINFOREST get booked?).  We quickly realized we were SOL on doing anything outside of Old San Juan.

Naturally the only thing we could do was take the 50 cent ferry to the Bacardi factory.  Two free drinks later we were on a tour of the Bacardi factory.  Note:  Do not use your drink tickets when you first arrive.  Wait until after the tour because they won't let you bring your drink with you so you end up chugging both drinks in order to get on the tour bus.  Better to wait until after so that you can enjoy them!


Here are all the random facts I learned on the tour:
  • The bat is special to Cataluna, Spain, which is why it is the symbol of Bacardi (that's where Bacardi was from)
  • Grain sugar and molasses are byproducts of cane sugar and the molasses sugar is then made into rum
  • The Pirates of Caribbean were instrumental in the creation of rum because they thought seasickness was demonic possession and so they created "fire water" to exorcise themselves
  • The pirates smoothed the flavor of the fire water with mint leaves and lemon juice which was one of the first cocktails and the origin of the "Mojito"
  • Molasses was easy to bootleg in the backyard so Bacardi started making fire water from the molasses and then refining it into the Bacardi Rum we know of today in Cuba but he added two new things to the process - charcoal and aging in oak caskets
  • Turns out Prohibition was instrumental in Bacardi's success because all the Americans came to Havana!
  • There is even a law that if you ask for a Bacardi rum they must serve Bacardi
  • Mojito is the oldest cocktail ever (1862) and Bacardi was the first liquor to be used in one
After the tour we came back and napped for a little bit before going back to Barrachina for dinner since we'd had such a lovely time at the bar the day before.  The food was TERRIBLE and the pina coladas were extremely watered down.  I ordered the Mofongo which tasted like it'd been sitting out for hours.  Probably had been considering it took over an hour for us to get our food.  It was a horrible experience.

The bar we went to after dinner made up for it though.  We went to a SUPER divey place called El Batey.  I ended up sitting at the bar next to a local named Eduardo who was super cool and invited us to a pig roast but I couldn't convince any of the other girls to get on board.  Damnit!  We ended the night dancing to salsa with a bunch of random college guys at another bar and then peaced out for home.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve!  I'm embarrassed to say that I've started every morning eating quiche at Starbucks.  I don't know if they put crack in the quiche there or what but they were SO good.  I also just desperately needed WiFi since the hotel's connection was terrible and as the only Verizon person on the trip I was relegated to being the only one without service.  A win for AT&T!

We spent most of the day at the pool since it was finally nice weather and then searched for somewhere to have dinner.  Yet again we didn't think through the fact that all the restaurants would be booked on Christmas Eve.  Fail.  We ended up at Cafe Berlin for dinner which had an hour wait so we sat at the bar waiting for our table.  We tried ordering wine but after three bottles that were all corked we gave up and asked what else they had.  The bartender mentioned that he won a national award in the U.S.A. for his Long Island ice teas.  Turns out that's a drink favorite of ourselves.

By the time my dish arrived I think anything would've tasted good but this was by far the best meal I'd had on the trip.  It was a very enjoyable dinner.  And we were plenty ready for the bar crawl to Nonos and Acqua.  Both bars were fairly fun although nothing stand out.

Inside Joke of the Night:
"Feliz Navidad (FFYD) and you know you ain't ever coming back from that"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!  Yet another nice day so most of the day was spent at the pool preparing our bikini bods for the quickly approaching Yacht Week.  We decided to try something new and hit up the beach for a bit so we took a taxi to the beach in Isla Verde.  I wish we'd thought of this sooner (not that the weather had cooperated).


We spent the day crushing buckets of Coronas in the steaming sun before heading back to get dressed up for our holiday dinner.  Back at the hotel, Mochila surprised us with Christmas presents that she'd put under our ratchet stolen Christmas tree.  One of the packages contained hair dye called "Crazy Huez"... definitely bringing that to BVI!

As Mochila would say later "That's so romantic" and indeed our little lady dinner was just that.  We ate at Sofia because I'd been craving steak and they had some on the menu.  Our waiter had the longest rattail I've ever seen.  Near the start of dinner, someone spilled their water on me and felt horrible only for me to end up spilling my drink all over myself 15 minutes later. 

We ended the night at the Nuyorican, a combo of New York and Puerto Rico, because the owner is from both places.  I somehow convinced them to give me a discount on a T-shirt because I have this blog.  HAH.

We spent the rest of the night salsa dancing with mildly creepy men and then returned home to pack and prepare for our flight to St Thomas in the morning.  Hasta luego Puerto Rico!

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