Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Puerto Rico

Cruising into Puerto Rico offers some great scenery. You're greeted at the ports mouth by the old fort and get almost a 360 degree view of it as your ship turns the corner into the harbor. Escorted by the harbor patrol, in their sporty red boat, you'll sail smoothly into the docking area.

Puerto Rico is 100 long by 35 miles wide and as a result of its geographical position in the center of the arc of the Antilles, Puerto Rico is essentially a crossroads of Hispanic and Anglo cultures. Despite it's very diverse influx of cultures, Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States since 1898 and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.

During my visit, I took at trip to the Caribbean National Rain Forest, El Yunque and the Yokahu Observation Tower. From the top of the tower, you're afforded sweeping views of the island. The tower was built in 1962 at an elevation of 1,572 feet above sea level.

On the main route through El Yunque, highway 191, you'll pass La Cocoa Falls. Pictures don't do this waterfall justice. It's an 85-foot rock face and the spray from the falls felt great on this hot, humid day. All around where beautiful tropical flowers and plants. You could watch storms rolling across the rain forest miles away and never get wet. It was quiet an experience.

Close to 4 million people live on the "Island of Enchantment," with more than a million in the greater San Juan metropolitan area alone. It is a vibrant, modern, bilingual, multicultural society, one that has been molded by Spanish, African, Indian and U.S. influences. Residents of Puerto Rico have much in common with their fellow Americans in the continental United States, yet they retain a decidedly Hispanic heritage.

On another trip to Puerto Rico, when I was catching a cruise that departed from the island, I stopped in a small bar in downtown San Juan to get a drink. As I was thinking about adding a snack to my bar bill, I spotted a long shelf that ran the entire length of the bar. The owners had beers from around the world, mostly empty bottles, lined up on the shelf - there were hundreds of them. All good, except for the fact that making its way carefully through the maze of bottles was the biggest rat I ever saw. I quickly finished my beer, paid my tab and went some place else to grab a bite to eat where at least I didn't SEE the vermin crawling around.

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