Monday, November 4, 2013

Puerto Rico: Days 6-8

View from our room at El Conquistador
Rice and beans are probably my most favorite Puerto Rican cuisine EVER!
Monday morning we woke up bright and early and left the Double Tree San Juan, our home away from home, to our new home away from home, the El Conquistador! I was pretty darn excited to check into this resort. I'd heard so many great things about it. It took about an hour to get there, surprise; Puerto Rico is some kind of geological oddity, as Everett from Oh Brother Where Art Though would put it; everything is an hour away! The view from the hotel was absolutely stunning and the resort itself was quite magestic. Honestly though, I missed our little room at the Double Tree back in San Juan once we got settled into the El Conquistador. We're just not resort folk. We would rather be in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, walking through the streets, and experiencing the culture! The most boring vacation ever to me would be sitting at a beach or resort, just relaxing in the sun! No thank you!

That day we just kept it kind of easy. Nathan lived his dream of golfing in Puerto Rico, and I took the boys to the water park at the resort, which: 1- Cost EXTRA on top of all the resort crap and 2- SUCKED. Oh well! We learned a lot about resorts from this and know what to do and not to do next time around.

That evening we ventured about .5 seconds into Fajardo before seeing a neat little restaurant, which we had also read about on Trip Advisor, just down the road. We decided to try it. Boy, that was the BEST decision we have ever made! Seriously, I was dying over how great their mofongo was. I had it topped with Guava BBQ chicken! I would go back to Puerto Rico just for this meal again! HEAVEN! It had such a fun environment as well. I loved it there.

The next day was our last day! So sad! We headed over to my parents and packed up the vehicles to start our journey to El Yunque rain forest. My parents just did a quick drive up to one of the waterfalls to show the boys, Andrew, and Christy. Then they left Nathan and I to hike down to another waterfall. I had my heart set on hiking to the top of the highest peak in the rain forest, but we just didn't have time. I was pretty darn disappointed, but like Nathan said, we have to save something for next time!

The rainforest was AMAZING!!! Oh my goodness. The weather was cloudy and the forest was misty. The weather was perfect for a hike and the damp earth made the forest look ethereal! The hike down to La Mina waterfall was super easy. We absolutely could have taken the kids along with us. Once down there, there was a surprising number of people playing in the water and checking out the waterfall! We took a different trail back up, which I didn't realize would bring us out over a mile away from our parking lot. Oops! Ha ha! It was an amazing walk, though!

We headed back down the mountains and stopped at a little restaurant at the entrance of the forest. My mom said we had to try the pinono! We tried that, and like twelve other things, which were all delicious. I'm actually surprised we didn't get poisoned though because the place was a total dive. What is it about going to another country/culture that makes it okay to eat at dives? In the US, we'd report them to the health department, abroad, it's like a bragging right to eat there and survive! We also tried some fresh out of the coconut coconut milk. Nathan took the first sip, looked at me, and said "WOW!" I've been married to the man for 8 1/2 years and that was his, "Oh my gosh this is amazing," look! I hurried and grabbed it out of his hands and took a sip. It was probably the most DISGUSTING thing I have ever tasted. It tasted fermented or like something had crawled into it and died! Nathan just started laughing and said he thought is was awful as well! Tricky trickster! Of course we brought it back to my parents' condo to play the same prank on everyone there!

Okay, so we drove back down to Fajardo and to my parents'. We had to hustle because there were going over to the Bio Bay. We got to the house, parents left, and we took a swim in the pool with the kids at their condo! That was soooo much fun! Grant really did great swimming and had a blast "racing" Nathan! Carter, who is totally terrified of water, in his little life jacket, yelled every 3 seconds, "LOOK AT ME! I'm not holding on to the edge (of the pool)." "Great job, buddy." 3 seconds later, "Look at me..."

On with the story. We waited for my family to get back so we could take Grant and go to the Bio Bay. We started getting a little anxious when they didn't show up in time. So, I jumped in the car with Grant and drove over while Nathan waited with the other kids and would just meet us over there, hopefully! Luckily he made it just in time!

The Bio Bay! Where to start. It sounded so not exciting, but I was sooooo wrong! After I regained my vision from my father spraying me in the eyes with bug spray (he dropped Nathan at because I had our car), we get all ready to get into the kayak and start our adventure. It took us a minute or two to get the kayaking down! Some of the other members of the group never really got it down and we had some good laughs at them! I would liken the first few minutes to bumper cars, but in a kayak! Anyway...we started rowing and headed over to this freaking amazing mangrove; it was a giant tunnel of trees. Did I mention it was pitch black outside? The only light was from a glow stick on each of the kayaks. After rowing for a mile up stream, it seriously felt like 10, we emerged into this bay, but not just any bay, a bioluminscent bay. What does that mean? It means the bay glows in the freaking dark! You stick your hand in and it glows! We would see fish shoot across the bay and it looked like lightning streaking through the water. The guides, who were hilarious and so much fun and kept making jokes about La Chupacabra, gave us a little science lesson on why the water glowed and bla bla bla! It was actually extremely fascinating. We spent probably half an hour in the bay and then headed back!

What an amazing way to end our journey! That Bio Bay blew my mind! We ran back to the parents', grabbed the sleeping kiddlets, and then headed back to El Conquistador. We checked out bright and early, found a little "panaderia" on the side of the road while we were driving, grabbed some breakfast for only $4, see picture of the pastries above, headed to the rental car place in San Juan to drop off our vehicle, jumped on the shuttle to the airport, said our goodbyes, and walked into our terminals, and that was it! Our amazing vacation was over just like that! The flights home were interesting....Quincy was worse than the trip there. In fact, he was so bad, the people next to me left and sat in the back of the plane to get away from the screaming, hitting, drink spilling beast next to them! He finally fell asleep on the last flight segment after about 2 hours. I wanted desperately to sleep, but the dang flight was so turbulent and I thought for sure we were going down, that it made getting a little shut eye kind of hard! Seriously, that was the bumpiest, altitude losingest flight EVER! Ugh! I hate flying.

I arrived in Denver about 5 minutes before Nathan, the boys, and the rest of my fam. We headed out to the parking lot, where the truck was dead, found out airport parking has a free battery jumping service, called them, jumped the truck, contemplated getting a hotel, but drove home anyway. The weather was yucky and the roads through Vail sucked. We finally made it home at about 2:30 am and that was it! Now to get all our plans hammered out for our trip to Europe in March!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Puerto Rico: Days 4-6ish

The drive up to Orocovis!

So the next morning Nathan and I woke up bright and early to drive over to Orocovis; we were going to be doing our very first zip line! The drive there was seriously the most incredible drive EVER! The sun was barely up and cast an amazing golden glow all over the lush green earth. To add to the amazingness, mist had settled in the valley and gave the mountains this insane majestic feeling! The road to the zip line tour went up up up, making the view even more stunning! I could die in Orocovis!

We made it to the zip line at about 7:30am. In the email confirmation for the tour, they stated very boldy, several times, to make sure we were there by 8:00am! If we arrived late, our position could be forfeited and we would be SOL! I should have known though, after traveling to several other countries (I know Puerto Rico is technically the United States, but it's a completely different culture) that punctuality only applies in the US. Seriously. 8:00am rolls around and the employees are still not even there. Go figure. We could have gotten at least an extra 45 minutes of sleep that morning. People finally started rolling in around 8:30am and the tour didn't finally begin until about 9:30.

We got all harnessed up, jumped into the back of a little Ford Ranger with 6 other adults, and headed down the road to the first zip line! I know this is getting old, but seriously, it was sooooo beautiful. The first zip line blew my mind. It was FAST and fun! We went on 4 zip lines throughout the tour, did a 170ft rappel, a short little rock climb (and it was REALLY SHORT), and took a nice hike through the rain forest! One of the zip lines took us through a canopy of trees. So amazing! At the end of the tour, the rest of our tour mates were talking about how they were going on one more zip line after. This particular one is called La Bestia and is the longest and highest zip line in the world. If you are heavy enough, you can reach speeds of over 60 MPH! We knew we had to do this!

So La Bestia was pretty amazing! You lay on your stomach (Iron Man style) rather than sitting back like you would with a normal zip line! The guy then pulls you back and lets you fly. At first my I was freaking out a little, but a couple of

seconds into, I realized that this was as close to flying as a human could get! I embraced it and just tried to take in the amazing scenery. The entire ride lasted only around a minute, but it was one of the most exciting minutes of my life!

On a side note, I totally loved our other tour companions! They were all native Puerto Ricans. We chit chatted with them throughout the tour and found out that 3 of the 4 served in the military, the one girl and her boyfriend had just gotten home from Afghanistan and the boyfriend had also served in Iraq. We never ask and found out there names.

Okay, so enough about the zip line tour, which I have no pictures of because I wasn't about to haul my camera through 5 zip lines, a rock climb, etc.

After the tour we headed back to Fajardo to get the chillens! They were less than thrilled to see us because they knew that grandma time was up! Fortunately for them, they survived! We headed back to San Juan and I think we pretty much just took it easy the rest of the evening! Down the street from our hotel was a little restaurant called Bebos, maybe I already mentioned this! We went twice. I was kind of addicted to their Cuban sandwiches!

The next day was Sunday and we just wanted to take it easy and observe the sabbath as best we could. We walked down the street to the beach and let the boys play in the sand and stick there feet in the water. We didn't stay too long though because it was insanely windy and the waves were too crazy for our liking! Then we figured we would go take a walk around Old San Juan again and explore a little bit more of the area. We stopped to get some food at a restaurant called Mojitos; my parents had raved about it. Carter had to use the restroom while we were though. So, I walk him over to the ladies room, walk in and BAM! Someone had upchucked ALL OVER the bathroom and had just left it. Worst smell EVER!!! Ugh! Anyway, the food was pretty good, the server tried to charge us double on almost everything, but we got it all worked out.

Old San Juan was super crazy that evening because a couple of cruise ships were at port, so there were people EVERYWHERE. It was fun though because there were tons of vendors and things out and about. While we were at Mojitos, we even got serenaded by a little old man who sang Feliz Navidad to us!

I loved walking around Old San Juan at this time. It was so alive and beautiful! At one point, we heard some seriously loud music and singing. We walked up the hill to find the source and came upon a bunch of locals having a grand old party. A little girl was in the middle dancing while the band sang at the top of their lungs! We only watched for about 5 minutes, but it was so much fun!

We also walked over to the cemetary, but it was so dark we could barely see anything. Nathan waited at the top of the road while I walked through this totally creepy dark tunnel, which also happens to be one of the entrances to La Pearla (which I did NOT know until after the fact). If you don't know anything about La Pearla, google it! Not a good place to go gallivanting through! After that, we were all pretty tired so we headed back to the hotel. We had to get everything packed and ready to go because we were leaving San Juan and heading to Fajardo!