January 17, 2016

bye bye Puerto Rico

the holiday passed so quickly i did not think of blogging. i wanted to say i was busy but thats hardly true, considering how much time i spent laying on a sun bed, alone and with friends. it was defo a relaxing holiday. sun, sea, sand... some rain forest and a day trip to San Juan's old town. oh and we did visit the nearby casino, wanting to see how it works with the free drinks (it worked well). I have never traveled with a group of friends, so that was new. it was fun as I just took the backseat, you cannot really have all control over events when it's 4 individuals, one of them your "local guide", plus it was nice change for me to just follow along, not caring too much.
 Carilyn being our local guide things we easy and we learned a lot. it's really good to know a local, I can testify to that time after time. we met some Carilyns family too as we went for a boat ride and swimming to nearby islands. now that day was niiiiice. white sands and clear, turquoise water...  the way these island people spend their weekends is pretty cool. docking their boats by the island shores, floating in the water with their beers and grilling food. the people are relaxed and friendly. and very careful about not trashing their water or the nature, which i could appreciate. turks are not quite there yet.
 we did island hopping and this tiny pile of sand was just about 15x60 meters in size. apparently its slowly disappearing, getting smaller and smaller each year. there were also dolphins by one island, happily swimming with people and doing fancy jumps...  Carina and Carilyn also swam with them, i just laid back on the boat admiring the show. might have forgotten to take pics. 

the casino we hit was at a posh resort, a 10 taxi drive from our holiday home compound. it was a relaxed mini version of the ones you see in tv (as in Las Vegas). 2 of us interested in the gaming side of things took to the roulette table, while me and another friend went off to sit by the slot machines, trying to learn spend minimally, being risk averse. I spent 1 dollar on 1 machine not really understanding it, then I put another dollar on another, and finally figured which buttons to press in order to spend just 1 cent at a time. then the machine gave me a 10$ win, and I was all set for the evening. so I sat there in front of the blinking machine, pressing the spin button once every 30 to 60 seconds, spending a cent, while sipping my drink and keeping an eye on the waitress to make sure I would get the next one soon. the Finn in me was obviously concerned about getting the best return for my money. I have to say this was a very awkward way to spend the evening but definitely worth the experience. after an hour and half I cashed in my money, 10 dollars 10 cents. I had spent 2 initially so I was basically paid 8 dollars to get drunk. so far so good. I moved my butt to the black jack table to follow my friends way more exciting game play. which was not not quite as profitable, but they enjoyed the experience too. we spent the rest of the evening there, and at some point I had a good chat at the roulette table with the dealer, as his table was empty and he was quite sociable. I learned about their working hours, casino laws, odds, maths and all kinds of interesting stuff. so it was a fun night for no cost at all, but I know my friends don't feel bad either although they spent money. it must have been much more exciting. black jack requires some math and risk taking and is certainly sexier than the slot machines, it was fun to watch over the shoulder! I'm boring like that. 

old San Juan was cute, it had a small town feel with a Spanish flair, for obvious reasons.
 old walls and castle-y stuff.
 nice, bright colors in houses.

there were lots of cute shops selling handicrafts and touristy stuff, but this messy 2nd hand shop with its Hitler statue caught my attention.

pretty squares...

 normal life.

with the cheap & local ingredients I learned how to make pina coladas REALLY WELL (that included research work as well as trials at the house). now with the imported rum and coconut cream I can make them at home too with confidence. victory? 

I am making the trip sound pretty "boozey" but to be honest we drank less than I expected, which was great. in other words, not every day and not in great amounts.

the rain forest aka national park was pretty serious stuff, its really like a jungle, spread over mountains stuff, very dense and exotic. i did NOT jump into the cold waterfall.

in a battle between British Airways and American Airlines, both of which operated 3 of our flights, BA won hands down. not a surprise I guess but for me it actually was, the difference was really obvious, for my friends as well. the main differences were quality of planes incl on flight entertainment systems, food and drinks, and staff. AA's staff and food were not bad, BA just exceeded the expectations. even the outbound transatlantic flight with BA, all 9 hours of it, was a breeze for me. I am one of the lucky few who find themselves comfy and happy on almost any aircraft, satisfied with any food that is offered and not minding the small space and sitting. and my bladder needs emptying very rarely. but while flying is a breeze, airports... not so much. all the queuing causes me foot ache and stress too, when the connections are tight. for the record, Miami airport with its passport checks and security checks (altogether 5?) was shit, took over 2 hours and I hope to avoid it in the future. I should point out that I don't mind checks, but it was not well organised imho and the queues were too long and slow. something is not done right, I'm just saying.

we asked British Airways steward for A wine, and he started emptying a whole wine cellar on our tray tables, one from Spain, one from Africa, and so on...?!  the plane telly system UI was the best ive used, and great selection of movies and stuff. i watched Amy Winehouse documentary and Amy Schumer standup among other things.

pancakes at a diner!
 hard to pick from all these options;

more local food. they make anything from plantains in this country. 

beach time. the water was around 26 degrees but i found that chilly. it was fine once i went in but going in was hard. i am a sucker for warm water though thats a fact. and on the day we arrived the waves were over 2m high, now that was actually scary, no one dared to go very deep that day... 

things i noticed:
-i found white Monster energy drink
-Puerto Rico is quite american, which makes all the sense now, from the products in the supermarkets to the car culture
-the rain forest is more about lush vegetation than animals (i only saw 2)
-the lizards and iguanas are cool

whats this, baby sharks??

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