.....which about sums up our last weekend in San Juan, celebrating Geoff's birthday :) We had lots of good, strong Spanish coffee, sightsaw some new-old gorgeous buildings and churches and of course - got our fill of Puerto Rican/Spanish cuisine!
But to start with..a nice birthday surprise upon checking in at our hotel!
After a horrible 2-hour sleep (well, for me...Geoff of course slept soundly as a rock), we started off our Saturday with our favorite spot for breakfast - Kasalta (http://www.kasalta.com/) We frequented this cafe/bistro/bakery only a couple of times whilst living here in San Juan, but its become our go-to spot for breakfast whenever we come and visit. You cant beat the enormous breakfast sandwiches made with fresh crusty bread, Serano ham and Manchego cheese. And freshly made Cafe con Leche (espresso with milk) for just $1.25? I'll take two please. They make everything from little marzipan pigs to Quesito's (pastry filled with sweet cream cheese) for deserts.. we usually get a couple for the road
Our tummies full and happy, we set off to explore Old San Juan in all its new reconstruction glory. It is always a surprise and wonderful thing to see San Juan progressing so quickly with such a huge emphasis on remodeling it with tourism at the forefront and driving force behind its design. I usually wouldnt say this about places, as typically it would be sacrificing charm, culture and local life, but with San Juan, they are just nailing it on the head - in fact, a lot of the old buildings which have been run down and forgotten about and now being brought to life and amplified in ways that never wouldve been if it wasnt for wanting to increase tourism (and the help of federal funding of course).
Look familiar? (exact replica of the Liberty Bell)
Here is a great example of how an old building is slowly being restored..
Inside the San Juan Cathedral and resting place of Juan Ponce de Leon (first Governor of Puerto Rico)
View from our hotel room:
The former prison cells are now surrounded by the Puerto Rican Tourism Co. 's offices...although kept intact, we didnt actually get to see them.
San Juan's version of "Pigeon Park" (except this was abandoned and no homeless people around). However, someone had built these little roosting holes for all the pigeons around.
What better way to start the day than with some blow-torch waffles and Siphon coffee? We read about this place called Waffle-era on someone's blog and it just so happened to fit in with the morning's sightseeing plans so after we walked our feet off up and down the steep streets of Old San Juan, a plate of waffles sounded like just the thing we needed to refuel.
And this is not just any waffle house... this tiny, cozy little cafe has no more than 8 little tables with street front view of the old city and a waffle menu to die for. After much umming and aahhing, I settled on deep dish waffle with smoked salmon, goat cheese and grilled tomatoes with a side of herb Greek yoghurt...yum, yum and yum :) The birthday boy couldnt decide between a sweet or savory, so he got both.. a Serano ham and Manchego cheese (pics below the cheese being melted by a blowtorch) and a custom strawberry, banana with habanero honey. Yup, we were waddling after that breakfast!
All in all a great weekend and it was nice to take it at a slower pace for a change... our holidays are usually filled with trying to jam-pack in as many things as possible.
After a Costco shop and filling our cooler with lots of delicious cheese, fruit and other tidbits we cant get here in St. Croix, American Airlines lost our luggage...how I do not know, considering it is just one flight with no stopovers, but they could not even track it.
On the bright side, we entered a competition through Liat (a Caribbean airline) while in San Juan to win a round-trip ticket anywhere in the Caribbean where they fly and received a call the following day only to be told that we won!
Follow up: We received our bags the next evening, the only thing that spoiled was some ultra-thick yogurt...luckily the cheese and fruit made it here just in time :)