Enjoying more of Puerto Rico

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Another warm one.  High 85

We went in search of a beach bar for lunch.  The one we found (that looked good online) required a minimum of $30 per person!  I think it was a way to reserve a place on the beach for a stay.  Kite-surfing was popular there.  Needless to say, we didn’t stay there.  Instead, we found a great local seafood restaurant and shared an order of grouper ceviche. Instead of crackers, it was served with baked plantain slices. Yes!

I found some random photos of us goofing around San Juan….

In the evening, we went to a great Argentine restaurant just a block from our AirB&B.  We shared an order of caprese salad – just yummy!

Then, to the sister restaurant which is more Puerto Rican.  We sat at the bar and the bartender made us some interesting drinks.  This has been one of the fun things in Puerto Rico – trying very unique cocktails.  For our main course, we had a veggie empanada and a salad. 

I couldn’t sleep at all – these tiny frogs kept me up all night with their songs.  Must be mating season!

Puerto Rico experiences – garita, iguana, empanadas, and more!

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Hot and humid.  High 85

Melissa took off for a day at the beach and hiking while Alexis and I slept in.  We walked around the Old City looking for a good coffee shop.  The one we found wasn’t particularly good, but later we found a really good empanada place.  Alexis had their homemade broccoli empanada.

Covid precautions are very strong here, and people seem to embrace it.  Masks are required everywhere, including outside.  Most restaurants and bars have ropes at their entrances, only allowing a certain number of people in, and checking vaccination card before entering.  I think it is because tourism is so important for them, and they don’t want Covid to shut them down. 

We found “umbrella street”.  They swap the umbrellas out for different occassions.  This one was to mark Diabetes Week.

These guys were delivering fresh plantains to a little restaurant.

We decided to take one of the free golf-carts around the city.  While we were waiting for one to come by, we spotted this large iguana running from tree to tree.

The lady in the golf cart (garita) gave us a great tour of the city, narrating the entire time.  Sitting in the back (backwards), we had to hang on for dear life, especially when we went uphill on the bumpy cobblestone streets.  We jumped off at a place where she said has the best seafood in town.

We had their mussels, and drinks (of course)

Back to the AirB&B, we rushed a bit to pack up as the cleaning people were coming.  Then, we found our new AirB&B.  It is an entire apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, and living area.   AND – two balconies with hammocks.  We will be able to spread out more here. 

We found an excellent sushi place for dinner. 

When we arrived back at the AirB&B, we chatted with our downstairs neighbors who were putting up their Christmas lights.  This is our AirB&B…

BOOK:  “Friends, Lovers, and Chocolate” by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is a series I keep coming back to.  He is the author of the female South African detective series.  This series is about a woman in Edinburgh,  Scotland.  He writes really well.  5 stars out of 5

Road trip to the beach

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  A bit hotter.  High 88.  Humid

We got up early to see the sunrise and took a stroll on the waterfront, before it got too hot.   There is a big cruise ship docked in the harbor.

Then, off to brunch/breakfast in a very nice, European-looking restaurant.  It advertised Puerto Rican and international cuisine.  The girls tried mofongo, a typical Puerto Rico dish.  It is made with plantains and yucca.

Then – road trip!  Melissa drove us to a beach in the northeast part of the island,  I’m glad she, and not I, was driving!

For some reason, there was a fence to get onto the beach.  We found a hole, and climbed through!

Being near the rain forest, it rained on and off while we were at the beach.  Who cares?

After swimming, we had another Puerto Rican specialty at a beach bar.  It is a kind of combined beans and rice.  It reminds me of a vegetarian paella

Back to our AirB&B to get cleaned up – You can see our steep, cobble-stoned lane

We went to check out a few more bars here in Old Town.  This first one was full of character and seemed ancient.  It was called El Cubanito and had a Cuban flare.  The tattoo-covered bartender made us some very interesting drinks. 

We stumbled upon an elegant piano bar/restaurant.  We sat at the bar and watched the pet parrot entertain the customers. The parrot likes his owner, the guitar player.

I called it a night and came back to the room to watch Rick Steves Monday Night Travel.  The topic was traveling in Europe during the pandemic. Europe seems similar to Puerto Rico – we had to enter our data and upload copies of our Covid vaccine record before entering the country.  Many bars/restaurants here require proof of vaccine before entering.  Rick says that it is required everywhere in Europe. 

While I was watching Rick, the girls hung out at a bar around the corner where they have made friends with the wait-staff. 

Day 2 in Puerto Rico

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Warm – 86.  Humid, but nice breeze

We explored more of Old San Juan, admiring the colorful houses and interesting architecture.

There are free golfcart-like taxis that you can hop on/off to get you around Old Town.  We took one to La Perla neighborhood.  We had lunch at a roof-top bar.

La Perla neighborhood, right on the water, used to be a bit sketchy but is now being cleaned up and is popular among artists.

We walked around the waterfront, and Melissa toured one of the old forts.  We cooled down with a snow cone – called Piragua here.  Alexis had one made from guavana – soursop in English,

More walking, sightseeing, then back to the AirB&B to clean up.  We drove to Catalina, a beach community about 30 minutes from Old San Juan.  The vibe is totally different here.  We were the only gringas.  It was crazy.  Loud music blaring everywhere, people dancing, families celebrating birthday parties.  We tried mojitos at a beach bar

We watched the sun set with a beautiful rainbow.

Then, back to Old Town where we went for dinner – pizza.  A really nice day.  It feels like we have done a lot here already! 

Off to Puerto Rico!

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Warm and humid.  High 80

We got up very early in Rochester, MN and walked to St. Marys Hospital to pick up the airport shuttle (5:00 AM).  Actually, we RAN to the shuttle, since we were not dressed warmly.

All went well – shuttle to airport, on-time flight departure, 4-hour direct flight, and on-time arrival.  Alexis’s friend Melissa arrived about an hour before we did, and picked up a rental car while she was waiting.  So, we hopped in the car and drove in to Old San Juan, where we will be the first 3 nights.

Our AirB&B is part of an old house. It has really interesting architecture – beautiful tiles, interesting doors, and exposed beams.

It is located on a steep one-way cobblestone street, right in the middle of Old Town.

After getting settled, we were off, in search of a drink.  We found a roof-top bar, and practiced our Spanish ordering.  Most people seem bilingual. 

From there, we went looking for a dinner spot. Being a Saturday night, everything was quite busy.  The first place we went was full, so we just sat at the bar and watched the bartender make interesting drinks.  Mine was with mezcal and cucumber.

We kept on strolling the neighborhood looking for something with an opening.  We put our name in at one place, with a 45-minute wait, assuming we would find something else sooner.  Nope.  So, we went back there and had good Mexican food.

Back to our AirB&B for a fairly early night (11:30 San Juan time; 9:30 Central Time) We were pooped from the flight and the last few days without much sleep. Our AirB&B has a spiral staircase leading to the bedroom Alexis and I are sharing.  Melissa is on the pull-out couch downstairs.  We have a small kitchen and a nice bathroom.  You can’t beat the location here. 

Walking Rochester

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
WEATHER:  Snow!  High 39

I awoke to light snow.  Wow!  The cars below my hotel window were covered with snow….

We are so lucky that we did our roadtrip from Minnesota to California when we did.  If it were this week, we would be in for snowy, yucky roads.

I walked back to the beauty shop for my haircut, a 2-mile walk.  The city of Rochester is re-doing the sidewalks to make them heated….to encourage people to walk more in the winter without fear of ice.  Here is the new “do”….

Then, back 2 miles to my motel.  The light snow continued, but it was ok since I was very bundled up.  A friend came over to the hotel and we had a nice vegan lunch that Alexis ordered online for delivery.

The afternoon was busy with laundry, packing, and getting ready for the trip.  Then, Alexis and I walked downtown to meet up with my former co-workers for happy hour.  We were not prepared for the enormous crowds.  We were very lucky to get a table.

After the happy hour, Alexis and went to a Thai restaurant for dinner.  We had two appetizers – one was cauliflower and one was shrimp.  We didn’t need any more food. 

The atmosphere was cool

An early night for an early morning departure tomorrow. 

Hitting some of my favorite places in Rochester

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota (my former hometown)
WEATHER:  Pretty cold and very windy.  Highs in 40s with 40 mph winds

Our daughter Alexis works the night shift, so I putzed around the hotel in the morning while she slept.  Then, we met up at noon to walk to our hair cut appointment. We stopped mid-way for coffee at Alexis’s favorite vegan restaurant – Old Abe’s.   I had on about 6 layers of clothes!  When we arrived at the beauty shop, the  beautician realized that she had written down our appointment on the wrong day, so I rescheduled for tomorrow.  Back we walked, with the wind in our faces.  We stopped again, this time for a beer and to warm up, at Alexis’s favorite brewpub – Forager.

In the late afternoon, we met up with my friend Pat at a downtown cocktail lounge called Bitter and Pour. It is downstairs, and is set up like a speak-easy.  There was even a secret door to enter!

We had exotic cocktails with ingredients I’ve never heard of. 

For dinner, Alexis and I went to my favorite Rochester restaurant – the Redwood Room.  It, too, is downstairs.  When you walk down the stairs and enter the restaurant, you are immediately enveloped in a cozy, warm atmosphere.  When we lived here before, we would sometimes stop after work for a glass of beer or wine and munch on their great baguettes served with olive oil and parmesan cheese for dipping. Great memories. Tonight, there was a band playing softly in the background…

We sat at the bar and had drinks and dinner.  Alexis asked the bartender to ask the chef if he would make something vegan for her.  He modified their vegetable curry dish for her.  It was delicious.  I had a spinach salad which was also very tasty.

BOOK:  “Delicious!”  by Ruth Reichl.  This is a delightful, sweet book about a woman who writes for a cooking school magazine.  Great characters.  5 stars out of 5

California to Puerto Rico, with a stop in Minnesota?

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota WHAT????
WEATHER:  Cold (50) and rainy

We went to the Santa Barbara Airport in the morning to drop off our rental car and to fly out.  The airport is quite pretty with interesting tile work.

George was flying  back to Texas and I was on my way to Minnesota, in order to get to Puerto Rico…..strange as that sounds.

Our daughter Alexis had planned a trip for the 2 of us to San Juan.  I had planned to return to Texas after our California trip, and then meet her there.  Flights to Puerto Rico from our homebase in Texas were quite expensive.  Alexis found a very cheap flight to San Juan from Minneapolis, so instead of flying back to Texas from California, I came here on a cheap airfare from Santa Barbara.   I will hang out a few days here, and then she and I will fly – direct on Sun Country – to Puerto Rico.  It seems crazy, but that worked out to be the most economical option.  Plus, I will get to see some friends here in Rochester.

My flights were uneventful.  My connection in Phoenix was tight, but I made it.  I took the Rochester shuttle van from the Minneapolis airport.  I was glad I was not driving – pitch-black and raining hard. 

I am in a new, cool hotel in downtown Rochester.  It caters to the fitness traveler.  My room is set up with a yoga mat, weights, some sort of weights to pull from the wall, and a fitness ball to sit on.  The vibe in the lobby is sleek and cool. 

After getting settled in, I just got a flatbread from the hotel’s restaurant – “The Cork and Kale” and ate it in my room while watching HGTV.  The joys of traveling!

Winding down our California visit

LOCATION:  Santa Barbara, California
WEATHER:  Cool and misty in the AM; sunny and warm – 70 in PM

We left a rainy San Luis Obispo late morning, heading back to Santa Barbara.  We took the mountain route again, stopping in Los Olivos for lunch.  It is a darling town – chock-a-block with wine-tasting rooms and cute shops.  My brother had recommended the Wine Merchant for lunch, so we checked it out.

We shared two items on their autumn menu – a silky butternut squash soup and a sinfully rich pasta dish – with gnocchi, butternut squash, red onion, gorgonzola, cream sauce, walnuts and arugula.  It was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.

We strolled around the town.  It would be fun to spend a night or two here. 

On our way back, at one of the mountain passes, we stopped at a stagecoach inn that was used about 150 years ago

The tavern that once welcomed stagecoach passengers now opens on weekends for lunch.

After a relaxing afternoon, we had dinner with my brother and his wife – really authentic pizza from an Italian famiy restaurant in their neighborhood.  Again, so convenient.

BOOK:  “The Surgeon” by Tess Garritson.  This is the 2nd book of hers that I have read.  It is about a female police detective.  Quite good.  4 stars out of 5

Wine-tasting in Paso Robles

LOCATION:  San Luis Obisp, California –  on Central Coast
WEATHER:  Sunny.  High 73

Today was all about wine-tasting!  Our brochure describing the vineyards in Paso Robles listed about 100.  We narrowed our list down to 17 – those open on Mondays!  A hard job, but I was up to the challenge!!!

George planned our route, and we were off!  The landscape is really stark and beautiful.  They have just recently picked the grapes, and now the vines are turning golden brown.

This intersection shows how hard it to decide where to go for tasting!

Our first stop was in a lovely setting, a family-owned fairly small vineyard.  George accidentally missed the right parking area, and the manager had to run us down to tell us not to drive in the area where they were harvesting the grapes. 

I did a wine tasting there ($15).  The wines were quite good. The bottles ranged from $35 – $125. 

We drove around looking at more wineries, searching for one that serves lunch.  We found this one – Tooth and Nail.  It got its name from their struggles to turn the place into a vibrant winery.  We shared an order of soft tacos, and I had a glass of one of their reds. 

I called it quits after the second winery, and we drove the coastal road back to San Luis Obispo – about 25 miles. 

We didn’t feel like gong out, so I walked to the Sprouts Market (one of my favorites) across the street and picked up dinner…

DINNER:  Chicken tortilla soup and a yummy turkey/spinach sandwich on a toasted ciabatta roll. 

There was nothing much on TV, so we watched my boyfriend Rick Steves’ “Monday Night Travels” podcast.  He is excited to finally travel again.