Homes Away from Home
We have just returned home from a part of our country that we are now smitten with–Puerto Rico. Oh, my. We loved it– brightly colored houses, tropical food and cocktails, friendly people, lush vegetation, aqua sea, music coming out of every car and bar, a fluid weaving together of Spanish and English and a vibrant Caribbean vibe.
During our visit, we stayed at three very different kinds of homes-away-from-home. The first was Casa Sol, a lovely bed and breakfast in Old San Juan, with five colorful rooms and bright yellow open-air courtyard, excellent breakfasts and a very welcoming feeling. On our second night, the owner invited us to join him and his wife at a drumming and dance class. We did. Initially, we just listened and observed. Then, we joined in. John drummed; I donned a “falda,” (skirt), and began to learn La Bomba with ten other women. What a gift!
Our next place was an historic hotel, again in Old San Juan, called El Convento, originally built in 1651 as the “New World’s first Carmelite convent.” It was elegant, spacious, with two restaurants and bars, a small dipping pool and hot tub, many covered outdoor balconies and patios where one could sip a Piña Colada and read while listening to the intermittent rain. Walking up and down the cobblestone streets from there to the historic forts or waterfront where large cruise ships docked always offered visual and musical treats. One day I continued my dance education and joined a group of locals dancing salsa to a small live band on a promenade near the wharf.
Our final refuge was The Dream Catcher, located outside Old San Juan in Ocean Park, a residential neighborhood two blocks from the beach. It was a relaxed little compound with about eighteen rooms, many communal outdoor hang-out spots, a vegan restaurant, a kitchen for anyone who wanted to cook meals (each room had its own shelf in the refrigerator), a fountain area with hammocks and incense, and yoga on the beach. Our room had a small private patio with outdoor shower–very fun! Everyone was open, friendly, and helpful. And there was the constant piercing night soundtrack–co-key, co-key, co-key– of the tiny one-inch coquí frog.
The nearby streets had a multitude of restaurants and bars. A surprise highlight was going to a much-exalted bakery/diner called Kasalta where we enjoyed an afternoon sweet at the very table where Obama sat on his visit to Puerto Rico! Que bien!
Our final day on the island included a trip with friends to two natural beauty areas–El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system, and Luquillo Beach– that expanded our sense of the island’s landscape. It also was the day I started reading We Fed an Island by chef José Andrés about how he and other chefs and volunteers prepared millions of meals for residents after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. So far, it is very educational and inspirational.
What an eye and heart-opener travel can be…be it armchair travel or the live foot-on-the-ground kind. I feel so thankful for both. As a quote over my desk says, “Travel is good for the soul.” Es verdad.