Our second stop was Puerto Rico. I was really excited to see Puerto Rico because it's filled with rich history and gorgeous architecture. I was also looking for any way to give back to the country after the devastating hurricanes last year. We landed in San Juan and set off on foot to explore. Just as I like it, no signs were in English so we all had to rely on our high school Spanish to get by (not being sarcastic). I don't know why I was surprised to see how modern the buildings were given that it is a U.S. territory, but there's still a colonial theme in their designs.
We walked up Recinto Sur Calle, where I saw the most gorgeous blue cobblestone street, and almost got knocked down while I stopped to take a picture of it. Then I saw the colourful buildings I had longed to see. When it comes to architecture, my favourite designs are colourful buildings and Gothic cathedrals. We ducked into a little bar and got Sangria in a pouch for $3. I really thought I was going to get to drink it out of the pouch like an adult CapriSun, but apparently that's not how it works.
We walked up a fairly steep hill to get to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. On the way a strong wind blew up my cousin's dress and apparently flashed everyone. While we were all just grateful that she was finally wearing underwear, this didn't earn us a free ride up the hill. The view from the top of the fort is breathtaking! We didn't go inside but we did enjoy a little photo break. I even got to take a photo of my 14 year old cousin, who up until that point, had been my personal photographer.
My cousin thought it was a must for us to walk through La Perla. La Perla is a historical shanty town in the steep hillside between Old San Juan and the sea where the video for the pop hit Despacito was filmed. My cousin mentioned nothing about Despacito. She was excited because it is supposed to be a very dangerous area that they typically warn tourists to stay away, but given that it was her fourth trip, she felt like a veteran. Afterwards I did some research and found that the little houses that make up La Perla are clustered on the other side of the wall, where the sea crashes against the rocks. Its residents have fought tooth and nail to preserve it, and artists like Calle 13, Ismael Rivera and Ruben Blades have dedicated songs to it. With 1,600 inhabitants, it is one of the poorest communities in San Juan. Drug trafficking largely drives its economy, with the government trying in vain to clear it. On Yelp, reviewers comment on the dangers outsiders risk going there. At one point (thanks to my knowledge gained from Narcos) I identified a few "drug houses" and when two men came out to have a smoke on the rock wall, I knew that was our cue to leave because we weren't welcome. But the graffiti my cousin promised was absolutely gorgeous and worth the walk!
From there we were all really hot and tired, so when we came out by Castillo de San Cristóbal, our first priority was to find a restroom and hail a taxi. Our first stop on the tour was the Bacardi factory. I'll be honest, coming from a country that used to have a Bacardi factory (and actually put Bacardi on the map) there wasn't much that amazed me, but it was still very beautiful. After the tour, you can buy bottles of Bacardi, some flavours are only sold in Puerto Rico. But I'm sorry at $160 a bottle, I can have Bacardi anywhere, because they all taste the same.
After a day of touring it was time to eat. My cousin insisted on us eating at a local favourite called Bebo's. The line was unnecessarily long and slow. I contemplated crossing the road to McDonalds but I had to keep telling myself that I didn't come all the way to Puerto Rico to eat McDonalds.She wanted us to try the national dish: Mofongo. Mofongo is often touted as the best Puerto Rican food. Whether it is or isn’t is debatable with so many tasty options to choose from; however, it’s certainly the most famous. It’s a mashed concoction of fried green plantains with garlic seasoning filled with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, steak, or pork. Think of your favorite mashed potato but oh so much WORSE! I hated it! And sadly it wasn't even the worst thing I ate. I ordered white rice, mofongo and tostones. Tostones are twice-fried plantain slices. Most commonly known as tostones, they are also known as tachinos or chatinos, Platano frito, bananes pesées, and patacones. I didn't want to trash anything about my trip, but I am not lying when I say there was ABSOLUTELY no seasoning in the food. My dad ate at a different restaurant and he said everyone there hated the food as well. Lastly, my rice was so undercooked, it only could've cooked for about 5 minutes on high. I really wanted an authentic experience, but I'm so sad that I didn't like it.