Puerto Rico…Carrie and I have shot many weddings together, but have never traveled further than three hours away. We were completely excited to be going to Puerto Rico, although we were a bit nervous as well. Carrie speaks zero Spanish, so we relied heavily on my one semester of college Spanish.
We also both have families, and had never been away as long as this six day trip called for. My husband is not the cook in the family, and was very weary of being left in charge preparing the meals and getting our children back and forth for their last week of school.
Luckily, my cell phone service provider said there would be full cell service and no roaming charges, being that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory (this is amazing to me, since most places on the Outer Banks don’t get any service!). Carrie’s phone provider considered it international roaming, so that was no good. We packed very minimally for ourselves clothing wise, being we had so much equipment that had to be with us on the plane. We had only 50 minutes between connecting flights, and did not think we had enough time to our check bags (we were absolutely right about this, seeing as we had to run to the gate to make that connecting flight).
While waiting to depart from ORF, we realized we would have to stow a bag, due in fact that the flight to JFK was a small one. At 6:20am, we had to completely unpack our clothes, divide equipment and repack. Bras and roos in plain view of anyone up that early and paying attention.
The flight was not bad. JFK to SJU, I sat next to ‘creepy Kenyan Dr.’, who pretty much sat in MY seat and whispered things to me like “so are you going to get a tan” and “what hotel are you staying?”. Ugh. After arriving to Puerto Rico, we were settled into a pretty little red Nissan with plenty of umph (We were forewarned about Puerto Rican traffic and driving by many before our trip as well as on the plane). After we went over all the little dings already on this new car, we discover is that Carrie’s navigation system that she brought did not work in Puerto Rico… So we relied on solely on my phone for GPS (which worked!). This got us to our hotel in San Juan, where we had to park two blocks over and lug all of our equipment. Our hotel also did not have an elevator, thus we lugged our extremely heavy load up the four flights of stairs to our room (everyday). Our first hotel is small, but updated and efficient. We had a tv, safe, wifi, and one bed. Plus, the super friendly Ricardo of the front desk led us in the direction of a delicious meal.
The next day, we had a bagel and set off for our super fun engagement shoot around Old San Juan with Zach and Maureen. We were excited about this because Old San Juan is the 2nd oldest city in the Americas. We rode with our couple, and got an endless steaming of interesting facts from Zach. We ended up at our hotel around 6pm. Even though we hadn’t eaten all day and were starving, (but full of adventure) we decide to hold off on dinner, and head to a spot we had researched earlier, Fajardo. This beach town is a (supposedly…) 40 min drive and is famous for its bioluminescent bays, so we thought we’d have a nice beach side dinner and dip in the ocean at dark.
At 9:30pm, “lost and hungry” (bioluminescence nowhere to be found), we wind up at the Sizzler. Yes, the Sizzler. This is where we (and the other patrons) enjoy a great laugh at my impromptu Marilyn Monroe dress flying episode at the ice cream machine.
The next day goes much like that one. We eat a bagel at the hotel, set off in the Nissan and spend the next 6 hrs with spotty cell/GPS reception, “lost and hungry” in the rainforest, never finding our destination.
At a gas station, we meet a very nice old man, who spoke only Spanish. He was very kind, and we could communicate enough to know that he wanted us to follow him for a 20 min ride to a bar where someone spoke English.
We have now dubbed ourselves, ‘Negative Nancy’ and Carrie was ‘Positive Patsy’ (usually, although sometimes our roles reversed).
Finally, back in San Juan, we eat at a delicious Puerto Rican restaurant which has no a/c. Overheated and completely defeated, we devour our traditional Mofongo con camarones, and head to our hotel.
We have reserved a different hotel to be closer to the bride and groom, which ended up being horrible. 3.5 stars equals daylight seeping through the walls, a window unit a/c, two hard beds, plastic covered pillows, no safe, no elevator and the ‘balcony’ was all of two feet, overlooking a 9 lane hwy and rooftops with barbed wire. We actually cried.
All the stairs we had to climb with our equipment each time we left the hotel...
That evening, we ditch the car and decide walking may be the best decision to get to the rehearsal dinner without incident. Afterwards, Carrie and I find a nice sushi restaurant where they have plantain rolls, and the waiter makes us really pretty (free!) drinks. Full bellies and spirits up, we walk back to our hotel. On the sidewalk, I step into a puddle which splashes up my leg. I think is weird because it hadn’t rained in Puerto Rico since we arrived….then it dawns on me, that constant stench we smell in the city… yeah, it’s raw sewage. A cautionary sniff of my flop confirms this.
Day three was wedding day! It was absolutely Fairy Tale Gorgeous! Maureen and Zach are such a fabulous couple and everything was just amazingly perfect. We were so thankful we were able to ride with our bride and groom in their limos to the wedding site at the Hacienda Siesta Alegre, and also had a shuttle back to San Juan! The roads of Puerto Rico have a way of swallowing us up, and are not to be trusted.
I think my most favorite part of the entire trip was their first look. Carrie and I had good bumps and tears! Maureen and Zach are so in love, and just ecstatic to be married.
So technically, we were done in Puerto Rico, We checked out of that horrid hotel #2, but we had planned to stay two extra days for ourselves. We rented a cute little isolated house, (so the internet says…) in the rainforest mountains of Barrenquitas. ‘Nancy’ was skeptical after our previous experiences with Puerto Rico. To leave San Juan, DRIVE two and a half hours inland to a house in the middle of nowhere…
But when we arrived we were absolutely shocked at how gorgeous it was. The internet did not do it justice. We were let in by our neighbor for the next two days Renaldo, who gave us the grand tour. Carrie had goosebumps and I just so happened to have a camera handy. This house was gorgeous, with a 300° view of the mountains and wide open windows/barn doors that could be left completely open all night.
We went grocery shopping, made rum and pineapple drinks and sat in the sunshine all day listening to music. Fantastic day.
Our one full free day was supposed to be spent zip-lining in the rainforest. The group was to meet back in San Juan and shuttle back in, but we decided against this. Our entire trip seemed to be on the road. We opted for a day trip to the Caribbean Sea, only 41 miles away. 41 miles in PR is really 2 and a half hrs. Always. But this time, we packed up pb + guava jam sammies and hit the road. We never really found a beach access, but we did get there, soak up some sun and take a dip. And by dip, I really mean, we dipped in and got out. Since no one else was swimming, we were nervous and scared there may have been a reason for this. So we took the safe route.
Our house was wonderful. That evening Renaldo and his wife Sonya cooked up a traditional Puerto Rican meal, we edited pictures, watched a movie, and packed up for our flight. We slept with the huge barn door open with a gorgeous view of twinkly lights all along the mountain.
Next day, our flight was at two. We left early in the morning, knowing we did not want to miss our flight and anything could happen in PR. We arrived in San Juan early, went over to Old San Juan to shop for our families and then had time for an airport meal. On our flight home, “creepy Kenyan Dr.” was two rows behind! He did walk up and have conversation, since there was no way to whisper and be conspicuous, he kept it less weird. After some delayed flights due to weather, we finally made it back to Norfolk. Yay!, for super fun experiences and the opportunity to have them.