We sat atop barstools sipping the local brew from plastic cups and staring at the graffiti-laden walls. Outside a torrential rain fell on the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The same torrential rain, I might add, that had been falling for almost 24 hours since we’d arrived. We had found our way to El Batey, an infamous dive bar known for providing writing instruments for its patrons to leave their mark; it was just a few blocks from our hotel and a perfect place to spend a gloomy night.
The tone was set upon arrival; our airport taxi driver couldn’t see two feet ahead of him as he navigated the deluge and dropped us off at the lovely El Convento—a 385-year-old Carmelite convent turned boutique hotel. With 58 small but elegant rooms, it was the perfect mix of tropical ambiance and old world charm.
As lovely as it was, water covered the polished, black-and-white marble floors as staff scurried to make them safe for walking. Moisture seeped under the French doors of our room while we unpacked our beachwear. A look at the local weather channel revealed a spinning low-pressure system that didn’t seem likely to budge for several days, causing flooding and impassable roads.
My companion and I woke up to our third day, hoping for a miracle. But the rain still fell. As I drank my coffee, I mentally crossed off any activity that required driving to remote areas, swimming or boating. I felt dejected, but only for a moment.
Did I want to drown in my sorrows, cursing the travel gods and lamenting our thwarted day trips to luminescent bays and more remote parts of the island? Or would I embrace the moment and enjoy the beauty and diversity that was old San Juan? As a born traveler, I had to choose the latter. Umbrellas in hand, we walked through the beautiful streets taking in the sights, the forts, the galleries, and the history. We imbibed rich, hand-picked Puerto Rican mid-morning coffee at Café Cala’o; indulged in high tea at St. Germain Bakery; and capped off the night with traditional Spanish tapas with a Caribbean twist at Rosa De Triana.
It was a mere taste, but there was more to see and do. Idyllic Caribbean waters and sun would have to wait.
by: Laurie Winfield