|Lookout towers guarding the walled city of Old San Juan|
Warm, tropical breezes brushing over me. My first sip of a cold mojito with condensation sliding down the glass. The sound of flamenco music and the staccato stomps of the dancers' feet. Best of all, my beloved hubby by my side. That's what I remember when I think back to that romantic night in Old San Juan. For a few glorious days, we took a vacation from our life as parents and focused on just being a couple. Puerto Rico was a heavenly place to do it. Finally, we could relax and take our time. We didn't have to worry about early bedtimes, overtired kids or picky eaters with unfamiliar food.
Our first few nights were spent at The Gallery Inn in Old San Juan, just a short walk from the famous El Morro fort. Days were whiled away walking the cobbled streets and wandering among the colonial era, stone buildings. Just exploring the inn itself was fascinating.
|Relaxing at The Gallery Inn|
This 300-year-old mansion is one of the most visually interesting places we've ever stayed. I could almost picture people from centuries past lounging in the rooms or walking through the doorways.
|I felt like I had traveled through time to a bygone era.|
The artwork of sculptor, painter, and inn owner, Jan D'Esposo, is tucked into nooks and crannies. As the name implies, the whole place is a gallery.
|Can you identify this famous, former guest?|
Exotic birds near the entrance are eager to have a word with you. Climb up past the Music Room and out to the rooftop deck for a panoramic view of the ancient walled city and the Caribbean Sea. Even the pool is not the typical hotel type.
|Ready for a dip in the salt water pool?|
This place is rustic and authentic -- as in the plaster fell off the ceiling and onto my luggage. I just wrote that off as part of the charm. Because we booked at the last minute, we ended up in a (starving) Artist Room. It was up a tight, spiral staircase, forcing hubby to hold our luggage above his head in order to maneuver it in such a small space. The cozy room looked out through a handkerchief sized window down into an interior courtyard. I imagined that this was the perfect place for some mischievous younger sibling to spy on an older sister when suitors came courting.
|Guests are welcome to explore.|
A few days later, we moved to the Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn. True to the hotel's name, we were greeted with a beach sunrise out our window. La Pared beach just across the street is famous for surfing. You can even borrow boogie boards from the inn if you want to catch some waves.
|Greeting the day at the Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn|
If staying in Old San Juan was all about history, staying in Luquillo gave us a chance to discover the natural beauty of Puerto Rico. El Yunque National Forest is a short, 10-minute drive away. We spent hours hiking through the rainforest and cooling off under a waterfall.
|Swimming under La Mina Falls in El Yunque|
The highlight of our Puerto Rico visit was kayaking to a bioluminescent bay on a moonless night. Unfortunately for you, this experience was impossible to photograph, so you'll just have to believe me how incredible it was. We joined the guided group in Fajardo and climbed into a double kayak with a green glow bracelet marking the front and a red one on the back. As we entered the channel lined with mangroves that led towards the bay, what was left of the nighttime light faded away, and these small glow bracelets were the only clue of where the other kayaks were. I watched a red light slowly pivot around a green one when one kayak ahead of me got caught on roots.
A few hours of Wii Kayaking didn't prepare me for the real thing, and I turned out to be a less than ideal kayak partner. So, in a way, this whole excursion turned into one of those Marriage Relationship Building exercises in trust and forgiveness. Being short was an advantage as the tree branches that walloped my husband on the forehead passed harmlessly above me. I still maintain that I was not intentionally steering us towards them.
Finally, we emerged into the bay, and all the bickering evaporated. Microscopic plankton in this lagoon light up whenever it's disturbed. It was as if we had entered a fairy land. As our oars passed through the water, I could see a sparkling trail behind them. The water glittered when I scooped it up with my cupped hand and splashed it over my legs. Suddenly, a large fish darted past, and we could see both the details of the fish and the path flowing back into the depths. It was truly one of those unforgettable experiences that put you in awe of nature.
|Rio Camuy Caves|
The nearby Arecibo Observatory is the world's largest and most sensitive radiotelescope. Plus, it was the scene of the climax of the James Bond movie, GoldenEye, as well as being featured in that Jodie Foster movie, Contact, and an episode of The X-files. In other words, this place is perfectly suited for geeks like me.
It's been almost four and a half years since our trip to Puerto Rico, the last time that we've had a purely romantic getaway from the kids. (I'm so not counting the house and school hunting trip to Malaysia.) Like any great vacation, it lingers in my mind. Memories pop up when I least suspect it, and it gives me sustenance when I'm back in full-on Mommy mode .
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? Check them out for more around-the-word travel inspiration.