Friday, April 18, 2014

Family Cruise 2014: Day 6, San Juan

Rob did not want to go back to San Juan.  I wanted to go again, but I actually want to go to San Juan for the purpose of leaving on a southern Caribbean cruise, LOL.  But I thought the kids would find it interesting that this little island is "American" but tropical, very historic yet modern, quite urban....very different from the other islands that while they are "modern" are still very rustic. 

Lucy wasn't feeling too well, and we didn't know if it was too much sun, the pop at the beach bar, something else...but we headed on shore.  I was intent to find "the Pigeon Park" (Parque de las Palomas ) that we had stumbled on the last time we were there.  I had maps this time, with the locations of a few geocaches that I was hoping we could find, and one was in this park.  The kids also wanted to go to Del Sol, the store that sells items that change colour in the sun.  We headed off towards the park, though there was some disagreement on where it was, which I thought was funny because I have NO recollection on how we got there the first time, and this time, I had a good map--I just needed to get orientated.  And indeed, it was me that found it this time :) 

Before we got to Pigeon Park, we stopped by Plaza de la Dársena & La Casita  to see if we could find a geocache.  This is a quaint little green space, but beware...as you approach it from the cruise ships, it will smell like horse pee.  Sorry.  There are carriage rides available, hence, the horses.  Move westwards into the plaza a bit.  Hopefully when you visit, there'll be water in the fountains.  I don't think the tourist info was open when we were there, but I didn't check--I didn't realize that was what it was. 
(Not my picture.)

Stopping at this green space did not really help in getting my bearings, LOL, since I didn't know which street was which.  But I could see the Paseo De La Princesa and that there was another area above it that looked like it could be it.  We just had to find out how to get up there.  I led the troops on a zig zag, cobblestoned route and despite Rob's disagreement, I found the entrance to the park. 

For more pictures, check out this blog post.  Please use your own discretion about visiting this park.  If you're afraid of birds, don't go.  If you're pushing  a stroller full of Cheerio crumbs, don't go.  If you're easily offended by smells, don't go.  If you're sane and normal, consider not going.  LOL.  It is very overwhelming; the sounds, the smells, the sh!t...

 One thing we noticed this time, that I hadn't noticed last time, were the little shoe sculptures.  That blog post I link to above, mentions them as well, and that she couldn't find any reference to them online.   We noticed were the tiny broken pigeon eggs :(  Lou told us at dinner that at the Vatican, birth control is put in the bird seed to control the population.  Maybe that's what happens here too.  They need to step it up a bit though!
 Once again, we saw lizards!
 I LOVE this picture!  They were so fast, it was hard to get my camera to focus on them before they darted off.  Don't forget to click on a picture to get to the better picture viewer.
 This one even had a racing stripe on his back!
 There's our ship!
I had wanted to recreate the picture below, with the whole family, but people weren't co-operating.
This was on our first cruise (October 2007), when I was really sick and didn't know why (turned out to be giardia).  
 One of the first birds  that caught our eye was this albino pigeon!  Cool.
The trees are really neat, it might be a banyan?  
Random pigeon.
 
We didn't find any of the two or three geocaches that were supposed to be here.  We didn't have a GPS, I just had the maps, comments, and I had decoded the secret hints.  But, they were micro sized, so I wasn't surprised.
Rob was cranky.  It was too humid for him.  The forecasted humidity was only 70%, compared to 81% in St. Kitts, but the actual temperature was also higher, so maybe it ended up being the same to him.
 
I had read that for $1, you could get a bag of corn to feed the birds.  I thought that sounded "fun" so Meg and I approached the man selling.
O.M.G.
I thought I might get a picture or video of MEGAN feeding the birds.  No one told the birds though.  I hadn't even stepped away from the man when the birds swarmed me.  It wouldn't have been too bad if they stayed on the ground, sort of like the picture below...

 But NO.  Pigeons are birds.  And birds fly.

Imagine ALL these birds, focused on just one thing---the bag of corn in MY hand.  I could barely move, I could feel them on my feet and legs, then I could hear them around my head and feel them on my arms.  They clawed at the bag and tried to land on me.  I tried to remain calm, but I totally felt like I was under attack.  I will not do this again.  There was no serene sprinkling of the corn on the ground and birds waddling around.  Sesame Street and Mary Poppins meet Stephan King, instead.
Rob decided he was going back to the ship.  I wasn't ready, despite my pigeon ordeal.  The kids were going  to go with him, until I mentioned Del Sol.  So, he left, and the kids and I wandered out to the street to find the store.  I knew it wasn't far, it was on my map, and we quickly found it.  I hope the kids enjoyed walking along the narrow, cobblestoned streets and sidewalks.  Something really different for them.

Del Sol is a small store, in a hot town.  We were in there for a couple minutes and Lucy said her tummy hurt and she didn't feel good.  I remembered a back part of the store, where I had nearly passed out on our first visit.  But there wasn't anything up the stairs.  I told Lucy to go outside while we tried to speed things up.  
A few minutes later (and really, it was under 5 minutes), we were in line, and a woman comes up to the cash and I hear "Can we get a bucket of water?  Someone {garbled garbled} on the sidewalk".  Oh no!  

As I was being rung up, a woman asks if I had a blonde daughter outside....cause she was sick....we pay and get out, and indeed, she made a big puddle of vomit on the sidewalk.  On one hand, I was SOOOO glad it wasn't in the store; on the other hand, I was a little disappointed at the lack of help.  A bucket of water came and some was splashed on the ground, but no one offered any water for Lucy, and most of the puddle was left.  Another woman recommended a Walgreen's around the corner for some lemonade.  

We headed back towards the ship, where I had seen a CVS pharmacy.  It was actually a little further than I thought.  It was nice to be in an American store, where we recognized the foods, and spoke the language and knew the currency.  What wasn't nice was that there was NO Diet Coke in cans.   Again.  Third island in a row.  We had told the kids before we left that we wouldn't buy pop on the ship because it was over $2 a can ($2.25 or $2.50) but that we would stop at stores on the islands and get a nice, cold can.  Also, I thought some popsicles would be nice, since they didn't have those on the ship.  However, the upright freezer cabinets were not working, but all the product was still in them...dripping...ewwww.  We picked out some pops/Gatorade, paid and headed outside, back to the Plaza de la Dársena & La Casita, where I thought the shade would be nice.  

It was, even though it still smelled like horse pee.  Had I been alone, I would have walked down the Paseo De La Princesa, a pedestrian street that runs on the lower level, beneath the pigeon park (which is on the upper level of the old city wall).  But instead, we sat around, looked at a few craft vendors, and I bought a pretty sea glass necklace.  We drank most of our pops and emptied the rest into our water bottles, putting the coloured drink in the stainless steel bottle so that we wouldn't get questioned.  

It felt surprisingly far to the pier.  I think mainly because we had already walked most of it twice, and it was quite sunny there! Once you get to the pier, it's in a triangle shape, so you're still not "there" for quite a ways LOL.  Before we got onto the pier, we noticed this submarine!

Cool shot!  Rob said it's a "little submarine" LOL.  How does he know?  Seeing them on TV is one thing, but how many has he seen in real life?!

This picture was actually taken from the ship.  It seemed a little surprising that it was there, for everyone to see.  Not so secret, LOL.  
Another shot from the ship.  I would have liked to see it up close.  And I would have liked to go to the Bacardi's factory LOL.  Next time...
Approaching the ship, we could see the bikers had their toys out again!

This is a shot from 2007, basically the same ship, LOL.
Before going on to the pier, I hoped to see the Parrots again.  We didn't see them right away, but they were there.  I had warned the kids I wasn't paying for them to pose with these guys LOL.
The picture below is from 2007.  I don't know if these are the same birds/owner.  But it was our first stop on our first cruise, and I was surprised to see that you could stand there and have a bird on your arm.  Then I saw the mom hand the man some money.  I was still a little surprised, but it soon became clear that these people try to make money however they can.
We headed towards the pier security, and had to wait in line.  The kids got to see panhandlers too.  Sigh.  Then, through security, we noticed a bit of a commotion behind us on the pier, a ship's officer was jogging towards security with a passenger, and pointing in the water.  Then he ran back to the ship and came past again, with one of those wire "hooks" on a pole.  We couldn't see what was going on, and didn't think it would be proper to head backwards to gawk :)  We headed back to the room, where Lucy promptly went to bed for 24 hours.
Hugh had finally asked Valent, our room steward, to leave his bunk down, since Lucy was tired of him laying in her bed all day LOL.  There was only one chair in the room, and it wasn't comfortable for long term lounging, even if it wasn't being used as a dirty clothes hamper.  In this photo, you can see through the connecting door to our room, and Meg on our bed.  Where that door is, is where a couch would normally be.  If Rob and I ever go alone again, we'll make sure to not get a connecting room...unless they have couches in storage that they can bring in, LOL.  You can also see Lucy in her bed :(
 I think Meg headed off to the pool with Rob, and I took Hugh to see the helipad.  Day 6 and none of them had been on it yet, which really surprised me.  Lucy says she never did go see it!  Above, you can see the city wall, and the Pigeon park above, and the pedestrian street below.
 Years ago, there was a Canadian TV series, called "Tall Ship Chronicles" about a tall ship that people paid (large amounts) for the purpose helping restore it and sailing it around the world.  A working cruise.  I thought it seemed awesome, though at times, very hard work and even scary.  There are also school at sea programs, one which had a capsize a few years ago.  This ship was in San Juan, and I wanted to check out the website.  So, to remember, I took a picture.  Of course, it's now mid-April, and I haven't googled it yet.
 Our departure was delayed because the Norwegian Gem was coming into to the harbour, and it's a one ship at a time kind of place.
 Hugh wasn't all that impressed.  We then met a man who was also using a walkie talkie.  On the same friggin channel we were.  22 channels and we've picked the same one?  He could reach his partner, but despite knowing we now couldn't, he didn't offer to change channels.  He said he was from Seattle.  We said Toronto.  He asked if that was on the east coast of Canada.  Sigh.  I told Rob, and he said "Well, aren't we?".  Double sigh.
 Some day I hope to check out a yacht like these above.
 But not like this one.
 Or these.
 Here's some more shots of the city wall, and pigeon park.

 I believe the blue house is the Governor's House.
I thought the kids would think it neat to see the fort (Castillo San Felipe del Morro) and the wall.  Nah, Meg wanted to swim with her new friends and Lucy was out cold in her bed.

It's a pretty formidable entry to the harbour!
On our first cruise, I was in bed, sick, all morning, but Rob brought me on deck to watch the entry to the harbour, which was around noon.  I don't recall seeing the airport on our way out this time...guess we were watching the fortress.
This rainstorm also said "welcome to San Juan" on our first time, though it stayed away from where we were (or maybe I went to bed for a bit longer until we went ashore LOL).

An interesting thing, when you round the corner of Bajo Santa Elena, on the north shore, is a large cemetery.  Right up to the shore.  In the picture above, I'm not sure what you can see, but I did notice the large red Coke can towards the right, LOL.  There is also another fort, Castillo San Cristobal.  They really wanted to protect this town (which is actually quite narrow at that section)!  Castillo San Cristobal is actually bigger; it's the biggest fortification built by the Spanish in America.  It was started in 1634 and took about 150 years. 
Not sure what they were doing with that construction, but at over 400 years old, it's look pretty good.

This was the second formal night, the night with lobster tails, and Lucy missed it.  Our lovely waiter (Paratosh) gave us a plate with two to take up to Lucy because she wanted to try them.  Which was surprising, since she won't even try fish.  But, Rob ended up eating them for breakfast LOL.
We had a peacock on our bed, but the kids didn't get any animals, since Lucy didn't want to be disturbed.  This really upset Meg, so we went and found Valent, and he made her a bunny!
(Yes, Meg, despite having all those conversations about having enough of the "right" types of clothes, and me making sure to pack them even though Meg didn't want them...she re-wore the dress she wore on the first formal night).

After dinner, Meg and Nya went to play sports on the Sports Court with the youth program, but it got rained out shortly after they finally made it there.
The Headliner Showcase was "A Salute to the Temptations", a tribute band.  It was loud.  Loud.  And, just like many of the musical shows, mixed poorly--the vocals were hard to distinguish over the music.  They were definitely a talented group, but I was ready to leave after the second song, due to the loudness.

We picked the girls up at 10, and there was discussion about watching the Mad Hatters Parade, and/or going to Nya's room to play...but it was pretty obvious the girls were worn out and needed bed instead.  Vacationing is exhausting!  And we still had two more days!!

No comments: