Christmas/Anniversary Cruise 2021: Day 4, Part 4, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico at Night
Robbie and I had a nice, but hot, afternoon exploring Old San Juan. It was great walking through the colorful old buildings. And blue cobblestones, how great is that! Going up and down the hills in the heat was not so fun but Old San Juan was amazing! We went back to the ship to cool off and relax a bit. Our all aboard time wasn’t until 11:00pm. There was still plenty of time to continue exploring Old San Juan. I wore Robbie out with the hills and the heat and 1111 steps! Robbie was going to stay onboard the ship. I wanted to take advantage of the extended time in port to take some night photos of Old San Juan. I brought my travel tripod along just for tonight. I was so excited to get started that I walked off of the ship without my mask! I’m surprised that they didn’t say something when they scanned me off of the ship. Pretty much everyone in town had been wearing masks when we were in town earlier. I didn’t want to go back to the ship though, there was a Walgreens across the street from the ship. I went in to buy a mask, there were 10 or more people in line to checkout! I went down the street to a souvenir shop, I now own an Old San Juan mask.
I wanted to try and get a few photos at twilight so there would still be some color in the sky. That didn’t go quite as planned, twilight was short lived and the narrow streets hid the sky. I did get two images with twilight sky.
When I photograph a place like this, I like to wonder around and just follow my nose. I usually end up finding some interesting things. I found myself in Plaza de Armas, the original town square. The centerpiece is a fountain, the fountain was now the base for the town Christmas tree. City Hall is along one side of the plaza.
After Plaza de Armas, I ended up back at Umbrella Street. The Christmas lights were lit where the umbrellas usually hang. The Governors Mansion is at the end of the street. Earlier when we went by here the street was closed. It was open now for Navidad de Puerto Rico. There was music playing and they were projecting a light show onto the mansion. The street was narrow and there were a lot of people, so I didn’t venture down the street.
I continued walking and I saw a woman walking a dog down a narrow street. I was hoping to get a bit closer but she kept moving away from me. It was an interesting street so I kept going.
This brought me to the old city wall along the entrance to the harbor. I was just in time to see one of the other cruise ships leaving the port. I did a quick time check to make sure it wasn’t my ship! There is always a little fear of the ship leaving without you.
I knew where I was now, Robbie and I came down this hill earlier. Casa Blanca was at the top of the hill. I decided to walk up the hill. It ended up being a pretty interesting street.
I came to a wide walkway with steps, it was sort of like a courtyard/pathway. We came down these steps earlier as well. It looked pretty cool at night.
I continued walking and found some interesting places. I found the famous Puerto Rican flag door by Rosenda Alvarez that I had read about. It was originally the traditional red white and blue. In 2016 she repainted it black and white to reflect the gloomy political climate during that time. Although I had the flag door pinned on my map, I never looked at my map. I just stumbled on to it. I didn’t know anything about the Ricardo Alegria door. Ricardo was a cultural anthropologist and archeologist. He was responsible for the renovation and restoration of Old San Juan. I think they could have given him a better door, maybe a nice wall.
Then I found this beautiful cobblestone street with the Puerto Rican flag in lights! There was also a section of the blue cobblestones.
The flag in lights was like a beacon that I had to follow. I walked down the cobblestone street and found an amazing carousel. I didn’t know about any of these things. If I had been looking for some specific thing, rather than just wondering around, I probably would not halve found most of these things.
The carousel lead me to another Puerto Rican flag. I just stayed in this intersection for a while photographing the people walking around.
I ended up back at the cruise port and the Nieuw Amsterdam, it was still there, phewww! I wondered around the dock taking a few photos of the ship before boarding. I set up to take a photo of the ship with the ornamental pillars and a woman laid down and started doing some arm exercises. So I took her picture too.
I had lots of fun photographing Old San Juan at night. I was able to do two of my favorite things. Wonder around an old town with cobblestone streets and colorful buildings and night photography. Hopefully I was able to get a few good images to boot.
Christmas/Anniversary Cruise 2021: Day 4, Part 1, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Yesterday we had an long but awesome day exploring the Dominican Republic. Back on the ship Robbie and I had a nice relaxing evening. No matter how you spend your time on board, full tilt nightclubbing or just relaxing as we did, your floating resort is on it’s way to your next adventure. One of the things that I like about cruising is, waking up to a new and exciting port. Today December, 26 2021 we were sailing into San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is actually our second time in San Juan. On our first cruise into San Juan we visited the El Yunque Rain Forest. The rain forest was great but we didn’t get to see much of San Juan. This time we wanted to explore Old San Juan. This is why it can be nice to revisit a port.
We weren’t due to dock in San Juan until noon so we were able to spend the morning on the ship. So we took the opportunity to have a nice leisurely breakfast in the main dinning room. Before breakfast we watched the sunrise from our veranda.
As we sailed into San Juan Harbor everyone was on deck. Our cruise director was describing the sights and history of Old San Juanover the P.A. system as we sailed past. The most prominent landmark on the coast is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th century Spanish fort built to protect the harbor. Several other San Juan landmarks were visible as we sailed into the harbor. A few other cruise ships were all ready docked as the Neiuw Amsterdam eased up to the dock. It’s amazing how maneuverable these huge ships are.
Christmas/Anniversary Cruise 2021: Day 4, Part 3, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Next to Barrio La Perla is Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis. An ornate cemetery from the mid 1800’s. Several prominent Puerto Ricans are buried here. The cemetery is outside of the city walls. We had to walk down a steep road to the bottom of the wall. Then through the wall to get to it. The cemetery was closed when we were there but I was able to get some photos through the fence. The other side of the cemetery is bordered by Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Built in the 16th century in honor of King Philip II of Spain to protect San Juan. Old San Juan is bookmarked by Castillo San Felipe del Morro on the west and Castillo de San Cristobal to the east.
Continuing our walk through the beautiful cobblestone streets of Old San Juan I was noticing several homes with decorative tile house numbers.
Casa Blanca, a whitewashed home, built for Juan Ponce de Leon, the first Governor of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately he died on his expedition to Florida, in search of the fountain of youth, before it was completed in 1521. The home is currently a museum. It was closed when we were there.
Next we came to La Fortaleza, the fortified Governors Mansion. The street leading to the mansion dubbed, Umbrella street, typically has colorful umbrellas suspended above it. Umbrella street was decorated with Christmas lights instead of umbrellas during our trip. It was closed off to prepare for, what I later found out was, Navidad en Puerto Rico, a Christmas light show projected onto the mansion.
A quick look at Capilla del la Salud a small chapel at the end of the street, before heading back to the ship. We were very hot, sweaty and exhausted from walking up the hills and down the hills and back again. Robbie was done for the day but we were in port until 11pm. I wanted to take the opportunity to photograph Old San Juan at night. I freshened up a bit and went back for more of Old San Juan.
Sandhill Crane Family 2022
We have had a pair of sandhill cranes roaming our neighborhood for several years. They always bring their new chicks by to show them off. Back in January they sent last years chick on his or her way to starting his or her own family. Mamma and papa crane have been coming by together without any chicks. Several weeks ago they started coming by individually. Mamma would come by in the morning and papa would come by in the evening. We assumed this meant that they had eggs in the nest. Then about 5 days ago they stopped coming all together. We assumed this meant the eggs had hatched. Finally they brought their two beautiful new babies by, proudly showing them off.
A Trip to ZooTampa
For my birthday, my wife and our friend Cassy took me to ZooTampa in Tampa Fl. The zoo has 56 acres of naturalistic animal exhibits in a tropical setting, housing over 1000 animals. The zoo is divided into regions with corresponding habitats and animals. There is a region for Asia, Africa, Australia, and Florida.
We arrived just in time for the orangutan chat. The orangutan caretakers gathered them together and kept their attention by tossing them a treat as they told everyone about the orangutans. We were able to get a great look at the two week old baby clinging to its mother. They were all covered in feathers. Apparently, earlier they were given feather pillows and they all had a pillow fight!
We walked through the Florida manatee exhibit. ZooTampa is a manatee critical care center. Injured and sick manatees are brought to the center and cared for until they are healthy enough to be returned to the wild.
There was a wildlife connection at the Zoo Ventures Theater. The caretakers for the macaws told everyone all about the macaws. They had two macaws that were flying over the audience from one caretaker to another. After the wildlife connection, it was time for the macaw fly over near the main entrance. All the macaws fly through the zoo to manatee circle, a large circular sitting area with a manatee sculpture in the center. The macaws land on a perch near the circle. The caretakers explain how the macaws are going to fly around the circle and back to the perch. They did this three times before they sent them flying through the zoo back to their enclosure. It was pretty cool seeing the large colorful birds flying overhead.
We had a trip to South Africa planned for this coming April. We were really looking forward to this trip! But the tour company canceled the trip due to the covid pandemic. We planned on seeing the African Penguins at Boulders Beach and doing a safari through Kruger National Park. Today we saw some African Penguins and took a ride on a safari vehicle through the African region of the zoo. It wasn’t quite the same as a trip to South Africa, but I guess it will be as close as we get for now.
Here are a few of the other animals that we saw along the way.
This Indian Rhino was keeping cool in his pool and having fun blowing bubbles.
The lorikeets are always fun! We always like to visit the lorikeet aviary anytime we visit a place that has one. We bought a little cup of nectar to feed them. They can spot those little cups from a mile away! They come sit on your shoulder or your arm and even your head! We had a great time with the lorikeets. We had a awesome day at ZooTampa! It was a fantastic way to spend my birthday!
Christmas/Anniversary Cruise 2021: Day 4, Part 2, San Juan, Puerto Rico
The San Juan port is right in Old San Juan. Pretty much anything in Old San Juan is within walking distance. We did not do a shore excursion here. We just walked through Old San Juan on our own.
My wife Robbie and I walked off of the ship into Old San Juan. It was a short walk to the Capitol Building of Puerto Rico.
The front of the Capitol Building faces the Atlantic Ocean. Across the street is a statue of San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist) name sake for the city of San Juan. It looks like he is giving the world the finger but he is actually pointing into the air. We took the steps down to the beach. The beach is quite narrow but the blue water and the Coconut palm trees are beautiful!
We continued walking through Old San Juan. It was a very hot day for the day after Christmas! Old San Juan is by no means flat! We were walking up hills and down hills, did I mention that it was hot! At the top of a steep hill we came to Castillo de San Cristobal, an old Spanish fort. It took 150 years to build, construction started in 1634 and wasn’t completed until 1765. It’s the largest Spanish fort in the Americas.
The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan. When Spanish ships sailed to the New World they were filled with ballast for stabilization. The Spanish ships sailing to San Juan were filled with ballast bricks made from iron mill slag. Ships returning to Spain, replaced the bricks with pilfered gold as ballast. The discarded bricks were used to pave the streets of Old San Juan. With age, the slag in the bricks turned a cobalt blue.
Barrio La Perla, a colorful ramshackle neighborhood along the Atlantic coast of San Juan. During hurricane Maria in 2017, La Perla, as well as most of Puerto Rico, were heavily damaged by the storm. A music video filmed in La Perla called “Dispacito” (slow), criticized the slow response by the United States government, it went viral. The video created a surge of visitors to the barrio.