Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

A Darker Shade of Pale

10 Aug

Isla Verde Beach, San JuanWho knew that slathering on the sunscreen (well, if we want to be technical, I sprayed it, rather liberally) could result in lobster-colored flesh?  Three days in a row, for that matter?  

The beach was great, but it feels good to be back.  Especially since my lobster-skin is fading into something tan-like and it is no longer painful to put on clothes.  

Our vacation turned out to be wonderful and relaxing, though it took a little while to get that way.  

We do vacations the laid-back way: take a laptop and figure out what to do as we go along.  Give us one main fall-back plan (the beach, in this instance) and we’re good to go.  No plans typically equal a nice balance of rest and fun, rather than crazed dashing from attraction to attraction.

This time, it led to one crazy day.  Let’s just say it was…a culturally enriched day.  A day to experience what locals do, daily, even though we are pasty white, very obvious, non-locals.

Question: why do Google maps always give the impression that whichever city you are in is wide and open, with well-maintained infrastructure and happily organized city blocks?  You look at a map of the city, and the street-lines are all the same width, careening merrily across the page.  Except, in real-life, it’s not exactly like that at all.  The streets are crooked and about as wide as a toothpick, crammed with cars, and surrounded not by pretty views of beaches and palm trees, but by graffitied cement walls.

Another question: when you have the dilemma of paying $40, round-trip, to drive twenty minutes away versus paying a grand total of $3, which would you pick?  Probably the same one we picked: the cheap one.  

The bus.  The bus, which arrived promptly forty-five minutes after we sat down at the bus stop.  The bus, whose kind (kind of hostile, rather) driver turned us away when we had no quarters (Note to Bus Website: it would be nice if you had mentioned this), but honked us back on board when a nice elderly woman offered her last set of change.  The bus, which I can only liken unto riding an elevator to the hundredth floor after a button-happy child has slammed his greasy fist onto every single button between 1 and 91.  Oh, yeah, and throw in the fact that we were the only pasty-white pre-sunburn tourists who were headed to the Hard Rock Café?  Not a comfortable experience.  Needless to say, we opted for the fast, expensive way home*.  

Back in the paradise of our hotel, we decided to try not to leave again unless we had a good reason.  We came here to relax, dang it, not hide our rings and watches while riding a stuffy elevator bus through toothpick graffiti streets, only to get slow and wrong service at the Hard Rock Café!

After a good long talk (which may or may not have involved me crying out my stress on my husband’s comfy shoulder), we slept and awoke to a much more lovely rest-of-the-trip.

We beached, we read books, we baked and burned under the sun.  We ate delicious omelets served to us by the most adorable little waitress, Giovanna.  We played Canasta, we swam in the pool.  I refrained from writing a blog, even though I really wanted to.  

On our last day, we ventured back out of our paradise cocoon.  This time, we booked a tour (transportation included) to the Bacardi Rum Factory and the Castillo de San Cristobal (an old, very pretty, fort/castle thing).  We had the cutest little tour guide, Roberto de Jesus, who reminded me of a Puerto Rican Bob Balaban**.  Verdict: a much more relaxy-vacationy trip to the city.San Juan, Castillo de San Cristobal

And now? 

Home, again.  I felt like I was ten again, looking over the lights of Dallas-Fort Worth as we came in for our landing.  We had a wonderful vacation, but both of us felt ready to be back home in Texas.  Hopefully, I’ll remember this feeling next time I get sick of all the same-old stuff around here that makes me feel smothered.  

We came home to a slightly-shellshocked, extremely meowy kitty. (Our friends checked in on him while we were away, but still.  Time to re-establish the routine.)  

After one day of recovery, here it is: Monday again.  I feel refreshed, and so ready to write again.  I’ve hardly thought of my novel, but I guess that’s what vacation’s for, right?  To take a break, so that burn-out applies only to your tender lobster skin and not to your work.  To spend amazing amounts of free time with someone you love deeply.  To take time out of life to enjoy discovering a new place, all its quirks and unpleasantries included.  To pause and remember that the world is bigger than you, and you don’t know everything about everything.  

It was a good trip.  And now, it’s good to be home. 



*Though not much more comfortable – for some reason, we always got the feeling the thuggy drivers of the white van taxis were going to drop us off two hours away and try to sell us drugs.  This is probably because they acted all shady and didn’t ask where we wanted to go until halfway through the trip home.  Plus, on our first night, the only conversation our driver had with us was a very insistent, “If you want to go to the rain forest, call my friend Alberto.  He’ll hook you up.”

**One of the guys in Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.

Hello, Sandy Beaches!

4 Aug

Have I mentioned yet that I’m so ready for this vacation?  

I mean, a month of very diligent writing and editing has been great, but the beach is sounding pretty good right about now.  Especially since I’m beginning to act on things that annoy me; actually leaving sticky notes that say “Dear Idiot, Driving a BMW does not make it okay for you to wrongfully park in a handicapped spot.  Hope you get a ticket…” is not something that I do unless I’m in a real funk.  (Yesterday.  Barnes & Noble parking lot.  I think I’d be a much happier person if I never had to deal with parking lots.)

Anyway – we leave in an hour for Puerto Rico, and it looks like it’s actually gonna happen this time.  A while back I wrote a little post about how I think this trip is jinxed, but so far so good.  Right now, it looks like a little 30% chance of rain is the only threat to our vacation.  We’ll see.

This will (probably) be my only post until we get back, so I thought I’d leave you with some random stuff to do while I’m gone.  

  • For all you Lost lovers: these websites can keep you busy for hours, weeks, days…maybe even until the final season returns in January!
  • Or, you can do some Sudoku and pretend you’re going on vacation, too (we get a tiny bit addicted whenever we take plane trips…)
  • You can make this delicious Lemon-Raspberry Tart
  • I’m taking Julie & Julia (Julie Powell) with me, along with Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jen Lancaster).  You may not be at the beach, but beachy books can take you on a mini-vacation, too!
  • Check out Sandra McCracken’s amazing new album, Live Under Lights And Wires.  It’s incredibly good.
  • If you’ll actually miss little ol’ me, you can peruse the archives for stuff you haven’t read before.
  • Last, but not least, you could order these fantastic post-it notes.  They are perfect for a wide variety of things – everything from researching your novel to leaving snarky notes on illegally parked BMWs.

Alright!  I’d hate to be all “Look at me, I’m going on vacation!” and leave you high and dry, far from the beach, with nothing fun to do.  Hence the list.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!  I’ll see you when we get back…

Jinxed: The Curse of the Plane Tickets

10 Jul

The sky is blue, my plants are not dead yet.

I bet the sky will look even more blue in San Juan next month…is that even possible?  I walk to my mailbox and insert the key.  

Hey…why won’t it open?  I jiggle the key, I take it out and try again, I twist with more force: nothing.  Oh.  Maybe if I turned it the right way, perhaps it would open.  I try it to the left.  Genius.

I grab the assortment of junk mail, what appears to be a wedding invitation, and…something from jury services?

No.  Please.  I have no problem with jury duty…just as long as it isn’t on the week of the vacation we confirmed two days ago.

August 4th, 8:20am.  

I take a deep breath, and resist the urge to freak out.  Of course it’s on the morning of our flight.  Of course it says, Most trials only last from one to three days, as if that’s supposed to comfort me.  It would, if our vacation wasn’t planned for those one to three days.

I do what needs to be done, and thanks to your excellent site, Jury Services WebMaster, I get my date changed.  Still, I can’t help but wonder – will we ever get to use these plane tickets?  I’m starting to think they’re cursed.

One of my best friends got married in Guatemala City back in April.  I was supposed to be a bridesmaid – too bad I was too nauseous to make the flight after our 3am wake-up call.  We drove all the way to the airport, just in case I felt better in time, but well, I didn’t.  My sweet husband talked to the airline’s representative and tried to change the flight.  The extra $500 fee, and the not-so-optimal time (we’d hardly get to see the bride before the wedding) meant the whole trip was a no-go.  Fortunately, we got (almost) a full refund for the hotel we booked and the representative said we could apply our flight credit any time within the next year.

Well, forget Guatemala – let’s go to Hawaii!  We searched for good deals, but to no avail.  Thus, we looked to the Hawaii of the East: Puerto Rico!

My wonderful husband went to a lot of trouble to plan this trip, and before we knew it, we were already dreaming of the beach.  His boss approved his vacation time, but then – boom – the flight prices skyrocketed and the hotel deal was back to its more expensive norm.  We shifted the whole trip back by one day, and, crisis averted.

A few days ago, he booked the hotel – for cheaper than listed on the website – and was excited to tell me he got a better-than-expected deal on the flight, too.  That evening, we checked his email only to discover there had been a miscommunication.  

Unfortunately, his explicit request for two tickets to San Juan hadn’t translated over the phone.  A couple of airline representatives later, we were both confirmed for the flight, but for more money than we’d planned to spend.

Oh, well.  It’s done, it’s planned, and I’m hoping the 30 Day Shred elevates my beach confidence.  My husband is amazing and patient, and he was so sweet to plan all this, especially since the whole thing was starting to stress me out.

You can imagine my frustration when I saw that innocent-looking date on my jury duty summons.

Like I said before, my schedule request was approved, and everything should be okay now.  Should be.  I’ll believe it when I see those sandy beaches from our hotel.