San Juan is a city worth visiting– even if it’s just for a day! With the white sand beaches of Grand Turk behind us, we were ready to embrace a new city as the second stop on our Carnival Cruise.
As we all learned during the recent hurricane season, San Juan is actually a territory of the USA. Strange as it was to be headed to a hurricane-ravaged island, it felt good to see that the colourful buildings pictured here had mostly survived!
As our ship pulled into port my immediate reaction was, “Wow, what a cool looking place!” The fortresses and stone walls surrounding the port leave you with a lingering sense of awe. We even took some pictures from our balcony (though they don’t seem do the port justice) before heading for “early disembarkation.” I didn’t know early disembarkation was even a thing. Carnival had kindly invited us to leave the ship early and as it happens, we were actually the first two people off the ship. It was a pretty neat experience to be able to see the doors open and the crew preparing for the crowds to come.
We didn’t have any excursions booked for San Juan as we hadn’t seen anything that particularly interested us. The 8 miles of zip-lining had intrigued us, but that excursion had not opened for the season. So instead we winged it and decided what we wanted to do as we went. The group city tours seemed a bit lame and the nice beaches were all too far away, so we opted for a self-guided walking tour.
You might actually call it a scavenger hunt. Our hunt took us all over San Juan looking for some colourful doors that I had found pictured online. (I realize that might sound like the lamest thing ever, but it actually took us to a lot of out of the way places where we would never have otherwise gone!)
It wasn’t too far into our walk that we had to stop for a break for Anson’s back to rest. Three days before we left he was diagnosed with a slipped disc in his back which had him in an immense amount of pain. It was definitely changing how we were doing our vacation (never stop moving is usually how it goes). Honestly, Anson has a very high pain tolerance, so if he needed to stop moving, it was serious! He had survived the first three days of our trip by taking a lot of Ibuprofen and Tylenol 1, so after a break with some more pills, he was ready to go!
When we got close to the street where one of the doors that I had to see was, I got my phone out and showed a picture of it to a local lady asking if she knew where it was. Surprisingly she knew exactly and pointed out which direction to go, so we headed up a steep street and there it was. In the picture I had found online, the door was red and blue. Obviously, it has since been painted black and white, but I was still not missing a picture with this door!
As we continued to walk around the streets of San Juan we came across so many more colourful walls and beautiful buildings. I actually ran out of storage on my phone taking pictures in San Juan because honestly, there were so many cool spots!
After talking approximately 1, 286 pictures for me, Anson was ready to sit again! The day before I had asked on Instagram if there was anywhere we needed to stop while we were in San Juan. One of my friends said we needed to go eat at Barrachina. Apparently, it is the birthplace of the Pina Colada and a must visit. We headed inside for a pina colada and a sandwich and weren’t disappointed! We sat at a nice shaded outside table, relaxed for awhile and I tried to make room on my phone… goodbye, Uber. Goodbye, Amazon app… etc.
After eating, we decided to head back to the ship. Anson was in a lot of pain and the uneven, hilly streets weren’t helping his pain. I was happy with what I saw of San Juan in the hours we spent and just needed to get my Puerto Rico Starbucks mug before we headed back.
As we walked back toward Starbucks (yes, I knew where it was already!), we saw a park where a lot of people seemed to be. After walking in to see what the attraction was, we quickly discovered that people were feeding pigeons. There was a tree just loaded with the birds (these pictures do not do the scene justice!) and after I took a picture of Anson, the pigeons started to follow him out of the park.
I will forever remember San Juan as the place where I learned that I may be slightly scared of pigeons. There were hundreds of them–maybe even thousands. They were everywhere and when they started flying seemingly at my head (all of them at once it felt like!), it was truly terrifying!! I waved my arms and hollered until I got away from them!
Thankfully, no pigeons pooped on my head and we continued heading to the boat. I ran ahead and went to Starbucks where I got my mug then met back up with Anson and we headed to the ship. As we got back to the ship’s entrance I was reminded again that we were definitely in the States. The guards were checking everyone’s photo ID (a lot of ports just check to see your cruise card), looking in every single bag and also scanning everyone with wands. Since no one cares how many Starbucks mugs you buy, we got back to the ship quickly. Anson headed for a nap while I lounged on the deck looking at the city below me.
As I sat for over an hour it really hit me how relaxed we were on this trip. Anson’s back pain forced us to slow down a little and it was interesting how it had changed my perspective. I didn’t feel stressed about trying to see every bit of San Juan because, in reality, we wouldn’t be able to see it all during a cruise stop anyhow! The little piece we saw was enough for the moment and simply having the privilege of visiting so many places together was a beautiful thing. The world really is a magical place when you take the time to slow down and allow yourself to truly see what is around you.
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