San Juan, Puerto Rico
January 8, 2007
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth of the U.S. as well as the oldest city within U.S, territory. It is the smallest and easternmost island of the Greater Antilles, which also includes Cuba, Hispaniola and Jamaica.
The island is rectangular in shape, covering an area of over 3,400 square miles. It measures 110 miles from east to west and 35 miles from north to south with 272 miles of coastline. Almost 3.7 million people populate the island with about 1.6 million in San Juan.
In 1493 Christopher Columbus found the island. At the time it was known as Borliquen by the native Taino Indians. Permanent settlement began in 1505 when Juan Ponce de Leon arrived with 50 men.
The city's role as an outpost of the Spanish empire began in 1540, with the completion of La Fortaleza. The battlements upon which the fort El Morro still stands were completed 51 years later, in time to resist an attack from the British privateer Sir Francis Drake. Three years later, the Earl of Cumberland conquered the city, but severe dysentery promptly sent the Earl and his men back to Britain. During this time, the Indian population suffered greatly. The peaceful Tainos who had initially resisted the invaders, were also decimated. The 19th century saw the beginning of the struggle for independence from Spain. The population began to swell and agriculture, especially coffee beans flourished. The fight for freedom culminated in 1897, when the great political leader Luis Munoz Rivera finally won a Charter of Autonomy from the Spanish government. The charter, however, would be short lived.
During the Spanish-American War, American troops landed at Guanica on July 25th. When the war ended in 1898 and the Treaty of Paris was signed, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States. In 1917, Congress granted Puerto Ricans American citizenship. Today, Puerto Rico occupies a unique status as a Commonwealth of the United States having its own constitution and a system of government very similar to that of most states in the Union.
Bacardi Rum Factory
We went on a tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery. They are the largest run distillery in the world.
At the visitor center we visited the gift shop (of course) and the bar where complimentary drinks were dispensed.
Our mode of transportation around the factory was via the mobile trains. The twisted palm tree caught our eye as something different.
At the entrance to the factory we enter a foyer where we are given a speech presentation on the history of the factory. The bat is the logo for Bacardi. On the walls of the foyer are ceramic "paintings."
We were not allowed to take photos inside the factory. At each stop there were video / audio presentations explaining each process. One of the surprises was that the rum is aged in oak casks. The oldest rum is aged seven years. Each years 10% is lost due to evaporation. The light rum is about a year old. The dark rum is aged the longest.
Examples of Bacardi rum. The photo on the left is a standing sculpture of individual bottle that are lighted from within the sculpture.
The grounds within the factory are immaculate.
The only living creatures we saw were birds and an occasional iguana.
San Cristobal Fortress
One of the side trips we took was to visit a fortress built in the 17th century -- San Cristobal. The photo (above left) is a view looking to the south where there is a second fort.
The photo (above left) looks down on Old San Juan. The ship on the left is the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.
The round structure in the photo is a water well that was used when the fort was occupied.
These photos were taken during our departure at 2:00 pm. The photo on the right shows an airstrip for smaller aircraft.
Again the pilot boat races alongside our ship to pick up the harbor pilot. He is the person with the red life vest on.
San Juan Puerto Rico April 2007
In April we returned aboard the Grand Princess. San Juan was our port of entry and departure. This was the first time that we were able to take a tour because our flight home was scheduled for later than 4:00pm. We decided to take a tour of the rain forest on our departure day.
We board the ship and find our rooms. Phil is standing on our balcony looking at the skyline of the city.
Prior to our departure we take a short walk around the city. Jan was intrigued with the stone furniture in this little park.
We all got a laugh when we came across this car for rental at the pier. We decided to walk around and boarded our ship for the coming weeks adventure that would present itself to us.
When we returned to depart we began our tour journey through the rain forest. It is located at the top of a mountain about 50 miles from the port.
Puerto Rico Rain Forest
The bus ride was hot and long. The air conditioner in the bus wasn't working properly and the temperature was just a bit cooler than the 90 degree heat outside. Our first stop was at Cocoa Falls. Across from the falls was a rest station with toilets and of course, the proverbial tourist trap to sell souveniers.
The plants around the area were colorful and immense in size.
As we traveled up the mountain we stopped at a spot where we could see the edge of the sea from where we had started.
Another stop was a walking trail that was about a 1/2 mile long uphill. This pool had been constructed as a sort of dam to control the stream that flowed to the sea far below.
Our last stop was a Yokahu Tower. Although it was a great observation point and one could climb the stairs for a vista view of the valley below, we declined because a rainstorm could be seen moving toward our location.
The trees surrounding the area also told us of the coming storm. They are called the weathervane tree. When a storm is imminent the leave turn upside down reflecting their undersides.
The above is a lichen growth that has climbed up a stalk of bamboo. The lichen was growing on a vine that had grown up the stalk, thus the wavy pattern. As we travel down the mountain on our way to the airport we get another glimpse of the sea in the distance.
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