Ponce, Puerto Rico (Stacey and Corina)
On are second day in the fair sunny land of PR, we headed down to the south and west to Ponce, which is one of the larger cities outside of San Juan. I think it’s actually the third largest? Regardless, it’s a big city with colonial-style architecture throughout and several big tourable mansions. We were excited to go. Unfortunately, jet lag/stress/lack of sleep caught up with Corina, so we ended up starting out late, after noon. Then we got caught for the first time by the characteristic Puerto Rico traffic, which springs up for no reason on various short stretches of road across the island. It’s not event traffic, or rush hour, or anything in any way predictable. As I came to find out all too well, traffic on the island is its own beast, always ready to pounce on the unwary. A 1 hour 20 minute drive on this trip took us just over two hours.
When we reached the city, our hostess, Norma, was still in class. We decided to immediately attempt to find the Hacienda Buena Vista, one of the famous local coffee growing places up in the mountains behind the city. They gave tours showcasing their shade grown plants and native species reforestation projects. So we followed signs deep into the windy roads of the countryside, trusting our lives to my reblooming driving skills on the narrow curves. Of course, once we finally made it up there, the gate was shut. The Hacienda was closed to all but school groups during the week – as this was Friday, they wouldn’t be open to us until 8:30 the following day. So, back down the mountain.
By 3:30 pm, we were back in Ponce proper. By this point I was in need of a bathroom, and in desperate need of food. So we drove into the center of the city where several tourist sites were, parked, and proceeded to attempt to find someplace to eat. This proved to be more difficult than it first would seem. The first restaurant we entered, empty except for the proprietor and two servers, promptly explained they were not currently serving food, but told us there were several establishments just down the street to the left. The next three places we entered were empty. By ’empty’, I mean the doors were wide open, the tables and chairs were set out properly, the fans were circulating the hot afternoon air, and there wasn’t a single staff person to be seen. Nor was there any indication that food was available or that kitchen staff might be returning soon. It was downright creepy. We continued to walk, searching in vain for a restaurant with both people and food in it. At last, returning to the central square where we’d begun, we found a sandwich shop and cafe that we’d somehow missed on the first round. At last, we had a delightful lunch on a balcony overlooking the main square.
Corina, recovering from our empty restaurant ordeal.
We then took a look at the buildings on the square, a cathedral and the old fire station, the ‘Parque de Bombas’. Inside, there was an old fire truck, several pumps, and a variety of fireman’s tools and gear. I began to feel that we would actually get to do something that day.
Corina got close to the spitting lion.
Then we went onward and upward (literally) to the giant cross that sits up above the city. I don’t know why it’s a cross, but I took full advantage of the viewing ‘arms’ to look out towards the ocean.
We also visited the nearby Japanese garden, which was small, but surprisingly nice.
Finally, we met up with Norma and went out to dinner with some of her friends. I had a great time. We went to a bar after dinner, sat out on their patio under the stars, listened to music from all sides, and talked with some of Norma’s friends. Despite all the entertainment though, I promptly fell asleep in my plastic patio chair. It was a good day.