Place #9: San Juan and Vicinity, Puerto Rico
In January 19 to 26, 1996, Macrine and I spent one glorious week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We stayed at the El San Juan Towers, a four star resort in Carolina, PR not too far from Old San Juan. This is in conjunction with our International Interval Exchange Vacation Program. Our travel was arranged by Ober United Travel Agency in Chevy Chase, Maryland. During this seven days, we were able to drive up to Luquillo with a stop over at the El Yunque Carribean National Forest. However most of 7 days we spent around Old San Juan and the beach and swimming pool of our resort. A couple of nights we went to the casino in the nearby San Juan Hotel for dinner and a little gambling.
San Juan is a major port and tourist resort of the West Indies and is the oldest city under the U.S flag. The metropolitan area known as San Juan has 3 distinct areas: Old San Juan, the Beach & Resort area, and other outlying communities, the most important: Río Piedras, Hato Rey, Puerta de Tierra, and Santurce. Río Piedras was founded in 1714 but became incorporated into San Juan in 1951.
During the early 16th century, San Juan was the point of departure of Spanish expeditions to charter or settle unknown parts of the New World. Its fortifications repulsed the English navigator Sir Francis Drake in 1595, as well as later attacks.
In the 20th century the city expanded beyond its walled confines, known as Old San Juan, to incorporate suburban Miramar, Santurce, Condado, Hato Rey and Río Piedras.
San Juan is the largest processing center of the island, the metropolitan area has facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling and produces cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products clothing, and tobacco. The port is one of the busiest in the Caribbean. San Juan is the country's financial capital, and many U.S. banks and corporations maintain offices or distributing centers there. San Juan is center of Caribbean shipping and is the 2nd largest sea port in the area (after New York City).
Old San Juan is located on a small and narrow island which lies in the north coast, about 35 miles (56 km) from the east end of Puerto Rico, and is united to the mainland of Puerto Rico by the three bridges. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and to the south by San Juan Bay or "Bahia of San Juan" which lies between the city and the mainland. On a bluff about 100 feet (30 m) high at the west end of the island and commanding the entrance to the harbor rise the battlements of Fort San Felipe del Morro, in which there is a lighthouse.
The "Caño de San Antonio" lies also in South Coast and extends to the Southeast where the island of Old San Juan connects to the mainland through Santurce by three bridges, "Puente Dos Hermanos" (Ave. Ashford), "Puente G. Esteves" (Ave. Ponce de León) and "Puente San Antonio" (Ave. Fernández Juncos).
Old San Juan
The city is characterized by its narrow, blue cobblestone streets and flat-roofed brick and stone buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century when Puerto Rico was a Spanish possession. Near Fort San Felipe del Morro is the Casa Blanca, a palace on land which belonged to the family of Ponce de Leon.
Note: This is No.9 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.