Touring San Juan

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El Morro
I kinda slept in a bit today, getting up at 11:00a. The four hour time difference, the hella long flight (after getting up at 3:30a), and the blacked out room made getting up early to tour around a bit of a non-starter. I can't remember the last time I slept in that late; usually the kids won't allow it.

I went up to visit El Morro, the huge fort that protects San Juan harbor. It's pretty amazing, but unfortunately the power was still out, so it wasn't open. After a nice lunch of a local pork dish at El Patio de Sam and some shopping, I headed over to the Bacardi distillery for a tour and a little tasting.

Casa BacardiThey do a nice job here; the tour is complimentary as are two drink tickets. They have a big pavilion where you can enjoy nice rum drinks and taste all but the highest end Bacardi rums. Unfortunately, the new visitor's center was damaged in the storm and closed; however, they still had a nice tour showing the distillery, teaching people when the use the different Bacardi rums in different drinks (e.g. Bacardi light for dry drinks, Bacardi Gold for sweet drinks, Bacardi Limon anywhere you'd use vodka, Bacardi O anywhere you'd use gin, etc. The tips are on their website too.) The gift shop was a nice surprise too; unlike most factory gift shops, the prices were very reasonable. The rum, in particular, was a super value compared to buying it at home. Even better, they had several varieties that aren't available or are hard to find in Washington. Picked up a bunch of those...

After my little tour, I hopped back in the car and drove out to Mayaguez, home of the University of Puerto Rico. This is a 2.5 hour drive. This is the first time I've driven somewhere I don't speak the language, significant since the road signs are in Spanish. As a little tip for those who would do this, learn the cardinal directions in the local language if nothing else. "Exit" and "Only" are good too. I got to my hotel without too many issues despite the fact the stupid website had the location of the hotel completely wrong. When I unpacked my suitcase, I discovered all my clothes were extremely damp after having been in my trunk all day in the super humid (although not raining!) weather. Had to iron everything to dry them out.

Once again, I was mislead by the hotel advertising as once again, "high speed internet access" means they have fast access somewhere in the hotel. Once again, it was one computer in their "business center." This business center was just their sales office with an extra computer. I'm hooked in via dial-up in the room now; no fun.

Oh well, time to review my notes for tomorrow and go to sleep. Big day of grilling college students tomorrow...

Tropical Heat Wave

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Once again, I'm on the road for work. This time, I'm in Puerto Rico for a little recruiting at the University of Puerto Rico. I arrived in San Juan this evening on the tail of Tropical Storm Jeanne. Fortunately, it's not raining or blazing hot, but it is muggy as hell. After living in Seattle for 14 years, I'm a wimp now around humidity.

The flight was long, but uneventful. Between Seattle and DFW I was sitting between two soliders from the Stryker brigade at Fort Lewis who were returning to Iraq for their last 45 days on this tour. I hope they come home OK. After a surprisingly good lunch in the DFW airport (super great shredded bbq beef sandwich and green beans cooked to near goo with ham), I found myself on the plane next to a so big he was four inches into my seat. Fortunately, the gods of travel were smiling on me; the exit row aisle seat behind me was open and the flight attendant took pity on me. Score one for luck.

I had good directions (I thought) from the airport to my hotel (the El Convento, a converted convent in Old San Juan), plus I had my GPS unit. What could go wrong? He he he.

So, the streets in Old San Juan are not especially well marked. Plus it's dark, being night and all; on top of that, huge areas are still blacked out with no electricity. Every few blocks there would be some scraggly guy trying to direct traffic, presumably to help people find parking spaces for tips or to direct cars toward bars or something. I swear though, it was the same guy all over town. I was totally confused.

After taking a huge tour of Old San Juan, I finally blundered into the hotel and managed to get checked in. Thank, God, it wasn't raining hard or I may never have found my hotel.

A big glass of rum with lime juice made everything OK. At least there's power here. I wound up having dinner in the hotel since the few places I wanted to try were still powerless. It was OK, but the campiranas (rum, lime, and simple syrup I think) that Michelle recommended made everything just fine.

The "Highspeed Internet Access" touted on their website is apparently this shared PC in the library. Not enough to sync my mail, but enough to spam my blog.

Anyway, I'll tour around San Juan a bit tomorrow and then out to the UPR campus is Mayaguez. I may stop at the Areceibo radio telescope for a little geek tour since the Bacardi factory tour is closed on Sundays. Damn it. Hopefully, it won't be dumping rain tomorrow.

Time for bed.