Thursday, August 15, 2013

Epic Journey Part V: Puerto Rico

Ahhh... vacation feels so far away already.  As evidenced by how my posting about our trip slowed waaayyyy down.  That is because I've been consumed by work --August is supposed to be slow, but it has been insane. And, there has also been quite a bit to do to get ready for the Fall (signing Kai up for after school programs, getting all ready to be her soccer coach! and other things of that sort).   It feels like we never went on vacation.  Which is why it's all the more important to write down the memories so we can read of our adventures and look back on the pictures.

Tuesday morning we woke up a bit sad, of course. We had packing to do and the cabin to clean.  The folks at the eco resort recommended leaving the resort 4 hours before your flight back to San Juan.  I thought that seemed extreme, but also didn't want to risk another plane debacle.  But, that meant we needed to leave by 10 AM because our flight was scheduled to take off at 2 PM out of San Juan.  So, we basically woke up and spent the morning packing up and feeling glum about having to leave paradise.

The packing didn't take too long, and once we had everything to go, we headed down to the pavilion for one last breakfast, savoring the view.  We bought a few last postcards and some t-shirts and then we headed in the Jeep back to Cruz Bay.

We didn't know exactly what the ferry schedule was, but we knew they ran about once an hour.  It turned out we were going to have to wait about 30 minutes.  Kai enjoyed playing on the beach one last time while we waited for our ferry.

The ferry ride going back was more fun then the one that we took to get to St. John.  It was a much smaller boat and a longer journey (because we took the ferry out of Red Hook but returned to the Charlotte Amalie dock).  Once we got over our blues of having to leave, we enjoyed the ride back to St. Thomas (well, Eric and I did... Kai hid under her jacket most of the way).

Once back at St. Thomas, we caught a taxi to the airport.  Once we got to the ticket agent at the airport, she asked for Kai's passport.  We explained we weren't traveling with passport and that Kai didn't have anything.  I also told her I had looked up whether it was necessary before we left, and had read that passports were not needed.  She told me they weren't necessary to come to St. Thomas but you needed them to leave.  Eric called her bluff and said, "well, I guess we'll stay then."  It was irritating and she basically made us wait longer while she sighed and filled out some form.  Meanwhile Kai was dancing around behind us and saying she had to go potty.  We kept telling her to wait a minute.  But, the ticket agent was taking forever and finally Kai announced, "Uh.... Mama, I don't have to go potty anymore..."  and, sure enough, she didn't.  I think that might be Kai's first accident since she was 3!  Now I was super annoyed at the ticket agent.  I got more annoyed once we got inside the airport and saw big signs everywhere that said that passports were not required.

We had no issue at all getting through customs or getting into the airport (although, it was like 3 different lines -- one for customs, one to scan our checked bags, and then another for security!)  I guess that's why they say to leave 4 hours early.  Once we were through, we had about 50 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off.

Kai was hungry again so I went to grab us food.  No sooner had I gotten back then they announced our flight!  I was confused -- it was still not scheduled to take off for about 40 minutes -- and these are not hard planes to board (since they only seat about 8 people).  We basically had to throw away the food and got on the plane.  I asked another passenger what time the plane had been scheduled to take off and they told me it was supposed to leave at 2, but that we were leaving early.  Seriously!  It's like a habit with this airline!  Good thing we were there early this time.  And, given that we were there, Eric and I were happy to leave early because it just meant we'd have more time in San Juan.  But, still, Seaborne Airlines is not to be trusted in the scheduling department.

It was an uneventful flight back to San Juan and a quick cab ride to our hotel (which I booked with points and was advertised as having the best pool in San Juan!)  It was a nice resort hotel, as far as big resorts go.  But, compared to the eco cabin in St. John, it was a let down.  And, it was also quite a shock to the system.  Here we had been in this idealized eco-friendly environment surrounded by nature and living in a place that tried to incorporate daily living into the environment and the natural surroundings.  And now we were at the equivalent of Disneyland.  It was extreme.  There were 4 pools, one with a swim up bar.  Tiki torches.  Beach chairs.  Plastic stuff. And gazillions of people.  We usually felt like we were alone on the island in St. John -- or, at least among the very few.  Now we were among a sea of people.

Of course, Kai got one look at the pool, and wanted to jump in right away.  We ran up to our room to change and were back at the pool in a flash.  Which also means we didn't eat anything and since Kai hadn't gotten to eat at the airport, she should have been starving.  But, she powered through (the Schwartz Wesselman power-through gene is strong and Kai has inherited it in spades).  She jumped right into the pool and swam the entire thing.  Then we found a little platform about 3 feet above the water and she started jumping in over and over.  She loved it and would have been quite content to stay at the pool for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

However, after about an hour at the pool, Eric and I couldn't take anymore.  Besides, we really wanted to show her Old San Juan and take her to the Capitol.  She was not really excited about the prospect, but I think she did realize she was hungry so she agreed to move on.  For the food.

We took a cab to the Capitol and got there moments before they closed.  Lucky!  We got inside and it was beautiful.  They had some cool exhibits set up, and Eric and I enjoyed poking around reading about the politics of the region.  Kai was bored after about 5 minutes and getting quite impatient for food.

By the time we got back outside, she was having none of the posing for pictures.  Oh well.  We walked the rest of the way into Old San Juan and found a somewhat traditional-looking Puerto Rican restaurant.  We ate chicken and pork and other yummy things.  Kai was happy to munch on chicken.  She was less happy about how the prepared the plantains.  But, it was a nice dinner, and Kai was more willing to pose for pictures knowing that there was food in her future.

After dinner we wandered around Old San Juan and bought some trinkets.  Then we headed back to the hotel, knowing we had to get up somewhat early to catch our flight back to Portland.  St. John already felt too far away -- but, we were comforted knowing that vacation was still not over and knowing we'd be seeing Soren, Leo, Dave and Amy very soon.

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