Tuesday, September 30, 2003

We're off to Puerto Rico in mid Hurricane season. There was nothing on the radar when we left Knoxville, so hopefully our luck will hold out. Our flight, as usual, left way too early, but that way we arrived in San Juan in time to enjoy the day a little. It's an hour gate to gate from Knoxville to Atlanta, a two-hour layover, and then three and a half more hours to el Aeropuerto Iternacional Luis Muñoz Marín, a.k.a. San Juan Airport.

We arrived in Puerto Rico at 1:55 p.m. and headed straight to Hertz to pick up our rental car. No customs and immigration hassle since Puerto Rico is part of the United States, and no changing money - Hooray! For $230.52 for one week Hertz put us in a gray two-door automatic Toyota Echo, henceforth to be known as "Smoky." The power in its four cylinders is breathtaking. It can go from zero to 60 in -- well, eventually. We were kind of intimidated going into this trip by what the traffic might be like. Well, now we know. These guys drive crazy! Apparently there's too many cars on this island for people to take turns, but once we learned to use the horn instead of the brakes, we were able to go with the flow. But I'm glad our first car journey, to our hotel, was only a couple of miles.

For this first night we have reservations at a hotel in Isla Verde, on the outskirts of San Juan, at the Hotel Casa Mathiesen, which it turns out also owns the Green Isle Inn in the same block, which is where we actually stayed. The price we were quoted was $58, and we of course anticipated the nine-percent hotel tax, but then they stuck on a $5 "service charge." What the heck is that about? Isn't some kind of service included in the quoted price? Can we have a room without service? The extra charge was posted on the wall in our room, so it wasn't just a gringo tax, but still, it seems like a trick. In any event, the place is totally worth the $69 that it actually cost. Our room opens to a beautiful, clean, warm, refreshing swimming pool. We get about a billion channels on the TV, many of them in English. (They even have Spike TV - go figure.) We have a fridge and ice, and the bed is super comfy.

Green Isle Inn

After checking in, we dropped off our luggage and immediately walked the block to the beach. The beach is very clean and pretty, and there was almost no one there. Ha! It's hot in the sun, about 90, much cooler in the shade, and there's a nice ocean breeze. I waded a little bit while Tom took photographs. Then we stocked up on sandwich stuff and rum at the mini-mart and headed back to our room.

Yippee!

Tonight we're just taking it easy. We swam and read and napped and drank rum and OJ by the pool. We had the pool all to ourselves for the longest time... Ours! Ours! Ours! I think I could get used to this relaxing stuff. Tom called his parents on his cell phone to brag that we were in PR and they're not - who could blame him?

The first of many swims

Puerto Rico is very bilingual. We should have few language difficulties here. Even the cats hanging out around the swimming pool answer to both "kitty" and "gato."

Our guidebooks and the tourism Websites we've consulted guide the traveler in Puerto Rico from San Juan east, in a clockwise direction around the island. Therefore, naturally, we have chosen to travel in the opposite direction. Why the heck not? We'll begin tomorrow.

Recovering from the plane trip

Continue to Day 2

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