For the first time in many years, we arrived nice and early for our flight. We were hoping to rest up in the lounge for a bit before napping away the 4 hour flight to San Juan. Unfortunately, the lounges were all full due to a storm heading toward Panama, and our flight ended up getting delayed 2 hours. We checked into the Radisson Ambassador Hotel and Casino in Condado, San Juan at 1am, very ready for sleep.
Our room had recently been renovated- how recently? Our room was the only one completed on the entire floor- peeking in to the others, we could see that ours was the model for the others to become one day. That meant no neighbors, but a rather bizarre ambiance down the corridor.
San Juan had been a home port for us when we worked on the cruise ships, and had been host for many fond memories. I always loved San Juan, and hoped that the affection I felt had not faded. Walking around proved that it remained strong- the food, people, beaches, music, all pulled at my heart strings once more, so much that I began looking at property.
The old town (a quick but $15 cab ride from Condado) is perfect for shopping, eating, and reminiscing. We watched the locals feeding the pigeons at Parque de las Palomas, drank a pina colada along the waterfront, compared how much had changed since we’d last walked these streets 7 years ago.
The first time I visited San Juan was on the day after I met Matt on the cruise ship MS Zuiderdam, and the day before our first date. He had already made plans for the day in San Juan, so we waited until the following day in St Maarten to go out for the first time. San Juan was also where I flew in and out of to meet up with Matt after he got a transfer from my ship to another. I traveled with him as briefly “girlfriend on board” (yes, that is a thing) before I had so say goodbye again, so this place has very bitter and sweet memories.
We ate fabulously- Dinner at Casita Miramar, with crab-stuffed avocados, veal stew, and delicious white sangria. The largest breakfast I’ve ever eaten at Blonda, with Crab Benedict, churro-like French Toast, and extremely fresh heirloom tomato salad.
But my favorite moments of the trip were those of complete surprise. Following faint strands of music down a side street in the old town, we found a band playing in the street behind a bar. Women fried up homemade empanadas, a feisty granny bought round after round for the band before they could finish the last, and everyone danced.
Another surprise- the block party that broke out behind our hotel. All the casino revelers and middle-late aged party people came out in full force to salsa behind the Radisson. If they had any mobility left, they were shaking it. All in all, San Juan recaptured my heart with the local food, weather, and joie de vivre. We will not be waiting another 7 years to see you again.