When I was booking the components of our trip I decided on the Hotel Milano
as our lodging--it is right in the heart of the restaurant district in Old San Juan, plus an easy walk to the piers and to many of the museums. The location was ideal, the hotel was quirky but charming, and it gave us a genuine feel of the city. Our first night we walked around as a general orientation, and ended up having dinner at Triana
, a tapas place close to the piers. We enjoyed it so much we made a return visit. The food was really nicely done, and the service was friendly but spotty (attentive when someone actually came to the table--the pace was, shall we say, leisurely). The mojitos were loaded with fresh mint, and strong in that surprising, creeps up on you kind of way. Here were some of our favorite dishes from two visits:
|A really beautiful piece of seared Mahi Mahi, with a guava glaze|
|Some of those great mojitos...|
|A rich tripe stew, with chickpeas|
|One of my favorites: Piquillo peppers stuffed with Morcilla, which is a spicy blood sausage|
We "dined around" a lot in Old San Juan, and had some great meals and some not-so-great. Triana ended up the favorite. The iconic Parrot Club
was probably the most disappointing of our planned restaurant visits, but we did enjoy their signature Parrot Passion cocktail, and my dish of Dorado (which is another name for Mahi) with a plantain crust was good, if not exceptional.
Another favorite worth noting was a special at Restaurant Don Tello
, an unusual place right across from the Catano ferry stop. This was one of the variations on plantain mofongo, this version made with cassava and topped with ropa vieja. Really good.
Don Tello's was an unplanned visit after we did the Bacardi
distillery tour. We met a charming young woman through the tour and she tipped us off to this place, and we ended up having a memorable lunch. I love unexpected friends--one of the great benefits of travel. The distillery tour was a fun way to spend a drizzly afternoon, and if you happen to be in PR and want to do this, definitely do not pay a company for a tour! The ferry to Catano is a whopping 50 cents each way, the vans that escort you to the distillery are $3, and the tour itself is free. It is not difficult to negotiate in the least, and you might end up making some new friends. The Bacardi campus is pretty gorgeous, so it is pleasant place to hang out, take the tour, and have a couple of free drinks.
|The "bat building" at the center of it all, where you begin and end your tour|
During our visit the regular tour area was under renovation, but that meant that we actually got to view the distillery (apparently the regular tours view simulations). My favorite aspect of this was actually the sensory experience of walking around immersed in the smell of warm molasses. Intoxicating. Our very entertaining guide explained the process of turning raw, "demon rum" into the refined product we know and love.
|The giant blue vats of the distillery|
The tour ends up back at the bat building, where you select some free drinks. We sampled some of their new flavored rums (the peach was excellent), and had a Cuba Libre and a marg, along with a slice of rum cake. Because, well, we really like rum.
It's a fun little tour, and Catano is an interesting place to visit.
I could go on and on and on, but I will leave you with a few random pics of Puerto Rican loveliness. I also need to add here that beginning tomorrow, May 18th, my site is going to be down for about a week while I finish up a format transfer--look for my new and improved format in a week!
|City view from Castillo de San Cristobal|
|Helado vendor, in the town square|
|The blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan|
Thanks for reading,