Atlantis Alumni

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Returning To San Juan

RETURNING TO SAN JUAN The island of Puerto Rico is much more beautiful than one remembered, with its lush green vegetation and surrounding oceans of aquamarine and deep azure blue. The Condado, in San Juan, with all its giant hotels facing the beach, gleams in the sun. The Condado, where we stayed, is a neighborhood that jostles smart boutiques alongside welcoming, small-scale neighborhood restaurants, like the Latin Star, where Jim so enjoyed his mufungo with crab. A short taxi ride away, Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) beckons with its history of global domination, represented by the huge fortresses of stone that still symbolically dominate the city. Besides our walking through one of the fortresses, San Cristobal, we were able to wander the streets both on foot and by the free tourist trolley. Countless buildings are being restored, some of them still mere shells. The restored old 18th and early 19th century houses are now painted in bright colors: salmon, lapis blue, pink and chartreuse. The intense sun turns this world of back street houses into a stage set for a Hollywood operetta. But at the same time you notice the shouts of Puertorican Spanish, the smells of cooking plantain, or beans with rice, staples here for hundreds of years. Before we took a taxi back to the Marriot Hotel to check out, we even had time to explore the large building of the Galleria Nacional. In that museum we saw some rooms filled with the work of local artists, stretching from the colonial days down through the Academic realism of the 19th century to the everyday scenes and Cubist-influenced portraits of the mid 20th century. Vibrant and colorful, but also sometimes dark with the despair of poverty, these paintings remain witness to life on the island that still remains the Eastern entrance to the Caribbean Ocean. Though we’re now on the sea on the way to Grenada, the short trip to Puerto Rico made us hope we will once again return to this unique island. Dan Evans

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