Here are some shots from Isla Verde and Luquillo beaches:
Good Eats & Old San Juan
We took B on his first flight a few weeks ago - to visit our family in Puerto Rico! While we were extremely excited to introduce B to his family, the trip was also bittersweet because it was our first time there since the passing of my grandfather two months earlier. Needless to say, his absence was incredibly difficult, but the baby smiled and laughed non-stop, filling all of our hearts with joy. It was very much needed and B reveled in all the attention and love!
The center of attention
B loves his bisabuela!
Our travel style has changed quite a bit with a three month old. Long gone are the jungle hikes, surf lessons and late nights out in Old San Juan. However, one thing remains the same - beach time! We happily spent many afternoons enjoying the island's best features - white sand and turquoise water. In September, the water in San Juan is still calm, clear and very warm. The only nuisance is that it's the beginning of jellyfish season (Sept-Nov), which we somehow never knew before. AFTER we dipped B's toes in the sea, Chris went for a swim and came back with his first jellyfish sting. It was minor and disappeared within an hour but we were very glad the jelly missed the little guy!
Here are some shots from Isla Verde and Luquillo beaches:
Lovely day at Luquillo beach
Like father, like son
Good Eats & Old San Juan
One day we ventured out to central Puerto Rico where we finally ate roast pig at a traditional lechonera (read more about that excursion here). And of course, on another day, we had to stroll through Old San Juan and grab a mallorca and cafe con leche at Cafe Mallorca (YUM!). We also stopped by our wedding venue - Casa de Espana - for a quick trip down memory lane.
Cafe Mallorca with Nani
The Casa de Espana courtyard: We were married here just over seven years ago.
Dancing at the Mall
It would't be a proper visit with my grandmother without a trip to the mall. Although she is in her mid-80's she still exercises regularly (she was a physical education teacher after all). She takes zumba classes at the local mall and one day I joined in the fun.
We've got our uniforms on and are ready for Zumba at the mall! I had to borrow pants from Nani. No shorts allowed at this shin-dig. These are proper ladies - all class.
At least a hundred ladies dancing zumba at the mall. The teacher was super engaging and his students adored him!
Taking a break at the brand new Mall of San Juan.
We spent the rest of our time hanging out around the house, watching the beautiful sunsets and enjoying each other's company.
My favorite backyard view:)
A quick sun shower in the backyard. The island has been suffering from severe drought so the rain was welcome!
The Flamboyant tree boasts my favorite colors.
Check out the color of these leaves outside my grandmother's bathroom window.
The sunsets were fabulous as usual. Until next time Puerto Rico!
We took B on his first flight over Labor Day weekend. He had just turned three months old and our pediatrician gave us the OK to fly. Woohoo! B's first flight was from Boston to Puerto Rico - almost four hours of airtime.
Checking in to B's first flight!
Since we stayed at my grandmother's house, she thankfully borrowed or bought a few things for the baby, namely:
This was huge because...
Babies Require a Lot of Stuff
Like a TON. During B's first three months we had taken day trips and a couple of overnight trips - mainly to his grandparents' homes, both of which are close by in New England. Each time we packed for an overnighter, we were shocked that we FILLED the trunk of our car. It seemed preposterous, being that we traveled around the world for almost a year with just a backpack. However, after each trip with the little guy, we evaluated our packing and realized that we used everything. It's like the smaller the person, the more stuff they need! Very counter intuitive.
I wanted to travel as light as possible, so I researched what I really needed to bring and found a wide range of opinions and suggestions. Here is a list of what we brought for the baby:
Here is more information on the usefulness of each item:
Carry-On: We flew Jet Blue and they allow passengers with a baby to carry on an extra diaper bag and to gate check the stroller and car seat. Check with your airline as rules vary.
Car Seat, Frame & Base - VERY USEFUL - for a few reasons:
B, strapped into his window seat and ready for take off!
The boppy came in handy for feedings and naps on the plane. Not necessary but very nice to have.
The blue pillow above is a Boppy. And yes, B looks like the Monopoly man before he went gray.
On the way home, we found a secret lounge at SJU in terminal C. We hung out in these snazzy chairs while waiting for our flight to board.
Checked Luggage: We only checked two carry-on sized rolly bags. It mostly contained our clothes and the following for B:
I wish I could say that we managed to travel with carry-on only, but it was not realistic with a baby. I think we might be able to do it once he is off breast milk (the pumping equipment takes up a lot of room) but I have to say that it's nice not fretting about finding room for suitcases overhead in addition to all the other stuff we had to carry on.
B behaved really well on both flights. The first was an afternoon flight where he slept for maybe an hour total and then either ate or played with us the rest of the time. The second was an evening flight and he slept for most of it. Fingers crossed he remains a great traveler on future trips!
On Labor Day, we traveled with our family to Guavate, home of the lechon highway. Guavate is a mountain town in central Puerto Rico, whose twisty main road weaves through the jungle amidst a great many "lechoneras". Lechon is the Puerto Rican term for roast whole pig on a spit. It's traditionally cooked up on weekends and served for lunch, or for as long as it happens to last. It is typically accompanied by dance floors/halls with loud music and copious amounts of alcohol. We have been meaning to partake of this local tradition for years, and finally got our chance thanks to Eva's uncle & aunt!
First, a tip - no bread is served at most lechonaras, but nothing goes with roast pig like a loaf of pan sobao, which is the most delightful hunk of bread on the face of the planet. Forget about France and Italy, Puerto Rico holds the bread crown in our book. On our list of to-do's: secure the recipe for this doughy goodness and attempt to recreate the magic back home. You can find pan sobao at most local bakeries around the island. Normally this bread does not make it to its final destination because Eva devours it in the car on the way. Amazingly, this time she managed to control herself amidst the aroma of four loaves of freshly baked pan sobao wafting throughout the car.
Next it was off to Guavate, about a 30 minute drive south of San Juan. Taking the main highway through Caguas, take the Guavate exit and follow the winding road up the mountain through the jungle. You'll soon begin to spot lechon joints dotting both sides of the road. These places get going on Saturday and Sunday around lunch time, which is when you'll want to visit if you are up for a party. As it was Labor Day when we went, many of the lechoneras were closed and the crowds were minmal. However, a choice few remained open. We popped into Lechonera Los Pinos for our porky smorgasbord, a photograph of which is shown below.
Here's a snapshot of the unfortunate ungulate of the day, or what was left of him when we got there. Unfortunate for him but lucky for us, because he was tasty.
Waiting in line for some roast pig:
The next picture shows a sampling of our fare. On the top is a type of yuca root with onions, butter and garlic. Yum. The bottom left plate includes batatas (Puerto Rican yam) and some sausage made fresh from the pig. They also have blood sausage which is more traditional, but we didn't indulge. Finally, on the bottom right is what we came for: two pounds of barbecued lechon, including the crispy skins which might be the best part!
The lechoneras are super casual and very family friendly. B loved it...
...but that could have been because of all the attention he was getting from his aunt, uncle, cousin and great-grandma:
With full bellies, we departed Los Pinos and strolled up the road to El Rancho lechonera, home to what appeared to be the area's largest dance hall and kinkiest of lechon art. The picture below shows the road heading up to El Rancho. We're told that this is typically backed up for miles on a normal weekend day, so be prepared! El Rancho is both on the left and right side of the road, with two large dance halls and, of course, a massive lechon pit.
Behind the main restaurant is bridge that crosses a small stream and leads to small huts, each with its own table and chairs.
In front of El Rancho with Nani:
These signs of pig waitresses serving pig reminded me of the guinea pig joint in Peru with the guinea pig wearing a chef's hat (as seen in my first Culinary Delights installment).
So next time you are in Puerto Rico and in the mood for some tasty barbecue, do like the locals do and take the trip down to Guavate on a Saturday or Sunday for a lechon lunch. And with that I'll leave you with one final piece of lechon art:
Eva has been traveling for 15+ years, including an 8 month journey around the world.