TravelingMad: I don’t have my passport yet, but I still want to travel

Visit Puerto Rico. (You don’t need a passport!)

Puerto Rico is my favorite island. I had always dreamed of going there, and the first time I had an opportunity to visit, I was thrilled.  (I also attended high school in north Newark, which has a large Puerto Rican population. You couldn’t tell me I was not Boricua, but that’s another story!)

I knew there would be beautiful scenery, beautiful people and good food. I opted for the touristy experience for my first trip: I booked a casino and hotel resort in San Juan at the Condado beach.

During the ride from the airport to the hotel, I had my camera in hand.  But as we drove through the busy streets and highways, I actually saw familiar sights. First, I saw a Texaco gas station. I don’t know what kind of gas I expected to be used there but I thought it would be foreign to me. Then I said aloud in disbelief, “Is that a Wal-mart??”

I was definitely in America, and although Puerto Rico is technically “American,” I was expecting a more tropical experience. Looking back I’m not sure how indigenous an experience I expected to have at a casino hotel and resort.

The hotel was excellent. The beach was beautiful, with  waves crashing against the rocks. Everyone was friendly to us. The restaurants near the beach were good — I had seafood. We explored the neighborhood and came across the luxury shopping drag, and all the big name international stores were there. We continued on and found one tourist shop that we really loved. They had everything. The owner, a very nice older gentleman, told us he and his wife have been in business for years. We talked with him for a long time, and bought all of our trinkets and souvenirs there.

During the rest of the trip, we went to the fort, took pictures, and did the tour at the Bacardi factory. (Go in the morning. It’s much less crowded, and you’ll have a better experience.)

Puerto Rico is rich indeed. After that initial trip to the island, I’ve been back twice. The second time I decided to have a less touristy adventure. I will have to tell you about that trip in another post.

Ask your neighbors in Newark who are Puerto Rican, or have been to Puerto Rico. They’ll tell you the reasons why you should go visit: it’s affordable, it’s tropical, and it’s awesome. Let me know when you book your ticket. I might try to crash your trip.

– TravelingMad

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