A girls’ getaway to San Juan – Part 1

It was during the tail end of this past winter that, in one day, I received multiples calls, texts, and emails, covering various details and options for a girls’ getaway to Puerto Rico from two longtime friends. When I say ‘longtime’, I mean it. G and I were in middle school together, and L and I went to high school together.  And of course, we have many shared adventures from those times forward. Not all can be shared in a public forum. 🙂

Anyway, limited vacation time and family obligations had conspired to keep me from a girls’ trip for several years, so a quick calendar check for May 2014, and I was IN. Hotel and air reservations were solidified, with the activity details to be firmed up as the trip approached. Two weeks before departure date, we were actively debating recreational options such as hiking the rain forest, kayaking in a bio-bay, horseback riding, snorkeling, and visiting Old San Juan, via email and text.

And then it happened. G’s Dad was hospitalized for dehydration, and then diagnosed with a second form of cancer and her hope of a vacation was suddenly ripped from her. Her Dad was not the only family member with health issues. Her step mother and two great aunts also had health issues, so she had been under tremendous stress and strain, trying to help care for them at a distance and keep a full-time career going. G was terribly torn. She had originated the idea of the trip, and she needed a mental health break more than any of us. But, she knew she couldn’t live with herself should the worst happen while she was away. Early in the week before the trip, her father was given a dire prediction of two months to live. The deal was sealed; she would not travel.

This left L and I to ponder whether we should go without her, feeling terrible that G would miss the trip she planned and needed so badly.  Well, it turned out that it wasn’t the non-refundable airfare or hotel deposit that convinced us; it was G herself who encouraged us to go. She knew in her heart she had to stay at home and be with her family, but wanted us to move forward with the plans.

Many times over the long weekend L and I reflected on our long friendship with G and each other, and the health issues we have all three dealt with over the past ten years or so. It is what happens when we reach a certain age: our older loved ones struggle with their health and independence, and we become the caretakers. My father passed when I was fairly young, but for the past two and a half years, I have been on a journey through dementia with my mother. L cared for both of her parents as their health declined over a number of years, and has only started traveling for enjoyment in the recent past. The bottom line is that we understood G’s decision and honored it. We would have done the same.

I will try to tell the story of our trip with pictures, and a few words. Please enjoy our experience in beautiful Puerto Rico.

A pool view at the El San Juan Resort & Casino

A pool view at the El San Juan Resort & Casino

We stayed at the El San Juan Resort & Casino, located right on the beach in Carolina, which to my delight had daily morning yoga under an incredible banyan tree.

2014-05-16 El San Juan yoga in Banyan Tree studio 2

Giant Banyan Tree yoga studio

Daily beach walk

Daily beach walk

Our first full day included a walk on the beach, yoga under the banyan tree, breakfast on an open veranda overlooking the pool and beach, and then a visit to San Juan Viejo (Old San Juan).

First stop, the massive fort known as Castillo de San Cristobal.

Gallery inside Castillo de San Cristobal

Gallery inside Castillo de San Cristobal

View from the top of Castillo de San Cristobal

View from the top of Castillo de San Cristobal

Exterior of Castillo de San Cristobal

Exterior of Castillo de San Cristobal

Next up, a tram ride to get the lay of the old city.

El Capitolio de Puerto Rico

El Capitolio de Puerto Rico

Entrance to Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Entrance to Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Street view from the tram

Street view from the tram, contrasting new and old.

As we ventured out into the Old City on foot, a stop for lunch was in order. We chose Barrachina, which claims to be the ‘Birthplace of the original Pina Colada’. Original or not, it was yummy and the restaurant was charming.

Barachina courtyard

Barrachina courtyard

And then random scenes from our walking wandering around the old city. Too much beauty to capture with a lens, but I tried.

Amazing details

Amazing details

Gorgeous color

Gorgeous color

Incredible exteriors

Incredible exteriors

Matched by amazing interiors

Matched by amazing interiors

Evidence of decay

Evidence of decay

And pristine beauty

And pristine beauty

A private, gated shrine

A private, gated shrine

And a touch of whimsy

And a touch of whimsy

Tomorrow, a few photos from around the hotel, and a tale of a nighttime kayak adventure!

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17 thoughts on “A girls’ getaway to San Juan – Part 1

    • Thank you , Lynn, you are right: she was with us in spirit! It is a beautiful place and so hard to choose pics from the huge amount that I took! Camera phone only, so thank you for the compliment! 😉

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  1. What a loving post to commemorate your friendship, girl power and the reality that some of us find ourselves at this stage of life — caring for those who cared for us

    I’m glad you and L got to go if only to share the beauty that is Puerto Rico.

    Liked by 1 person

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