Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday Morning Trick or Treat 10/31/09

Are you kidding me? The last two weeks have been a little more productive in the travel business. Hoo Ya! I am hoping that I finish the year with a bang! Remember to always love your travel agent. "College Football Dad" has been at home watching college football while Pod has been on the road for a few weeks. It's pretty hard to watch on the tube or ESPN 360. I am not a good TV watcher when Pod is on the field. I do a lot of pacing. Our weather has been hot, cool, hot and cool again. I wish Mother Nature would make up her mind. Royal Caribbean has her big new ship The Oasis of the Seas getting ready to hit the water's in November. You have got to check this floating city out! When you have time make sure you check out my website and biz page. We have a ton of year end specials and early booking specials for travel next year. You will also find great tips on travel. How is your Cruisitude? Mine is doing just fine! I know, enough of the business stuff. I thought I would save this part of our trip for Halloween. Before our journey to the dark side begins, let's do a little Trick or Treat! It is Halloween, so why not. Are you ready for the Trick? Start with 1 oz. Amaretto, 1 1/2 oz. Vodka, Vanilla, 1/2 oz. Triple Sec, 1 dash Grenadine and fill with Orange Juice. Pour vodka, triple sec, amaretto, grenadine into a tall glass filled with your favorite ice. Top with orange juice and stir. Take four or five small Halloween candies, and stick them on a skewer. Place skewer on top of glass. I told you it would be a Treat. There you have it, a Trick or Treat! Our night is going to start with one of the stupidest things I have ever done. I have been convinced by our traveling party that we need to do a night kayak excursion in the pitch dark. How stupid do you think I am? Well I guess pretty stupid! They keep telling me that it is going to be so awesome looking at the water glow as you paddle. I guess that could be cool, but in the dark? Vieques is known for one of the best Bioluminescence Bays in the world. What the heck did you just say? Bioluminescence who, what? Bioluminescence is the phenomenon where light or glow is created by a living creature by internal chemical reaction. Approximately 80% of all marine life creates bioluminescence to some degree. This is done to achieve different survival strategies which include mating, predator avoidance and feeding. When a particular species of plankton concentrates in very high numbers in rare areas around the world, the results are stunning. The Bioluminescent Bay is located in the Mosquito Bay area in Vieques and is, perhaps, the brightest in the world! With over 750,000 tiny dinoflagellates per gallon of water that light up when they are touched! Imagine a lake full of Tinker Bells fairy dust! Pure magic, the experience is actually indescribable. So here is the deal! We all meet at Blue Caribe Kayaks for the details of our journey. The sun was just starting to go down and I was getting a little nervous not knowing what to expect. Can I take a cooler? We are given a life jacket and a whistle. Why in the heck do I need a whistle? Ok, now it s beginning to make sense. I am getting in a kayak in the dark and in case I get lost I blow a whistle. This is not starting out good. If I am lost in the ocean who is going to hear me? I just got my first glimpse of the kayaks that we will be using. It has a preformed area for your butt and feet. Whose butt did they use to make that mold? I am supposed to fit which part of my butt in this thing? Why do you sit up in the air instead of down in it some? It looks pretty wobbly to me. My two sons are with me so I better suck this up and get in the van. It took about 20 minutes of driving through the jungle before we reached our departure point. I know why they call this Mosquito Bay. I was getting bit left and right. I guess when they told us not to use Mosquito spray with DEET in it because it could damage the critters in the water that we would have a mosquito problem. As I am standing there with the rest of the group including my wife, two sons, mother, brother, sister-in-law and her mom and dad I realize that I do not see any water. We are in this jungle area with who knows what type of animals and they tell us that we are going to shove off through this small opening of mangroves. I am really thinking snakes and spiders now. Pea and Pod get their kayak and the tour helpers shove them out into the darkness. I kid you not, you cannot see anything. Ok, that looks pretty easy. The only problem is that I weigh a little more than they do and I take up more room in my kayak and I have a water proof camera around my neck with this stupid whistle. It comes to my turn to walk out in the mangroves for my shot out in the dark. I take my position and there I go. Through the jungle in to the wide open ocean I head. Why did I get pushed so hard? No more than 10 feet and I had already fallen out of my kayak. This is not good! I could still stand up, but barely. Every time I tried to get in the kayak it kept moving. I finally was able to get in by sliding on it with my stomach. There is no telling how many bruises I am going to have. This is going to be the longest two hours of my life. All of the sudden Janet comes shooting by and I about fall out again. Something has to be wrong with my kayak. I have finally got some balance and the moon is out and I can see a few people and the tour guides said to follow them out. It was really cool to see your paddle and the other kayaks with this light glowing with every move you made. We were going out in to the bay for about one mile and they would let us get in the water for about 15 minutes before we headed back. Do they know we are in a bay that goes into the ocean that has sharks in it? This has to be a bad dream. I started to paddle and was doing ok I thought. It seemed like I was always going to the right and the harder I paddled the worse it was. Pea and Pod would circle back every so often to check on me. I was in last place for most of the time and I still had my whistle. It was a close competition with Janet and Carol at times. I did catch up to Janet and Carol for a little bit. They kept laughing at me and the next thing I know Carol (mom) has fallen out. I made my way over to help, but what the heck was I going to do? When you are in water over your head and your kayak will not stay still, it is a task that I cannot complete. If I fall out again I am sure that a shark or something will eventually get me. Remember it is dark and there is salt in the water. Thank goodness one of the tour guides was close by and helped her get back in. It seemed like forever but I finally caught the rest of the group as they were all swimming in the middle of the bay making water angels. They had tied all of the kayaks together. I had made it this far, so I better get in and experience this Bioluminescence thing first hand. I knew I could get out of the kayak. I had no clue how I was going to get back in. Every movement you made with your arms or legs would light up with this blue glow. It was really cool to see, but I was still nervous about my re-entry into my kayak.. Well it is that time and I am not feeling good about my chances. I tried several times and could not do it. It would be nice if they had some steps to help you get back in. HaHa! With two tour guides and a few desperate attempts I was able to get all of me back in. We had paddled out in a bit of a head wind so the return trip would surely go faster. Wrong! I was having paddling issues and it did not matter how I paddled I kept going in circles. How do I get out of this paddle spin? Really, how do you paddle in circles? Pea and Pod came back to check on me and I said more cuss words than I even knew were in my dictionary. They tried to be encouraging, but I was not in the mood for it. Why is everyone laughing at me? I finally got my alignment corrected and started to make some head way. Every now and then I would still just go in circles. I could not figure this thing out. My brother (Donnie) came back to check on me and he could not stop laughing at me either. It served him right for laughing because a few minutes later he fell out of his kayak. He was able to get back into his pretty easy though. I think I got a lemon kayak. Can I return mine for a new one? I told everyone to leave me alone. Every time they came to check on me something happens. Sure as shoot I fell out again. I guess I am going to just hang on and swim with this darn kayak. I saw one on the tour guides off in the distance so I blew my whistle and they helped me get back in. This was it. I have had enough of this. I have got to get past this mental thing I have going on with my kayak. It seemed like several more hours, but the next thing I knew I had made it back to our pick up point. Thank goodness the wind kept me on the right course. I thought for sure I would end up out at sea. As soon as I got close enough I jumped out and got to shore as fast as I could. I think I have died and gone to heaven. I have my feet on the ground. My family finally got to see me in an environment where I am not very good at and they have never laughed so hard in their entire lives. We piled back in to the vans and everyone talked about their experience. I did not say a word. I was still in a kayak coma! I needed a beer in the worst way. 20 minutes later after our return we found this burger dive and I chugged more beers than I could count so I could get my nerves back in check. I was glad that I did this, but I will never do this again. Everyone else said it was one of the highlights of their trip. I really would highly recommend this trip, but make sure you get a kayak that is formed to your butt shape! If you ever want to take a trip to the dark side call me and I can give you all of the details and help you book your trip. I am going to end our trip here. What a blast we have had. I hope you have enjoyed this ride with me in Puerto Rico/Vieques. I am not sure where our journeys will take us next, but where ever they are it will be a fun ride. I truly appreciate all of you who are reading and following. Please leave me a comment sometime so I know who is reading. I would be honored if you share this with a friend. Hang on for our next wild ride. Until we unite again remember to always love your Travel Agent. He needs lots of love. Keep your Cruisitude in check and most important is to Travel Your Way!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday Afternoon Toasted Fisherman 10/08/09

Wow! What a week this has been. Well actually two weeks. This College Football Dad going to a football game in the middle of the week last week has me a little screwed up. I am catching up though. Our weather is so bizarre right now. We had about six inches last weekend and most of my mulch has left my yard. I wonder if insurance covers that. I wish the cool weather would just set in and let fall be fall. The biz has picked up some. This coming week is the big grand daddy of all week in the cruise biz. Every cruise line has year end specials that will blow you away. You will probably see a ton of commercials from the cruise lines starting this weekend and continuing through the following week. Check my website out next week and I bet you will be surprised. I will also be hosting a Virtual Cruise Night on the 14th. Come learn about cruising! Cruise Planners will be giving away 3 FREE cruises. Make sure and check out the Six Degrees of Cruisitude during the week of October 12th - 19th and register for the cruise give away! If you are into social media networking check out my biz page when you have time. Ok, enough business! Let’s have a drink and some fun. With the upcoming week being the World’s Largest Cruise Event, I thought we would make a “Toasted Fisherman”. I have been a toasted fisherman before, but how in the heck do you drink one? Here is the scoop. Take 1 shot Crown Royal, 1 shot Amaretto, 1 shot Sweet and Sour. Then splash a little 7-Up. Mix all of the ingredients over the ice of your choice, stir and serve with a cherry! I can do without the cherry, but now you have a “Toasted Fisherman”. Our day is going to start in Fajardo (fah-HAHR-do). This is where our high speed people carrier will take us to the island of Vieques. We are going to spend a few days on this very little virgin island. Isla de Vieques is 55 square miles and has less than 10,000 inhabitants and not many visitors until now. The beaches are just gorgeous and the water is crystal clear. The Island is about 21 miles long by 4 miles at its widest point and it is located between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, just 6 miles from the south-east coast of Puerto Rico. The reason you probably never heard of Isla de Vieques was because this magical island on the Caribbean was not a popular vacation spot since this small island was primarily under the control of the United States Navy. After years of protests the Navy finally discontinued their military practices of bombing and weapons’ testing and left the island on 2003. We had rented a van and a house on the island. We would have to make several trips to the rental house as everyone in our group with luggage could not go at the same time. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies. We had stuff hanging out everywhere! The house we had rented was beautiful. It was two stories and sat on this magnificent cliff that overlooked the Caribbean. It also had this huge outdoor kitchen and this amazing infinity pool. We over looked the W Hotel which was located at the bottom of the cliff. This hotel is one of the very few on the island. One of the perks of the house that we rented was that we could use the facilities at the W Hotel anytime we wanted. We would spend a couple of afternoons in their pool drinking pina coladas and playing a little water vollyball! After we all got settled in it was time to get a cold one and hit the pool. All I can say is wow! After several hours in the sun, we decided to head into town and find a grocery store. The grocery store was an all in one food and liquor sort of place. We were able to get just about anything we needed to be able to keep the pickiest of eaters and drinkers satisfied. With our outdoor kitchen came this amazing outdoor bar area. As the sun was going down the first evening we got this awesome cloud display. I swear it looked like the Michelin Man. Really it did! The next morning we are going to go explore some of the hidden beaches. These beaches are so hidden I guess you could hang out naked if you wanted. I didn’t, but you could have. Some of the beaches on our list to try and find were Green Beach, Blue Beach, Red Beach, Esperanza Beach, Black Sand Beach and Playa Grande Beach. As I stated earlier we would have to find some of these beaches. You have to drive through jungle down dirt roads and hope that the map you have is giving you the right information. Once you find one and you make your way to the water you will be treated to the most amazing water and scenery. Every beach we found we were the only ones there. It was pretty weird. It was like we were stranded somewhere and no one knew where we were. We had our snorkel gear and got to see some wild looking fish in the very colorful coral. My youngest son Pod and a friend of my brothers (Kendal) decided to go out pretty far and around the corner of the rocks to where no one could see them anymore. It was pretty rough where they were and even though Pod was a lifeguard it still scared the crap out of me. Did they not remember that these beaches were used for weapon and bomb testing by our Navy up until just a few years ago? Who knows if all of those things exploded? After what seemed like a lifetime they reappeared and finally made it back to shore. We did not bring enough beer for that emotional rollercoaster. Our evening would take a major twist. We were going to do something that will scare the living sh*t out of you! Excuse my language, but it is true. It is so bizarre that I will write about it all by its lonesome next week. The next day will be our last full day before we head back to Puerto Rico. Since some of us are foodies we decided to make a very special meal with some local cuisine. A couple of us headed down to town were the fishermen were coming back in with their catches. We were on a journey to get some fresh hand caught Caribbean lobsters. Wow, did we hit pay dirt. This one guy had just caught 12 lobsters and we bought them all along with some snapper. It was going to be a grill off. These were the funniest looking lobsters. They do not have any claws, but they have this long antenna looking things. Since I was the griller tonight I was in charge of getting the lobsters ready. I would need an adult beverage before I could start this process that I really had no clue what I was doing. I had to de-head 12 live lobsters while they made very strange high pitched noises. As I struggled a bit in the beginning I started getting the hang of it. Kendal was in charge of taking each head one by one and throwing them off of the cliff. We could not stop laughing as he would use a towel and cover them while these antenna things kept moving. It was one of those funniest home video moments. The lobsters and fish are cleaned and are put up for safe keeping. The ladies made all sorts of appetizers’ to help us with our white wine. The fish and lobsters hit the grill at sunset. We also had an awesome shrimp alfredo pasta with salad and bread. What a way to end our last night in Vieques. After my belly is full I sit at the edge of the pool with a glass of wine in hand. I reflect on our trip so far and how lucky I am to be able to travel with family and friends! This island will stay on my list as one of my favorite destinations. I hope to come back and visit soon. I will end our journey here. Make sure and check back next week as my journey will take you into the darkness of no return. I hope you have enjoyed this ride with me in Puerto Rico/Vieques so far. I truly appreciate all of you who are reading and following. Please leave me a comment sometime so I know who is reading. I would be honored if you share this with a friend. You really are going to be surprised what happens next. Hang on for the wild ride. Until we unite again remember to always love your Travel Agent. He needs lots of love. Keep your Cruisitude in check and most important is to Travel Your Way!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Afternoon Fruit Basket 9/25/09

What a week! It has been crazy. After several months of triple digits we get this cold front that comes in with rain for several days. Don't get me wrong I love the cool rainy weather, just not all at once. It is also great college football weather. Don't worry, be happy! The biz has gone ok this week. I am still networking and marketing like crazy. I have been getting things ready for October 14th. This day is deemed as WLCN. In the cruise industry it is the World's Largest Cruise Night. All cruise lines have super duper specials for those who book a cruise on that night. At Cruise Planners we do things a whole lot bigger. We have taken it to another level and are having a WLCE. Did you get it right? We are having the World's Largest Cruise Event. It will start October 12th and last the full week. Not only will I have the cruise lines specials, I will also have exclusive specials only from Cruise Planners. I will be hosting a virtual cruise night on the 14th. Cruise Planners will be giving away 3 FREE cruises. Stay tuned for more information on the Six Degrees of Cruisitude, October 12th - 19th! Now that the business news is out of the way, let's go have some fun. Since we are going to a party why not take a Fruit Basket! Here is what is in our Fruit Basket. We have 3 parts Crème de Banana, 2 parts Coconut rum (Parrot Bay) 1 part Triple sec, 1 part Blackberry brandy, 3 parts Orange juice, 2 parts Pineapple juice and 1 part Apple Juice. Mix all of this in a pitcher or fish bowl. Pour in to your favorite glass with your preferred type of ice. Garnish with any fruit that you have on hand and enjoy. Now that is one heck of a Fruit Basket. As I stated earlier we are going to a party. Since we are from Texas and we are in Puerto Rico why not have a Texarican Bash. Each family was responsible for making a dish and our dish of choice was grilled chicken wings several different ways. We named our cooking team "Team Lime in the Coconuts" We even made team shirts. The day started off with a trip to the local Wal-Mart to get our supplies. I know we have a lot of people coming to eat, but we filled up the back of the van with Wal-Mart bags. It was quite a funny site. We had one grill and Capt. Charlie would tackle putting a second grill together. For some reason it took a long time to put it together. He must have been missing some parts. HaHa! The cooking would commence inside and out. The ladies were making all kinds of goodies inside. First Mate Annie made these amazing salt cod fritters. It is a lengthy process and so worth the wait. Pea and Pod would eat most of these before they would come out of the kitchen. They are so good! Annie & Annie also made these cigar shaped corn bread and cheese things called Surullitos. They were awesome! The wings were marinating and the fire was getting hot. Homemade Pina Coladas are flowing and the wine is chilling. Let's start the grilling. I filled the grill completely and still have more to cook. I guess we will have to eat as we go. I know this group all too well and there will not be much food left. Ricardo (Annie's Uncle) would be my taste tester. It was a blast cooking cooking with him! We had a great day of food and just spending time with family. Manatí is such an awesome place. We cannot thank Capt. Charlie and First Mate Annie for opening up their home to us. Tomorrow is going to be a Sea Day. Swimming with the sharks! We are going to take a catamaran out of Fajardo. It will be fun to watch Capt. Charlie. He will have to be a passenger on this trip. I bet he sails her for a bit though. Fajardo (fah-HAHR-do) is the hub of the majority of recreational boating in Puerto Rico and a popular launching port to Culebra, Vieques, and the American and British Virgin Islands. It is also the home to the largest Marina in the Caribbean, called Puerto del Rey. We meet up with the rest of our party and get signed in with the Captain and crew. It looks like it is going to be a great day. The sailing will last about 5 to 6 hours and all of our food and adult beverages are included. We plan on doing some snorkeling once we get out in the deep blue yonder. Our ships name is the Barefoot IV. She is a 48' Hatteras. I guess that is because our Captain sails her with his bare feet. This is going to be like the Pirates of the Caribbean. I wonder what treasure we will find? It's time to board, the music is pumping and the open water is waiting for us. As we head out of the marina we get to see all of the other boats and some of the hotels up on the cliffs. It was just beautiful. We are headed for the small uninhabited Icacos Island. We will throw anchor here, swim and chow down on some food. The crew prepares different types of food while we are sailing and of course it is unlimited adult beverages. I will never forget Pea's face when he took a sip of his rum with a splash of coke. It was a Kodak moment! The catamaran has steps that drop down at the end of the boat into the water. This is how you get in and out of the water. It’s called swim out and swim in. The water is crystal clear and so far there is not a shark in sight. After a swim and a trek around this very small island we board the boat and feast on the food that the crew has prepared. We had salads, sandwich stuff, local fruits, an awesome tuna salad and a few other island specialties. An open bar and make your own drink thing was very nice. They did make several batches of Pina Coladas for everyone during our lunch. The anchor is lifted and we head out to the open waters. After about 30 minutes of sailing around they drop anchor in the middle of the Atlantic. It is snorkeling time. I had an underwater camera and I hope I could get some good photos of Pea & Pod underwater. The fish where very colorful and the coral was very wild looking. Pea & Pod were crazy as they would dive down about 30 feet and look up to the top. Then it started raining, but when you are already wet what difference does it make? I got some great pictures and had an awesome time with my family. We load back up and fill our drink glasses with our favorite rum. It's smooth sailing back into Fajardo. What a great adventure this day has been. The day is still young and we are going to go to Ricardo & “Pichi’s” condo in San Juan. They live here part of the year and have invited us to their home for dinner. Their condo is beautiful. We had more adult beverages and an awesome meal which consisted of these awesome appetizers, yautia soup, salad and filet of beef. Our family thanks you so much Ricardo & "Pichi" for being such gracious hosts. What a blast it has been so far. I am in love with Puerto Rico. Tomorrow we will leave Puerto Rico and head to the island of Vieques. You don't want to miss the next few issues as I will run into my worst nightmare. Our journey will end here for now. I hope you have enjoyed this ride with me in Puerto Rico so far. I truly appreciate all of you who are reading and following. Please leave me a comment sometime so I know who is reading. I would be honored if you share this with a friend. You really are going to be surprised what happens next. Hang on for the wild ride. Until we unite again remember to always love your Travel Agent. He needs lots of love. Keep your Cruisitude in check and most important is to Travel Your Way!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Afternoon San Juan Cooler 9/13/09

Sometimes it takes forever to catch up. My goal is to write once a week. I did not achieve this last week. I was still putting my pieces back together from my road trip to see Pod play at Auburn in his first college football game. I promise to get back on track. One real good thing that has happened over the last few days is "Rain" It has actually rained for the last 3 days. I think my plants and grass are still in shock and they are not sure if they should grow or not. The business has been ok, but could be better. Marketing and networking is fast and furious and as always I keep my Cruisitude and Traveltude at the highest levels. How is yours? Let's get started! It’s Sunday afternoon in Puerto Rico, so why not start off with a San Juan Cooler. Here is the skinny. Take 3 oz Dark Rum (Bacardi), 3/4 oz Dry Vermouth and Pineapple Juice. Fill your favorite drinking glass with your ice of choice, add Bacardi Rum and dry vermouth, then fill with pineapple juice and serve. Stir and add a squeeze of lime and you are all set. Now that is one heck of a cooler. Let's go travel. Our day will start off with a trip to the El Yunque National Forest. We hope to hike one of the trails in the El Yunque rain forest. Here is a little history on El Yunque. El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as the Luquillo National Forest and the Caribbean National Forest, is located on the island of Puerto Rico. It is commonly known as only El Yunque, a Spanish approximation of the aboriginal Taino word "Yu-ke", thought by scholars to mean "White Lands". However the lightning storms that occur there was to the Spaniards the sound of a giant hammer hitting an anvil (yunque in Spanish). It is also the name of the second highest mountain peak in the Forest. El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest system. We stopped at this combo store/grilling meats place. It was painted with many colors and the guard dog was hanging out on the roof. We all got various meats on a stick. We needed to fill our bellies before we took our multiple mile hike into the rain forest. As we made our way into the National Park we decided to stop at the visitor’s center and check things out. We watched a quick movie and looked at the many exhibits about the park. This National Forest has so much history. It's time to hit the trails. We load up and head to one of the many trails in the park. We pick La Mina trail. Our goal is to get to La Mina falls. It will take us about 30 to 45 minutes to get to the falls with about a 1/2 mile drop in elevation. That will make our trip up a little bit longer. It is very cool walking down these trails. You have to be careful as everything is soaking wet and you are under all of the foliage. There are mushroom things growing on trees and little bitty creatures hanging out on the leaves. I hope we get to see the Little Frog called a Coqui. It is a very popular creature throughout the island and enlivens the evenings with its timid “ko-kee” from which it get its name. The Coquies begin to sing when the sun goes down at dusk, singing all night long until dawn. The male Coquí sings - not the female. There are a lot of streams along the way. It was very peaceful during our hike. Everyone was ready to jump in the cold water once we hit the falls. There was a huge water fall with little pools of water to sit and chill. It was really incredible. We just hung out in the water and did some people watching. Uphill we must go. I will admit that it was harder going up than coming down. After our hike uphill it was time for a nice cold cerveza. If you get to visit Puerto Rico, El Yunque is a must thing to do. Do not miss this very unique place. Our next journey is going to take us to the logo of the Bat. I would call it liquid gold. We are going to tour the Bacardi Rum factory. Hoo Ya! There is nothing like a little rum in the morning. Our tour will start off at Casa Bacardi. Where did this bat logo come from? It is a cool logo, but sort of strange on a bottle of rum. During our tour we found out where the bat came from. "With the development of the new Bacardi rum, in 1862 Bacardi purchased a tin roofed factory building in which he planned to start a distillery. In the roof of the building lived a family of fruit bats, considered to be a good luck omen in Cuban mythology. To this day, the official logo of the Bacardi Company bears the likeness of a fruit bat in flight." We watched a movie on the history of Bacardi. I was really amazing that Bacardi started. Starting with an idea in 1829 to where Bacardi is now is incredible. It has grown to become the single largest company in the alcoholic beverage industry. We got to see a demonstration of how a Mojito is made. They had several interactive areas including computers to use that you could video yourself and send an email to family or even yourself. We made our way to the gift shop. They had so many different rums that you could buy that are not sold in the states. We bought a couple to take back with us to Texas. Now it was time for the morning tasting. Rum in the morning will get your mind spinning. With our tour we all received a coupon for 2 tastings of any rum drink we wanted. I do not encourage drinking for under aged kids, but Pea was 18 and in Puerto Rico the drinking age is 18. I got to share my first adult beverage with Pea. He did make some very strange faces though. The Bacardi Rum Factory is a must see when you visit Puerto Rico. The day was still young and we had brought our suits with us. I think everyone was ready to chill around a pool somewhere. Since we were not staying at a hotel, this presented a challenge. We said what the heck, let's just act like we are staying at the hotel and we just came back from the beach. That is exactly what we did. We headed to the Embassy Suites in San Juan. We walked straight through the lobby directly to the pool. Just act like a tourist. We had no problem getting in. I know we are not the only group of people who have ever done this. Don't get mad at me. It was like going under cover. It was an awesome pool and they also had white sand beaches that the ocean waters rolled up to. We had the best of worlds, a swimming pool and salt water with white sand. The outdoor bar was very convenient to the pool. This made it easy to eat lunch and share several adult beverages with family and friends. As the late afternoon approaches we pack up our gear and head to our cars. Manati was in our future. Charlie & Annie would create some more Puerto Rican specialties for us. Sharing good wine and food with family and friends is always a wonderful thing. Nothing could be finer! As the night goes on, I reflect back on the things we have done and what we still had ahead of us. Puerto Rico is a country of such great history, and I get to sample so many new and unique foods. My journey will end here for now. We still have many places to visit and things to do. You do not want to miss our next few issues as I will journey to places that will scare the crap out of you and me. I hope you have enjoyed this ride with me in Puerto Rico so far. I truly appreciate all of you who are reading and following. Please leave me a comment sometime so I know who is reading. Tell me what you like and what you don’t like. I would be honored if you share this with a friend. You really are going to be surprised were our journey takes us next. Hang on for the next ride. Until we unite again remember to always love your Travel Agent. He needs lots of love. Keep your Cruisitude in check and most important is to Travel Your Way!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Afternoon Tropical Tease 8/27/09

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of no rain and triple digit temperatures. In Central Texas it is like being Sleepless in Seattle, except we are Scorched in San Antonio. School has started in this neck of the woods. It seems pretty quite in the neighborhood. The business has been a little quiet this week, but networking and marketing are still a must. As our travels take us down south I thought we would start this afternoon off with a Tropical Tease. There is nothing wrong with being teased and how can you go wrong being teased in the tropics? This tease starts off like this: Take 2 oz Dark Rum, 1 1/2 oz Midori Melon Liqueur, 1 oz Banana Liqueur. Fill with Pineapple juice and pour directly into a Hurricane glass with ice. Shake, do not stir. Garnish with a lime wheel. Sounds like a winner to me! Cheers! Let's go travel. Our travel is going to take us to the Caribbean. From Alaska to the Caribbean sounds like a great plan. We are headed to Puerto Rico for some fun in the sun. Here is a little history on Puerto Rico before we get started. Located in the northeastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico formed a key part of the Spanish Empire from the early years of the exploration, conquest and colonization of the New World. The island was a major military post during many wars between Spain and other European powers for control of the region in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The smallest of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico was a stepping-stone in the passage from Europe to Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and the northern territories of South America. A possession of the United States, it consists of the island of Puerto Rico plus the adjacent islets of Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. Puerto Rico has a mountainous, tropical ecosystem with very little flat land and few mineral resources. We start our journey off in San Juan with a late afternoon arrival. San Juan is Puerto Rico's capital. It is the second oldest European-established city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. We are lucky that on this trip we will be with family members who have lived and grew up in Puerto Rico. This is going to be exciting for Pea & Pod! They have never traveled out of the states before. With most of my family growing up in Texas and the others in Puerto Rico, we decided to call this "The Texarican Bash"! Capt. Charlie and First Mate's Annie and Annie would be our private tour guides over the next 10 days. My brothers wife is Annie and her mom and dad are Charlie and Annie. Now that you have been introduced, let's roll. Everyone has finally packed into the cars with way too much luggage. We are headed to the El Condado beach area for some rum and pina coladas. El Condado is an oceanfront, tree-lined, vibrant pedestrian-oriented community in San Juan. A primarily middle to upper class community, El Condado is located east of the historic colonial district of Old San Juan. One thing about the bartenders in San Juan is the rum flows very freely in whatever the rum drink of your choice is. After several fruity rum drinks, we figured out pretty quick that we needed to get something to eat before heading to the home that we would be staying at during most of our trip. Charlie & Annie live in St Petersburg, FL, but also own a home in Puerto Rico. They were gracious enough to share their home with us. It is located in the town of Manatí. It is about 40 miles from downtown San Juan. Manatí is known as "La Ciudad Metropolitana" (metropolitan city) and "La Atenas de Puerto Rico" (Puerto Rico's athens). Manatí was founded in 1738 by Don Pedro Menéndez Valdéz. It was the ninth town recognized by the Spanish Crown in Puerto Rico. As a result of its cultural eminence, it began to be called the "Athens of Puerto Rico" during the early part of this century. We would arrive in the dark, so it was hard to see how beautiful this place was. That would have to wait until in the morning. The house over looked the ocean from it's hillside location. The view was just incredible from the outdoor patio area. A cup of coffee and the cool tropical breezes was a great start to an awesome vacation. The first couple of day we stayed in the Manatí area. Hanging out at the beach was a must and this area was loaded with many choices. Los Tubos was our choice. The water was a light blue and very clear. This area attracts divers and surfers. The waves were incredible. You could body surf all the way into shore. I would get started, but for some reason I kept sinking before I got there. Must of been the extra beer and rum. The beach festival was going on while we were there. There were local bands playing music day and night. We cooked several meals at the house. We got to try several new things we had not eaten before. We had salt cod fritters. plantains, mofongo and tostones to name just a few. Annie and Annie are both great cooks, so we were treated to some awesome meals and homemade pina coladas. Mofongo is made from fried green plantains or fried yuca which is mashed and seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon and tostones are a side dish made from sliced green (unripe) plantains which are cut either length-wise or width-wise and are twice fried. Pea and Pod even liked trying these new dishes. Pea's favorite was the salt cod fritters. Annie made these from scratch and is quite the process. It requires a ton of soaking in fresh water to remove all of the salt and it is well worth the wait. After a few days at the beach it was time to head to San Juan to explore this city. There is so much history here. Today we were going to explore Fort San Felipe del Morro. Fort San Felipe del Morro, officially known as Fuerte San Felipe del Morro, sits atop a high promontory overlooking the entrance to San Juan Bay. It is the result of the efforts of many different Spanish engineers over a period of more than 200 years and is one of the largest forts built by the Spaniards in the Caribbean. Although the foundations were laid in 1539, the six-level fort was not considered completed until 1787. During World War II, the U.S. government added an annex of its own design on top of the fort. This massive structure suffered countless attacks from the likes of Sir Francis Drake in 1595 and the Dutch fleet in 1625. In 1898 American ships fired on it during the Spanish-American War, destroying its lighthouse, which was later restored. This place was so cool to walk around. There is so much history here. To see all of the hidden passages and cannons is just mind blowing. Walking on the lawns where the soldiers once marched was very overwhelming. When we were getting ready to leave the rains came down. The rain made it very slippery trying to get down these massive steps. We had climbed up and now it was time to come down. We had defiantly worked up an appetite. As some of you know I am a food junkie. Anytime I can check out a place that some of my favorite Food Network chefs have been, you must go check it out. The place is called La Bombonera in Old San Juan. It has been around for over 100 years, and today it’s still one of the most popular places with locals and visitors to grab a quick snack or a hearty meal. Famous for its Mallorcas; a buttery bread that is grilled and sprinkled with powdered sugar and filled with your choice of ham, egg, and cheese, or even plain. I have to tell you a funny on Capt. Charlie. We learned on this trip that Mallorcas really has two meanings. Not only is it grilled buttered bread that is sprinkled with powdered sugar, it is also a process of using baby powder on the lower extremities. Capt. Charlie, I hope you don't get mad at me, but I had to share. This is too funny! Baby powder and powdered sugar! Let the sprinkling begin. The food and coffee was really good and I highly recommend you add this to your things to do in Puerto Rico. Now we are off to explore more of Old San Juan. We got to go in the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is a Roman Catholic cathedral. The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, and is the second oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere; construction began in 1521. The cathedral contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer and settlement founder Juan Ponce de León. It was very impressive just to be inside of this cathedral. A lot of the streets are made of cobblestones. The cobblestone streets are very narrow. They are quite spectacular to look at. We checked out many of the shops along with the many old buildings. The architecture here in Old San Juan is just beautiful. We made our way to the end of one of the streets. Upon our arrival we see all of these pigeons. These birds are everywhere. People have feed in their hands and these pigeons are eating from their hands. It was very cool to watch until Pod pulled off an amazing stunt, so we thought. The photo opportunity would be perfect as he threw a penny in the air and scared the crap out of the thousands of pigeons. They took off everywhere as I was trying to photograph the Carnival Triumph coming into port. The picture was taken at just the right moment. What we found out shortly after was not good news Janet was the victim of many pigeon droppings. I mean many! It just so happens that she was aware that Pod was the culprit of this crappy stunt. After many laughs, and tears we had Janet all cleaned up again. It was pretty funny! I think I will get a long distance slap when she reads this. We continue to explore Old San Juan. It has been a great day in this historic city. Back to Manatí we go. I am sure some rum and wine will be in our future tonight as we chill on the outdoor patio and get ready for our next adventure. We have many more places to explore on this beautiful island over the next few days. Some of the places on our list are the El Yunque rainforest, the Bacardi Rum plant and a catamaran snorkeling trip. Then we are off to the Island of Vieques for a few days. I hope you have enjoyed this ride with me in Puerto Rico so far. I truly appreciate all of you who are reading and following. Leave me a comment sometime so I know who is reading. I would be honored if you share this with a friend. You are going to be surprised were our journey takes us next. Hang on for the next ride. Until we unite again remember to always love your travel agent. Keep your Cruisitude in check and most important is to Travel Your Way!