A few days before the close of 2016, we had the pleasure of spending a few days in the sunny island of Puerto Rico. It was a welcome break from the snow and cold and a chance to soak up the sun and recharge.
We were greeted by blue skies and the blue green waters of the Atlantic. We could feel ourselves immediately relaxing. The island was first settled in 1509 by the Spanish led by Juan Ponce de Leon. The present site of San Juan was founded in 1510 and was given its formal name of Puerto Rico de San Juan Bautista in 1521. It is the second oldest European established capital in the new world, the first being Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
The remnants of its colonial past is evident in the walls of the city and its two forts that stills stands guard over the city. In days past, the forts constituted the first line of defense against hostile powers who would storm the city and take its riches.
Nowadays, its a popular spot for those who want to take a stroll, and take in the magnificent views of the sea.
By day, we shared the historic downtown with the numerous daytrippers from the many cruise ships that make this port, a must stop in the Caribbean. All of us were walking around holding our cameras and phones in front of us, trying to capture the vibrant colors that adorn the traditional colonial houses and buildings.
Blue, yellow, violet and pink, every hue was present and it was fun trying to capture that.
Business establishments are on the first floor while families still lived in its upper floors.
At night, once all but the few who chose to stay the night were gone, it was possible to catch glimpses of the families that still live behind the wrought iron balconies and lace covered windows.
The best surprise of the trip was discovering a strong local and thriving artistic community. Yes, there are a number of American style malls but there are also a good number of stores carrying only local artists and featuring only local and handmade crafts and goods.
Take this store which proudly refuses to carry anything other than their own handmade Panama hats…
Or this one store which carried a number of pretty bags, among other things. On the day we were there, we got to meet the artist. Its a big family undertaking, she told us. Her mother and daughter help her make the bags and her other daughter sells them in the store.
Here is a small sampling of her work.
One gallery I loved featured art work showing the wonderful old doors of San Juan.
But my favorite discovery was a tiny shop that also housed a jewelry school. Nothing touristy about this shop. When I stepped in, I was among residents who were having their jewels cleaned or repaired. This picture is a small sampling of the work of either professors or students of the school. Their work features gems and stones, silver, gold, and even enamel
Needless to say, this was the place to find the perfect souvenir to take back home.