Puerto Rico

Savannah to Puerto Rico via Philadelphia picking up Freddie and François on the way.

We arrived in San Juan, picked up a truck of a car, got lost, paid to get over a bridge and repaid to get back, then we seemed to get with it, on the navigating front. Or I did anyway, as I was in the front seat and not driving.  One reason I prefer to drive.

The Wyndham Grand first stop for some lunch and swim-up pool action.  A big barn of a place, multiple restaurants each worse than the last. Breakfast was fine, but then America and, Puerto Rico is an outpost of America can usually do good breakfasts.  Its proximity to the Yunque National Park was its draw.  The next morning was spent exploring this by car. All of Puerto Rico is still suffering from the aftermath of the last Hurricane in 2017, and Mr Trump’s salve of some loo paper doesn’t seem to have papered over all the cracks properly. That said the people are charming, and welcoming, unfortunately they can’t cook. But they make up for that with huge portions.  So, the park although open had many of the stopping and parking places still in a state of disrepair.  Anyway as no one was too keen on hiking this was fine. We also found a local beach Luquillo to hang on, with chairs to rent, plenty of parking, and a row of restaurants.  I noticed the truck was freezing when we got back some time later as I was loading up bags and towels.  Due to the fact I hadn’t actually turned the engine off!  I opened all the doors quickly so no one would notice. Phew!

Swim up pool

Wyndham Grand Swim up pool

Interesting information in the Wyndham?

Yunque National Park

No evidence of a hurricane here!

The next day we took the ferry to Vieques, a place recommended by Angel a Judge in San Juan and friend of Freddie and François He had survived the hurricane with his elderly neighbours sheltering with copious amounts of wine, with his shutters down on the 4th floor. When all died down, he found a foot of sand on his balcony but otherwise all ok.

The Vieques ferry from Ceiba serves locals first then tourists. So, it was our mission to get their early and we found ourselves first in line for boarding.  Vieques is small and quiet and doctors and dentists and most shopping is to be found on the mainland. Hence the policy of locals first.  As it was Easter time it was also a “local” holiday destination. And folk were prepared for camping on beaches and bringing with them industrial quantities of alcohol, loaded on trollies, their body weight in beer as far as I could see. The ferry is very reasonable and cost me $1 each way, not bad for a 30-minute ferry ride.

We picked up another car having left the truck in the ferry car park (engine off), and found our way to the Hotel El Blok, which is the best hotel on the island, there are B&B’s and other stuff but the hotel had a roof top bar with views, a kitchen that could cook and they did it over a wood fire. Sandra had the biggest room in the hotel and if you go, I suggest you ask for that.  The others are fine but this is 4* not 5.

EL Blok with roof top bar

One thing being old and knackered, its another having a graphic on your ticket!


Is this any way to treat a fish?

The island is flat, boasts some lovely beaches many with loo facilities, though no beach restaurants chairs beds etc. The Riviera it isn’t. Our hotel gave us beds and towels so we managed very well.   It was also a US army base and there are remnants of this round and about.  The pace of life is slow like the rest of Island Caribbean and there are untethered wild horses to navigate too.

One night we took the bioluminescence tour of Mosquito Bay.  Evidently declared the brightest in the world by the Guinness World of Records in 2018.  Full Moon is the best time to go.


“In the waters of Mosquito Bay, there are organisms named Pyrodinium bahamenseDinoflagellates (dinos).  These “dinos” are responsible for this amazing natural phenomenon.  When the “dinos” come into contact with another organism or shaken they produce a bright burst of blue light”. This is quite spooky, not confined to San Juan it happens in other places too. The hurricane disrupted the balance of the bay and it went dark, but has now recovered. They say brighter than ever.

We said goodbye to Vieques returned the way we came picked up the truck, and made our way to Ponce.

Arriving Good Friday, the cultural stuff was off limits, museums closed so we had a day of sun and slumming. There is a wonderfully preserved fire station the Parque de Bombas and a Cathedral which you can spend a few minutes in.  I found Kings the ice cream parlour, where they proceeded to put more ice cream on the cone that was structurally safe so I lost some of it. But it was very good and was very cheap.  And probably just as well I lost 500 or so calories on the floor.  We found a lovely restaurant next to our Hotel Melia.  Vistas, so called, as it was at the top of the building 6 floors up. Giving us lovely sunset views and a different view of the cathedral and fire station.  We ate their twice due to idleness and we’d become so circumspect of the food in general. On our way out of Ponce we stopped at the Museo Castillo Seralles a mansion once owned by the Don Q Rum producing family who not able to afford the upkeep gave it to the state. Interesting as it was a snapshot back in time to the thirties and before.

Parque de Bombas

Ponce Cathedral


Rincon was our next destination, though due to some mix up, and for once I wasn’t responsible, we ended up in San Juan a day early.  This didn’t matter, sent us a massive refund repaying what we had paid, and then paid the difference of our upgrade to the Condado Vanderbilt.  Hurrah!

The food picked up considerably in San Juan. This is the home of the Pina Colada and the only place I’ve seen where whole pineapples are hollowed out and the cocktail poured into the cavity.  I’m sure some of you will now send me a list of places this happens and tell me I lead a sheltered existence.  Serafina next door to our hotel was a good Italian, Marmalade in the town was also very good but also very expensive and sent you down the path of a tasting menu. A lovely bar in town was the rum bar Casitas so good I went twice. They “squeeze” ice cubes and make them square and then “brand” with the Bar Logo.  Real bar tendering at work.

Most nights around this island Sandra had managed to sniff out a casino, starting at the Wyndham Grand. There are no joining rules like there seem to be in other places, you just turn up and waste money. Easy. I’m fine about a flutter and happy to lose 20 bucks here and there but it doesn’t actually do anything for my soul and so I ducked out now and then and went solo wandering.

One of the two forts guarding San Juan

Bacardi rum has its home in San Juan and a tour will tell you all about the Bacardi family and how the rum started and how they have evidently have to import sugar cane as Puerto Rico can’t make enough to satisfy the demand. 

The original Bacardi art deco bar, all the way from Cuba

San Juan old town is fun to wander around. The architecture is stunning its Spanish history clearly visibly. Art galleries are everywhere. It is in places a little run down and unloved, owners of wonderful buildings have disappeared and decay has set in. Reminiscent of Cuba in some respects.

The history is interesting being a stopping off point for provisioning once the Atlantic had been crossed. Christopher Columbus was here. The Spanish colonised imported slaves to help build the place, there were uprisings and some very long time later the US got its hands on the place. But it is still an un-integrated organised region of the United States. Its indefinite status still sparks political debates that dominate in Puerto Rican society, I am told.



Savannah, Georgia

The Mansion on Forsyth

Savannah – Georgia

Charleston to Savannah, and we stopped off in Beaufort for lunch on the way. Savannah is the second place on this trip you can drink in the street. Not something I feel the need to do but good to know you won’t get arrested if you do.  My research for things to see here relied almost entirely on the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.  Freddie and François gave me the movie on CD for Christmas giving me ample time to watch, anyway that escaped me.

Savannah laid out in 1733 is a town of 22 squares, horse drawn carriages, and delightful architecture.

The Mansion on Forsyth our hotel, is our first stop, to dump luggage and car and then to head out to wander the town rummage round some of the squares, and to visit Jim Williams’ house on Mercer Square. The scene of a shooting decades earlier where Jim Williams shot dead his gay lover. Three trials later he was exonerated, as it all happened in self-defence.

I spotted the house, which didn’t seem very open but had a tourist plaque on it, which was all I needed to know, so I knocked on the door and asked the very nice lady if the house was available to view and could we visit.  She said yes we could look round, it was actually her mother’s house and she wouldn’t mind either, but that the house we actually wanted was over the road!  (Had I been on my own I would have taken her up on her offer, you don’t often get to see inside people’s houses.) With Sandra in tow and her sensibilities it was unfortunately a no go.  We beat a hasty retreat and found the entrance not actually in the square at all and had a docent guided tour. Relatives now live here so only the ground floor is open, but it is a marvellous example of a large family home in Savannah. Many of these houses had fallen into disrepair, Jim Williams was responsible for buying and renovating several of them and today still, houses are being fixed up all over town.

We eventually wound up at the lovely rooftop bar at the Bohemian hotel  overlooking the Savannah River, which is twinned with the Mansion.  A good reason to stop here was the benefit of the free shuttle back to our hotel. Both these hotels are modern, up to the minute fittings, and contemporary art abounds everywhere.

Dinner was at The Grey a converted Greyhound bus station run by John Morisano, very hands on and he stopped to say hi.

The chef is Mashama Bailey. 

I found this place as she was the subject of a Netflix Prog. The food was terrific and well worth booking in advance for.  After dinner ready for some music we ubered over to the Cellar Tavern underneath the Olde Pink House. Such a good night was had that the next day was a somewhat subdued affair Sandra bought drinks all round several times, all of Savannah was grateful.

 Olde Pink house with cellar tavern and live music

Horse drawn carriages are a must do so we decided to have one just to ourselves this time in the morning, which meant little thinking and some recovery time. The Bonaventure cemetery in Savannah houses a number of famous folk. Jim Williams for one, Johnny Mercer of “Moon River” and “That Old Black Magic” for another.  And we took a picnic for lunch from the Back in the Day Bakery.  If you call into the office as it is a huge place, they will give you a map (for a donation of course) and there are picnic tables


The Pinkie Masters bar featured heavily in my essential reading before I got here so we decided we had to stop by. A real dive bar with a good old jukebox, lovely locals, and the owners are so keen on cocktails that they could even conjure up a Pimms; pretty unusual for the USA. Parking is pretty easy you just need to pay, but then you need to pay for everything her except for the air.

Dinner at The Atlantic a short trip out of town where a barbecue was cooking oysters rounded off Savannah. We left Saturday morning and I wandered over to farmers market in Forsyth Park over the road from the hotel worth a look if you’re there.  All manner of produce, herbs, meat, cookies, pickles, bread.



Canary Islands. Lanzarote

Lanzarote is a Canary Island but with a difference, Benidorm did not stop here, it didn’t even get a look in.

César Manrique a talented Spanish artist and architect came via Madrid and New York in the 70’s and then took the local council by the scruff of its neck and got them to agree to: no high rise buildings, no billboards, all houses to be painted in uniform white and window shutters either, blue brown or green; land, sea, and green …an organic feel comes to mind. The result is all of a piece and pleasing to the spirit.

It is a place I return to most years. I continue to think I should buy somewhere here but then the thought passes as I realise there is much of the world I have yet to see. But it provides an easy place to be, the food is simple but fabulous. Grilled fish and Canarian potatoes (boiled in heavily salted water till the water evaporates), with mojo sauce, usually two sauces one green, one red, then add in a bottle of wine from the Bermejo winery (the bottle with a unique lip for pouring) and that is difficult to beat. The best baby squids or puntallitas/chiperones I have also had here. The Mar Azul restaurant in Manrique colours White and Blue, in El Golfo is the place to be for all of this. Be it lunchtime or even early evening watching the sunset. It is also fun to watch the fish being cleaned and the entrails being fed to the seagulls. Doesn’t get much fresher! Luis the chef patron has been here for over 20 years. He has a deft hand when it comes to grilling fish, and adorns it with a truck load of roasted garlic.  Large honey rums and Cointreau on the house round off the meal!

The oenology is interesting here as the grape is principally Malvasia and each vine is grown in a round shallow hole often with semicircular wall built around for protection from the constant winds. So growing wine is very labour intensive. (Try pruning in and out of these holes). Red white pink and pudding wine can be found here. The bottles themselves are unique, Yaiza blue and the Bermejo with a lip for pouring. Though the wines do not travel really apart from the other Canary Islands, there isn’t sufficient quantity produced unfortunately.

For an occasional visitor a week will find enough to do, be it active or otherwise. The Timanfaya park I have tripped round several times, and they can cook chicken pieces on a grill over the remnant heat of the volcano, visit by all means but there are better places to eat. And the visit will rumble you round on a bus (no other option, sorry) and fascinating it is to see the volcanic landscape. Plus it is here in this volcanic moon-like landscape, they filmed The Planet of the Apes.

The island is easily drivable, some of the best roads in Europe carved through the lava. There are wineries to visit, César Manrique had two homes both worth a look. The capital like many island capitals is I think disappointing. There is a brand new marina and cruise ships are now coming in. The best new restaurant found was Naia on Ave César Manrique a pedestrian walkway around an inland harbour. An area that has been spruced up and is definitely worth a wander.   Until next time.

Timple (TImplay) a 5 stringed kind of ukelele indigenous to the Canaries

Los Hervidores

Teguise market every Sunday morning

Glue all these bits together in the Timple museum and hey presto!

Famara beach the best spot for surfing and kite-flying. La Graciosa in the distance an island with 721 inhabitants now part of the Canaries!  If you go the eat at El Risco, but book!

El Golfo cleaning fish

Timanfaya cooking chicken over the volcano