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Puerto Rico (2014)

Sunny Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment had much to offer. For one thing, no passport required and no currency exchanges are necessary. No lengthy lines at the airport for customs. You get all the benefits of a tropical paradise in the Caribbean with less fuss. In brief, I was part of the Lone Star Skiers and Adventure group that stayed in San Juan near the beach in an Embassy Suites Hotel. We spent 7 full days exploring the island. The beach near the hotel was just great but not nearly as stunning as other beach fronts on the island. Or off the island. As a group we took a catamaran out to Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra and THAT was a stunning beach. We dropped anchor and snorkeled, swam, and beach combed and it was fantastic.

Back to San Juan. I rode a bike one day from the hotel to Condado, blending in with traffic. I recommend doing this as a different way to see the city. When it came time to explore Old San Juan though, we took a taxi. El Morro, a mighty fortress that overlooks the ocean is important to see. The other site to visit is the Museo de Las Americas across from El Murro. When evening hit, I stumbled upon a street festival in this area. The music was fun, the people were not tourists and the food was free. I must have stood out like a sore thumb. But I loved the authenticity of it. Then I walked over to some of the busy streets in Old San Juan like Calle Recinto Sur where there are stretches of restaurants and shops begging for tourists. It’s also easy to catch a cab in this area. For shopping in my opinion, Old San Juan is the place to go.

Another day I ventured out with three lady companions and we toured the countryside looking for the archeological site, Caguana. We wound up the hills to find it and had a blast along the way. Afterward we passed a cemetery near Adjuntas. Both Lori and I nearly jumped out of the car with cameras in hand. The color, the sky, the variety of gravestones, the honoring of the dead, the mystery and quirkiness of it all against the mountain backdrop and a stormy sky was just too much to resist. The oldest marker we found was a obelisk dated 1846. It was clear that some of these graves had been visited recently, no doubt for Dia de los Muertos.

Later we visited the southern city of Ponce and then returned to San Juan as night fell. Okay, the most wonderful restaurant was discovered at this point. It was Bagua, located in a ghetto part of the city, and the food and service was fabulous.

I must mention the hike we took through El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s infamous rainforest which led to La Mina waterfall. Exotic but crowded with people. I took a dip in the ice cold water. You will hear the little Coqui, a small frog that is indigenous to Puerto Rico. You hear it everywhere along with a few bird calls as you hike. However we saw very little wildlife, some giant snails and a lizard or two.

After hiking we moved on to Fajardo, a city on the eastern coastline. There we met outfitters who led us into a mangrove swamp that spilled out into a lake where the bio-luminescent creatures are in abundance. Each time you dipped your paddle or touched the water, the glow would happen. That was cool. Equally cool was the beautiful night sky. I will NEVER forget the kayaking though – in pitch darkness through the channel. It was chaos and we made it through. Thanks to my partner, Lori, who sat in the front of the kayak and calmly navigated us. No cameras were allowed so I have no photos of the bio-luminescence.

P.S. Tourist Alert! Avoid the Bacardi Rum Factory. It’s not that interesting and will eat up your time.

Nepal (1994)

As I dig out these photos I am reminded of what a fantastic trip this was with an unusual group of people. I traveled with Hands in Outreach, which I do not believe exists anymore. We provided sponsorships to young children in Kathmandu so they could stay in school. I met the young girl I sponsored. We visited their schools and took the children to the Kathmandu Zoo. Our hotel was just down the road from Swayambunath, the great monkey temple. We also spent time at Bodnath stupa. Other cities we visited were Thamel, Thimi, Bhaktapur, Patan. A day was spent at Pashupatinah on the Bagmati River. Another day was spent journeying to Nargakot so we could see the sun rise over Mt. Everest. I recall I wasn’t so shocked by the poverty as by the pollution and deforestation of the area. Nepal was still the only Hindu monarchy in existence at this time.

Playa de Carmen, Mexico (2012)

For a few days after our visit to Akumal we journeyed up the road to Playa and stayed in a trendy little hotel called Fusion. Fusion was located just off of Fifth Ave where many shops and restaurants exsited. The Fusion’s bar dog was ever present and particularly well mannered and he was trilingual understanding Hebrew as well as English and Spanish. We ate and drank and hung out in the bar most of the day and walked down the avenue at night. The weather was very overcast and windy. The beach was not particularly inviting. One evening we had a spectacular meal at one of the Fifth Ave restaurants. Our plates and bellies were overloaded and the service was all attentive. Vive Mexico!

Scotland (2013)

Three full days. Only three full days. We stayed at the Novotel just up from the Grass Market, overlooked by the Edinburgh Castle. One day was devoted to exploring Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Yacht, the Britannia. Another day to exploring Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. While on Loch Lomond we saw a beautiful rainbow arched across the sky in front of us. A final day devoted to Glasgow -the William Burrell Museum, St. Mungo’s Cathedral – followed by a very fine dining experience at The Corinthian. Scotland is beautiful. We drove through the Highlands and saw a patch of Highland cows in the meadow. Evenings were spent at the pubs in the Grass Market. We had a lot of fun at Maggie Dickson’s, love the lore of her story and how she lives on celebrated by a pub. I had my first taste of haggis with neeps and tatties. My last evening in Scotland was surprisingly satisfying as I dined at a fantastic pizza place (Grass Market) and listened to music, alone and plugged in, my private farewell to 12 days of adventuring in the United Kingdom and Ireland.