Monday, December 5, 2011

Puerto Rico

My friend CS and I decided to go on one last quick escape to the sun before Winter really sets in the City.

A few months ago, I had hoped to go to Patagonia at this time of the year to do some glacier trekking but with my green card in progress, I realized that it was going to be difficult for me to know when I would be able to leave the US without setting the process back a few months. We racked our brains trying to think of places we still wanted to visit in the US and while we came up with a few, none of them got us really excited until we both realized that Puerto Rico is a US territory.

With a great mix of beaches, rain forest and city, it was the perfect choice for us.

We started by spending a couple of days in Vieques, a tiny island just off the mainland which is reached by a small plane. I love flying and even more so in propeller planes where they have to weight you, as well as your luggage, and you are sitting literally next to the pilot.

Vieques was beautiful and quiet. We hired a jeep and after a rather hairy bit of off-road driving, we were rewarded by reaching its most eastern beach, the deserted and stunning Playa Plata. Without a doubt, the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.

Always up for adventure, we signed up to go night kayaking in the bioluminescent bay.

It's difficult to explain the experience and I couldn't take any pictures but imagine kayaking in complete darkness, bar from the eery light of the millions of stars, on perfectly still water. Unique organisms live in the bay and essentially light up a bright, fluorescent green when disturbed, say by the paddles or a fish swimming.

The effect is almost supernatural and incredibly impressive. You can even scoop water in your hands and see the the tiny green lights ripple off your skin as you let the water out.

Swimming once used to be allowed in the bay but has been forbidden since earlier this year following a shark attack. I must admit that the protection of a flimsy plastic kayak alone didn't seem much to me but I managed to put my fears aside during this incredible experience.

We then spent a couple of days in Old San Juan, a stunning walled City and UNESCO protected site with its multicolored architecture and latin atmosphere. Everywhere the friendliness of people stunned us (perhaps we really are jaded New Yorkers after all) and the food was amazing.

We ended our trip in the heart of the mountains and forest, in Casa Grande, a remote tree-house type hotel, with no cell phone reception. We did drive around and visited one of Puerto Rico's famous caves but really spent most of the time completely relaxing and reading books (I am hooked on "The Hunger Games"!).

While the cold has yet to descend on New York, I now feel fully prepared for it - armed with a tan, fully rested but also knowing that I will be off again in a couple of weeks time to spend Christmas with my family back in France. I. Can't. Wait.