For the past week and a half Joel and I have been on a much needed vacation! Those of you who have been following this blog for the past year know that right before Joel was diagnosed with cancer we were 4 weeks away from a huge trip we had planned to go to Puerto Rico. That trip obviously was cancelled and we were pretty heartbroken that we weren't able to go. Now rewind a year later and by the grace of God we were able to not only go but have an even sweeter time. Joel grew up going to Puerto Rico nearly every summer but hasn't been back in quite some time. I had never been but it was extremely important to me to go to see the country that Joel and his family hail from. Here's some pics from the trip. The plane ride there was really incredible. On the way to PR you pass the Florida keys, the Bahama's, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I snapped this cool picture of the Bahama's as we passed over.
I quickly realized that Puerto Rico is not a place that you go to lay around the beach the entire time. It is a country rich in history, culture and tradition. The history of their country begins in Old San Juan. We spent many days here wandering around its cobble stone streets seeing all of the sites and architecture. It is Spanish with a definite European influence. There were so many neat things to see.
The El Morro fort is at the tip of Old San Juan. It is the fort that Ponce de Leon and the early inhabitants of Puerto Rico built in the 1,500's in order to protect their island. It is very impressive.
View of Old San Juan from the fort.
Another day we went to visit El Yunque rainforest. We weren't able to see the whole thing because much of it was closed due to the recent hurricane. What we did see was breathtaking.
Leaving the rainforest there was a really serene pasture with cows roaming freely.
The waters off of the main island of Puerto Rico are not the crystal clear Caribbean waters of say the Bahama's. We took a sailing day trip out to an outer island of Icacos and the water there was AMAZING.
For those of you that know me the next picture is going to shock you....
Yes, that is me snorkeling! Before this trip I had a MAJOR fear of the ocean (namely sharks lol) and I have never in my life gotten in the ocean past my knees. We docked off of this shore and the water was probably 100 feet deep or so and we were over an impressive coral reef. After the year we have had I just have even more of a fire in me to live life to the fullest and not letting fear keep me from doing ANYTHING-because you only have one life to live. In the spirit of that I got my gear on took a deep breath and plunged in. I am so glad that I did. All of the gorgeous reef-thousands of brightly colored fish swimming in school's all around me. The peacefulness and tranquility. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life.
There were a lot of cool places to eat in Old San Juan. We found an awesome place in particular that serves meals in courses and they have a regular and a vegetarian menu-yay! If you ever go to PR you must eat at Marmalade. We both thought it was the best meal we had ever eaten in our lives. We went there twice :) Here's a picture of us about to leave for dinner.
Random side note-I am now OBSESSED with Puerto Rican avocados. Oh my goodness-you have never eaten a real avocado unless you have had one from the Island's. I mean just look at the size of these things!
One of the highlight's of the trip was that I finally got to meet Joel's Abuelito (grandfather). He is in his 90's and has lived on the island his whole life. He was a pastor most of his life and is such an incredible man. I have heard so much about him and I couldn't wait to finally meet him. He was everything I thought he would be and more. Such a sweet spirit.
One of our final nights we took an evening walk on the beach in front of our hotel. We found someone to actually take our pic this time instead of all the self ones-ha! We both got a lot of sun so we look a tad lobster-like.
This trip was nothing like what I had imagined it in my head to be-but it turned out even better than that. Like I said PR isn't a place you go to just relax and stay at your hotel. It is an island that deserves to be explored and experienced because there really isn't another place like it. I was blown away by the humility of the people and the richness of its culture. I loved every bit of it. It was a trip I will never forget. Worth the wait :)