It’s our last night here in Patilas, on the south side of the island. I am sittling on the porch, overlooking the ocean, listening to the waves as I write. Both places we’ve stayed have been beautiful, we’ve done well choosing. Neither has fit my previous impression of Puerto Rico, for which I am glad. I never was much interesting in visiting here, because my image is of high end resorts and all the culture that goes with it. I didn’t expect to find little out of the way places with beautiful beaches away from the glitz and glamor. But those places are here, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the devastation of the hurricane, and I can’t believe we’ve discovered the only two.
Tomorrow we leave for our last two days, in San Juan. I expect it to be the total opposite to what we have found here. The Festival of St Sebastian, about what we knew not a thing, coincides with our arrival. I didn’t find any aribnb places in the Old Town, which is where I wanted to stay, figuring it was the prettiest part, and also the most central of what we would want to see in our two days there. When I callled one hotel, the man actually warned us about the festival, how crowded and crazed it would be. Not the kind of revelries we usually are drawn to. Plus the rates were twice the usual just because of the festival. I tried another wonderful sounding hotel, where the person at the desk didn’t discourage me at all. And, to my complete surprise, Loring, who doesn’t like crowds at all, seemed to think it would be fun to be in the midst of it all.
So, off to San Juan we go, early tomorrow. We knew that traffic would be stopped in the Old Town, but thought we would be able to get in if we arrived in the mornng, as the festivites don’t get going until afternoon. But we got a message from the hotel that after 10 am no driving, aside from city shuttles, will be allowed in. So instead of Ubering it from the airport, where we will return our car, it sounds like we can only uber as far as the Capitol, which is quite a distance from the Old Town.
So we don’t know quite what to expect, but it will certainly be, as my mother used to say “an experience.”
I just hoped there is something to it beside rowdy crowds and lots of drinking. We will find out.
Here is Patillas, we have gone to a number of different beaches, returning to the same one today as we did yesterday. Our house is right on the ocean, and there is a small beach, but it is mostlly rocky, and the waves are fairlly rough. There is enough sandy beach for a couple of hammocks and a couple of beach chairs, which has been terrific. But we have spent most of our time on other sandy beaches, and it’s been interesting driving thru several small villages to get to them. There have been very few people on any of the beaches, just a couple here, a couple there. As far as I can tell, they are all Puerto Rican, or at least Spanish speaking. We have come across relatively few folks from the mainland during our couple of weeks. Interestingly, though, of the few we’ve met, the majority have been from the Boston area.
Our hosts here are Jim and Teresa. They live on the back half of the same building, but are totally unobtrusive, and leave the wonderful porch for their guests. Teresa is from here, and this land has been in her family for a while. Not generations, but, I think, about 20 years. Jim is originally from New York, which I knew from his bio. When I brought it up, it turns out he lived in the Bronx growing up, first in the East Bronx (I grew up in the West) and then on Sedgewick Avenue, just blocks from where I lived.
Teresa also lived in NYC for a number of years, which I gather many Puerto Ricans do, and many of those return. Many also left after the hurricanane. I guess it remains to be seen how many of those wind up returning.
It’s hard to tell how much devastation remains from the storm. (there were actaully two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, just weeks apart. There are many abandoned buildings wherever we’ve gone, but it is likely that at least some of them were abandoned before the storm. There are also many spifffed up looking places, newly painted, some new construction, some McMansion type places overlooking the ocean, in beautiful spots. But we both agree we’d prefer a small place on the beach to any of those!
Someone we met on the beach, a man about our age, lives here for much of the year, but up north in the summer. He was also originally from the Boston area, knew Beverly. He is a carpenter, and had built his own house. It apparently held together during the storm, but was uprooted and rolled down the hill! He told his neighbors to take any of the materials they needed. He’s planning to build another house. He told us there were no grocery stores in that town, and he missed the Sam’s Club that had been there before the hurricane, where he could get his hot dogs and Boston baked beans! I had a hard time imagining a Sam’s Club in the area, so guess it was somewhat different before.
There is a large supermarket in the other direction, where we came into our village, about five miles from here. We went there our first day to stock up, but haven’t been back. We did find a tiny grocery store in the village where we met the guy on the beach, but guess that didn’t qualify in his mind.
It’s about 4pm now. Teresa and Jim have invited us to join them for supper tonite, which will be a really nice way to end our stay here. I’m not sure exactly what they are cooking, but am certain that it will have garlic in it. She says they love garlic and put it in everything. They gave us some to use. And I can certify that there is a constant scent of garlic emanating de from their kitchen!
Of the beaches we’ve gone to, the one we visited today and yesterday was the best, because it had a small cove that protected it and made for calm water, my kind. So I floated around with my favorite toy, my waterproof MP3 player, listening to the likes of Green Day, Queen, Joni Mitchell, and some klezmer music. A bit incongruous with the environement, I guess, but delightul none the less.
A last note, the folks who are coming here for four days days when we leave tomorrow, are from San Juan. They are coming here to escape the San Sebastian festival. Uh-oh.