This time we started off in Old San Juan, visiting the imposing fort guarding the entrance to the deep harbour, named ‘El Morro’. It dominates the eastern side of the narrow harbour entrance and with another fortification on the western side; it enabled the Spanish to hold Puerto Rico against many attacks, for almost 360 years.
It is another tourist attraction we thought was well worth visiting and entrance was free due to a public holiday, very kind! There are lots of exhibits and plenty of information and the views out to sea and over the city are spectacular. With the strategic position of Puerto Rico and the wealth in gold the Spanish accumulated from the Americas, no wonder they didn’t bother fighting for the smaller Caribbean Islands.
The fort has 6 different levels, with kitchens, a chapel, dormitories and gunpowder stores. The walls are very high and you can’t imagine any assault being successful. They had special ramps to enable fast deployment of the cannons. A lighthouse was added later and some rather ugly extensions for the Second World War were built by the Americas, who took over Puerto Rico in 1898. During the 20th Century, a few more luxuries were added, for the recreation and comfort of the soldiers but it has long been unused in anger.
The bell must have been rung many times during the years and we could imagine the occupants of the fort going to battle stations on hearing it. At one stage, 100 years went by without attack so those soldiers did nothing more than drill and drill some more.
The walls are very thick, some 12 feet and continue around the city. We walked around them and through Old San Juan, having a good lunch before wandering back via the Cathedral. We went to Robyn and Barry’s favourite Italian restaurant and had a carafe of sangria to celebrate!
The small lane leading to the Cathedral from the sea was memorable as it where countless sailors walked up to offer their thanks for a safe delivery home. The city had gates, all guarded fiercely. The one near the Cathedral was where most people arrived, so the path was well worn.
There are some beautiful buildings in Old San Juan, nice open spaces and cobbled streets paved with blue stones. The city is very well kept and most of the buildings are in excellent condition, others are in the process of being renovated. A really impressive city but it deserves a lot more of our time to take in all it’s history.
Next we drove on to the El Yunque Rainforest, a national forest. It may be the smallest National Park in the US but it has more species, 225, than all the others combined. We stopped by one of the waterfalls, swollen by the deluge yesterday and drove through the unspoilt lush rainforest. There are several trails, guided walks and a visitor’s centre.
We climbed the 98 steps up to the top of an observation tower to take in the size of the rainforest with some of it in the clouds. The smell, sounds and sight of the forest is so different to our usual seascape.
So now we are back to boat work, provisioning, laundry and cleaning before deciding where to sail to next. We don’t want to stay in the marina too long as it costs over 45 pounds a day but equally we don’t want to go west if the weather doesn’t allow us to get east again. We’ll check the weather and make a decision on Wednesday! The WiFi in the marina is very slow so I had to get up today at 0430 just to send a few emails, do the blog and especially to wish my youngest son a very happy 27th birthday 🙂 I hope to Skype with him later but that might prove impossible from anywhere on the marina and as it is a bit out of town, its our only option.