Last Fall we finished up our East Coast trip with a one week cruise in the Caribbean. First stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico – new territory for us! San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521. Puerto Rico means Rich Port.
We took a ship tour to the Castillo San Felipe del Moro, the oldest Spanish fort in the New World. El Moro, “the promontory”, was built on the north-western most point of the islet of Old San Juan. The fortification was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay. In 1983, the citadel was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
These dome-covered sentry boxes are known as garitas. They have become a cultural symbol of Puerto Rico.
The citadel and its surrounding walls were begun in 1539 on orders of King Charles V of Spain.
There were Iguanas peeking out of the wall nooks!
The three flags are a Spanish military flag, the Puerto Rican flag and the United States flag.
More structures were added over the next 400 years to keep up with military technologies. The 6 foot thick walls were augmented to 18 feet thick by the end of the 18th century. Today the citadel rises 145 feet above sea level and has 6 levels. The El Moro is over 70 acres.
The Lighthouse of the Castillo was built on top of the citadel in 1843. It was destroyed by the United States in a bombardment of the city in 1898 during the Spanish American War. The USA took possession of Puerto Rico after the war. The bombed lighthouse was replaced with the current lighthouse in 1908 by the U.S. military.
Views back to Old San Juan….
We continued our tour in the town…
The Ballaja Barracks were built between 1854 and 1864 for Spanish troops and their families. Its interior “patio” is an example of 19th century Spanish architecture.
During World War II, the barracks were used as a military hospital. Today the Museo de Las Americas is located on the second floor. It has three permanent collections: African Heritage, the Indian in America, and Popular Arts in America.
Our guide looked a little like Ricardo Alagria, the first director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
The firsts floor of the Barracks houses a library along with music and dancing schools.
This Totem pole, in the Plaza del Quinto Centenario, commemorated Columbus’ discovery of the New World.
In the Plaza de San Jose there is a bronze statue of Ponce de Leon. It was made out of British cannons captured during a failed British attack in 1797.
Ponce de Leon was the first governor of Puerto Rico. His tomb is also in Old San Juan. He died after being injured by a poisoned arrow after he landed in Florida. So much for the fountain of youth!
The streets of Old San Juan are paved with adoquines, a blue-gray stone originally used as ballast on Spanish ships.
The Chapel of Christ the Savior was built in the mid 1700s along the Old San Juan city wall.
In 1680, Governor Enrique Enriquez de Sotomayor began constructing walls to surround San Juan. They took 48 years to build.
Here’s a view of the wall with the cruise ships in the distance.
The park next door is popular because it is home to a million pigeons! I was not interested in standing among them like this woman.
The Plaza de Armas is in front of City Hall. The Four Season’s Fountain is the central feature.
This statue is Spring.
This little pup was keeping watch at one of the shops.
This sidewalk café was inviting with its unique tables and chairs.
But it was over 90 degrees with 100% humidity! Although we wanted to visit longer, we were done for the day and headed back to the ship. Ours is the one behind this fancy paint job.
So long San Juan.
The next stop was to be Turks and Caicos but the winds were too high to get in to the port.
So, off to St Maarten/St Martin. Half of this island is Dutch and half is French.
We vacationed here over 30 years ago but nothing looked familiar!
We took a bus to see the French side of the Island and the little town of Marigot.
We were told about a French bakery-cafe called Le Divin. A perfect break.
There was a colorful open-air market.