Our first trip to Puerto Rico was brief but enlightening. Not only did we fall in love with the island, but we might just move there… might.
Discovering San Juan Puerto Rico
I haven’t been everywhere, I haven’t seen everything, but it’s getting rarer every trip to find a place that instantly has me head over heels. Still more impressive is when that new place is in the United States.
San Juan, Puerto Rico might be old news to many readers, but for my wife and I on our very first visit, we knew not only that we loved it, but that we could live there.
It starts in Old San Juan where we were spilled out from the cruise port. We crossed the street to escape throngs of people, many seemed to be confused about where they were going or what they were doing and stopped at the first t-shirt hawker they found. We took side streets away from the crowds and quickly found ourselves passing by a beautiful courthouse.
Opposite the courthouse was a small coffee shop with a handful of menu items and a line out the door. Matthew will, no doubt, be pleased to know we found great coffee in San Juan at Café Botanico. An Iced Americano, a cortado, and a limonada with strawberry had three of us satisfied and enjoying a nice breeze through the open door from a communal table. My infant tore into a scone before we headed on our way.
We continued following Google Maps through a plaza, then by a cathedral, before passing by a hotel that smelled so good it had us floating inside like a cartoon. That was Hotel Palacio Providencial, for those curious, and while I don’t yet have a review for that property – expect one in the near future.
We continued up the streets with charming architecture and incredible history. I explained that the wall she was leaning against had been remodeled in 1786, just ten years after our country officially formed. She was *thrilled* that I found a way to make our afternoon in Puerto Rico a makeshift history lesson. The joke was on her, we were headed to a National Park.
But it wasn’t entirely lost on her. She was thinking of places she’d been that these streets, those windows, reminded her of. Paris, no that wasn’t right. Was it Rome? Kind of. My wife chimed in with a few of her own, I personally felt it was most reminiscent of Panama City, Panama.
Wherever it was, it felt both familiar and yet unique. That seems to me to be the most important criterion, a sense that there’s something new to discover down that street, in that café, but also the comfort of being at home.
We ended our long walk from the port to Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, a structure that stretched back to Columbus-era colonialism and it was hard for me to wrap my mind around just how much development (that remained standing today) had taken place in this part of the world more than 500 years ago. We’ve walked the Coloseum, Il Foro, we didn’t live far from Hadrian’s Wall in Manchester so it’s not our first encounter with history, I think it was simply our first encounter with it so close to home.
From the turrets and lookouts, the azure water of the Caribbean Sea rolled into long white waves a hundred feet below. It was hard to look around and think, “I’ve seen what there is to see here.”
Back onboard, we didn’t even have our drinks in hand before I had hearted a few properties on Airbnb for a longer trial stay. We were already making “move-in” decisions agreeing that we would have to sacrifice a pool and quick access to the beach if we wanted to live in Old San Juan and shifting our priorities around like Goldilocks.
It’s an easy place for us to consider spending some time, too. There’s no issue with work visas or length of stay as there could be elsewhere. Whether permanent or temporary residents of Puerto Rico, Spanish will have to improve for all of us. Prices on the ground were reasonable, not cheap, but less expensive than we had imagined. It’s close to the mainland with frequent flights if we need to get home quick to see a relative or handle an issue at home.
All of this happened within six hours of leaving a cruise ship expecting to visit a fort and turn right back around.
I haven’t seen all of the island, I haven’t seen more than maybe two miles, in fact. But we’ve lived abroad on three continents four times, and though it’s not foreign, it felt anything but domestic. We know what we are looking for and so rarely are we aligned as completely as we were with our visit.
I guess in love, life, and moving homes – when you know, you know. See you soon, San Juan.