While we left off on the last post I had arrived to San Juan but had no luggage as at this point it was still in Toronto. I got up later about 8am showered and went to the free continental breakfast buffet at the San Juan Airport Hotel. It was not the greatest of breakfasts but it was typical of other hotels I have previously stayed at. Before leaving the hotel I made a call to American Airlines to see if my bag was on its way on the flight I was explained last night. I was assured it was scanned and was in the air on its way to Miami. Since the bag was going to be delivered to the ship there was no point in waiting around the airport on a beautiful sunny winter’s day.
I decided to go catch the bus but when I got to the bus stop I seen some people walking so I decided to as well. I was not sure which way I was headed from the airport as many of the signs were in a language I would later learn was Spanish. I had a map on a brochure that had only 7 roads and 2 dots to go off of but I know if I could find the coast that I could follow it to the cruise port. Since the sun was behind me I knew that had to be east and since tall hotels are usually built along a coastline I figured the tall buildings on the other side of the airport had to be north. With that in mind I followed the side-walk around the airport until it ended then to the dirt trail along the fence until that ended too. I ran across the exit ramp and under the over pass then I ran out of places to walk. In hindsight that could have been the reason all the cabs had honked and gesture if I needed a cab. From there I climbed a grassy knoll and jumped a concrete barrier and ran across a busy off-ramp.
As I emerged beyond the highway to Pueblo Supermarket in the very Spanish town of Carolina neighbouring San Juan. I decided to go to the supermarket because I decided that I needed water in the heat. While walking across the parking lot some random guy started to yell at me in Spanish. I said that I did not understand Spanish and only spoke English. Then he said “I’m sorry. I said that Fatty should lose some weight.” That caught me first by surprise that someone would say that and secondly, what neighbour hood did I get myself into? I then sold him about my recent weight loss, and he gave me some more tips before we pith went on our way. When I entered the grocery store I was grateful for the air conditioning and then picket up a fresh local tangerine then noticed how processed and fake most of the other food actually was compared to what I am used to then I also picked up a litre bottle of water and proceeded to walk along the was westward bound to the cruise terminal.
As I proceeded along Avenida Isla Verde and found impressive the resorts and hotels on one side and the bars and restaurants on the other side. When I got to the end of this street I came across a stretch of gated neighbourhoods keeping me from the coast until I came across Barbosa Park that was the 1st time I got to see Caribbean waters even though it was technically still the Atlantic Ocean. It was here that I received the first automated call from American Airlines that my suitcase had made it to Miami. I then proceeded to walk further until after drinking the entire litre of water I needed to find a toilet. I then came across a restaurant but it looked busy so I kept walking then on McLeary I found the Yogen Früz. I decided to stop there and get a frozen yogurt and then hit the toilet. I stayed there enjoying the frozen yogurt and air conditioning. I got some Wi-Fi access here and decided to load a map to determine if I was actually going the right way.
When I left here I shortly ended up in another hotel district. I was walking past a large group of people loading into a van to head to the cruise terminal and I could tell by the tags that they were going to the same ship as me. I got a little nervous as I knew I had another hours walk at least to get to San Juan. I eventually made it across the bridge to San Juan and then decided to walk to the coast again to check out the fort that ended up being gated off. At this point my feet were very sore since my walking sneakers were in my suitcase that was just departing Miami. I then by this point was getting tired and dehydrated. I walked down Ave Juan Ponce De León and came to enjoy the shaded benches along Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera. I found a store but it was locked and the guy inside did not open up so I kept walking. I eventually got to the cruise port and then found the CVS where I got water, juice, and Aloe Vera Aftersun. As I was waiting in line I started to feel like I was going to pass out. I left the store just in time to find a bench with some shade and drink all the juice and water before I passed not in the sun.
While on the bench I called American Airlines the final time to see if my luggage was scanned on the flight to San Juan and it was so I decided to go board the ship, the Carnival Valor. The first thing I did when I got on the ship was found my room and it was bigger than I expected for an inside cabin. I then decided that I needed lunch considering I had a late dinner reservation and I found the Burrito Bar, and it was amazing. I then explored the ship and received the call the my suitcase was in San Juan and would be delivered to the ship at 6pm. I then went to the welcome event at the Ivan Hoe theatre and then to dinner where I met a diverse group of people. I then had a few drinks and went to bed.
I decided fairly last-minute to try out taking a cruise. So I booked the Carnival Valor to add five new countries to my list. I went into the trip with very few expectations as the trip was strictly to add countries to my list.
I booked the trip with a travel agent for a change as I was finding it difficult to find a flight to San Juan, and I wanted to get insurance since the weather van be uncertain this time of year. I booked the trip with Maritime Travel since they seemed decent with their travel show the week before.
I got up early that morning to take an uneventful flight to Toronto and then experience the pain it was to go through pre-clearance to enter the USA. The flight with American Airlines was a different experience I had a good view of the wings and the screw heads all had cracked paint on them and it freaked me out. I had to transfer flights in Miami so I checked out the airport. I had dinner at the Clover Irish Pub and watched some Olympic coverage. I had the Sheppard Pie and it was to die for.
In one of the shops the souvenirs had “Key West Mile 0”. I asked one of the clerks what was special about mile 0 and she did not know as she was new to the area. The other guy said it was the Key West was as far south as you could drive and that it was an amazing place to travel to. The other clerk asked where I was going to I told here San Juan and she said “High Five Puerto Rico!” She then explained how that was where she was from.
I found the boarding process to be unusual as no one wanted to see any ID or passport to board the plane a boarding pass was all they wanted to see. Therefore in theory you could just switch boarding passes with anyone and get on any plane and they would have no idea who was on the actual plane. I think the Canadian system is much safer. Then I got to San Juan and was exhausted for the long day of travelling.
I waited to get bag and then it was not there American decided to leave it in Toronto. I was really nervous since I was on the cruise the next day. The baggage rep was very helpful and explained the process and how my bag was going to get to San Juan the next day. When it arrived they would send it to the ship directly. I then left the airport to find the San Juan Airport Hotel where I was going to spend the night. It was not the easiest to find and I asked an airport worker for directions and all he said was “about 10 minutes.” I think that there is a possibility that he did not speak English that I learned the next day was common for Puerto Rico.
When I checked into the airport there was a lady who missed her flight and didn’t think it was fair to have to pay a whole night where her flight was very early in the morning. Another guy said that “spending a night at this hotel is a sign something has not gone right.” After the long day of travel I went to bed. The hotel was not the greatest but it was not terrible either.
After the mess of a year 2012 was my New Year’s resolution was that 2013 was going to be a year of firsts. This year also seemed to acquire a slogan as well due to my Contiki trip, and that was #noregrets.
Now I know that I have ignored updating here as often as I should in favour of quick tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagrams. For the year-end post I thought I would take a moment to list my firsts for the year (in no particular order).
1. Had a real birthday celebration.
2. First time in Monaco and Liechtenstein (small enough to be a single first).
3. Went to an adult costume party for Hallowe’en.
4. Exceeded my custom’s limit.
5. First major out-of-town music festival. (Osheaga)
6. My first “snowboard”.
7. Tried out a few new restaurants. (Decimal 81, Britt’s, Lemongrass)
8. Volunteered for my first theatre event. (Fundy Fringe Festival)
I have also included below a gallery of some of this years best moments that I have photos of.
I love writing and submitting views and reviews on a lot of things. With that, I feel that some people over favourably review things. A 5 star is, in my opinion, the best of the best where the service was above and beyond, or for movies that I loved it so much, I would buy the DVD and watch it a couple of times a year.
I see a 3-star or 4-star review as a favourable review still. When it comes to travelling places I always ignore the 5s anyway and look to the reasoning why people did not like it. Quite often people will have just been too picky.
Right now I am getting close to 50 reviews on Trip Advisor check them out and let me know what you think. Am I being too hard?
There is not a more fitting way to start this post than with the Face of Truth. The truth about Rome is that it is the most miserable place on Earth.
This was my 3rd visit to Rome and it seems to never get better. Rome has a very limited Metro system so getting around is not the easiest although unlike many other cities Rome is very consolidated into 2-hour walk to anything. The charm about Rome is its history as the centre of an ancient empire. Though when you get to see the real Rome most of the ancient ruins beside the Coliseum, a field where Circus Maximus was and the Pantheon there is really not much left to see of that empire. The only real remaining Empire left to see is that of Christianity and Catholicism.
When it comes to food, Rome is very lacking in its own identity. It adopts styles from other Italian regions and International Inspiration. On my first night in Rome, I went to a place called Piazza Navona which was loaded full of people eating at all the restaurants that circled the Piazza. I went through a couple of allies and found Ristorante Ottavio. I was small, quaint and “Roman”. In typical fashion, while travelling I ask the server what is really good to try. The gentleman says that the lobster is very “fresh and wonderful”.
I then ask him how fresh it is. He quickly leaves and brings back this poor almost dead looking lobster that to most who have never seen a real fresh live lobster before would be very thrilled.
So instead I ordered a pasta dish that was much more amazing than the plate that that poor unfortunate lobster would eventually have ended up as. While in the Piazza I saw a Seagull catch a Pigeon in mid-air and fly off with it in its beak. This had me thinking that given the number of pigeons and seagulls that we have in Saint John that this is just further proof of the miserableness of Rome.
Though Rome does have many sides and moments of wonder. Earlier that day I was on a walking tour of the area and as I approached the Pantheon the skies just opened up and dumped as much water as it possibly could on the crowds of tourists and street people who with amazing speed switched from selling collectibles to selling ponchos and umbrellas.
That being said it did not rain for very long just long enough to get completely wet and leave enough water to make it more humid as being evaporated by bright sunshine that rapidly came out.
The Trevi Fountain was amazing as usual and like Pigeons in King’s Square or like any other old thing in Europe was over packed with crowds of people.
And the Coliseum and Roman Forums have not changed a bit since the last time I have seen them in 2011.
It has been a while since I posted anything and it is not like nothing has happened.
I took another amazing trip to Europe. The goal this time was to see amazing new things that I would not have seen if I actually planned the trip. It may not be a surprise to some of my loyal readers that I have a short attention span and my plan for Paris was simple. Do the Eiffel Tower at night, then on my full dat go to L’Arc de Triumph, go in Notre Dame, and see Rodin’s House. What did I end up accomplishing? Just the tower and arc from my list.
As it turns out I was going to walk down the Champs de Elysee to get to see the Charles de Gaulle statue and get on the Metro. As I walked down the street I noticed these mini malls and started to check them out until I found one that near the end had a back entrance to an alley. It was in this ally that I found the most amazing baked thing with raspberries that has ever entered my mouth. I should have taken a photo or wrote down the name of it… but it didn’t last long enough. At this point I realized that I spent way more time than I though I would have so I finished the street and made it to the metro. I never did find that statue but I got this amazing photo.
Then I get to the Metro station and I have to transfer twice to get to the Arts et Metiers station. Though I never made it there. Why not you might ask? It is because I ran into a station that the train stopped at nearby called Bonne Nouvelle. For those readers that know some French will know that the name of the station means Good News! What type of explorer would I be if I missed the opportunity to visit Good News. So I got off and then made it to the street and got my bearings to the general direction I needed to go. Then as a continued to walk I found a little hidden gem not one but two really cool old arches that were even more impressive than the main three of Paris.
Then finally after a 20 minute walk to where I was supposed to get the train to, I finally arrive at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. As i make my way around the building to the entrance to the museum I get the amazing welcome that many poor immigrants to the United States got to experience over a hundred years ago. It was a bronze cast of the plaster model original that was used to size to scale the giant version of La Liberté éclairant le monde (Statue of Liberty) that welcomes people to New York harbour. This museum has the original plaster version inside the converted church that is now basically a church of science and engineering. The name of the museum is a little deceptive because it translates to Arts and Crafts but there are amazing gems in this place including a kilogram, a satellite, every measuring item that you can imagine. Very old adding machines up to the Cray-2 (world’s fastest computer 1985-1990). Very old to almost new but obsolete technology. It is a geek’s nerdvana.
After the Museum it was time for some lunch then grab the train to Notre Dame because I had a plan. As I started walking down the street passing station after station looking for a Baguette sandwich that I was craving I realized that this was probably the only place in town where there was no food cafés or I just stuck at noticing things and missed them. Finally I find one and it was the best ham and cheese sandwich that I ever had (at that time and for about a week until I hit up Rome).
By this point I was at the City Hall and enjoyed the square and was getting tired but I could see the Notre Dame in the distance so why not just walk the rest of the way. As I get there my feet are tired because I had new shoes and my gel insoles were still in my bag at the hotel. I see the big line and figure why not take a few photos in front of the church and the head to the Rodin House.
I then get in the Metro and make it to the Rodin House but by the time I get there my time is up and I need to walk back to the pick up point. I went back to the hotel to get changed then we headed out for dinner where I really enjoyed some wine and great french food. Seen a cabaret style show. Then tried really hard to debate some very good points, lose a stupid argument, and headed back by taxi to the hotel for some sleep and then a really long shower to relax.