We started our trip with an overnight stay near O'Hare International since our flight to San Juan left at 9am, and neither of us wanted to crawl out of bed at Stupid O'Clock just to sit in Chicago rush hour traffic! I spent the 5 1/2 hour flight reading (completely fluffy trash) and the next thing I knew, we were landing. We gathered our luggage, hopped in a cab, and headed for our hotel, La Concha Renaissance in the trendy Condado neighborhood of San Juan. Check-in was a breeze and we were quickly escorted to our room - and oh what a room it was. We had reserved an oceanfront room, but the definition of "oceanfront" seems to vary from place to place. In some cases, it means that if you stand on your tiptoes and crane your neck at just the right angle, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the ocean. This was definitely not one of those cases.
It was nice catching up with The Groom, who moved to San Francisco back in May, and meeting his sister who turned out to be absolutely awesome. The brother/sister pair were only able to stick around for one drink since they had all kinds of pre-wedding running around to do, but Mr. R&R and I hung around the pool for another drink and marveled at how flawless the weather was and how happy we were to be there!
After a long day of traveling, naps and showers were much needed, so we headed back to our room for a bit before heading out for the evening. When we were finally ready to venture out, we took our friendly bellman's suggestion and walked down to Casa Lola for dinner. Casa Lola is the latest offering from Chef Roberto Treviño - who you might recognize from tv shows like Iron Chef America (he battled Mario Batali) and The Next Iron Chef. The restaurant specializes in a fusion of traditional Puerto Rican and Criollo (Caribbean) flavors and they do it well! We started off with cocktails and ceviche which were both incredible! The sangria (which has won awards) actually had a slightly cinnamon-y flavor which I promptly dubbed "Christmas in a Glass" and the ceviche was possibly the best ceviche I've ever had.
On Friday afternoon, we parked ourselves on a couple of lounge chairs in the shade near the hotel's beachfront 'Serenity Pool' to do a little reading and relaxing before the wedding festivities got underway. We'd been there for about half an hour when The Groom and his sister came by and invited us to join them for beers on the beach. Of course we immediately abandoned our post in the shade and headed for the beach where we were handed bottles of local beer and introduced to another couple (the guy used to work with the groom and his wife grew up in the Milwaukee area) from Colorado.
The six of us hung out on the beach, drinking beer and playing in the ocean waves until the groom and his sister had to go, and the rest of us were getting a little crispy from the intense sun. Mr. R&R and I grabbed a little lunch at a restaurant that served what the Groom proclaimed was 'the best pizza in Puerto Rico'. I'm pretty sure that there was some truth to that claim, because that was some damn tasty pie!
Friday evening brought a lovely cocktail reception for the bridal party, their families, and all the out of town guests at Oceano, a very trendy nightclub located right on Condado Beach.
We staked out some real estate on one of upper decks, along with a group of people Mr. R&R knows from work and the couple (S & L) from Colorado, sipping mojitos and nibbling on canapes. At one point, The Groom's sister (KC) came by and told us that the lobby of our hotel was one of the hottest local hangouts on weekends and since the cocktail party was winding down, we moved the party back to our hotel.
We all hung out drinking more local beers as recommended by KC. Of course we were out far too late, but it was definitely a good time!
|Alcohol...the great social lubricant|
Just as the sun was sinking low in the sky, it was time. The bride looked like something straight out of an old Hollywood movie, and although the entire ceremony was in Spanish (so I didn't understand a word of it), it was beautiful.
|Seriously... I married James Bond's better looking brother!|
Mr. R&R and I didn't make it back to our room until 3am on Sunday, thus we were a little slow to get moving. When we finally made it out the door, we were both in need of coffee and brunch, so we wandered over to a little place across the street called Cafe del Angel. From noon on, Cafe del Angel specializes in authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, but during brunch hours they serve everything from the traditional bacon/eggs/pancakes to sandwiches. I ordered the Cuban sandwich and it was the best damn Cuban I've ever had and the accompanying cup of Puerto Rican style coffee cleared my head right up!
|Plaza Ventana al Mar - Window to the Sea|
The water was so warm and I was having so much fun swimming with the waves that usual fear of open water was non-existent. I knew full well that that water was full of seaweed and an assortment of sea creatures and I just didn't care. I'm starting to think an ocean triathlon would be fun - except that swallowing sea water really hurts my throat!
|Main Pool Area|
Mr. R&R ordered the Puerto Rican Combination and I went for the Seafood Mofongo. After sampling each other's meals, mine was the clear winner this time, but I was still a little jealous that he got to try so many things in one sitting.
|Roast Pork, Arroz con Gandules, Fried Sweet Plantains, and Pastel|
|Mofongo al Mariscos|
Monday was our final day in this beautiful island paradise and we decided to take a cab into Old San Juan and check out the two historic forts that cling to the coastline. First up was Castillo San Cristobal. This 17th Century fort was built by the Spanish and was used again by the US Army during World War II.
I think my favorite part was the Dungeon, or more specifically the art preserved on the wall.
|These ships were allegedly drawn by a sea captain awaiting execution.|
Once we'd had our fill of history, we took a short stroll through the streets of Old San Juan, which were mostly clogged with the sort of tourists that drive me batty, so we caught a cab back to Condado and wandered over to Casa del Angel for a late lunch. Let me tell you...mojitos make Monday's so much better!