My former-as-of-three-weeks-ago co-workers and I have been doing family vacations for the last few years, first in the Hamptons and then at the Jersey shore, and we decided that this year should be our big, kickin’, out-of-the-country trip. Of course I was the one planning it, and of course I don’t have a passport (Ohioan!), so we ended up in Puerto Rico, where everyone speaks English and the currency is American dollars. The flight was at 7 a.m., because when planning the thing, I thought, “We won’t be able to wait to get there!”, and then I wanted to diiiiie when my alarm went off at 3:30, but riding in a black cab through the streets of Brooklyn and Queens in the dark to join all of my best NYC friends at the airport made it worth it.
Even though we had been the only people on the flight when we booked our tickets, Delta dumped us from our chosen seats and assigned us new ones away from each other. I got called to the service desk right before the flight, and the rep told me I was getting a complimentary upgrade to business class out of nowhere and asked if I was traveling with anyone. Seeing it as a chance to possibly sit with one of my friends, I gave her Kim’s name. She said, “Do you mind leaving her behind?, and I said, “I will abandon her without hesitation,” and the guy beside me called me a terrible friend, but sleeping for four hours in my huge business class seat was the best flying experience I’ve ever had.
Coming off the plane in Puerto Rico, I thought it’d feel like southern California, where it’s like a weight has been lifted off of you because of the change in humidity from NYC, but it was much hotter and more humid in Puerto Rico, and we were all dragging from the middle-of-the-night wake-up call anyway, so the first hour on the island involved us clumped silently in the corner of the car rental building while Jack waited in line. Nik found us a restaurant on Yelp, which apparently also works in tropical paradises, and we all went for quesadillas and Bob Marley and many, many pitchers of passion fruit sangria from a waitress in very little clothing and no makeup and beachy hair.
Beth (actually, she was still on a plane), Ahmed, Ash, Jeff and Shea, Kim, Bridgette, Nik, and Jack’s biceps
The house we rented was in Humacao, which looks ten thousand miles away from San Juan but is actually less than an hour’s drive because the island is apparently about the size of the state of Delaware. It was attached to a resort, so we had access to things like golf and tennis and basket-weaving, but it was tucked away in a residential area and had its own pool that we spent twenty-four hours a day in and filled with our tears, because whoo, boy, was there a lot of drama on this trip. Mostly inflicted by me. But anyway, the pool area was INFESTED with these little lizards that provided entertainment all day long as they HOPPED from fencepost to fencepost and probably ate our faces off in our beds at night:
Here’s Kim with the pool in her eyes on one of the many mornings when she woke up at 6:30 a.m. to, like, kickbox and crash around the house trying to get the rest of us to keep her company:
And here’s the view of the sky from the pool, and by “the sky”, I mean the trees that were blocking the sky and were full of these birds that sang ALL DAY LONG and that we literally didn’t ever actually see once:
Our friends Jeff and Shea were really proactive about finding things for us to do, which was good, because I wouldn’t have left the house for the entire week if left to my own devices. On the second day, they found out where all of the locals go to beach and took us there via the longest, windingest, scariest, totally-only-room-for-one-car-on-a-two-way-road roads ever, but being driven around is basically my favourite thing in the world since I moved to NYC, so it was the time of my life, especially with Nik in the front seat with Jack playing Moby and RJD2 and all of the Marina and the Diamonds’s “Lies” I could ask for.
Anyway, we got to this beach, and it was the most amazing thing I’d seen. Everyone assured me that this water was actually really lame and that I’d see much better water later in the trip, but I was sold. The ocean was so blue-green, and the sky was so blue-blue, and everyone there was brown, and there were giant turbines on a hill in the background that somehow made the whole setting appear so . . . frou-frou? I don’t know. I guess caring about the environment seems like a rich person thing to me.
So everyone was being kind of stupid and, like, needing to go to the bathroom in the shady bar next to the beach with a thousand motorcycles parked outside, but Kim and Nik and I went straight to the water like people who know how to operate in the context of a beach vacation, and it was glorious . . . until I felt like I got stung by something. Not even stung exactly but zapped by an electrical current.
Kim called me a drama queen.
Then Nik felt it, too, and Kim had to believe. And then Kim felt it, too! And then we all flipped out and huddled together, like more densely-packed flesh wasn’t going to be more appealing for whatever was after us.
Nik got hit once again, and this time it left a welt, but he didn’t tell any of us, and we spent the next couple of hours happily crisping under the sun while he sat on the beach on a random abandoned boat and pouted about his injury while also congratulating himself on not ruining his friends’ fun. The greatest American hero.
We drove through town along the water:
and ended up at a restaurant where I had pork chunks
and Jack had a whole fish with the eye still basically seeing
but everyone else had mofongo, which is the national dish of Puerto Rico, or at least I’m declaring it to be right now. It’s mashed savory green plantains with bacon and seasonings. So, like, mashed potatoes but porky and maybe less terrible for you? I don’t know about the nutritional content of plantains, and I’m not looking it up.
Everyone agreed that this mofongo was only so-so, but we had some really good versions of it eventually since we basically were fed it AT EVERY SINGLE MEAL.
Tuesday, we rode into San Juan because Ash was abandoning us and needed to be taken to the airport, and we went to another beach that was 100 times more beautiful than even the first one with the stinging sealife. We rented beach chairs, which I’d never done before and really is the easiest and nicest thing you can do for yourself, and the current was thrashing us around so much that I basically saw everyone’s boobs that day as their swimsuits tops fell off, so if you need a numbered list of who has the best rack in order from worst to best, let me know.
Afterward, we went into Old San Juan for dinner. And by “dinner”, I mean “sangria”. Jeff, Shea, Beth, and Ahmed had already eaten, so it was just Bridgette,
my muse, Nik,
and me for empanadas,
and fish wrapped in bacon or some nonsense:
We took a walk around town to admire backlit palm trees
and then headed up the hill for views of the ocean and the sea fort lit only by the moon, which somehow seemed to be full for the entire week we were there:
Walking around Old San Juan, we ran into some really incredible street art, which Nik went cuh-razy over, and while I have to admit that it was pretty rad to hear him describe the type of effort a large-scale piece like this requires, I was more taken with the little alley beside it, which seemed so overwhelmingly Puerto Rican to me that I swooned:
The next day, we finally went to the resort our house was a part of to take advantage of their huge pools and waiters with cocktails, but first I had to take pictures of the beach right beside the pool and everyone on it:
And then we went home:
JUST KIDDING. There’s, like, a million more days to this story. But those are all of the photos I took on my DSLR, because I am a failure. But the iPhone photos are forthcoming, and you’ll be expected to gush over them, too.