AA891: My Ride to Paradise
Nearly every week I crawl into the back of a Boeing 757 in Washington, DC to catch a ride to work in San Juan, PR. Most days I hope for a window seat where I can curl up against the fuselage and snooze the 4 hour flight away. Today was a little different, however, as I was flying to San Juan for a visit with friends.
Having returned to my home exhausted following the trip to Montreal, I slept all day yesterday – and I do mean ALL DAY. It was embarrassing, really. I finally rose from the crypt at 5 pm after sleeping for 16 hours. I erupted in a frenzy of laundry, cleaning, bill paying, email reading, bag packing, etc., and collapsed again at 11pm. Another 6 hours of sleep ensued and I woke at 5 am ready for my ride to San Juan. For the first time in a long time, I really felt rested and I looked forward to enjoying the flight in a fully conscious state.
Just after take-off on runway 30, we made a right turn to the north and passed by Beaverdam Reservoir, which supplies water to northern Virginia. We’re recovering from a significant drought last summer, and the water level is still very, very low. Normally the waterline is right against the trees, with no exposed shore.
We continued the right turn until heading south east towards Bermuda. Here is a shot of the Chesapeake at sunrise looking east. Not bad for an airplane window shot, really. The Delmarva peninsula is one of my favorite sights from up high.
As we continue southeast at 35,000 feet, we cross the gulf stream about 100 miles offshore. There are almost always interesting cloud formations around the gulf stream, as the stream itself carries a column of warm water northward along the US coast. It can also be very bumpy here due to rising warm, moist air. Add the northern jet stream and it can be a downright bone-jarring ride, but we’re normally through this area within 20 minutes. Today it happened to be crystal clear with a smooth ride, punctuated by the occasional nudge from winds aloft.
Fast forward three hours and here we are on the approach to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, PR. This is a view of El Morro, one of the icons of Puerto Rico, which is in Old San Juan.
Fuerte San Felipe Del Morro, commonly known as “El Morro”, owes its history and architecture to the Spaniards who began building it in 1539. It suffered attacks from Sir Francis Drake in the 1500’s and the Dutch fleet in 1625. El Morro also came into play in 1898 during the Spanish – American War. The fort was in use as lately as World War II when the U.S. added an annex to the fort for military purposes. The fort has only been breached once in its history, owing to a large scale land attack while the entire garrison was suffering from the flu.
Today its historical significance has been sealed by its designation as a World Heritage Site and is also a U.S. National Park Site administered by the U.S. National Park Service. The fort is open 9:00am to 5:00pm from June to November and 9:00am to 6:00pm from December through May, and I strongly recommend a visit when you come to San Juan. This is one of my favorite places, and for my geocaching friends, there be caches and benchmarks here!
The old port was quiet today, with only a Princess ship calling. The port is part of Old San Juan, where, on the first Tuesday of every month there is a large scale salsa celebration in the streets. Old San Juan is riddled with narrow cobblestone streets housing dozens of small shops, restaurants, art galleries, and more. Aside from the monthly salsa event, there are numerous holiday celebrations here as well which reveal the rich cultural tapestry of Puerto Rico.
Most visitors to San Juan will recognize the lagoon and hotel strip of Condado, which is a very busy commercial and tourism district. The beach is quite nice, and within a block of the sea are dozens of shopping and dining options. This area is a good choice for family getaways, as all the modern conveniences are nearby and the area is very heavily patrolled by the police.
Another view of the Condado area where it joins Isla Verde. Moments later we touched down and my quick getaway began…
Coming tomorrow: a traditional family-style birthday celebration for my friend Jesus in Cagua, PR!
~ by John on February 16, 2008.