Puerto Rico: Part Three

Day Six

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Ferry Ride

The next two days of this trip were probably my favourite part of the entire trip. On day six, we boarded a ferry at 6:00 in the morning and headed to the beautiful island of Vieques. Now, here’s some things you should keep in mind if you’re visiting Vieques. First off, rent a ATV as the island is big!

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Playa Caracas (the scenic view)

When we arrived, we were kind of lost of how to get around. Luckily, we came across an older gentlemen who was offering tours. After some hesitation in three girls getting into a car with one man, we decided to take a chance and we are so glad we did! As we drove around Vieques, he told us about the island and how Hurricane Maria had decimated a lot of the island. Despite this, there was still much to enjoy. Our first stop: Playa Caracas.

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Playa Caracas (the wildlife view)

As we chilled out enjoying the beautiful white sand, we also got to witness some wild horses hanging eating some nearby grass. As I admired them from afar, my best friend worked on trying to be a horse whisperer and get them to come closer. It was great beginning and set us up for the rest of the day in Vieques.

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Sun Bay Beach

After this, we headed to Sun Bay Beach. Despite being on the same island, the waves were incredibly strong that day. As a result, we spent most of our time here just walking along the beach and discovering new spots. There was a nice little secluded spot which had crystal clear water. The best thing about the beach here was how scenic it was. Just take a look for yourself!

Playa Negra

Our last stop in our Vieques’ grand tour was Playa Negra (Black Beach). The trail is about a 20 minute walk if you manage to not get lost. We obviously got lost, but it was all part of the adventure. Once we got there, the beach was nice and secluded. After our trek, it was definitely nice to kick back and enjoy the refreshing water and charcoal coloured sand. Believe me when I say the trek was worth it! One thing I’ve learned about travel, is the best things are often unplanned. In the case of Vieques, this was true. We got an excellent tour guide and got to see lots of cool things on the island as well. This concluded our day in Vieques. The next day, we would head on over to Culebra to continue our adventures.

Puerto Rico: Part Two

Day Three

Salinas de Cabo Rojo

The next day, it was time to head over to Salinas de Cabo Rojo. These are salt flats located in Boqueron, PR. They are part of the National WildLife Refuge and offer refuge to a variety of nesting birds. Maybe it was the fact that we were expecting a beach (totally our fault for not researching properly) but the Salinas de Cabo Rojo left much to be desired. When we arrived, the images of “bright pink” in actuality were a more dull pink. In addition, the area was quite muddy so be prepared to bring proper footwear if you are walking the trails. I think if you go here with the expectation that it is you a nature refuge then it is a place that is worth checking out. However, considering that it doesn’t take long to check out the flats, the almost three hour drive from San Juan made it less than ideal. Despite this, we made our journey worthwhile and decided to enjoy the nearby beach of Playa Sucia.The beach was nice and secluded and offered beautiful pristine waters. After being in the car for what felt like centuries, this was the perfect way to kick back and relax. 

Day Four

Mar Chiquita

The next day, we decided to head on over to Mar Chiquita in Manati, Puerto Rico which was just a short drive from San Juan. If you are visiting Mar Chiquita, make sure to bring water shoes as there are jagged rocks in the water and sea urchins in the water. Being the tourists that we are, we obviously did not bring the following which resulted in a nice gash on a my foot and a sea urchin spine embedded in my foot. However, don’t let my injuries deter you. The beach itself is quite beautiful and has cliffs you can explore as well on the far end of it.Furthermore, on the weekends they have a small food vendor stand selling alcoholic beverages and food on this beach. With a Pina Colada and a juicy chicken kebab, I was in heaven. There’s just something about eating on a beach that makes everything taste 100x better. Be warned, the waves can be quite rough, so be vigilant and enjoy the tide!

Day Five

Views of Fajardo

On Day Five, it was time to say goodbye to San Juan and its surrounding areas and say hello to the city of Fajardo. Originally we were supposed to head out to the Vieques via ferry from the neighbouring town of Ceiba but the world had other plans for us. When we arrived to the ferry port in Ceiba, we were informed that all tickets to Vieques and Culebra (the two islands this ferry services) were sold out for the day. As a result, for all those looking to visit Vieques and Culebra make sure to buy your tickets in advance on their website to avoid disappointment. Despite this minor setback, we decided to make the most of our adventure. After heading to the grocery store to get some supplies. For those of you looking to cook during your time in Puerto Rico, SuperMax is a popular grocery store which will provide you with everything you need during your stay. It also includes a hot food table, bakery, and in some stores a smoothie/acai bowl bar. Once we settled into our AirBnB, we headed over to Seven Seas Beach. For those of you not looking to board ferries, Fajardo itself is a town which has a lot to offer. Due to it being more of just a home base for us, we didn’t get a chance to see everything it had to offer. However, it is home to a variety of small beach inlets and lots of snorkel and beach tours which can take you to the smaller islands surrounding it such as Cayo Icacos or Isla Palominos. After what felt like an incredibly long day, we had a few drinks back at our place and called it a night.

Puerto Rico: Part One

One thing that 2019 taught me was that you need to stop apologizing for everything and knocking yourself down for not doing “more.” I think North Americans have a problem with constantly trying to outbeat each other. If one person wakes up at 7 am, the other proudly proclaims that they have been awake since 5 am. To anyone feeling like they are not doing “enough,” you are doing great! There is all this talk about being the greatest and extraordinary, but what makes people extraordinary is a genuine sense of happiness and fulfillment. Gain confidence from being at peace with your strengths and your weaknesses. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself for a short while on the bad days, and then pick yourself up and remember that you are a badass! For me, these reminders come in the form of holidays. So in order to get myself out of a slump, I picked myself up and booked a trip to Puerto Rico. This is my story.

Day One
After arriving in San Juan late in the evening on our first day, we began our official adventure of San Juan the morning after. The first thing on our list was Museo de Las Americas. If you are a history buff, then take a moment to check out this museum. The museum highlights Puerto Rican history while also incorporating contemporary Puerto Rican art. According to my best friend, she also swears that she heard a ghostly tapping while perusing the galleries. While I cannot confirm the validity of her ghostly encounter, what I can comment on is one unsettling demonic figurine that is hosted in the museum. This figurine is encased behind glass and on the front of the glass is the symbol of the cross. So whether you want to learn about Puerto Rico’s history, enjoy some contemporary art, or have your own ghostly encounter, check out the Museo de Las Americas.

Museo de Las Americas

Next on our list, was Castillo San Cristobal. This is a fortress built by the Spaniards to protect the city. With the stone walls and ocean views, it definitely offers picturesque views. After this, it was time to treat ourselves with some giant coconut water infused with rum. Treat yourself! After this, we headed back to our place before getting some food and enjoying the nightlife that the La Placita neighborhood had to offer.

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Castillo San Cristobal

Day Two

On this day we decided to check out El Yunque Rainforest and Luquillo Beach. For the elderly, the young, and the physically unfit, you have been warned that El Yunque is a bit of a trek. Just make sure to pack some snacks and water as there is no place to stop to get food. I am a nature lover and El Yunque hit all the spots in what I look for in a good trail. It has lush greenery, rugged terrain, cascading waterfalls, and a few great photo opportunities. When we began our hike it was all sunshine and rainbows, but shortly after the weather turned misty and foggy to the point it was a slightly precarious situation. Despite not being able to see much once we got to the top due to the dense fog, it was a long arduous workout which was physically satisfying. In addition, once you reach the peak, the world echoes around you. With the dense fog and our voices echoing to the forest below, the best word I can use to describe the experience is sublime. To those who have been with me for awhile, you will know that I have mentioned the experience of the sublime before. It is something awe inspiring but also takes us beyond ourselves and may even incite fear. This is what El Yunque offers. The reward of sanctuary in a place that makes the world around you feel so vast and unknown and yet so magnificent. There is a small lookout point once you reach the top and if you take a moment to stand up there by yourself, you will understand what I mean.

El Yunque

After our experience in El Yunque it was time to relax on the beach and so we headed to Luquillo to refresh our tired, sweaty bodies. It was still quite overcast when we arrived and it was getting late but all that mattered was a moment to do absolutely nothing. And so, that is what we did. We enjoyed the waters and then ultimately headed back to San Juan for the night.

Stay tuned for more ****

Return to Scotland: Part Five

As the crisp morning air awakened our tired bodies, we headed on over to plant some trees for a charity called Trees for Life. When Scotland was initially being settled, much of the woodland was cleared out to make room for settlement. While Scotland is a place full of greenery, one thing that is missing from the beautiful rolling green hills are tall, hovering trees. Scotland is now looking to restore the forest that was once cleared through initiatives such as these. After hearing a passionate speech by the operations manager, Doug Gilbert about the work at the tree nursery in Dundreggan, we got our hands dirty and planted a couple of trees for the cause. It was great to hear Doug talk and his passion for the cause was evident. Want to do some good while in Scotland? Check out Trees for Life.

Photo of me with the freshly planted tree in Dundreggan

After Dundreggan, we went to Culloden Battlefield to learn about the war between the British and the Jacobites in Scotland. The battle was a deadly one with over 1,500 Jacobite deaths. As we went through the museum, we learned about the battle, the aftermath of the battle, and the reasoning behind it. It was after this battle, that the Highlands became the last part of Scotland to be incorporated into the British empire.

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The Fifth and Final Day

Town of Pitlochry

The last day was spent visiting small waterfalls, hanging out in the charming town of Pitlochry, and walking as a group down the Forth Road Bridge. It was a time to absorb everything we had experienced during the week from the stories of Nessie, planting trees, eating haggis, and learning about the mythical kelpies. As we arrived in the small town of Pitlochry, one of my tour mates and I took a moment to visit a gorgeous tea room called Hettie’s Tea Rooms. If you’re in Pitlochry, I recommend checking out this absolutely adorable place with its colourful decor, beautiful artwork, and delicious pastries and teas.

Hettie’s Tearooms Menu

After Hettie’s, we headed back on our bus towards Edinburgh but not before stopping at the Forth Road Bridge where we walked as a big group down the long pedestrian and cycling bridge. It was literally like crossing a finish line and as we walked, there were a bunch of locks with the names of couples chained to the fence. It was sweet and a nice way to end the beautiful adventure we had embarked on. My journey had come to an end, but yours is just beginning. So go ahead…give Scotland a try! For a country that is so chilly, it truly knows how to warm the soul.

Locks on Forth Road Bridge

Return to Scotland: Part Four

On our third day of the tour, we were off to the Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye. Normally these pools are closed off to tour groups to preserve the land, but due to the small size of our tour group we were able to enjoy the wonderful views. The Fairy Pools are a collection of scenic waterfalls with pools glittering like jewels in green and blue hues. After admiring the scenic area and the dense cloud cover over the hilltops we headed on over to Inverness.

Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye

Inverness is considered the gateway to the Highlands. It was here we stopped to enjoy the town and do a little shopping at Primark before reaching our hostel in Loch Ness. Once we arrived, we had some food and then headed to our Loch Ness monster boat ride. For those who don’t know, it is rumoured that deep within the waters of Loch Ness, there is a large creature with a long neck that resides within them. Due to the waters having little to no visibility due to the high peat content, the mythical monster named Nessie remains hidden in these waters. Over the years, people have claimed to see Nessie and have taken photographic evidence of her. Whether you believe the folklore or not, the individuals running the tour were incredibly engaging and entertaining and it was a great relaxing boat cruise. When the cruise was over it was time to play some trivia at our hostel before going to bed in preparation for the next day.

Loch Ness boat tour

Tomorrow we would be planting trees for a planting initiative called Trees for Life before heading to Culloden Battlefield to learn about the deadly battle that occurred on that field.

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Return to Scotland: Part Three

On the second day of our tour, we were on our way to the Isle of Skye. However, our first stop was the Glenfinnan Viaduct. For all you Harry Potter lovers out there, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is the location where the Hogwarts Express passes through in the films. The viaduct’s primary purpose however is to serve as a bridge which services a railway that passes through it. For some of my tour mates, they decided to take the Hogwarts Express train to relive their childhood memories. For the rest of my tour mates including myself we decided to skip the costly train and instead rode on in our bus to where the Viaduct was located. Once there, we took our very own Harry Potter inspired photos while enjoying the scenic mountain area.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

After this, it was time to take the ferry to the Isle of Skye. There is now a bridge which runs to the Isle of Skye, however for the sake of adventure we were made to take the ferry on the way there. After arriving to the Isle of Skye, we needed pass the time as our Harry Potter train riders had missed the ferry. As a result, we decided to check out Armadale Castle. Armadale Castle has castle ruins dating back to the early 19th century. A fire in 1855 destroyed the castle’s interior and it was left to slowly deteriorate as the family moved to a new house. Today the ruins are fenced off but visitors can enjoy the frame of this once beautiful estate. The frame is adorned with climbing flowers which bloom a beautiful fuchsia colour in the summer. In addition to the castle itself, there are magnificent surrounding gardens as well as small nature trails to enjoy where wildlife can be seen.

Armadale Castle

After Armadale Castle, we headed over to a small woodland trail in which we climbed rocks through the misty rain and observed various marine plants adhered to the slick rocks surrounding the water. The colour of them was a vibrant yellow which contrasted beautifully against the overcast sky. After climbing rocks and indulging our inner child, it was time to pick up our Harry Potter stragglers. Once doing so, we headed to our hostel where we made ourselves comfortable, ate some food, and settled in for the night. The next day we would be headed to the Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye which would prove to be extraordinarily beautiful!

Beach in Portree (Excuse the instagram tag, this is the only photo I captured of it

Return to Scotland: Part Two

The next morning began the start of my journey into the Scottish Highlands. As we left Edinburgh behind we ventured off to check out the Wallace Monument in Stirling, which commemorates Sir William Wallace. While I did not particularly know much about the history relating to it, the views from the balcony were fantastic and worth the journey. After this, it was time to visit a pair of famous Hairy Coos, which are a Scottish cattle breed. Here we got to feed the cattle from behind the fence and admire the funky looking cows. Although it may not seem like much, it was an entertaining pit stop that I was happy we were given the opportunity to do.

 

Feeding the Hairy Coos

Now onto the stuff that dreams are made of. After checking out the hairy coos, it was time to go on a scenic hike through Glencoe Mountains. The nature lover in me was beaming as we hiked higher and higher with water streaming from the mountain throughout the trail. It was a surprisingly warm day in Scotland that day and I was forever grateful the weather held up. Once we reached the end of our hike, we had a moment to sit back and relax and drink water directly from the mountain spring. It’s one thing to buy bottled water that claims to be from mountain springs, and another thing to actually drink directly from the spring itself. I’m a city kid so this was an experience I don’t come across too often. This would be end of our first day of the tour, and after the hike we headed to Oban where we spent the night filling our bellies and preparing for our journey to the Isle of Skye the next day.

Glencoe Mountains

 

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