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 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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Miami Travels: Part Three

The final day in Miami was upon us and man had it been an amazing ride so far. Our plan for the day consisted of going to Vizcaya Museums & Gardens, followed by the Venetian Pool and lastly a stop at Calle Ocho. Our first stop, Vizcaya Museums & Gardens was the former villa and estate of the businessman James Deering. The villa was interesting but  it was the surrounding gardens which won my heart. The gardens were beautiful manicured and included several fountains and beautiful sculptures. While I did not care for the actual history, I admired the property for its greenery and the work in keeping it so beautiful maintained.  So do yourself a favour, and make sure to check out Vizcaya the next time you head to Miami.

After wandering through the grounds of Vizcaya, it was time to soak in the sun and so we headed to the Venetian Pool in the Coral Gables District. This pool is a public pool which has a lovely man-made waterfall and places to lounge around while you get your tan on. After spending the last two days at the beach but not being brave enough to venture into the water, the pool was the perfect way to perfect my swimming skills. After lounging around here for some time, we headed out our final stop of the day: Calle Ocho.

Now I’m going to be real with you in that Calle Ocho didn’t do much for me, but what they did have going for them was honestly the best food I had during my trip. Calle Ocho is Miami’s Cuban district and it was here I had some delicious Cuban cuisine.  We went to Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina  where I ordered the Lechon Asado with beans and rice and fried plantain. It was absolutely delicious. To top it all off, the staff serving us were an absolute delight.  Unfortunately, I did not get any photos at the Venetian Pool because water and phones don’t mix and at the restaurant I was too hungry to pause and take a photo of the food. But, enjoy all the images of Vizcaya and just believe me when I say Old’s Havana is absolutely worth every single dollar. This concluded our trip to Miami and it was perfect way to unwind after a stressful few weeks. Thank you Miami for your hospitality and while you broke my bank account you were worth every penny.

Miami Travels: Part Two

Waking up with absolutely no responsibilities or obligations has got to be one of the best feelings in the world. As your eyes begin to open, the time on your phone reads 11:00 am. Now, usually this would be a cause for alarm but not today. Today, it’s all about relaxation mija. The only preoccupation is deciding if you should go to the beach first or later. We decided on heading to the Wynwood Art District first. The Wynwood Art District is an area of Miami where everywhere you turn there are murals on the walls. The art, however, is not limited to the walls, but covers every available space imaginable including the sidewalk itself. This district is a place for freedom of expression and it is here you get a sense of the emotions and feelings that run through Miami. You see joy, elation, and celebration but you’ll also see sadness and pain. It is the human experience conveyed through this artistic expression. It was here we spent some time appreciating the artwork and seeing how the swampland and vibrancy of Miami were blended together within art. The soul of Miami was found here and I recommend that anyone who comes to Miami needs to visit Wynwood before leaving.

After immersing ourselves with beauty, we concluded our visit by heading to Coyo Taco. As someone with a love for tacos, these were absolutely delicious! Another plus, the awesome Frida Kahlo painting in the women’s washroom. Following this, we headed to South Beach for the second day in a row and got our tan on. With the sun shining bright and Spotify playing in the background we were all set to relax for the rest of the day.

As the day drew on, we began our hunt once again for food and stumbled upon Il Bolognese on Ocean Drive. I don’t know if its just because I was hungry from all the sunshine and walking, but man the food was delicious. Afterwards, we headed back home to prepare for our night out at El Patio Wynwood. El Patio proved to be just what we needed. Its offered Latin tunes in a cute rustic setting. Our promoter of the night, Chally was an added blessing and as a result it was the best night we had in Miami. So, if you like Spanish music, make sure to check out El Patio and become the dancing superstar you were destined to be.

Chicago Adventures: Part Two

Chi-Town:The Rest of the Journey

On our third day in Chi-Town, we decided to start our day off at Corner Bakery Cafe, an American chain of cafes. After indulging in a sandwich to fill our hungry bellies and a warm tea to brace up for the chilly Chicago air, we headed onto our next adventure of the day: Revisiting the Chicago Cultural Center. The first time around we were on a time crunch due to our boat tour, and so this time we were able to truly take in the different exhibits. After this, we made our way over to The Magnificent Mile. The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s upscale commercial district . Although, I am by no means in a position to purchase expensive brands it was great to just window shop as we walked along the mile.

As we walked along the mile, we headed on over to the Cub’s Clubhouse; a gear shop full of Chicago Cubs apparel. After this, we simply walked through the streets and eventually stopped by the AT&T store on Michigan Avenue. Now, you may be wondering why is it that I stopped by a phone store while in Chicago? The reason is simple. During the time I was there, the AT&T shop was promoting the Justice League movie and as a result had costumes on display that were worn by the actors of the movie. In addition, they also had props and other interactive displays relating to the movie. It was an unexpected surprise and after spending far too long in here, we headed over to The Shops At North Bridge. The Shops at North Bridge is a mall located on Michigan Avenue with a plethora of different stores for all your shopping needs. After entering the mall, we ended up coming across Charming Charlie. At the time, this store did not exist in Canada and I’m telling you it’s the cutest store in the entire world! If you are a girly person and love all things cute, this store is a must for you. Even as someone like myself who spends more time in gym clothing than real clothing, it was hard to resist the allure of this little shop. As a result, I ended up walking out with two scarves and the cutest fox shaped bag. Adorable!

We then headed on over to Goddess & The Baker to enjoy some delicious dessert. If you are headed to Chicago, this bakery is a must and their rainbow cake is absolutely delicious! Furthermore, this place is incredibly homey and it was here we began to draw our day to an end. The rest of the night was spent indoors, making use of the pool table in our AirBnB. Although I did not win the game, it was a great time nonetheless! Thank you Chicago for your hospitality, you truly were amazing!

Afterthoughts

There are a few things I didn’t get the chance to see in Chicago that I recommend people try and see during their visit. For starters, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Museum of Contemporary Art and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting. Another great museum to check out, The National Museum of Mexican Art. If you’re a baseball fan, check out the Wrigley Field to watch a Chicago Cubs game. And last but not least, the Chicago 360, an observation deck with a tilting glass lookout.

Two things that really stuck out to me during my visit in Chicago was how amazing their transit system is (and how underutilized it is) and the sheer hospitality of the people in Chicago. Maybe it was because it was the Christmas holidays, but what I observed in one instance was a cook offering food to a homeless man, someone on the bus offering clothing to another individual during the frigid temperatures, and just the general kindness of everyone I interacted with in all the shops and outings while I was there. Another great thing that Chicago had implemented was heated bus shelters in some areas. While it may not seem like much it made waiting for the train a little less painful. So thank you Chicago for showing me the kindness that exists in the world and for being an absolutely beautiful city.