Sunday, February 15, 2015

Caribbean Running Cruise Day 6 - San Juan Amazing (Pirate) Race

Today was the pirate=themed Amazing Race / scavenger hunt around San Juan -- which was the perfect way to poke around the city.

We had our race briefing and breakfast at 6am, with Jon handing out maps and stressing that we should use the MAP as the authority, rather than the descriptions... that some skullduggery might be afoot.

Being pirate day, we had originally planned to run in our velvet skeleton tops ... but after the previous days' head we knew that wouldn't be a great idea. So we fell back on our skeleton Foska jerseys, which were still a big hit.

Some people really went above and beyond, costume-wise, the the totally amazing Bud and Claudia Johnson:

We managed, again, to get off the boat quickly -- 7am docking times tend to keep the crowds down a little! But we got onto the pier and took a nice group running photo.

We soon met the local running group who helped arrange the run -- they were selling some very handsome gear printed with their club logo, but of course, the last thing in the world I need is another running shirt.

During the meeting we had studied the map and had NO IDEA of where to start -- especially since we hadn't noticed at first that there was a page 2 with the first two stops on it... But for us this race is always about taking good photos and seeing San Juan, so that was our main focus.

After a little while -- and a reminder to trust the map, not the descriptions, we set out. I think Wil and I ran about half a mile before deciding it was too stinking hot for us northern types! But we did see a lot of San Juan...

 The task at hand was to visit all of the checkpoints IN ORDER and take a photo documenting the stop. Checkpoint one was at Casa Cuna, a government-run children's home:

Checkpoint 2 -- SKULLDUGGERY ALERT!!! -- was listed as the Capitolio: "The Capitol of Puetro Rico is located on the Islet of San Juan just outside the walls of Old San Juan. HOWEVER, the map clearly showed that the actual checkpoint was at Capitolio Plaza... a shopping center near the cruiseport.

Checkpoint 3 -- SKULLDUGGERY ALERT!!? -- was listed as the Centro de Recepciones del Gobierno de Puerto Rico... but on the map Teatro Tapia was circled. So we trusted the map.

Checkpoint 4 was the Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis -- a colonial-era cemetery that is the final resting place of many of Puerto Rico's most prominent residents. I would have loved to poke around in there, but the clock was ticking!!!

Just after leaving the cemetery, we bumped into John -- who told us that we weren't gonna win (ha!) so we should stop and pose for a picture.

Checkpoint 5 was the Iglesia de San Jose -- what would have been a gorgeous sight, except that they were renovating the exterior. So we posed in front of the sign.

Checkpoint 6 was Castillo San Felipe del Morro -- a 16th-century citadel. It wasn't yet open when we arrived, but it was quite a sight.

We liked it so much that we took two photos there:

En route to the next checkpoint, we spotted the John "The Penguin" Bingham Cruise Monument, which surely should have been worth extra credit:

Then we headed off to find Checkpoint 7, La Fortaleza -- the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. I'm sure the armed guards were very amused by all the weirdos taking selfies in front of the mansion...

Checkpoint 8 -- SKULLDUGGERY ALERT??? Okay, the description was simple - the statue of Abraham Lincoln outside of the Escuela Abraham Lincoln. But the spot circled on the map was a block off ... and happened to be a corner with a very handsome little cafe/bar with a painting on the outside. To be honest, this did seem a little too sneaky... but we still took a picture there.

But for good measure, we also took a picture in front of the Abraham Lincoln statue... even though we weren't sure it was right.

Checkpoint 8 was the Plaza de Armas, where we snapped a quick picture before bumping into Belinda and Rick, who were drinking coffee... which made Wil want a coffee...

We poked our head into the coffee shop, but Wil really wanted an iced coffee (did I mention it was HOT?) so we moved on. We were headed back to the start/finish line when Wil spotted another coffee shop -- a very handsome, old cafe. So we hurried in and ordered an iced coffee to go... and spent twenty minutes while the baristo lovingly hand-shaved ice and ground the beans with a mortar and pestle... Okay, not really. But it did take two minutes to get an iced coffee. (Though it did look very, very nice.)

Then down the hill to the finish line and Checkpoint 10!

We stood around for a bit, cheering in other runners, but our extended coffee break meant that most people were already done. We had planned on just heading into town, but since we were right at the ship, we went in and got a little cleaned up before heading back to town.

For the record, here's our run map from the San Juan Amazing Race:

We went back into town to walk around. Again, shopping wasn't very interesting to us, but we walked up to the cathedral and that cute part of town. Which is where Wil spotted this:

I *may* have "silent screamed" -- it was pretty astonishing to see a caterpillar this big... moving around. We stood and watched it for a while, and a lady came out of her house to chat about the worm. She said that these worms eat all the leaves off her trees (sure enough, the tree was bare twigs). I asked if the "worms" turn into butterflies, but she said that these ones don't -- but it's because there isn't the right soil for them to do their transformation. Imagine how big that butterfly or moth would be???

A bit later we ran into Ralph, Colleen, Tony, and a bunch of other folks, who had turned the "race" into a pub crawl. :) We took their advice and went to La Tortuga for a pitcher of sparkling sangria. For $12 we were presented with a massive pitcher of surprisingly tasty sangria... probably not the best idea for two semi-dehydrated thirsty runners.

Being at something of a loss as to what to do with the rest of our day, I remembered John mentioning that there is a bar in San Juan that claims to be the place where the piña colada was invented... so we looked up the place and decided to pay a visit to Barrachina.

Here's what I didn't know.

Piña coladas can be Very Strong.

We were directed to the bar at Barrachina where we, of course, ordered two piña coladas. The bartender asked us if we wanted alcohol, to which we replied, "Yes. Lots."

The bartender proceeded to pour ... and pour ... and pour 151 rum into a large "fountain" glass, and then dispensed a frozen / slushy mix into the glass so that some of the rum actually floated on top. He slid them across the bar to us and said, "You'll want to stir these."

  One was really good. Delicious. We chatted with our fellow barflies, all of whom, of course, were drinking piña coladas. And all of whom said, "Yes, lots." in response to the alcohol question.

We got a little caught up in it ... it was a glorious day, we had a couple of hours to kill, and when else would we be in San Juan, Puerto Rico?

So we ordered another round. Another delicious, tasty, boozy round.

why, yes, I did take a picture with the bartender... and a bottle of rum...
It really wasn't until about 2/3rds of the way through the second round that I thought, oh dear, this is gonna be rough. But we gathered ourselves up and headed back to the boat... stopping for some handsome photos with the plaque outside:

(the picture on the right is definitely a "this is gonna hurt")

We headed back to the ship, poured ourselves aboard, went up to the Windjammer for some lunch (finally!), burbled at a few of our gang, and then went to the cabin, where we promptly slept through dinner. 

Ah, well, that's vacation, right?

Eventually we got up and got some dinner at the buffet, but the evening was prety shot, so we wandered back to our cabin to relax. Oh, except for when I was threatened by a towel orangutan!

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