Underground to Outerspace

This morning I wake up pretty sore and achey but after yesterdays adventures I am feeling confident. Yesterday was quiet a challenge! Today we are headed for more. Our first stop is the Camuy Caves. A huge limestone cave system carved out by the Rio Camuy, the worlds third largest subterranean river. As we head through the park gates a few people give us some flyers for a couple of nearby restaurants, interesting but effective marketing! Since I’m sure we will be hungry when we are finished exploring these caves.

Thankfully, a tram takes us down to the opening of the cave. It’s huge! Again we are walking on a very slippery damp cement path. There are some rails which you really don’t want to touch because they have guano (bat poo) on them. Just as our guide says, “Be very careful, the path can be slippery.” Jerry goes down, oh no! He was my support, the person I grab onto if I feel unsteady! Apparently the sneakers he wore do not like the cave floor at all, he is slipping and sliding everywhere! My boots seem to be ok. When it gets steep I grab Scott for a little support. We navigate pretty well. Although Jerry is slipping, he doesn’t go down again. The caves are beautiful. Large stalactites (hang down from the ceiling) and stalagmites (grow up from the floor) they are everywhere. There is a gigantic stalagmite 17 feet tall and 27 feet in diameter. Strange shapes and shadows are around every corner, an indian, a witch. Looking ahead out of one of the cave openings I see what looks like gold shimmering or maybe fireflies floating to the ground. It is beautiful, mesmerizing. Our guide says it is leaves falling from the top of a sinkhole and the sunlight is catching them just right. It is amazing. I wonder what life for the Taino Indians, the first Puerto Rican inhabitants, must have been like? We see bats, there are thirteen species of bats in this cave. They are much larger than our Florida bats, about a 12″ wingspan. They are sleeping now. I can’t imagine what this place looks like when they are all flying out for the evening!

We finish our tour and I am feeling strong. I had no problems with the slippery, treacherous walk. As I anticipated, we are hungry. I grab the restaurant flyers and we start driving. We pass on the first one and pull into the next, El Taino Restaurante. A handsome white haired gentleman greets us at the door. “Hello, welcome!” he warmly shakes our hands. He introduces himself as Juan B. Santiago. He shows us his biceps and we realize he is in very good shape for a 77 year old man. He tells us he goes to the gym everyday and he only eats when he is hungry. He reminds me of Jack La Lane. He owns the restaurant, his family works there. He is quiet a character, he seats us and sits down with us. He tells us all about his life and shows us pictures of him at all different ages, that are hung around the restaurant. We order our food. I have a seafood salad with fried plantains, Jerry had a crusted grouper, and Scott had a shrimp stew or something. It was all delicious but the entertainment was better! Mr. Santiago was a pleasure. He sang us old american classics from the 1950’s. He was very well spoken and said he loved words. We enjoyed talking with him very much. As we were about to leave he gave us a warm embrace and a lovely napkin holder portraying a scene from Old Puerto Rico. It was pouring down rain outside, he grabbed an umbrella and walked Scott to the car so he could drive around and pick Jerry and I up from the door. What a lovely gentleman! To be continued…

Just Wandering

Today Scott and I are on our own, Jerry has to work. We have no car so we wander around checking things out withinin walking distance. We are looking for a nearby beach. We find a beautiful little marina, we find a little park. Remember I still have a lot of weakness in my legs so we can’t walk too far. The sky is looking ominous. We better head back, never find the beach.

We head back to the Metro and play some penny slots at the casino. I was playing with a $10 voucher the hotel gave me. At one point I was up $16! Then I quickly lost it all. I don’t think I’m cut out for gambling! It’s lunch time now so we head back to the Metro. We found our friend Linda there. She talks us into trying the croquetas, delicious little ham filled pastries(not really a pastry) more of a doughy fried treat. I have mofongo de pollo with mushroom sauce, it is like mashed plantains and cassava stuffed with chicken, very good indeed. Scott had the can can pork, this is a huge pork chop, the fat is left on and cooked to a crispy deliciousness! This food is very good but I am surprised that with all the abundant vegetation here, the cuisine is not bursting full of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. Linda orders spaghetti, what!? Why would you order spaghetti in Puerto Rico? Interestingly enough Linda travels quite a bit and explains how she likes to order spaghetti in different places because you can get it just about anywhere and it always has a local twist and flavor to it. Turns out she was right, her spaghetti came with a light brown sauce and it had potatoes in it. More like a stew on pasta than the traditional Spaghetti and meatballs I grew up with. In the future I might have to try this. As for now I enjoy finding Puerto Rican foods that I am unfamiliar with.

We are still pretty tired so we spend the rest of the day hanging out by the pool, swimming and relaxing. The next few days are jam packed with adventure. So we better rest up!

Finally!

More waiting! Our flight keeps getting delayed. The 10:30pm flight turns into an almost midnight flight. If that would have happened this morning we wouldn’t have missed our first plane! There’s nothing we can do but wait. We board the plane and off we go!

We started Wednesday, it is now Thursday. It’s almost 3:00 am when we finally get to our hotel. We have been awake for almost 24 hours. I am beyond tired. The hotel is beautiful, clean, comfortable, a Hyatt House Hotel in San Juan. I notice lots of tropical vegetation and hear the little Ko-Kee frogs singing as we walk to the hotel, they sound like birds. I hit the bed and pass out. When we finally wake up we realize…we are finally here, we are in Puerto Rico! I am still really tired. We go hang out by the pool for a while. I do a little swimming, it feels good. I decide to try and swim every day while I am here to try and help work out the pain that I have been dealing with in my shoulder. I think it’s a damaged nerve. I dry off and soak up a little sun for awhile, it feels so comforting. Nothing to do but pamper myself!

We take a little walk and soak in some of the Puerto Rican flavor. Everyone is so friendly and eager to offer directions or advice. I am amazed that almost everyone here speaks english easily and fluently. They can switch back and forth from spanish to english effortlessly. We head to the Metro and have some amazing local cuisine. I had the Montuno Cubano, which has diced pork which is boiled then fried and sautéed in onions, a tamale, congri rice, and casava. Scott had a wonderful dish, Lomillo A Caballo,  beef steak and eggs. It was delicious and there was so much, we took some home for later.

Late afternoon we drove to La Torre, a cool little town, where we got to watch some filming of the movie that Jerry has been working on. A colorful patchwork of little buildings and restaurants lined the streets. All the sights and sounds were intoxicating. Pigs on spits, pallets for firewood, fried foods, hanging coconuts and plantains. Stray dogs, cats, and wandering chickens everywhere! We went to the Waterfront restaurant to pick up some food for the actors, it was on the Loiza boardwalk. The ocean was beautiful!

We had dinner with the filming crew. The caterers were set up in the middle of a field under a tent. The food was delicious. I was still kinda full from our late lunch, so I ate light. Scott had what he thought was a pile of mashed potatoes, turns out it was mashed plantains and they were delicious, way better than potatoes! We met some interesting people and had some good conversations. As night fell we started to get bitten by no see ums, it was time to go. We were still pretty tired.

Today was a day to relax, unwind, and depressurize from the last few weeks. I am amazed, we are finally here, in Puerto Rico!

Let’s get outta here!

Ok we are as prepared as we can be. Our flight leaves from Tampa at 7:30am. We will get up at 4:00am to catch our plane. We are packed, the alarm is set. We should be in Puerto Rico by noon! It is starting to sink in, we are going to Puerto Rico! 4:00am comes early. We put the dogs in their lovely kennel. I hope they appreciate all the time and attention we put into it. We put our suitcases in the truck. As we pull away from the house, I feel a sense of relief, we got it all done. I am starting to get excited about our trip!

It was a nice drive contemplating all we might do in Puerto Rico. Anticipating seeing Jerry for the first time in 6 weeks. We check the clock in the truck, all is well, we have plenty of time. We run into a little traffic in Tampa but it’s not a big deal. We have some trouble finding a long term parking spot. After searching 3 levels we go to the roof and park. We find our way to the terminal, it looks empty, but it is early in the morning. We get to the check in…our plane left 10 minutes ago…WHAT? WHAT did you say? Our plane left? We missed our flight? You must be wrong, check again!

Ok regroup. What the heck just happened? And what do we do now? The next flight to Puerto Rico is at 10:30, no not in three hours, it’s at 10:30 tonight. So…it is 7:30 am. I certainly don’t want to drive all the way back home just to turn around and drive back. What should we do? Where did the time go? How did we lose so much time? On further inspection we realized we were watching the clock in the truck which was almost exactly an hour behind! I fixed that right away. We are tired and maybe a little grumpy from the crazy busy week we had leading up to this. What are we gonna do now. Maybe we should just go home and forget about this trip. I call Jerry and he finds us a hotel close to the airport that we can check into. Maybe we can just relax, catch some TV, doze awhile until this evening when we go back to the airport. Sounds good.

Turns out it is a Super 8 Motel. Omg, it is really nasty! It looks rundown, the walls are dirty, it looks old. There are burn holes in the bed sheets, in a non smoking room! I am too tired to care. I have to lay down. At least the sheets smell clean. I don’t want to touch anything. I lay perfectly still and don’t let the sheets touch my face. I hope I don’t catch anything! I think I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes. The remote for the TV is nowhere to be found. Lets go find something to eat. I find a little Peruvian restaurant that has 5 stars. So we try it. Scott doesn’t like anything. I think it tastes pretty good. I have never eaten Peruvian food before. Apparently something did not agree with my stomach. So back to the motel we go.

Ok well what else can go wrong? So I use the bathroom…go to flush the toilet and…well…it overflows!

 

Yikes!

Wow it has been so long since I posted, not good, I know! I have been so crazy busy! I love blogging I feel so peaceful when I am writing. I have created this blog as a journal of my crazy wonderful life. And I have so much to share! So I am going to try a new approach. Maybe, just maybe I will write a “little bit”more often. Sounds less daunting.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life that I have been bored, never. I always have things I don’t seem to have enough time to do! I am passionate about so many things! And I don’t like to do things halfway. So…I know there are people out there that are way busier than me, but…I have a ten acre farm which requires constant care, fixing fences, dragging fields, feeding animals, cleaning animals, watering plants, planting and tending new plants, picking up sticks, working horses, and on and on and on! Oh I do enjoy these things but it takes time and commitment, EVERYDAY, it’s not something you do part time! Brushing and washing dogs, grooming horses, collecting eggs, playing with the rabbit, filling the bird feeders, cleaning cat bowls, changing the water in the fish tank, cleaning water troughs. Wow this is beginning to sound crazy! Not really! Like I said, I do love it. But on top of all this, I am an artist, a chef, a wife, a mother, a riding instructor, and an adventurer! Last week I created and, with some help from the guys, made some Christmas decorations for the farm entrance. Oh! And the week before that I designed and created a new name and sign for the farm! New name, new sign, new beginning!

Sometimes it gets tricky juggling all of this at once! My daughter is grown, so I don’t have children in the house any more and I have cut way back on riding lessons since the liability insurance has gotten so high. But lately I have been traveling a lot, which I adore! Something I always dreamed of doing but never thought I would actually have the opportunity to do. It is for work, but we do get to play also! As a private chef I am always learning and trying new things in the kitchen. Cooking, for me, is also a creative endeavor! Traveling has given me the ability to search out wonderful restaurants and new food experiences! Traveling has also inspired my artwork, which is a major focus for me right now. I feel I am maturing as an artist, moving in some new directions with my paintings, feeling alive!

Never one to sit still for very long, last week we went hiking on Paynes Prairie and found some amazing places to eat! Now I am not a huge BBQ fan, but we had the best BBQ at a little place called Pearls, a tiny restaurant tucked inside a Marathon gas station in Micanopy, Fl. And a wonderful little place called Mosswood Farm Store, where you can get handmade soaps and candles and what nots, organic coffee and some of the best bread and brownies I’ve had in a long time! Then we spent the rest of the weekend cleaning out the loft above the garage for more studio space, for bigger and better things to come!

I may be old fashioned!

Ok, I really like to keep my posts positive and upbeat but I am noticing a trend here lately that I don’t think I like. Lately when we go out to eat the waiters and waitresses are not writing down our orders. I’m all for the environment and saving the trees but I am not impressed! Now these are not super fancy high end restaurants or anything like that, they are busy local places with rather large menus. I am a very forgiving customer, I have waited tables a time or two. I am not super picky or difficult to please, but I know what I like and how I want my food.

So…these are always young, very friendly, perky people taking our order and seemingly trying to impress us by taking our orders like they are chatting with old friends. I just don’t like it…if you order anything a little different, like no tomatoes on your burger or extra dressing for your salad, forget it! My experience so far has not been very good, they ALWAYS forget something. It is annoying when you take the time and know just what you want and they don’t get it right because they didn’t write it down. Not to mention you have no recourse, since it wasn’t written down, that I did order that burger with no bun! Call me old fashioned but please, please, please! Stop making me waste food I didn’t want and write down my order! Work on other ways to save trees like recycling!