As my taxi wiggles through Old San Juan, I try to chat to the driver but fail due to my Spanish being limited to the chorus of La Bamba. The architecture makes it feel like I could be in Spain or, come to think of it, any European city with an Old Town. Perhaps it’s because I’m fresh out of Kingston and have spent the last week worrying about a girlfriend who got her phone snatched and another who had her bag snatched, but when I’m dropped off I stand frozen, clutching my Sainsbury’s bag-for-life, with my phone on a Jamaica lanyard hidden inside my jumper, feeling like a nervous wreck. I hope I look like a tourist but decide I’m channelling something closer to mentalist.
I’d read that San Juan was a World Heritage Site, the San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristobal, most of the city walls, the San Juan Gate and Fort San Juan de la Cruz just across the entrance to the bay are a result of at least 250 years of Spanish fortification. It’s beyond stunning and I’m lost for words as I walk around. Which is handy as I don’t have anyone else to chat too. People are walking along talking openly on mobile phones, women with beautiful hair and flawless skin teeter in high heels clutching expensive handbags. There is no denying that the Puerto Ricans are a gorgeously sexy bunch.
In the harbour the cruise ship docked is possibly the biggest ship I have ever seen, this place must get crazy when the cruisers are out and about, but thankfully it’s 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon and walking around I feel like I might just be the only tourist in the town. I decide I am the only tourist in town because it’s about to chuck it down. I duck into a bakery and manage to find room for three Quesitos – oh Puerto Rico how did I get by so long without you? I ask myself as I devour the sugary treats. By now there is no stopping me, I walk along under the building awnings, dodging rain, failing and just enjoying the freedom of not being in a car and no one giving me a second look.
I walk until I’m too tired to walk anymore and realise I’ve barely touched the surface of this place. I stop for Tapas – with a side of conch fritters and some fried plantain – just because it’s the Caribbean and I’m missing Jamaican food. No trip to Puerto Rico, would be complete without a piña colada and so it makes sense to head to where Ramón Portas Mingot created it – the Barrachina Restaurant. It’s probably heresy to say that I’m not usually crazy about the old piña, but this was insanely good, so good that when I fall off my chair a few hours later, I stagger back to my hotel like a travel worn drunk.
I could have taken public transport – it is after all free but it was refreshing to walk around on my own in the dark evening (something I haven’t done since London), there are no declarations of love from men as we pass on the street, no casual sexual harassment, no shouting, no lasers. In fact, other than the odd ‘Buenas noches’, I’m left to get on with things and that suits me just fine.