Heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico

The drive to San Juan had us climbing steeply up the mountain sides out of Salinas northwards towards the capital city. Views back towards the Caribbean Sea were absolutely stunning, but there was no place to pull the car over to stop for photos, and traffic was too heavy to dare to just stop on the high speed divided toll road. We debated whether to stay in a hotel in San Juan, but we found the prices quite high and decided that it was easy enough to drive the hour up and back for whatever we wanted to see in this area. When we reached Fajardo, we also could drive the north coast if we needed to go back.

Streets in Old San Juan
Streets in Old San Juan

We found our way to old San Juan, the historical portion of the city, and after a brief stop to orient ourselves, we drove down a very narrow street, turned into what seemed to be nothing more than a building in an alley, and parked our little car for the day. The historic portion is primarily a walking tour. Trying to get around in the car would have been a real pain, although cruising the city with Joy’s scooter was not much less of a challenge. A few sidewalks had handicap ramps, but most did not, so Joy had to climb off and onto the scooter several times throughout the course of the day to gain access, and in other places, like this street, she would just carefully play dodge-em with the local drivers on the cobblestone streets. But it was worth the effort. It’s what we do.
El Morro Fort
El Morro Fort

We’d had rainy weather for days, ever since arriving in Puerto Rico. Today was no different, and we spent the day in San Juan dodging showers occasionally getting a little damp. Our first “tourist stop” was the huge Fort “El Morro” which guards the entrance to San Juan harbor. The history surrounding this fort is much more than I can relate here. Built centuries ago, the fort is now part of the U.S. National Parks Service, and as such, it is in excellent repair. We’d read that we needed to carry Joy’s “Golden Access” National Parks pass with us as we cruised this part of the world because the pass gives us both free access to any U.S. Parks or historic sites. This pass is free to someone with disabilities, and we put it to good use on this trip.   History158
Here’s a brief history of the fort and the city of San Juan. As you can see, San Juan and Puerto Rico passed control from one country to another over the years, and even today, Puerto Rico’s citizens still hotly debate their island’s status; some vote for statehood; others want to remain as status quo, while a third group vie for complete autonomy. Who can say what the future holds?
Looking out Over San Juan Harbor
Looking out Over San Juan Harbor

This fort is immense, and our tour of the entire fort and grounds took a couple hours as we wandered on our own finding views of the city, the sea, and the surrounding countryside that many pass by without noticing. With tour book in hand we walked at our own pace, stopped when we wanted, and passed by other things that held little interest for us. This way we got to see the entire grounds and fortifications, and spend more time at spots we liked. The photo below gives you a glimpse of the size of this fort, and we can only imagine what it must have been like to live here in years past.  
The North Face
The North Face

Massive cannons could hurl destructive projectiles all the way across the harbor, and a sister fort on the western shore assured that no ship could hug the other side to gain access to the harbor. San Juan was well fortified, and her harbor protected from enemies. The photo above shows how the fort changed over the years as you see one of the smaller original lookout fortifications and a much larger World War II era pillbox built atop the walls. From your history books, you should know how important a role the Caribbean has played over the years from Columbus’ day to present day history. Pirate ships to submarines, this city has played its part.  

Wander the City