As the Summer of 2016 was approaching I began to realize that my life was forever going to be changed. Whether the change is something you planned for and are looking forward to or something that just happens, change is hard. My daughter was getting married and moving out of the house for the first time. Thought I was prepared for this. Boy, was I wrong.
Having a mid-life semi-crisis wasn’t helping any either. After being a nurse for over half of my life I was beginning to think that maybe a change was in order, so I started taking some classes with the hopes of a career change. I had prayed that if this path was the one for me that God would open the right doors, but sometimes getting an answer to prayer is rough, because no open doors were in my future.
Amidst all of this drama in my life I knew that I needed an escape. It might sound crazy or cliche, but it was as if the ocean was calling me. I hadn’t been to the beach in years, but suddenly I had an almost insatiable yearning for white sand beaches and warm tropical breezes. So I began to look. Priceline and I got very well acquainted as I searched for the oasis I desperately needed. My husband and I did not have our passports yet and since this was a rather last minute decision this limited greatly our choices of destination. Also have a wedding to pay for definitely put a crimp in our budget. Florida became a top prospect, but to stay on the beach in a nice hotel is pricey. Then a friend mentioned Puerto Rico.
I have to admit Puerto Rico wasn’t even on my radar of prospective travel locations, but certainly sounded interesting. Since it is a U.S. territory no passport is needed and the price was comparable to the places I was looking at in Florida, so why not? And so the adventure began.
This was going to be a quick trip, only 4 days, and rest and relaxation was the top priority, but exploring a new locale was something I couldn’t resist. I began to research Puerto Rico and try to learn all I could about the island that offered me the solace I was searching for. For instance, did you know that Puerto Rico was the birthplace of the Pina Colada? How had I lived my whole life without knowing that important tidbit of information?
So 3 weeks after our daughter’s wedding in Las Vegas the hubby and I were again boarding a plane, but this time our destination would be very different. Our first hint that this was no ordinary place was when we were landing and the entire plane erupted in applause. We looked at each other like, what just happened? The native Puerto Rican sitting next to us just smiled and said “it’s a Puerto Rico thing”. After spending a few days in their tropical homeland I understood what all of the cheering was about. They were celebrating their return home. Often when we vacation we return home almost grudgingly knowing that work and the same old, same old awaits us. But awaiting in Puerto Rico was beauty and adventure. What’s not to celebrate?
Landing in a place where English is not the primary language was daunting, but we managed to wrangle a taxi to take us to our hotel. That was an adventure of it’s own. Let’s just say that traffic lights appear to only be suggestions. It also brought new meaning to the term ‘bumper to bumper traffic’ when we received a love tap from the car behind us and our cab driver just shrugged and went on like nothing had happened.
Our final destination was a hotel called La Concha, or the shell. The pictures online, as well as the reviews, are what had sold me on it. Located on the beach with 5 swimming pools and several onsite restaurants it offered all of the amenities we could ever want plus the beautiful landscaping and architecture were a nice added perk.
The first morning we were there is when the therapy sessions began. Answering the call of the ocean did indeed bring me the peace and relaxation I was longing for. We spent hours simply sitting, breathing in the ocean air, watching the waves as they crashed into shore and being lulled by the sounds of the ebb and flow of the sea. There was no time-frame or itinerary to follow. Whether we were swimming in the infinity pool or lying on the beach this was truly paradise found.
After a couple of days to completely unwind we did decide to take in some of the sites than San Juan had to offer. Being able to book excursions through our hotel was very convenient and made use feel safe while traveling in a new place. We initially were going to travel by boat to a nearby island to snorkel, however the rough sea prevented it and we were forced to look on land for our adventures. We decided to visit the Bacardi Rum factory and it was a very tasty tour for sure! We learned about the Cuba Libre and the history of the factory. The cost was minimal and was a nice little excursion.
Our next stop was to visit Old San Juan. This area is home to stunning architecture and cobblestone streets and was a nice contrast to the modern hotel we were staying at. Our favorite part of visiting Old San Juan was the tour of the Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. If you are a history junkie I highly recommend this, but even if you are not the views from the top of the fortresses are truly breathtaking and well worth your time.
I just realized I haven’t mentioned the food. How could I forget that? I’m not ashamed to admit that when planning any vacation the local cuisine is top on my list. Breakfast was probably our favorite meal of the day. The Puerto Rican coffee was superb. I regret not buying any to bring home. Also the fresh fruits and especially the plantains were amazing. Of course, the pool side Pina Coladas certainly didn’t disappoint!
Our last night in Puerto Rico we dined at the Perla Restaurant at La Concha. Pearl in the shell, clever huh? It was, by far, the fanciest restaurant we have ever eaten at. It is on the beach and quite literally floating in a pool of water. The atmosphere was hypnotic. Being very simple folk from the Midwest the menu was somewhat intimidating, but the wait staff was amazing at helping us with our selections. 2 hours and $300 (gulp) later we left completely satisfied.
Room service on the balcony was how we spent our final morning. I knew I needed that last shot of medicinal ocean views before returning home. While our time in San Juan was short and waiting for us at home was the same circumstances as before leaving, I felt renewed energy and a sense of peace about whatever lied ahead.
This trip served as a catalyst for future adventures that I hope to be sharing with you soon. I never knew I was a beach girl, but I’m hooked. So, with hubby by my side, I will continue to navigate through this empty nest, mid-life stage of my life with the help of a little beach therapy from time to time as we keep collecting memories as we go.