img_6896Alright, so the family trip is over and we’ve all returned to where we ought to be – the family back in Germany, and my gypsy self is back on the road (currently at the Philadelphia airport, ready for a new adventure but more about that soon). There were two parts to the family XMas vacation: A few days in Puerto Rico, followed by a cruise on the Carnival Valor which took us to some exotic Caribbean islands. I’ll share a few representative photos with you mainly so that you get to see what it’s like where I’ve spend the better part (mostly though for only a few hours) of the past 10 years.

Thursday, Dec 19
It started with my arrival in San Juan (Puerto Rico) and my family’s many circles around the airport to track me down. To increase the chance of finding my arrival gate, they had split up which added a fun element when we tried to get together again after initial contact had been established. In a nice big Kia minivan, we were soon on our way to Luquillo about 45 minutes east of San Juan. By the time I had joined them today, they had already spent a few days in a vacation rental by the beach, a quite upscale and family-friendly condo.

Friday, Dec 20
During the next two days we’ve taken it easy — we’ve had a 21-month-old with us, my niece Malina, and even though she was ‘low maintenance’, we’ve not taken the sightseeing to an extreme. I had wanted to see the El Yunque Rainforest National Park and they agreed to take me there – it was a second visit for them I but luckily they said they didn’t mind. It was very close to where we stayed and therefore didn’t require much effort. Highlights were the lush green vegetation as expected from a rain forest, a cute little watchtower from where we believe we’ve spotted our vacation home by the beach, and my first ever sight of a hummingbird.

Saturday, Dec 21
My brother and I as the sort of geeks of the family couldn’t let the opportunity pass to visit the Arecibo radio telescope which is known from movies such as ‘Contact’ and ‘Golden Eye’. It was quite a drive away, two hours if we had stayed on the motorway, more like three for us since I had inadvertently guided my brother through the midst of the pre-XMas rush of San Juan. The drive itself wouldn’t necessarily have been anything special if it wasn’t for the last 25 km stretch through the hilly countryside before arriving at the telescope facility. First, we’ve toured the visitor center with an interesting exhibition about how the radio telescope works and why they’ve built it there near the town of Arecibo. Then we stepped outside onto the terrace overlooking that huge bowl, 305 m in diametre, crowned with a huge dome that seems to be floating above it. Spectacular!

Sunday, Dec 22
Time to go on a cruise! We’ve checked in on the Valor and got settled on board (the family in balcony cabins, me in an inside crew cabin), then explored Old Town San Juan for the rest of the day. The fact that the ship didn’t depart until 10 PM was totally in our favour here :-) I am intimately familiar with San Juan, having been here numerous times before (you can find some blog articles, too), and I took my family on a stroll through the cobble-stone streets, along the mains square to the fortifications along which we hiked up to the El Morro fortress, and then back into town for dinner. Dinner! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much! We meant to ‘eat local’ but weren’t prepared to see our Mofongo and Tostones appetizers (that’s what you apparently need to have when in Puerto Rico) accompany our main dishes. We were full full full. Last stop for the day was at El Barrachina for a Pina Colada since they claim they were the ones that invented it. Tasty and a perfect way to begin our cruise.