Monday, November 1, 2010


I'm currently on the ground in Puerto Rico, wilting in the late hurricane season humidity while researching the next Lonely Planet guide to the island. Friends from home keep asking me if I've been snorkeling or swimming, but until the sun's almost down, I'm reluctant to expose my skin to insta-cook.
San Juan was a rush of mushrooming beachfront high-rise condos, concrete streets running between them and a public bus authority that plies the roads but refuses to publish or post route maps. A breezy woman from the tourism office insisted that everyone knew where the buses went so there was no need to produce maps. (Yeah, right.) And that buses went places that tourists didn't want to go anyway. (Um . . . sure.) A desk clerk at the guesthouse confirmed my suspicion that residents were just as perplexed by the dearth of transit information. She'd somehow gotten her hands on a map a few years ago, and she'd kept it like a sacred object. An object that she let me borrow and photocopy, thank you very much.
A few highlights from my time in the capital of Borinquen:
  • an invitation to the birthday party of a dapper sexagenarian barfly in Condado
  • drinking my first chichaito shot (passion fruit flavored!)
  • chatting with a right-on bartender inside a crazy oyster-shaped restaurant
  • biking a few miles of the undeveloped PiƱones coast on a brakeless bicycle
  • finding the coolest live music club in Old San Juan by following rock music down a dark and deserted back alley
  • realizing that the best natural foods store in town was right across the street from where I was staying

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