The day before our trip to Puerto Rico, I mentioned to a friend that I was having some misgivings about going. “Why is that?” he asked. I explained that we were going with my son, Dan, his wife, Martha, and Martha’s mother, Idalia (who was born in Puerto Rico.) Idalia is 76, has a defibrillator and a cane, and doesn’t walk too well. I am two months shy of 89 and also don’t walk too well. I’ve been in airports before and it has been my experience that they often make you walk much more than you want to. It was my friend’s thought that I needn’t be concerned, airports have experience dealing with such problems, wheelchairs are available, and my son and his wife were good, caring, competent people. Not to worry.

Well!

I set my alarm for 4 AM because we planned to leave for the airport at 6 AM. Of course, being me, I was up at 2:30. When we arrived at Kennedy we headed for long term parking and found a spot fairly close to the Air Train. We dragged our luggage onto the Air Train. Our stop at Jet Blue terminal was next to the last one. Once you’re in the terminal it is an unbelieveable distance to the check-in counter with several moving walkways and then some. We checked in, provide IDs, and then off to the inspection lines. Not too bad, take off shoes, scan with hands over head, a special line for Idalia’s defribrillator. then off to the gate for departure. Plane is on time and we are soon in our seats, ready for take-off. A sign of relief that we’ve made it this far.

It’s less than four hours to San Juan airport in Puerto Rico. We deplane, eventually luggage arrives at the carousel, and we head for ground transportation, looking for the Hertz rent-a-car shuttle. In due time we arrive at the Hertz place and are provided with a blue Ford Focus and we’re off again, on our way to Rincon, Puerto Rico. I had no idea Rincon was at the other end of the island. In fact, I had expected to spend the night in a hotel bed in San Juan! Nevertheless, we drive and drive and drive and drive (with a stop at Wendy’s for sustenance) and I am thinking we will never get where we are going and I have never been so exhausted in my life. What gave me hope were the two people in the front seat who did not bicker or lose patience as we proceeded in the dark and the rain while Garmin “recalculated and recalculated.” Finally, after 13 hours on the move, we arrive at our lodging, a nice little three room apartment — with, thank God, a bed! I slept – well.

The next morning I peeked through the blinds and behold!

Rincon, Puerto Rico

OMG – we are on the beach! It is so beautiful and the day is clear and I explore and take pics with my cell phone for Facebook and am totally delighted. I had been told the plan was to stay here for a week, making side trips to eat out, see sights, and visit relatives, eventually ending up with a visit to the rain forest.

We are staying at the Villa San Antonio and this is our unit. A song has returned to my heart and I am feeling blessed to be in such a beautiful place with such good-hearted people.

Rincon, Puerto Rico

The next day, a Sunday, I managed to break a rib on a pineapple. We had a nice ripe genuine Puerto Rican pineapple and I thought I’d cut it up for snacking. Holding it tightly to my chest I tried to wrest the top off as I’d done many times back in the “States.” The next thing you know I felt a rib “give.” It didn’t hurt much at the time but continued to hurt whenever it was moved for weeks thereafter.

I attended mass at St. Rose of Lima, in Spanish of course, but it had that familiar “family of God” feel. Later we headed for St. Sebastian, the home of a relative with an amazing collection of Barbies and other dolls. Though I couldn’t understand a word of the conversation, it was obvious that the relatives were happy to see each other. This was a five hour trip and the roads in Puerto Rico tend to be narrow and bouncy and I bounced in that back seat. As a child I had severe car sickness and even as an adult could get nauseous in the back seat of a car on country roads. Though I did not actually get sick,  when we would arrive at a restaurant my stomach would be reluctant to eat and I’d just pray there would be something on the menu that was small and appealed to me. It was truly a shame to be in such wonderful eating places and to have so little desire to eat.

After a couple of days just lounging, I felt up to putting my bathing suit and venturing into Mi oceano. We practially had that beautiful ocean with its gentle waves to ourselves. At night the lapping waves and the sound of the coquis lulled us to sleep. I love the sounds of the coquis, little brown frogs that say ko-kee, ko-kee ad infinitum during the night.

Finally, with Dan holding onto me so I wouldn’t lose my balance when a wave rolled over me and sucked the sand from under my feet, we reached a depth suitable for floating and it really felt good to lie back in the water and let the waves do their thing. And the next day we did the same thing? It had been years since I had even put on a bathing suit, much less braved an ocean!

Behold!

All set to swim

Here are Idalia and Martha.  Idalia is a much better traveler than I am.  She didn’t seem to bounce like I did; I think perhaps her center of gravity is lower.  She slept better, ate better, and was generally more able to “go with the flow.”

We ate out often and here is one of many lovely restaurants.   This section of the restaurant was actually over water and we could look down and feed the (BIG) fish.

Fish on the table, fish under the floor

And, finally, our MAN !

Dan drove and drove and drove and drove.  Thank God he is such a good driver – there were some truly tricky roads.  Who knew how mountainous Puerto Rico would turn out to be!  Here is a map of the island on which I’ve shown our travels. After landing in San Juan we went along the north coast to Isabela and then south to Rincon.  From our base in Rincon we travelled to San Sebastian (SS) to see a relative and to various eating places.  After a week we headed to the south and  then east along the coast until  we had lunch at P0nce,  then north  toward the rain forest (El Yunque) and to Las Palmas in Rio Grande (RG) where we stayed the rest of the time.

Las Palmas is hard to find, at the edge of the rain forest, owned by Pabla Fuentes, beautifully decorated and equipped, with its own little pool (below) and a view of the sea in the distance from the balcony.

By this time it was Martha’s birthday and we were scheduled to visit Old San Juan and then on to another relative.  Old San Juan, like many “old” cities, is quaint with houses close together on narrow streets paved with COBBLESTONES.   The relative was kind enough to give me a bed to lie on to rest my back, and served us all  some really great chicken soup.  The next day I realized  I had had it in the back of that blue Ford Focus, diagnosed myself with “shaken grammy syndrome,” and opted out of the ride to see the rain forest (in the rain),  staying “home  alone”  to gather strength for the flight back home the next day.

To cut to the quick, the last day, back in the back of the Focus, we drove to the San Juan airport, boarded the plane, and flew to Kennedy Airport.  There we found (blessedly) two wheelchairs waiting for us, and were pushed to the carousel to  await luggage, then to ground transportation, then  onto the Air Train to go to the parking lot to find our car.   What a wonderful thing is a wheelchair!   I had started to cough on the plane and upon arriving home  developed the most wicked cold that I can recall, not a fun thing in any case but even worse with a broken rib!

Loved Puerto Rico and I’m ever so grateful for the opportunity to visit there.    I already knew I wasn’t a good traveler but I survived and Martha and Dan were really patient with me.     I am also grateful that my cold didn’t really start until we were home.   But that is a whole other story.