26 December 2009

Buenos Dias, PR

Today was our last day and Stacey and I spent most of it on the beach. I am a darker shade of pale. We rode boogie boards today and I am still cleaning seaweed from every crevis of my body. Good thing there is no customs. (Our last day of Egpyt we went riding on 4wheelers and I know I brought back sand in my ears) The water is clear, but it means that you can see all the gunk in it. Maybe there is some thing to not knowing what is wrapping around your leg. I must share one particularly funny story. Stacey and I were riding the waves and Stacey's first ride out was not a successful run on top of the wave and the water came crashing down around her. When she stood up and looked back at me I started laughing...the kind of paralyzing laughter in which you can't breathe because she had just experience what I would consider the second worst thing that could happen to you in the water. Yes folks, my sister had gone topless without realizing it. Through my uncontrolled laughter she figured it out and returned her top to it upright and locked position and began laughing herself. I think we laughed for about 10 straight minutes. As one might imagine, she waited for the right wave the next time.

Signing off for now...until the next adventure.

A walled Baptist

San Juan was named after St. John the Baptist and Old San Juan is a fortified city like Charleston, but the walls are MUCH bigger. I did learn that orginally the city was called Puerto Rico "rich port" and the island San Juan which in a way made much more sense.

Emily and John had suggested not to get a tour guide and use the walking tour from the book which was a great idea because we could stop whenever we wanted along the way. The only bad thing was that it was hard to figure out where the tour started. We started our tour three times thinking we were in the right spot. We ate, did some shopping, walked around and took pictures. I could have done more of all three. In this entry, I'm just putting up some pictures of the old city. It really was gorgeous and we couldn't have asked for better weather.

24 December 2009

Q: How did you get those calves????

A: This is the first question ANYONE should ask me when they see me. Not, "Wow what a great shade of not so pale!" Thanks to Puerto Rico, I have a little calf definition to my legs but this has come with a price--for the last two days I hesitate to start walking because it is like reving the motor on an old woman. You know she can walk, it just takes her a bit to get going. I've also had to brace a bit in order to sit down. Let's hope tomorrow is a different day. Downward facing dog has not helped.

Tonight is Christmas Eve and one might think that I'd miss the cold or a christmas tree, but as you can see, PR is just as adept at Christmas decorations as we are. It rained today, but Stacey and I got some beach time in this morning and we have rented a golf cart. Jim, Stacey and I drove around in the afternoon to do some exploring of the Gated Gated community. There are a lot of gates andsome houses that were not gated. My observation....if you've got money, you gate the driveway. You want peopel to see the house...just not get to close.

Tonight after dinner, Mom made some pina coladas (we are experimenting with recipes) and off we went to look at Christmas lights. It was still drizzling a little bit, but we headed out anyway. We were not on the cart path more than 10 minutes and the sky opened up and let out all the water. A guard let us rest under a shelter until the heavy rain passed. We continued on. Jim has better pictures, my camera battery was starting to die. The picture with the village is dedicated to Bruce Anderson, Planning Board Chairman of the Town of Huntersville who does something similar in his house. We found this Christmas treasure this afternoon when I saw all the lights on the house. The village "appeared" this evening.

23 December 2009

Dear John

Dear John,

Get to the financial planner and tell him that you have changed your retirement goals and need a small apartment in Puerto Rico. Our home in Charlotte with the east and west wings may end up being a nice four-square in West End (club your car and make nice with the prostitutes--for now at least) I'm thinking somewhere near to San Juan so we can gawk at tourists like we did at C of C. Tell our unadopted children who I'm sure will be in therapy for the arrangement we will put them in that they are going to need to do well in life because they will be visitin' us in this wonderful US protectorate (so says the guidebooks). Brush up on your Spanish (maybe Santa will put some CD's in your stocking) because that is the only way we'll be able to say " Hey Boy" to those that qualify. To my unofficial neices and nephews...seriously, GaGa and Uncle John will have the most fun place to go for spring break.

Yours in common law,

Senorita (or Senora...I'm no spring chicken) Whitney Neal

22 December 2009

El Yunque

So today we went to the only rain forest in the United States (but obviously not on the contiguous 48 and not in an actual state). The views were amazing and here are a few pictures. I love the way the palm tree curves. When we were at Mt. Britton, we watched clouds come in and out. We did not go all the way to the top of El Yunque (we needed more time and I personally need better thigh muscles before that kind of climb). Now, this excusion did not meet any of my goals for this trip of reading on the beach, drinking fruity cocktails or being lazy, BUT I am glad I didn't miss it.
Stacey tried empandas today and we had dinner at (shh...don't tell anyone) Chili's. To be quiet honest we were dressed in the clothes above and many things were closed...the options were slim, but the marguaritas were tasty and definitely worth it after a long day of hiking (seriously...it was only 3 miles, but labeled "challenging" climbs). Jim practically ran up the mountain and Mom kept us at a good pace. We met a girl in school at NC State...small world. She and her boyfriend had split up in order to look for their car. We drove her around until we found him. There have been over 200 people never found in El Yunque (granted that total is from the amount of time the National Forest has been in place), but we were not about to make her and her boyfriend a statistic.
My new spanish of the day is jueves and viernes. I'll be fluent at babbling like a baby by Christmas!

21 December 2009

The Chaos on the Way to the Gated Gates

One can not imagine the hysteia of the Charlotte Airport unless you were there at 6:30 am on Sunday morning. The passengers that were there overnight waiting to get back onto new flights after the weather canceled their flights combined with new travelors such as ourselves made for a quamire of passengers - some angry, some pushy, some just trying to go with the flow. USAir did not do themselves any favors by not signing ANY of the lines. One employee tried to restore some type of order, but to limited avail to the travelors who needed to make changes and perhaps had been in the airport for 16 hours. I totally sympahized with their situation, but I was headed to the tropics and was not about to miss it. Which is why it is great to have an innocently-looking, pushing sister who "bullied" her way into a recently opened line. We made our flight thanks to her persistence, but did not have time for breakfast. I slept through "snacks" on the plane (I swear I'm going some where with this food thing).
Our rental car is a Kia Rio with manual windows and a USB port (this combination makes no sense to me). We are staying in a place called outside of Palmas del Mar Humacao on the east side of Puerto Rico. As best as I can determine, it is pronounced "oo-ma-cow" or "oo-ma-ki-o" (my Spanish needs work). This is a Gated Gated community - you go through one gate at the front and to another gate to each little community. This does not keep out the wild dogs. It takes a litle while and at least one attempt of Stacey speaking Spanish to get our condo's keys Which We get around 3pm. I have eaten two granola bars and half a coke by this time. I'm fading and fast fading. (This always reminds me of the time that Maggie and I were in Italy and did not speak for 6 hours because we went to find a building she wanted to see in our Italian guide book, written in French, Which turns out to be a hospital . We skipped lunch that day and walk for about 3 hours ... I went BA-LIS-TIC. I am surprised she ever spoke to me again). We find this restaurant in a cute place in the compound (not Jack I have not gotten pictures yet). Vanessa our waitress recommended against the quesadillas and to the nachos supreme. The recommendation was well worth it and color finally returned to my face. I had a huge carnitas burrito and was finally amoung the living again. Because of the lack of blood sugar for so long, I had to nap while the rest of the family went to the beach.

In the evening we went to Ralph's Food Warehouse! And they were not kidding about the food. I had a blast but most are aware of my obsession with food stores. Thus far, Puerto Rico is like extreme conservatives think what will happen to the U.S. if were an official Spanish language and thus far, I do not see what all the hype is about. I mean for the love of shoe sales, there is a Wal-Mart, Sally's Beauty Supply and Rave in the next town over!

Today was utter bliss! We spent the morning at the beach. Napped, Lunch, Read a whole book and Jim entertained as best we could without exerting ourselves. Mom loves the Boogie board and Stacey has painted two good watercolors.
More ahead and Love to all

19 December 2009

La Carribe--a first

Tomorrow I leave for Puerto Rico. This will be my first time to the Carribean. The journey there has been full of some excitement. Mom, Stacey and Jim were snowed in and without power. Mom and Jim had to shovel Pappy's truck out of the driveway in order to meet Stacey in Asheville where we hope the truck will stay in the driveway. All this drama in the mountains and all the weather we had in Charlotte was freezing rain (of which I would say I am a little tired of the gloomy weather). I am hopeful that our plane will be on time and without weather incident. Pictures and stories to follow.