Puerto Rico - November 2008


The overnight flight from LA to Puerto Rico was uneventful, although American Airlines service has declined significantly. It was next to impossible to get a pillow, there were no blankets and there was no food offered.

I had booked a suite at the Gran Melia resort which was quite a distance from the airport and Old San Juan. Perhaps this was a mistake. The resort is advertised as 'timeless luxury with an avant-garde flair' and is indeed a luxurious resort. However it is secluded and as I had come to explore I felt a little trapped.

After a couple of days spent relaxing and enjoying the facilities of the resort I rented a car in order to explore some of the island.

My first stop was Arecibo Observatory. The observatory's radio telescope is the largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed and has been used in a number of films and television shows including the James Bond movie GoldenEye, Contact (with Jodie Foster) and the The X-Files episode "Little Green Men". The telescope began to collect data for the SETI@home project in 1999. I felt this was something I needed to see!

Moving on to Old San Juan, Fort San Cristóbal is one of the largest ever built in the Americas by Spain. Its walls rise more than 150 feet above the sea. San Cristóbal protected San Juan against attackers coming by land as a partner to El Morro, to which it is linked by a half-mile of walls and bastions filled with cannon-firing positions.

El Morro's history began in 1539 by Spanish settlers and took about 50 years before it was fully functional. Named after King Phillip II of Spain, El Morro rises almost 150ft in the air and features a number of garitas - dome covered sentry outposts that have become one of the defining icons of the island itself.



The room at the Gran Melia resort

The Arecibo telescope

El Morro with two sentry outposts

La Garita, a sentry box at El Morro

Stacked Cannon balls at El Morro