« February 2011 | Main | April 2011 »

March 2011

Street Art in Old San Juan

OK, I've covered the architecture and assorted outdoor art in Old San Juan, but our tour wouldn't be complete without reference to the street art you can find there, too. Here are a few of the pieces I spotted:

PR 212 

PR 241 

PR 238 

PR 124 

This one is actually inside a popular dive bar called El Batey that is literally covered in graffiti...

PR 248 

And this is pure graffiti, less art - but a fun picture :)



Outdoor Art in Old San Juan

It is estimated that there are at least 400 structures of historic value in Old San Juan; we looked at some of them in the last post on architecture. As if that weren't enough, the neighborhood is also home to many beautiful statues, fountains and other pieces of outdoor art - perhaps not as ancient, but just as lovely to look at. I like the character they bring to the streets and squares of this historic area. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Plaza de Colón (Columbus square) was originally called St. James Square but was renamed in 1893 with the dedication of this statue honoring Christopher Columbus on the 400th anniversary of his discovery of Puerto Rico:

PR 080 

The Raíces ("Roots") Fountain celebrates Puerto Rico's Taíno, Spanish, and African heritage: 

PR 229 

Modern art is mixed in with these older statues, like the Tótem Telúrico sculpture in the Plaza del Quinto Centenario (Quincentennial Square). It was designed by Jaime Suarez in 1992, stands about 40 feet tall, and is made of black granite and Taino ceramic pieces:PR 118 

This fun statue of penguins in a boat is by local artist Jorge Zeno and is located in the little square next to El Convento:

PR 138

These whimsical cat chairs, perhaps in homage to the many cats that roam the streets:

PR 086 

And lastly, a piece depicting the Santos (saints). Puerto Rico is famous for its carved wooden religious idols called santos that are popular souvenirs and sought after by collectors: 

PR 258 


The Architectural Style of Old San Juan

I just love Old San Juan. The narrow, cobblestone streets. The mix of high and low dining and shopping. The energy of both locals and tourists. But mostly, I love the Spanish Colonial architecture. Everywhere you look there are pastel, tile-roofed buildings with wrought-iron balconies and ornate doorways. Set against the bright blue sky (a nearly everyday occurance here, it seems) and sweeping ocean views, Old San Juan is picture perfect:

PR 083

PR 084

PR 128 

PR 186 

The Escuela de Artes Plásticas (University of Fine Arts):

PR 117

PR 242 

San Jose Church, one of the earliest surviving examples of 16th century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western hemisphere:

PR 119 

Those lovely blue cobblestone streets...

PR 243 

And this cobalt blue wall, which together with the wood beams and chipped, red post made for a picture-perfect background.

PR 126 


A Glimpse of Condado

Before we tour the streets, buildings, restaurants & bars of Old San Juan, I want to give you a glimpse of Condado, the residential area east of the colonial village where we stayed. In the 1920s it was the summer playground of American industrialists like the Vanderbilts; today, those historic homes are surrounded by hotels and high-rise condominiums.

Here's the view from our room (out the front door; you'll recall our beautiful ocean view out the back):

PR 007 
PR 008 
At the bottom right of the above picture is a row of stores including Salvatore Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Gucci (très chic!). But our favorite was a little shop called Pina Colada Club; the owner is a fabulous woman who not only hooked us up with fab clothes/accessories, but also with two hot restaurants - Dragonfly and Parrot Club - which are part of her husband's OOF Restaurant Group. More on that later.

PR 011 

Lastly, if you looked out to the right, you could see the cruise ships docked in Old San Juan:

PR 050 

We'll head there next.


Gene Simmons and Other Star Sightings

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, La Concha Resort has hosted its share of celebrities. JLo and Marc Anthony (we just missed them!), Enrique Inglesias, and Zoe Saldana to name a few. So who did we see while staying there last week?

Kiss Members of the rock band, KISS. Remember them? Those face-painted, flamboyantly dressed, hard rocking guys who were all the rage in the late 70s?  I can still picture the band poster on my brother's bedroom wall.

Well, 30 years later, they are still at it. Currently on their Hottest Show on Earth tour, they performed at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico last Saturday night, and you guessed it - they stayed at La Concha Resort.

While we only glimpsed the full band once - sans costumes on their way through the lobby to get into a limousine before the big show, bassist Gene Simmons hung out at the lobby bar all weekend.

PR 024PR 032
PR 031 PR 060

Apparently, there were sightings of Gene's pal Danny Bonaduce as well, which makes me think they may have done some filming for the upcoming season of Gene Simmons Family Jewels.

Here's a shot of the KISS concert posters in San Juan:

PR 036 

And I'm sure Gene would be thrilled to learn that he's been added to my Star Sightings Flickr set.

Party on.


La Concha Resort, Puerto Rico

I'm back from a lovely vacation in Puerto Rico, which is such a great spot - I highly recommend it. Four hour direct flight from Boston on JetBlue, which means you can leave after work on a Friday and be there in time to enjoy the nightlife.

You may recall that I stayed at El Conquistador last time around, which is in Fajardo on the East Coast of the island (about 50 minutes from San Juan). While that resort was beautiful, with gorgeous rooms, a private island of white sand beaches, and close proximity to Bio Bay and El Yunque rain forest, its remote location meant you rarely left the resort. And the restaurants/food options there weren't great.

This time, I opted for a spot closer to the action: La Concha Resort along the Condado Beach region of San Juan. It was built in 1958 but renovated in 2008 and considered to be one of the most modern & luxurious hotels on the island, often frequented by celebrities (more on this in a later post!).

It is indeed modern, with a very Miami feel...from the interior design to the glamorous patrons packing the lobby bar on weekend nights. It boasts 5 on-site restaurants, a 24-hour casino, a gym, salon, 3 pools, and of course the beach. Here are some highlights:

Our room:

PR 001 

The view from our room:

PR 004 

The three pools:

PR 018 
PR 009 

PR 075 


PR 017

PR 015 

The seared-ahi tuna salad at Solera, the open-air, pool-side restaurant - our favorite spot for lunch!


The infamous lobby bar:

PR 014 

The fancy La Perla restaurant, which sits in a giant seashell over the ocean (the blue part surrounding it is actually water):

PR 006 
PR 077 
PR 059 
PR 057 

Overall, a great spot. It's also a short walk to some other great restaurants and shops, and a quick cab ride to Old San Juan, my favorite part of the city (more on that later, too).

To see the full set of pictures from La Concha, including ones of my lovely travel companions, head on over to the Flickr set.