Before I begin let me be clear. I love San Juan. I hate the Coral Princess boutique hotel. In fact, I'd like all of you to hate the Coral Princess boutique hotel with me, indeed I wish to talk about how much I hate the Coral Princess boutique hotel lots and lots so that anyone thinking of staying at the Coral Princess boutique hotel will google the Coral Princess boutique hotel and find this blog. But, we'll get back to that in a bit.
Vacations and races all start the same way. Days of frantic packing followed by worrying about the alarm going off, which it does, after a crappy night sleep. We set two alarms for races and vacation, the regular household one purchased over 10 years ago for less than 10 dollars, and Alex's Blackberry. The last time I had heard Alex's Blackberry was 4:30 in the morning in Scottsdale on or about November 22nd of last year. Yup, Iron morning. I confess that the sound makes me a little nauseous.
Up we got and started the layering required to go from winter in Toronto to sun and fun in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's a little bit like being a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis - generally the emergence happens in the washroom at the first stop - Miami in this case.
We fly about 6:30 and get to San Juan mid afternoon, get a cab and set out for the Coral Princess boutique hotel, which, I may have mentioned, I hate. The Coral Princess boutique hotel was good from far but far from good, it was the sizzle without the steak, it was mutton dressed up as lamb. Our room, or cell as I think of it, was barely large enough for the double bed. There was really no room for the suitcases but, inexplicably, there was a clothing steamer taking up very precious, and expensive, floor space. That was all good, however. Alex expressed reservations but I was still taken in by the pretty veneer of the hotel. Alex spends a lot of time in hotels, Alex knows what is up.
Now, I am a little jaded I admit by my stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, in a suite no less. I may actually never get over that. Alex flies business class and I know that our flights on points have been hard on him. He doesn't let it show, except for muttering something about "steerage" the whole time. Actually the muttering starts as soon as we book the flights. We booked the flights months in advance so you have an idea of what my life is like.
Having checked into the hotel from hell, the Coral Princess boutique hotel, we asked for a recommendation for dinner. About dinner, I shall say this. Mofongo is an acquired taste, but then again, the Coral Princess boutique hotel recommended the restaurant.
We had an early dinner and then walked the beach and checked out the neighbourhood. The area of San Juan that we were staying in, Conado district, affectionately known as zone 3 in the taxicabs, reminded us so much of the neighbourhood we live in in Toronto, except of course, that is really warm. We are about a kilometre from the lake front in Toronto but there is no way that Sunnyside beach comes anywhere close to the lovely public beach in San Juan.
Having been up far too long we headed back to the hotel, the Coral Princess boutique hotel, for an early night. It very soon became clear that, with one window that overlooked the 24 hour lit up lobby, with a locked lobby door that guests had to be buzzed into, and with the whole floor being one big piece of terrazzo with no soft surfaces to absorb any noise, well, the Coral Princess boutique hotel was not set up for the actual act of sleeping. At 10, when I got up to see what could possibly be making all that noise I also discovered that the room kitty-corner from us also substituted as a storage room and office for the front desk clerk. When she wasn't buzzing guests in she seemed to spend her time going in and out of this room wearing stilleto flip flops, slamming the door.
Not surprising a very bad sleep ensued. This is where my complaint with the Coral Princess boutique hotel comes in. Having asked for a quieter and darker room that night and being shown a room just down the hall with light from the garden area pouring in, I asked the clerk if we could check out in the morning, not owing any money. She assured me we could but I'm still waiting for the Coral Princess boutique hotel to give us our money back. Actually, I'm still waiting for the Coral Princess boutique hotel to acknowledge my emails to them. I'm also waiting for Expedia.com to earn their money for the booking by helping me out in this situation. But, I'm an endurance athlete so, as soon as I can, I'm starting the phone call campaign.
Trusting the evening desk clerk, however, we got up very early, had breakfast and set out to find another room. Saturday in San Juan is booked solid but we lucked upon
The, albeit somewhat dated hotel personified the idea of hospitality however. We were offered a room on the top floor with immediate occupancy, the booker of the room having not shown up the night before. It was $100. We were more than ready to give anyone anywhere $100 to get some sleep and finding this hotel gave us a morning AND afternoon nap for the cash. It was furnished in early thrift shop but we were very pleased by the comfortable beds and quiet corridor.
Nap, lunch, nap and off we went to walk to old San Juan. The old part of the city is really beautiful although pretty touristy with a general feeling of a fool being parted from his money.
We cabbed back and hit the public beach.
After dinner, we headed back to our wonderful $100 room but a few cracks where appearing in the quiet facade. We were treated to very loud Spanish TV and inexplicable furniture draggin. But, alcohol, and our favourite over the counter drug Gravol, left us coasting the dream waves. Alex said it was 3:30 when the furniture started moving again. But I was just fine with that.
I've come to believe that the very essence of our humanness is found with endurance sports. They are seemingly solitary, self absorbed pursuits but those of us who take that route to life know, perhaps more than others, that we are a team out there.
Please take your life and use it up, wear it out, get blisters, chafe and sunburns. If you choose triathlon, and I hope you do, I wish you well on that journey. You will take on a lifestyle that is unparalleled. Either way, drop me a line, tell me your story.