¡Niños!

Concentration

Having been a nanny and no progeny, usually children are the last thing I want to see on vacation. This little cutie, in her plaid Catholic school uniform, just stole my heart. I really wanted to take her home with me but I think that is technically kidnapping… 😎 She was utterly oblivious of the busy sidewalk around her, totally focused on her drawing book. There is a beautiful Catholic cathedral in Puerto Vallarta with a school alongside it. The memory of Catholic school sometimes fills my heart with terror (don’t mention Jesuits…) but this brought back some unexpectedly happy memories. Every time I smell a fresh leather bag, I am taken back to my new leather satchel and first day of school.

Estuary meets the sea

Sandcastles

As I wandered down the river to the sea, there were children playing along the edge of the river or swimming in it. There was a market for local vendors on an island in the middle of the river and I think the children above might have been one of the vendor’s children or perhaps a shell fisherman that I saw not far from them. They were perfectly happy playing by themselves with a bucket/tin and sand. Big sister was in charge.  I was curious as to why they were on the estuary not the beach but perhaps it was for safety or the sand made better castles?

Estuary fisherman

Church of our Lady of Guadalupe

I was trying to take some more shots of the cathedral when I spotted this little girl sitting like a pixie. I think her Dad was watching me protectively.  Puerto Vallarta should be very proud of their lovely children.

School’s out

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

COASTAL VISTA
This is the wonderful vista overlooking San Felipe Del Morro Fort in the Old San Juan, Puerto Rico with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Finally, we got the opportunity to go on a real vacation to somewhere warm and interesting. Puerto Rico is an American Territory, perhaps, one day, the 51st state, in a strategic part of the Caribbean. It is part of the Antilles in the south west of the Caribbean Sea. The original natives are the Taino and it was settled by the Spanish in the 1500s; an important part of the Spice Trade Route back to Europe. Slaves were brought there to tend the sugar cane plantations and most of them were from Congo. Today’s Puerto Ricans’ are an intriguing blend of European, Native and African and these traditions are reflected in the cuisine, dancing and heritage. Only 20% of islanders speak English and the rest speak a Spanish dialect which has Taino and African words in the patois. One of the locals told me that it would already have been a State if they had any money, or oil in the local water, and perhaps that’s a good thing. There is a familiarity and yet a unique foreign feel to the island. It is a volcanic island so there is little diversity in the fauna and what animals and plants are there were brought by air, sea or human. One little creature makes a very distinctive noise, all over the island – Coquí. It is a little frog, with an onomatopoetic name for the mating call – kockee, kockee. Once you have your ear in, that is all you can hear and there are 17 separate species in Puerto Rico. There are number of distinct ecosystems on the island and we went from hot, windy San Juan to cool, tropical rainforest in just a couple of hours. There is also a dry forest and bioluminescent lake. Old San Juan is full of original buildings with amazing hilly cobble-stone streets. A British trade ship left it’s ballast of iron ore centuries ago and they were carved into wonderful blue, iridescent cobbles that shimmer in daylight and look like moonstones at dusk. Puerto Rico was so amazing that I have divided it into two posts and the next one will be about El Yunque, the rainforest. Click on the red link to see more fabulous photos of architecture and the people of San Juan. POSTCARD FROM SAN JUAN – click here

Yucatan

Yucatan I had always wanted to visit Maya ruins, particularly in 2012, and would have been happy to go to any of the Central American countries where they remain but Mexico was cheapest. There have been a couple of State warnings about American travelers to Mexico and some areas are very dangerous especially on the Texas border. There was a terrorist incident in Cancun but generally that area is safe. As A. dropped me at the airport, I turned and shouted, “Don’t pay the ransom!” I decided to fly into Cancun and travel down to the coast to a resort called Playacar which was about 50 miles south. Another 50 miles south are the ruins of Tulum, a UNESCO heritage site, and one of the youngest Maya structures. As you can see above it was situated on the Caribbean for trading and it was well fortified. Read the whole story by clicking on the red link POSTCARD FROM YUCATAN 2012 – click here