Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Overnight in San Juan

What better to follow a cold weekend in New York than a Caribbean cruise.  Think warm!  We like the Windstar Cruises, with typically 200-250 passengers on the ship and 150 or so crew.  The feeling is intimate and we can get to know the crew (and do, indeed, remember each other as we meet in later years).

We meet the ship, Star Legend, in San Juan, flying in the night before departure and poking around San Juan for a day.  The first views are very promising!

We're not in [cold] Manhattan any more!

For dinner, Jennifer and I sit in the bar as Laura trolls the neighborhood for possibilities (if you recall, this worked really well in Livorno, Italy).  She finds La Cantina down the street from the hotel and we have a great meal to start our journey:  fish tacos, grilled octopus, and seafood paella.  And, as we get our entrees, a flamenco dancer!  What a great local experience!

 Fish tacos (mostly consumed) and grilled octopus

 Flamenco dancer

 Seafood paella

The next morning, we hang out at the hotel pool for a while, check in at the ship after lunch, and wander around Old San Juan for a few hours.

Holiday fair in Old (Viejo) San Juan

Heading away from the harbor, we come on the state capital and blocks of commemorative statues and sculptures.

 Capital, sculptures lining the street in front

We pass the fort and head into the narrow streets of Old San Juan.


  Colorful streets of Old San Juan

 And, with plenty of plazas and holiday decorations.

 Open spaces and holiday decorations

After an hour or two, we jigger-jagger back through the streets toward the harbor and our ship, passing a grand fountain, a park where everyone feeds the pigeons, and parts of the old San Juan city wall.

 Parts of the Old San Juan city wall

Pigeon-feeding park

And, outside the walls, close to the harbor, a Holiday market and great gardens.

 Holiday market

 Fantastic paths and gardens just outside the city walls

Then, a walk along the edge of the harbor to our ship, soon to depart.

Our ship awaits us.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Breaking News: Chinese New Year Celebration in Singapore

We once again interrupt our regularly-scheduled programming for another timely Singapore experience: Chinese New Year.

I return from Bangkok (more on that coming soon) with a stopover in Singapore just as the Chinese New Year celebration begins.  I meet ChongBee for dinner and afterwards we stroll through Chinatown to see what is going on.  A lot!  The population of Singapore is about three-quarters ethnic Chinese and the Chinese New Year festival is a big event here.

The coming year is the year of the Rooster and we find a large one in the middle of New Bridge Road on the edge of Chinatown, between Chinatown and the riverfront district.

 Year of the Rooster coming up

The year of the Rooster starts January 28 and runs until February 15, 2018, with the Rooster representing fidelity and punctuality.  I understand that this arises from the period before alarm clocks where the crowing of the rooster was important to awaken people and get them to work on time. There are lots of people standing in the street and in the crosswalks taking pictures of the Rooster, just as I am.

We head away from the main boulevard and the bright Rooster and into the narrow streets of Chinatown where all the action is, streets transformed into markets selling every conceivable item.  The streets are closed to cars and packed with stalls and people, lots of fun!

 Crowded streets

 Full of stalls selling everything and anything

 I understand that the best time to shop is around midnight Friday, the last day the stalls will be open,  when they have to sell all the merchandise or pack it up unsold and close for good (until the next celebration).

After wandering through the streets and markets, we emerge in the central square of Chinatown, next to the Buddhist temple, where a free concert is pulling in a large crowd.

 Concert of old Chinese ballads

 Next to the Buddhist temple

Walking around the corner, we enter the food-court street, a block of restaurants and stalls with wonderful-smelling creations.  We had dinner at a food court just outside Chinatown and don't stop to eat, just pass through and enjoy and appreciate the smells and sights.

 Food court and stalls/carts full of great food

The streets around Chinatown are all decorated with lanterns and lights to join in the celebration.

 Decorations in the surrounding streets

And, for the large crowd, the usual appropriate warnings.

 Signs of the times

After an hour or two of wandering the streets of Chinatown, it's time to head back and catch some sleep before the early flight back to the US.

Street Rooster in daylight
(not as spectacular without the lights, but still impressive)

We enjoyed our brief stop for the Chinese New Year celebration and know that everyone here will have a great time over the coming holiday!