The weeks leading up to my trip to Puerto Rico were busy, meaning I spent more time preparing to moderate a session on "Life Beyond Journalism" than I did contemplating where I was traveling for a journalism conference.
Of course, I knew when I signed on a few months ago that Puerto Rico is an appealing destination but I knew nothing about its welcoming nature or its vibrant architecture.
This was a refreshing sight since humidity during my stay was reportedly at a whopping sixty percent and temperatures hovered at around 90 degrees. Around this time, I did wonder whether I should instead head over to the beach.
But I'd discovered from talking to various Puerto Ricans that the island has a rich artistic culture that draws inspiration and techniques from various countries, near and far, and I was anxious to learn more.
I walked through the main parts of downtown, passing up tons of souvenir shops.
This store was one of my favorites because shop owners combined handmade goods with modern canvas paintings, antiques and other goodies for an enticing collection.
By far, the art gallery with the most varied and expressive art was this store on Calle Fortaleza.
The various art galleries scattered throughout downtown also had exquisite, if pricey, offerings.
My heart ached for my kids to enjoy everything in Puerto Rico just as I was doing, but especially when I went inside the local children's museum and heard the joyful peals of laughter.
Lovely plazas, each with their own personality, beckoned those looking for rest or interesting sights.
I continued my walk, past this enchanting stairway...
.. and stumbled upon this enticing sight. A group of curious tourists, peeking through the tinted windows on this home were surprised by a gentleman who opened the door and asked in a friendly tone, "Hello, are you looking for someone?" One of the tourists stammered something about being embarassed, to which the man replied, "Hey, you want to see a real Puerto Rican home? Come in and take a look." Next thing I knew, the group had disappeared inside the home. True Puerto Rican hospitality.
My self-guided tour led me past the Czech Republic consulate.
This stairway captivated me, with the stark contrast of an old, cement wall with lush strawberry-colored flowers.
Every sort of diversion, including a guided tour of the city on wheels, is among the many tourist attractions offered besides shopping.
Old, character-filled churches abounded.
This tiny but beautiful stone facade greets visitors on the other side of downtown.
This restful corner awaited me deep inside one of the souvenir shops. "How many souvenir shops can one bear to visit?" someone asked me rhetorically at one point during my trip, alluding to the multitude of trinket shops downtown. But the adventurer (or shopper) in me disagrees since I tend to think that you never know what treasures you can find if you don't soldier on.
Of course, what truly captivated me throughout my visit were the colors. What a beautiful palette adorned the island! It was a wonderful combination of island spiritedness combined with the Latin American love affair with color that produced such an enchanting landscape. I imagined that I had stepped onto a drawing by someone who had been unafraid to use every crayon in the box, unafraid to experiment on each and every building.
I imagined waking up to this sight everyday and instantly feeling happy. Forget cofffee. This would be enough to get me going.
No trip would be complete for me without a visit to at least one bookstore. This one, a decades-old fixture in the city, held me captive for close to two hours.
I explored the tomes on history, culture, fiction and unique children's books, somehow exercising enough restraint to walk away with just one book of fiction and another for my kids.
I have only begun to explore your many treasures and mysteries, Puerto Rico. Ah, what a lovely, lovely place! I shall return to your warm embrace one day, ready to continue my adventure.