While waiting for our guests, we got ready to meet them. One of the main issues was transportation from San Juan Airport, where they were landing, to Fajardo. So we decided to rent a car, and meet them at the airport. We started to shop around, first stop being Avis and Enterprise, but it was Christmas time, and they were reluctant to give a car for regular prices. The last resort was World Car Rentals, which was not very reputable (we heard from several people that their cars were old, and insurance had a considerable amount for deductible; but Al felt desperate on Saturday, and booked a Mitsubishi for Wednesday (the 21st) at 11:00 am, so we would have time to do some shopping and drive an hour to San Juan Airport, to meet them at 4:30 pm.
On the morning of Wednesday, we moved to Sunbay Marina, and tied up in quite harsh conditions. When Al was getting ready to deal with the car around 9:00 am, he received a text message from Deniz, advising that their flight was delayed until 2:00 am in the morning, and they were in New York, USA at that moment. No matter, it gave us time to do shopping with our car, since carrying the groceries to the boat at Isleta was a major problem, but not in the new marina, since the car can be parked very close to the docks.
Al called for the car. The reception he got was “What? Who? When? No, there is no message about any car being reserved in your name”. Al was adamant, but since he is very polite, he pleaded with the lady, instead of getting angry, since we were kind of expecting it (at least I was). At last, he got a promise for a Ford Taurus, and we walked over to their office to get it. The lady gave us the keys, and told us to check the dents on the body before taking it. We saw that the outside was covered some small dents at every corner, but inside was another story; the side panel at the door was missing, the seats were burned by multiple cigarette tips etc. We went in, and I could not help pointing out to the lady that she gave us the worst car in the lot. I asked if they were reserving the other cars for “better customers”, and she said they ha VIP s. I laughed at her face, and reminded her about their bad reputation. I bluntly told her that we would not have come to them any other time of the year! I started walking about the lot, waiting for Al to come back. After some time, I peeked into the office, and he winked that we were getting one of the new Nissans. I have to thank my good friend Nural, who always encourages me for standing up for my rights. Al never argues with anyone, and I usually do not interfere; however, as it is said in Turkish, if the baby does not cry, no one would feed it. Sometimes, it is enough to show your displeasure to change things. Not always maybe, but it would not hurt to try.
Anyway, we got the car, did our shopping, with lots of time to spare, and got restless on the boat. I suggested we should start driving to San Juan in daylight (ends around 6:00 pm), since we did not know the way, and Al reluctantly obliged. We reached San Juan in about two hours, since we visited “The Outlet” mall on the way, just to see how Puerto Ricons were getting ready for Christmas. They were not any different than Americans or Canadians – franticly shopping and eating. The only difference was the absence of the Carol tunes constantly being broadcast on the loud speakers. What attracted my attention were the toques, woolen jackets and boots on sale – who would buy or wear them in a climate where the temperature never dips below 25 C. Correction, I saw some young girls sporting boots while wearing strapless tops. Oh well, they have to look good.
Anyway, we reached the Airport, took a turn inside around the arrival side and exited to continue on to San Juan and did some sightseeing in the “Old” part, without seeing much because it was raining hard and quite dark. I thought there would be restaurants etc. to cater to the tourists, but we could not see any on the way. So we stopped at San Juan marina (we cannot stay away from marinas any more) and had an extended dinner (about two hours). Then what? While we were thinking of taking a stroll, it started to rain again cats and dogs. Al does not like walking anyway. Back to the Airport.
Our new Norwegian friend Marten had given us a tip; the Buffalo Bar at the airport was validating parking tickets up to six hours. We parked in the parkade about five hours before the arrival time and spent some more time at the bar. Then I felt tired, so we went to the car and slept for an hour or so. It is hard to keep Al in one place, so we had to go around and check the arrival plaza, and look at people meeting their loved ones. I really like watching people at arrivals embracing each other; it is usually a happy place. I tell you, Puerto Ricons are very expressive of their happiness, much different than the smiling-hand shaking-nodding Canadians. It was quite entertaining to watch the commotion. The plaza is another story. People wait outside of the carousel area, and look in through the glass. It is interesting to watch the travellers coming down and congregating around some carousels. We walked along the windows, trying to guess which carousel Deniz would be coming, and decided to wait at the exit gate. After sometime, we spotted Deniz and Zeynep coming towards us. They were dead tired, but we talked all the way to Fajardo. By the time we got them settled in their cabin, it was almost 4:00 am. There was a storm raging in the sea, which yanked our dock lines and squished our fenders with a deafening noise on their side. I felt awful, but we could not do anything until the morning. Sure enough, around 6:30 am, I saw Deniz at the deck, conversing with Al about changing the structure of the dock lines. They were able to minimize the noise, and the poor guy went back to sleep.
We knew that the storm was going to last for a few days, so we planned to keep the car for three days, and do some sight-seeing in Puerto Rico. First we visited the famous rainforest called El Yunque (pronounced something like jungle, go figure Spanish), which was quite interesting. The enormous size of the trees with lush green foliage and peeking bright flowers were a wonder, but Zeynep and I were drawn mostly to the clusters of bamboo shoots going in all directions, some of them being uprooted, resting on the others. We also visited the interpretation centre, a very modern building marking the entrance to the wilderness on top of a mountain, with occasional breathtaking glimpses of the sea to the north.
We spent the next day in old San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is known as the oldest city in North America, founded by the Spanish colonizers. It is a very well preserved and neatly maintained European town, with a citadel and high stone buildings, painted with pastel colors.