Back to Old San Juan for a day full of fortresses and some shopping!

Morning

Today was our highly anticipated day back to Old San Juan! We were up at 8 (that’s early for us, when on vacation), dressed, out the door and driven to Plaza Colon by 9 am. We decided to try out Café Berlin for breakfast (I had heard good reviews about one of their morning drinks). We sat on the terrace in order to enjoy the nice weather and do some people-watching.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, any style (Caro = sunny-side up, Salem = scrambled) for $2.50. 2 orders of tomato-basil bread ($2.00) – Oh my was this bread ever something to write home about! One coffee, one americano and their famous breakfast juice (zucchini, mint, lemon). The coffee was great, the breakfast juice was amazing. Honestly, we wish we could’ve gone back again to experience breakfast all over again! Great service too, all for less than $20. Woot woot!

On the terrace at Café Berlin. La terrasse au Café Berlin.

On the terrace at Café Berlin. La terrasse au Café Berlin.

Café Berlin's tasty breakfast drink. Le fameux breuvage-matin au Café Berlin.

Café Berlin’s tasty breakfast drink. Le fameux breuvage-matin au Café Berlin.

Breakfast is served! Le déjeuner est servi!

Breakfast is served! Le déjeuner est servi!

Salem enjoying his coffee. Salem profite de son café.

Salem enjoying his coffee. Salem profite de son café.

Castillo San Cristobal

Our tour started around 10:30 at the Castillo San Cristobal about 100m away. We were lucky – it was some sort of federal park day so entrance was free. Salem’s co-workers had said it would only take an hour to visit. Right… It took us over 2 hours, but then again, we like history and reading the information plaques and taking pictures, etc.

Let me share a bit of history with you: The fortress was originally built in 1634 to defend (Spanish) Puerto Rico and the Americas from attacks by other European powers (ie: English, Dutch, French) as well as other entities in the Caribbean sea.

Drawings on the dungeon wall. Des dessins sur un mur du dongeon.

Drawings on the dungeon wall. Des dessins sur un mur du dongeon.

More dungeon drawings. Un autre dessin dans le dongeon.

More dungeon drawings. Un autre dessin dans le dongeon.

Tunnels inside the fortress. Les tunnels de la forteresse.

Tunnels inside the fortress. Les tunnels de la forteresse.

A Spanish boat. Un navire espagnol.

A Spanish boat. Un navire espagnol.

Salem + musket = happy Salem. Salem + musquet = Salem est très content.

Salem + musket = happy Salem. Salem + musquet = Salem est très content.

Thankfully, the musket isn't loaded. Dieu merci, le musquet n'a pas de balles!

Thankfully, the musket isn’t loaded. Dieu merci, le musquet n’a pas de balles!

Cannon balls - I can't imagine the weight of these. Des balles de cannon. Je ne peux m'imaginer du poids de celles-ci.

Cannon balls – I can’t imagine the weight of these. Des balles de cannon. Je ne peux m’imaginer du poids de celles-ci.

Very nice views of the sea and city are offered and the fortress itself is very well maintained and offers a lot of information. Admission is $3.00 for this fortress alone or you can do a combo of Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo El Morro for $5.00.

On the roof of Castillo San Cristobal. Sur le toît du Castillo San Cristobal.

On the roof of Castillo San Cristobal. Sur le toît du Castillo San Cristobal.

C&S posing inside the castillo. Below if the way to El Morro. C&S font une pose dans le castillo. An arrière-plan; le chemin pour se rendre à El Morro.

C&S posing inside the castillo. Below if the way to El Morro. C&S font une pose dans le castillo. An arrière-plan; le chemin pour se rendre à El Morro.

Caro peeking out. Caro regarde par une grosse fenêtre.

Caro peeking out. Caro regarde par une grosse fenêtre.

Looking east. Apperçu vers l'est.

Looking east. Apperçu vers l’est.

Salem, Old San Juan and the port below. Salem, le vieux San Juan et le port en arrière-plan.

Salem, Old San Juan and the port below. Salem, le vieux San Juan et le port en arrière-plan.

Up on the rooooooof! Sur le toît.

Up on the rooooooof! Sur le toît.

View from a WWII lookout, towards the east. La vue à partir d'un poste de guet datant de la 2e guerre mondiale. Vue vers l'est.

View from a WWII lookout, towards the east. La vue à partir d’un poste de guet datant de la 2e guerre mondiale. Vue vers l’est.

There’s a shuttle between San Cristobal and El Morro which is included in your entrance fee. Or, you can do like us and walk the 1.5-2 km stretch from one to the other. If you’re going to do the walk along the fortification walls, I would suggest you stay just south of the wall (as many are advised on Trip Advisor forums) otherwise you might end up in La Perla, which is supposed to be a bit of a rougher neighbourhood. it’s a 15 minute walk which felt like longer because we had a backpack, it was hot and the sun was at its zenith. Woops! Thankfully, we had plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks.

On our way to El Morro. En route vers El Morro.

On our way to El Morro. En route vers El Morro.

Castillo El Morro

There's El Morro in the background. El Morro à l'horizon!

There’s El Morro in the background. El Morro à l’horizon!

We finally made it to the gates of El Morro! Ça y est! Nous sommes arrivés à El Morro!

We finally made it to the gates of El Morro! Ça y est! Nous sommes arrivés à El Morro!

El Morro is a bit more of a maze and is larger than Castillo San Cristobal and it is also older (construction started in 1529 but expansions continued over the next 400 years). It spans 6 different levels (you start on level 5). We went to the 6th level for some amazing views and went down to the 4th level but we gave up after that because it was so hot (stone fortress + full sun + humidity + not much air circulation in most areas). Either way, it was almost 2 pm and we were getting hungry. This too offers great views of the sea and historical info.

Canon aimed at the beach? Un cannon qui vise la plage?

Canon aimed at the beach? Un cannon qui vise la plage?

I guess that explains why it's pointed at the beach! Ça explique pourquoi il vise la plage!

I guess that explains why it’s pointed at the beach! Ça explique pourquoi il vise la plage!

Salem looking out at El Morro. Salem scrute l'horizon à El Morro.

Salem looking out at El Morro. Salem scrute l’horizon à El Morro.

A look into the center of El Morro. On voit le centre d'El Morro ici.

A look into the center of El Morro. On voit le centre d’El Morro ici.

The fortress walls, coast and the ocean to the east. les murs de la forteresse, la côte et l'océan vers l'est.

The fortress walls, coast and the ocean to the east. Les murs de la forteresse, la côte et l’océan vers l’est.

Salem and the northern cost of El Morro. Salem et la côte nord d'El Morro.

Salem and the northern cost of El Morro. Salem et la côte nord d’El Morro.

Lizards also like tourism. Les lézards aiment aussi les visites touristiques.

Lizards also like tourism. Les lézards aiment aussi les visites touristiques.

Salem posing on the south side of El Morro. Salem pose du côté sud d'El Morro.

Salem posing on the south side of El Morro. LOL! Salem pose du côté sud d’El Morro. LOL!

The 4th level of El Morro - it's hot here! Le 4e niveau d'El Morro; il fait très chaud ici!

The 4th level of El Morro – it’s hot here! Le 4e niveau d’El Morro; il fait très chaud ici!

We took the free shuttle back to the more central part of Old San Juan and made our way to Barrachina (104 Calle Fortaleza) as I had heard some good reviews about it. You can either sit indoors or in a “courtyard”. Of course, we picked the courtyard. I ordered the shrimp mofongo in a tomato sauce over cassava, Salem ordered the combo mofongo (chicken, beef, shrimp) in a slightly different tomato sauce over a plantain base. Very tasty. We also had 2 virgin Pina Coladas which were just what we needed! Unfortunately, the only dessert available at the time was rhum cake. :( Total was $54 + tip. The service was very friendly so we tipped accordingly.

Pina Colada!

Pina Colada!

Courtyard at Barrachina. La cour intérieure au Barrachina.

Courtyard at Barrachina. La cour intérieure au Barrachina.

Happy Pina Colada!

Happy Pina Colada!

Salem's mofongo combo - beef, chicken, shrimp. Le combo mofongo de Salem: boeuf, poulet et crevettes.

Salem’s mofongo combo – beef, chicken, shrimp. Le combo mofongo de Salem: boeuf, poulet et crevettes.

Caro's shrimp mofongo. Le mofongo aux crevettes de Caro.

Caro’s shrimp mofongo. Le mofongo aux crevettes de Caro.

Refuelled and ready to go! Rechargés et prêts à continuer!

Refuelled and ready to go! Rechargés et prêts à continuer!

After refueling, we went souvenir shopping. I’m trying my best to stay away from “junk” souvenir stores in order to support more local artists – and Puerto Rico has lots of artists. Thankfully, Salem was agreed with me given what was available. So, less volume as far as souvenirs go, pay a bit more, but get something authentic and locally-made.

We purchased from the following stores:
- Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts (204 Calle Fortaleza)
- Mundo Taino (Calle San José)
- The Handcraft Store (208 Calle Fortaleza)

Unfortunately, the backpack was getting very heavy and giving Salem problems. So we decided to take a coffee break at Café Cola’o. Can I just repeat how great their coffee is? This must’ve been one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. That, and the barista made some nice art with the foam – I loved it! PS You can buy coffee beans there!

I love you Café Cola'o! Que je t'aime Café Cola'o!

I love you Café Cola’o! Que je t’aime Café Cola’o!

Caro gets to enjoy her coffee. C'est au tour de Caro de savourer son café.

Caro gets to enjoy her coffee. C’est au tour de Caro de savourer son café.

We took a taxi back in the early evening and just had a quiet night eating supplier-sponsored cheese and crackers on our balcony, enjoying Starbucks coffee from the lobby.