El Convento
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El Convento Hotel

Written by Rick Archer
December 2012

During our three day pre-cruise visit to San Juan, we stayed in the historic El Convento Hotel. 

As you may remember from the previous story, El Convento gets its name from "Convent".  El Convento was once a nunnery.

As part of Old San Juan's restoration process, if former military barracks can be transformed into a dance studio, then why can't someone turn a nunnery into a world-class hotel?

El Convento is no ordinary hotel.  It has more style and charm than any hotel we have ever stayed at.

First and foremost has to be the courtyard.  This hotel is built around the most beautiful courtyard.  But don't take my word for it.  I will let the pictures tell the story.

Here is the lovely courtyard

Bruce and Mara eating breakfast down in the courtyard


Patty and Joan

Robert, Cher, Rhoda


The bird came to check out Joe

The cat came to check out the bird

One of the marvelous features was a complimentary wine and cheese event

We had permission to help ourselves. We did... many times.

Jean and I were happy to participate

So were Mr. Handsome and Zorro

I could go on and on about how charming El Convento was

but I think you get the idea.


Our Long Walk Through Old San Juan

One morning Patty and Joe joined Marla and I for a walk.  El Convento is very close to San Juan Bay, so it took less than five minutes to reach the walkway outside the massive wall that surrounds Old San Juan.

The city wall is three miles long and 30 feet high

It took the Spanish 160 years to complete from 1630 to 1790

One of the mysteries of the day were a series of lost kites.

It isn't obvious, but there are at least six fallen kites up on that hill.



These large rocks are a modern addition to prevent erosion.  The outer
breakwater was installed in 1949, the rocks on the shore from 1970-1990.
Otherwise the constant pounding of the sea would cause the castle foundation
to erode.  Eventually the ancient structure would fall to the sea.

We saw dozens of feral cats.  They live under the rocks. 
I assume they prey on lizards and birds for their meals.



A great day with friends

lunch time

After lunch, Patty and Joe went back to the hotel while Marla and I visited El Morro Castle. 
The field in front is the largest expanse of mowed grass I have ever seen in my life.

As we walked across the field, I noticed an abandoned kite laying on the ground.  The mystery of the lost kites down below was solved.
This huge field has the both tradewinds and the space to make it a premier place to fly a kite.

I later noticed you can buy a kite at various nearby stands.

Here is a picture of the giant field taken from atop El Morro. 
No picture can adequately convey just how vast this area is. 
I can't imagine the work it takes just to mow the grass

Visiting the castle wasn't quite as much fun as I expected.
The climbing was exhausting, the sun beat down on us,
and the castle was not exactly what I would call "pretty"

Still I am glad we went.  There was a different history lesson to be found
in every corner of the place.  Here you can see the lighthouse that
 guided ships safely to harbor for centuries.

The castle wasn't quite as romantic from the inside as it was on the outside

This picture indicates just how imposing this structure is up close

Directly 6,500 miles away is Spain. 

This is the entrance to San Juan Bay.  The island on the other side is
 just a half mile away. There were guns positioned there as well.

An example of the many history lessons found at El Morro

Any ship that attempted to enter the harbor without permission risked being caught in a deadly crossfire from both positions.


It turns out there is another castle named San Cristobal. 
It stands one mile due east of El Morro.  Marla and I visited it too. 
A ticket to El Morro gives you free admission to Cristobal as well.

From the top of San Cristobal I was able to get a picture of San Juan Bay
as well as our cruise ship.  The cruise pier was within walking distance of
El Convento Hotel, but our luggage forced us to use a taxi instead.


Chapter Three of Mara's Triumph: El Yunque and Bio Bay

Virgin Islands 2011 Who Went? Mara's Triumph: A five-chapter saga Next Chapter: El Yunque and Bio Bay
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