I do love traveling. As a graduate student, my travel has largely been limited to conference-relate trips, because I can potentially get funding to attend the conference.
This past week has been filled with one of those trips. My adviser recommended me to join a symposium on plant epigenomics at a molecular ecology and evolution conference that took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was quite a compliment to be invited to attend the conference, and it was certainly a good opportunity to organize my thoughts on my own research and present it to the scientific community. It was also a great opportunity to exchange ideas with collaborators who were also present at the conference.
But it was also a nice opportunity to explore a place I’d never been before. Old San Juan is a beautiful city filled with history. I felt unfortunate to not have known more about Puerto Rico’s history before traveling there. But I definitely enjoyed visiting the Castillo de San Cristobal.
The castle itself and the surrounding area is full of ancient beauty, both on human and natural scales.
Contrasts in Old San Juan abound. There were touristy restaurants near abandoned buildings.
There were streets lined with asphalt next to streets lined with blue brick, which were made from blue stone that was brought over in the Spanish ships as ballast.
There are bars selling piña coladas to the tourists, but there’s craft beer in Puerto Rico! La Taberna Lupulo, on Calle San Sebastien, is a cool place to have either a beer local to you or one local to the Caribbean. I had a Dacay IPA (I think) that was rather tasty, along with their pork quesadilla. I followed that up with a Harpoon cider that accompanied a nice conversation with the bar owner. There seemed to be a mix of locals and tourists at the bar. La Taberna Lupulo is even concerned about your self esteem (see below)! So if you are in Old San Juan, you should definitely check it out.
There are also mysteries in Old San Juan. In my wanderings I ended up at the Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park). Seeing people feed the multitude of pigeons there was rather amusing, but what really intrigued me were bronze shoes scattered throughout the park: Baby shoes, baby shoes with men’s shoes, and baby shoes with women’s shoes. There were no signs about what the significance of the shoes is, nor could I find any indication by Googling. The shoes in Parque de las Palomas will remain a mystery.
Then there is just good, old-fashioned fun. We saw these folks jumping off this bridge while walking to the conference. We really wanted to join them, but we never quite lined up our our bathing suit situation with their jumping schedule.
I do regret not making it to the rainforest and other natural wonders in Puerto Rico, but I’m very glad I was able to go to and experience new places and new people. Sometimes it’s nice to be focused on one area while traveling, because you get to experience it more deeply. That’s how I feel about Old San Juan. Certainly I must have done something right during my travels, because I was exhausted at the end of the trip! 🙂
In July I’ll be writing about another conference-related trip: to Rennes, France!