To start off a day of sightseeing in downtown San Juan, I went to Cafeteria Mallorca for an early morning breakfast. At 6:30am, it was mostly locals, not many tourists were up and about yet. I ordered a mallorca and a side of eggs. A mallorca is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with powdered sugar sprinkled over the top, and, I’m sure, loads of butter too! It was quite a treat! The eggs helped to give me some substance for exploring and I drank 2 cups of smooth Puerto Rican coffee as well to fuel me up for a lot of walking.
Since it was still early, I started off with a stroll down the Paseo de la Princessa. The Paseo is a wide Esplanade leading towards the water and then follows the old fortress walls along the water’s edge. There are many trees offering lots of shade and beautiful views along the mile long walk. There’s also a giant fountain sculpture called the Roots Fountain that represents Puerto Rico’s early history. Additionally, there is a lot of cats! There is an organization that works to protect the many cats that walk with attitude along the promenade.
After my stroll, I wasn’t quite sure where to go because I didn’t know what would be open yet. I walked along the Calle de Cristo and happened upon the Chapel of Christ the Savior. This is a super tiny old chapel but very beautiful. Right around the corner, I walked into the ticketing office for La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion which dates back to the 15th century. I was lucky enough to get a private guided tour in English, the first tour of the day! I had to wait around 15 minutes or so until the tour guide showed up to take me through the security gate. I was quite excited to see the inside of the old mansion, but unfortunately, we did not get to go inside since the governor was working that day.
Instead, we walked through the gardens were beautiful fountains were flowing and plantain trees and mango trees were providing shade. The governor’s kids were outside playing with the dog while the tour guide told me a little bit about the history of the building which was originally devised as a defense point for San Juan, but was soon replaced by a huge fort at the tip of the island which is now a part of the San Juan Historic Site. The historic site is made of of two old fortresses, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal. After visiting La Fortalezza, I went to tour the newer and updated Castillo San Felipe del Morro, constructed between the 17th and 18th centuries to defend San Juan. More about the ramparts, dungeons, history, and iguanas at the old fort in my next post!