Running Across George W. Bush International
10:38 pm: It's actually 7:38 pm Mountain Standard time, but this Visor's still set to San Juan time. I'll have to change that.
We just barely made it onto our plane on time. They even managed to close the door on-time and push back to count as an on-time departure before getting all of our bags on board. I was pretty impressed.
Ray, Joan, John and I actually ran most of the way to the gate. Our gate was on the opposite end of Houston's George Bush Airport, and we went pretty much the next to longest way across the damned airport with only fifteen minutes to get there. It was kind of funny watching everyone run and John and I were in Birkies and I had the biggest bag. John took it and helped me out. I had a pretty hard time of it, but managed to do a bit of jogging between walking the whole way.
Then, of course, I had my first asthma attack in four years or so. Sat on the plane just coughing that stupid cough until well after we'd taken off. It's better now. I think we'll be on-time and things will be good. Dad's leaving Early Early Early to get to the airport on time and figure out where he parked and where we're going to be and all that. So we'll probably be set for all that.
The only real excitement today was trying to catch the connection, and nearly half the plane had the same problem, as we were nearly forty-five minutes late getting into Houston. Most everyone was checked through to their final destinations, though, so all the connecting planes knew we were coming. One of the flight attendants said that we didn't have to run, they knew we were coming. We didn't know that.
That's one thing that I've noticed on Continental Airlines is that many of the attendants are men. And the men and women aren't necessarily the beautiful people, unlike United, which does seem to only go for women or really beautiful people. Here they're just people, and I really like that. I should write them and tell them that.
The morning started far, far too early. We were up at 6:45 and packed, pumped, and put together by 7:15. We met everyone for one last breakfast in the Windjammer. I still wasn't hungry, but I got a slice of French toast, a bit of waffle since I hadn't gotten any yesterday, and skipped pretty much everything else.
Everyone was tired. We didn't talk all that much. Folks had all done their customs and immigration check, so John and I went to do it when they said we should. When we were done with that we wandered over to the Solarium and found everyone else there, listening to the waterfall, talking quietly for a while, and then napping.
One last nap in the Solarium. I even got my toothguard out and put it on so I wouldn't grind my teeth. It was warm, humid, and quiet but for the occasional announcement of which passengers could leave. They did it by flight numbers, and when Rob's and Janet's came up, they said good-bye to everyone and went as they had a relatively early flight to Seattle.
So we finally split up. I went back to sleep, under my hat, and woke up to the final call for all passengers to leave. So we all got up, went to the gangway deck, and trooped out through the last of the customs inspections. Once we were out in the hubbub of San Juan, it got more interesting.
We were accosted by a tour guide guy that tried hard to sell us on a tour of the city. When we explained that we'd already done that, he went off to get our own, private guide from his group. The interesting part was that he was, in turn, accosted by the ship's guys that said that he was out of line grabbing us there, as he should be at the kiosk, not out where we were trying to gather ourselves and figure out what we wanted to do.
We ended up getting an independent taxi that took us to a restaurant that offered baggage storage until 4 pm for all cruise people. Hundreds of people took advantage of the offer, and the restaurant did good business from it as well. And at five dollars a set of bags, it was a good deal for them as well as for us. Better than dragging them all around town with us.
Kelly left us a tour book that we used for a while to get out to the Governor's mansion and then to the old Wall and the last Gate into San Juan from the sea. The old town once was completely surrounded by the Wall that was about 40 feet high and 20 feet thick, and there were defensible gates into the town. As the Wall was taken down for modern development, the seven gates gradually disappeared. I sometimes wonder if there are markings or memories of them.
We got to see the Gate, wander about a little, talk to the security guard as to her favorite restaurant and where it was. She pointed us at Calle del Sol and Calle Santa Cruz, and we wandered off in that direction.
The old town shows, very much, it's French roots. It's an older, cleaner, brighter New Orleans, with all the tropical undertones, the pastel colors, the wrought iron gates, the tight packed blocks, and the hidden courtyards, water, and people. It was really neat to just wander the cobblestone streets and look and listen.
The restaurant was not where the lady had said it was, but we wandered a bit more and found it a bare block away. It was called Jibarito, and they had a very simple menu, that, at first glance, was very American. But everything was served with fried plantains, sweet or savory, and red beans and rice. The daily fricassee turned out to be curried goat stew!! HOORAH! I got my goat stew! The fried meat turned out to not to exist and they had pork ribs in the oven. I kind of wanted that. The pork or chicken wrapped in mashed plantains turned out to, really, be a plantain based tamale!
There were other transformations, but the moment I heard goat stew, I went for that. Plus the passion fruit juice, instead of lemonade or Coke. I just wanted the stuff I couldn't get anywhere else and I wasn't disappointed. The stew was huge chunks of bone-in goat, mostly shank and tail, and it was slow cooked to tender perfection in a very tasty, but not hot, curried sauce, with well caramelized onions, melting tender potatoes, and succulent carrots. Poor Joan had had a pet goat when she was a kid and couldn't think of eating goat, so I didn't rub it in. The sweet plantains were lightly breaded, possibly just dusted with flour, and pan fried. They were well caramelized on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside. Like a lighter banana fritter. Yummy. The rice and beans were pretty good, but not great, tender and flavorful, but not remarkable and remained, quite happily, in the status of side dish.
I enjoyed my meal. I tasted John's plantain tamale and it was a bit like very flavorful poi, even to the slightly purple coloring on the outside. The meat was tender and tasty. Joan and Ray's cube steak had been long marinated and while it looked like a rather unappetizing lump of boiled meat, but when I actually tasted it, it was quite tasty. The seasonings had completely permeated the meat, and it was perfectly tender and great with the sides. There was a sauce on it that was nicely seasoned and had various vegetables at the base of it. I'll have to try that , some day, with cube steak.
It was a great meal. But, again, after this week, I just wasn't really hungry, I just ate what was there because I wouldn't have another chance at food like this. It's funny, as it's been a good four hours since we'd eaten what was a relatively light breakfast, but I don't really think I'm going to be hungry again for a while.
Even now (8:31 pm) I'm not hungry. There was a bad meal of squishy ravioli on the flight from Puerto Rico and I didn't eat more than a third of it. And I really didn't need the pretzels or peanuts they did serve on this flight. We'll see how many days or workouts it takes for me to be hungry again.
But I was really glad that we looked for authentic food, today, after a mildly disappointing week for food, it was good to leave it on a high note.
From there we wandered a bit, hit some shops and wandered through. I ended up buying Jet a pair of maracas that are his size. I think he'll like 'em. Joan was convinced that he would, as she sees him playing with all their musical setups. I think he'll like 'em for a while, at least, especially when they're his size.
We got to see actual pieces of eight in one shop that had a rolling display that included everything from cheap pen knives and casino chips and dice to pieces of eight, diamond rings, and old currency of the island. It was pretty eclectic.
Finally, we just got tired, went back to the restaurant for our bags, and got accosted by a taxi driver on the way out. He dragged us over a block or two to the taxi stand and his van and loaded us up and we headed for the airport. He said that it was good that we were going a little early as the traffic to the airport was bad. There was a big politician coming into town, someone running for the governor's position for the island, and folks were out to show their support. And when they say that in Puerto Rico, they mean it. The freeway was lined with people. They were on the shoulder of the freeway, waving flags, stopping traffic, running around, and climbing the walls to see better. It was crazy. They were all over the other side of the freeway, for which I was thankful as they were looking for the guy coming from the airport to the city.
Lots of them were waving American flags as one of the things this guy was promising was to push to have the Puerto Rico become a state. That was interesting for me to think about, as there is very little news in the U.S. about Puerto Rico even wanting to be a state. But there is the fact that since they don't have direct representation in our government, they aren't taxed. They are, also, all U.S. citizens, which makes things even more interesting.
So it made the ride to the airport pretty fun. At the airport, things went well. John and I were put in the extra search line, and got through it okay, though I doubt the sanity of whomever who put a mom, a grandmother, and three scared girls from two to five all in that line with their three strollers, twenty bags, and tons of fake but still metal jewelry. Bah.
We got to our gate two hours early, and Joan napped. I knitted to stay awake and talked with Ray a bit to help him stay awake. John did crosswords. Our plane was half an hour late getting there, and never really made up the time, since there was a big storm around Houston, and we were diverted a bit because of it.
Which is how we ended up running across Houston airport.
We made it. We'll be okay, and we'll even be half an hour early, so it's good that Dad'll be there early. It'll be good to be home.
We got back to DIA at about the time we were supposed to have been there. I found Dad wandering around a few baggage claim carousels away as he was sure that he was going to spot us from the trains to the claim. Turns out we walked and took the overland bridge instead of the underground tram, and he completely missed us coming in the back way. Still, I recognized him from afar and got him while the rest of the folks waited for the luggage.
So that was good. We met up and got out to the car, no problem, and John drove us home.
Dad was happy. He was full of news about Jet, about the whole saga with the virus, and that Jet looked like he was doing much better now. I'm glad of that. He also said that Jet only got up long enough to see that Dad was there, and he'd just turn right back and go to sleep. There was even once when Jet came into the office, woke Dad up, just to get him to come back with him so that he could go back to sleep.
So Jet wasn't up for any extended amount of time for any of the nights that Dad had him. That was cool. I was glad that Dad has such a good experience with the whole week.
We dropped the Goodell's off, went home, and unpacked everything and then went right to bed. Dad volunteered for one last night of Jet watch, and it turned out that Jet didn't get up at all. So that worked out really well. I was pretty tired. I pumped one last time and went to bed and didn't wake up until 5 am, which was 8 ship's time, which was when I kept waking up all week. It was the usual time Jet gets up, so it seems to be engrained in me