Travel

bomba puertorriqueña - santurce, puerto rico

Finally both photos and videos are up. This, my friends, is the most badass dance you'll see if you ever visit Puerto Rico. Bomba is a traditional music- and dance style in Puerto Rico, also one of my favorites (okay who am I kidding really, I love all of them).

"Bomba is a musical expression created in Puerto Rico at the end of the 17th century, by West Africans and their descendants who worked the colonial sugar plantations along the coast of Puerto Rico. Through fiery drum rhythms and improvised dance, the cane workers released feelings of anger, resistance, and sadness about their condition."
You can read more here, also if you find yourself in Santurce (San Juan, Puerto Rico) you should totally check Santurce de Bomba y Plena out.

Missing my island, can't wait to go back <3 

#PRtravelgems // Arrope, Río Piedras

Hey! What are you up to this weekend? I'm celebrating my best friend's birthday, working my party hosting skills and will also be taking it a bit tranquila resting a lot watching football and some good tv-series (guys, have you seen Quantico? No? There's no excuse, bring out your laptop and watch it! Now!).  

I'm a bit excited because today I'm sharing the second #PRtravelgem in the series. I've spent many hours studying + working here and it's seriously one of my favorite spots EVER. Arrope is the name of the place and it's a cafetería with good coffee, food and postres. The ambience is casual and you'll find all kinds of people hanging out here, mostly students and locals I'd say. You can choose between sitting outside and enjoy the warmth + the ambience of the neighbourhood, inside for some good music and AC and if you're in need of an electrical outlet, they even have a special room where you can study somewhat undisturbed with both outlets and desks with space for all of your books.

And of course, there's free wifi. 

I've never tried their food but I have however got myself some of their postres and I'm telling you this as a friend who cares a whole lot about you... DUDE! You gotta try their pan de maíz, it's amazing. Together with a cup of coffee of course.

And speaking of coffee, their cappuccino is really good, just as their café colao. 

Not only can you get something good to eat and drink here, Arrope also happens to have an awesome staff. I've lost count of how many times they've made my bad days good days, and good days even better, and how much I've appreciated their kindness + all of their awesome. 

You can find Arrope at Calle Consuelo Carbó #51 in Río Piedras, San Juan, just around the corner of Avenida Universidad where you'll also find everything from supermarkets and pharmacies to nightclubs and restaurants. 

 

Arrope is definitivamente el mejor lugar para un cafecito en Río Piedras - or as you'd say it in english,  definitely the best place to get yourself a coffee in Río Piedras!

exploring the island - islote, puerto rico

So, me and one of my mains decided to go to Arecibo - the geographically largest city on the island. The municipio is about 50 miles (80km) driving distance from San Juan and is one of those places that basically equals heaven on earth (even that being an understatement). 

We were so lucky to have a local friend of ours giving us a tour, showing us some of the most breathtaking places in Islote which is one of the  "barrios" in Arecibo. Although we didn’t have many hours to explore the place this time around, it was enough time for me to fall in love with the place. Perhaps, now, you will fall in love too.   

Before heading to the beach and the caves, our friend so kindly took us to one of the places he works at, which pretty much equalled us sipping fresh coconut water and scooping out deliciousness from newly harvested coconuts. 

En camino a las cuevas... // On our way to the caves...

At, on top of and inside Cueva del Indio. Listening to the amazing stories our friend had to tell us about the archeological site, not only the history regarding los taínos - this being a place in which you can find drawings from the taíno indians who lived in the area Prehistoric Era  - but also about the importance this place also had to himself as a kid - this, according to me, being the most badass playground a child can have.

Still wondering why Puerto Ricans are so damn proud of their country? ;)

Qué belleza, verdad? 

How to celebrate a Puerto Rican Christmas

December and January might just be the best time to live in Puerto Rico. When it comes to Christmas - Puerto Rico definitivamente lo hace mejor! You will find the most prettiest over-the-top Christmas decorations everywhere, the food is even more amazing than your everyday Puerto Rican comida (like that is even possible), there’s Christmas music playing everywhere and although there's absolutely no signs of snow (maybe an ugly Christmas sweater or two) the Christmas spirit is incredibly present. I’m telling you. When it comes to Christmas - there’s definitely no half-ass jingling happening - los Puertorriqueños jingle aaall the way!

Being Suecarriqueña (yes that is officially a thing now) Christmases have always been kind of a fusion of all my cultural heritages, sooo....this is actually the first time I’m celebrating a Puerto Rican Christmas, which I feel pretty darn excited about. Since I by no means would call myself an expert on how a Puerto Rican Christmas is celebrated, I asked some of my friends to share their thoughts on the matter; how they celebrate and what is their favorite parts of it all - so whether we are Puerto Ricans or not, we can add a little sabor Boricua to our Christmases.

LAURA:
Only 2 seasons exist in Puerto Rico: Summer and Navidades. Technically, it’s always summer; Christmas just means that summer got 10 times more festive, your house go 5 times more crowded (cousins), and your liver hates you 3 times more than it did during “regular summer”.

Christmas lasts from the end of Halloween all the way to the second weekend of January when Puerto Rico holds its “Fiestas Patronales de la Calle San Sebastián”. So we basically have the world’s longest Christmas since it lasts 72 days.

Characteristics of Puerto Rican Christmas:
•    Partying every weekend is a go (no matter what age).
•    Filling a school bus with your friends all the way to a third party’s house to sing carols at 3AM while you wake up their entire neighborhood.
•    Wearing a red Santa hat to school is socially acceptable.
•    Wearing a sweater even if it’s 80 degrees outside JUST because it’s technically winter is socially acceptable.
•    Not being able to think of a witty shade to throw during La Bomba ( a customary song in which a group sings a repetitive chorus, and after each chorus a person must throw a one liner OR ELSE). If a person is unable to throw the line, he/she must endure 34 seconds of pure humiliation as the crowd sings “No sabe na!!!!” (Translation: He doesn’t know anything)
•    If you’re 3-11 years old, have a 3-11 year old sibling, or are a parent of a 3-11 year old, you’re basically screwed. You’re going to attend the Velada Navideña. (It’s a school talent show where little kids are dressed up in ridiculous skirts and are forced to dance to the same choreography and songs every year: Usually its Plena music integrated with latino pop-stars like Chayanne, Ricky Martin, and Mark Anthony.
•    Drinking Coquito (It’s like eggnog 2.0)

YARISMAR:
Awesome, cool, funny.  All these words could describe the Puerto Rican Christmas celebration, but the most essential thing is to be here - in Puerto Rico - in order to have the real authentic experience. It doesn’t matter if you are Puerto Rican, or from another part in the world, the joy and the rhythm of the season is contagious.  
Let's start with the food… The Puerto Rican cuisine changes from the usual to this special meal that is hard to translate because of the risk of losing its "taste": “arroz con gandules”, “pernil”, “pasteles”, and the kind of native desserts: “arroz con dulce”, “tembleque”.  When you got your plate with all these colorful combinations, it is hard to describe the experience, but while you are eating it, there is an overwhelming feeling of enjoyment, ecstasy and delight.  The music traditions of the “parrandas” is something out of this world.  Kind of similar to Christmas carols, but with a Caribbean touch and with the element of total surprise, the “parrandas” provide you with this unique experience of excitement and joy. Think about it; you are at your house “relaxing”, or sleeping, and your extended family want to surprise you with this special gift that is a parranda... 
Even though some people start to removing their Christmas decorations the day after the Three Kings Day (January 6th, Epiphany), the feeling of season festivities continues because of the tradition of the Calle San Sebastián festival. 

GISELA: 
I love our Puerto Rican culture deeply, and there is no time like Christmas to enjoy it fully. Christmastime here brings out the most typical savory dishes, the lively rhythms of plena music and nonstop celebrations. I’m delighted to have friends and family come to visit, and especially enjoy going with them from house to house late at night singing loudly until we are let in, fed, and have them join our parranda to the next house.  To quote a popular holiday song, si los ángeles cantaron, yo también quiero cantar al amor de los amores que ha nacido en un portal. Navidad, ¡qué felicidad! 
(If the angels sang, I also want to sing to the love of loves that was born in a manger. Christmas, such happiness!) 

MARLY: 
The Puerto Rican Christmas is unlike any other celebration. It is fair game to start celebrating the Christmas season and putting up decorations anytime after Halloween. My family begins by taking a road trip through the mountains and stopping at different food vendors to eat "lechón, arroz con gandules & morcilla". This tradition is called "chinchorreo". We sing and play loud traditional Puerto Rican Christmas music in "parrandas", parrandas which are a huge part of our Christmases! It's so much fun to get a group of friends and family together to sing and dance while surprising another person at their home at 2am. It's expected that everyone have their house ready with coquito or pitorro to share when a parranda drops by your house. There's a party at all times! So naturally everyone gains a nice 5 pounds by the time the season is over. After Christmas day we wait in anticipation for Reyes (Jan 6). Reyes is much more cultural. We celebrate the three kings that came to worship baby Jesus. A lot of people go to "el campo" the mountains where tradition and culture are most felt on this day. After that we celebrate "las octavitas" for the following 8 days and then end the christmas celebration with Las Fiestas de San Sebastián in Old San Juan!

My favorite part is all the parties where I get to connect with people. I love having my family on the island visiting. The vibe and energy during this time is very palpable. We are naturally extremely loud but during Christmas we somehow manage to get even louder and more expressive. I really wouldn't trade these traditions during this season for any other in the world! Wepa!

MYTSI: 
To talk to you about Christmas I have to talk about how I celebrated Christmas in during my childhood at my hometown Mayagüez with my family and how I celebrate now.

When I was a child my mom gave us boxes of chocolates at Noche Buena (night before Christmas Day) as Christmas gifts because at my home we celebrate just the Reyes Magos (three kings day) at January 6 with gift under the bed. The traditions that I have had are now passed on to my own child and nephew. They go with my Dad no cut some grass, tie  it with a string and put it a box near the bed. At night the Reyes Magos "gives the grass to the camel" and leave the present under the bed. I remember it was the best feeling waking up early in the morning seeing all the present.  It was amazing!
During the whole season especially at Noche Buena we receive parrandas. The Parrandas are like Christmas Carol, but loud with local songs, instruments like guitars, güiro, maracas, panderos, and is a surprise at late night.  When you arrive at the house by surprise you sing different songs and the people open the doors and bring drinks and food.  Usually at the last house they gave asopao (chicken soup with rice).
Another tradition in my family is the food and the visit the family, aunts and grandmas.  When we visit them they always have my favorites the pasteles.  Pasteles is boiled green banana mashed with meat stuffing wrapping in banana leaf. My grandma makes a coconut dessert called tembleque, a coconut custard with a gelatin texture and arroz con dulce which is a coconut rice pudding. When I was a kid, my favorite part was sharing with family lots of food, happy songs, and the lights - I love the Christmas lights.  Now I celebrate Christmas with my husband and daughter and also Reyes Magos with my family:)

Abrazitos pa mis ladies for sharing your stories + traditions! You're amazing! 
...and feliz Navidad to all my friends reading this! <3

xoxo 

#PRtravelgems // Plaza del Mercado Río Piedras 

Finally time to reveal one of the projects I was talking about in this post!
When I’m out traveling I love finding these adorable + authentic little places and hangouts where I can be part of the local culture. I thought, as I myself am discovering my neighborhood, I might as well make a travel series about it and share the different spots I think are worth checking out!
So, since I currently live in Río Piedras, a barrio in San Juan, PR, that is where this series will start, mainly around the Santa Rita area. Río Piedras is where you will find the University of Puerto Rico and it is definitely not your typical tourist area. Although this neighborhood is full of students and people in general, it’s one of the areas that some of the locals would call “caliente” due to the high crime rate and isn’t the safest area you will find here in San Juan. However, despite that, I have come to like this area a lot.

So, first out in the #PRtravelgems series is Plaza del Mercado Río Piedras!

If you love marketplaces and bazaars, the smell of food, fruits and herbs and the bustle of people and want a real Puerto Rican local market experience, this is the place to be. At Plaza del Mercado Río Piedras you can find dozens of shops and you will be able to buy cheap Puerto Rican food, fruits, coffee, clothing and a whole bunch of totally random stuff. 

I have a total love-hate relationship with this place. The fact that I can satisfy my mofongo cravings (really cheap) is probably the best thing ever, but going there as a single female with a behind that is incredibly hard to hide I would say it's a bit uncomfortable because there's usually a couple of crazy old men catcalling and giving dirty looks. I also never bring my DSLR here. But hey, it's all really worth it though. Looooove me some mofongo.

A good thing to know is that if you're not local, especially if you speak English only, remember to bargain or at least be aware of the prices! Sometimes people can be a bit sneaky and charge you extra when they think you are clueless;) 

Opening hours are Monday - Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday mornings. 

Since Plaza del Mercado Río Piedras is located on Paseo De Diego it leaves you with the option to leave the marketplace and walk along blocks of outdoor sidewalk shopping. The whole lining of Paseo De Diego is pretty much an outdoor mall and is also totally worth checking out.

Well, that's the end of the first post of this series and I can't wait to share the next one! I will be posting #PRtravelgems as I keep on exploring the neighbourhood, so keep your eyes open! 

I hope you enjoyed this + feeling like you totally wanna go here, and if you happen to know about any cool spots worth visiting in Río Piedras, please tell me all about it and I'll check it out!
xoxo