Friday, July 17, 2009

Tourist in El Viejo San Juan; First Stop El Convento Hotel

Oasis Feature: A Series of Local Views #1

Good morning, friends. Have you ever looked again, with appreciation, at the place you live? Recently, we met with some visitors from California and while we talked, I started to remember the early impressions I had of Puerto Rico, la isla enchanto-the island of enchantment. Won't you be a tourists with me as we take a look around this beautiful island? To start, we are taking a little tour of the beautiful Old City, El Viejo San Juan.

Please sit down and join me with a cafe con leche at El Convento Hotel before we get started on our little walk. Sipping locally grown strong coffee accompanied by hot steamed milk is a must for the beginning of an active day.

El Convento Hotel
is one of the oldest hotels in the city and used to be a convent. It is graced with lovely arches, thick cool walls, and remarkable works of art informally placed around. If you ask at the front desk, the bar, or the waiter about the pieces, it is likely you will get this response from the young attractive bilingual employees, "No, I don't know. I should because we get a lot of questions about it from our guests. But I don't really know much about it." After living here for fourteen years, I have a theory about these answers. Puerto Rico is an accessible unpretentious place where art and artistic talent are considered ordinary. Why make a big deal about these mystery musical monks? (Who is the painter???)


Creative expression is more of a lifestyle here rather than a career path. Of course, I love Puerto Rican people and like bloggers, they all are excessively talented.

Let's go up one level to the Cana restaurant and bar to look at this impressive sculpture created by Botero, a work that is just casually observed as you sip your pina colada on the outdoor patio. The name Cana, has a special significance to me because when moved to Puerto Rico fourteen years ago, we lived in Cana, a community outside of Bayamon. Also, if you have read Jan Karon's Mitford series of books, you probably have come across the the title, Out to Canaan? And have you heard "Camidano haica Cana" (accent on the letter a or else it means white hair)? It's a lively church song here, "Walking Towards Cana", which suggests a pilgrimage to the promised land-maybe a Puerto Rican paradise? This piece was sculpted by the Columbian artist, Fernando Botero Angulo (born April 19, 1932 in Medellín, Antioquia) He is a well known Colombian figurative artist whose work is often on exhibit in the Museo del Arte in Ponce as well as other places around San Juan.

This early piece reflects a gracefully slim young woman but his more popular work focuses on the large curves of voluptuous women-here is Botero's drawing/

The Love Letter (2003).

I cannot resist posting another one, Rosalba (1969):

Actually, the people at El Convento Hotel know who Botero is ...

This antique filled hotel also has some beautiful botanical prints and here is one of the Ceiba tree flower by Agustine Stahl ...

Interestingly, he had a leading role in the Independence movement in Puerto Rico. He was remarkably talented in the natural sciences and made important contributions in the fields of archaeology, botany, ethnology, medicine and zoology. Dr. Agustín Stahl (1842-1917) is one of the first celebrated and acknowledge Puerto Rican scientists.

I'm glad I did this bit of research. The next time I go to the El Convento Hotel, I will pay my respects to the series of three accurately rendered botanical watercolors on the external wall leading up to the Cana Resturant and bar...

Let us step out into the antique cobalt blue cobble stone street.

Oh, what a lovely park just out the door! I just want to sit there and do some light summer reading... maybe one from the Mitford series?

Or maybe I could draw this tree? I love the iron work detail, too.

When we walk out the front door and look down beautiful purple flowers grace the entrance.

Such a sunny day for a walk in El Viejo San Juan.

And just look at this view of the street! So romantic.

We walk to El Moro in the next post when we continue being a Tourist in El Viejo San Juan.


  1. What a wonderful tour guide to a very desirable and fascinating destination.
    Who knows? You may find a whole contingent of bloggers beating a path to your door.
    Wouldn't it be wonderful?
    Have a super weekend.

  2. Excellent introduction to the culture and sights of Puerto Rico.

  3. How fun was this? I thoroughly enjoyed touring with you, Cynthia. Love the Botero. His work always make me laugh.

    And look at your fun new photos! The sidebar pic is especially glam!

  4. What a wonderful tour, Cynthia. Since you posted this, I now have to experience this beauty with my own eyes. How refreshing those paintings of the voluptuous women are to my eyes-they are beautiful despite what is marketed as beauty these days.

  5. I love the cobbled street....reminds me of Copenhagen. Beautiful.

  6. I loved this fascinating tour of beautiful Puerto Rico! It's always fabulous when we can live somewhere that we love, isn't it?

  7. Agree with Elizabeth.. I for sure do want to go there now.. some day I will, and I'll knock on your door :)

  8. So pretty ~ very fun to walk around with you, Cynthia. i had visions of reading that book.......ahhhhhhh! Maybe in another life?xx♥

  9. wow.....I cannot even imaging living in such a beautiful place.....thanks for giving us a slice of your world. I want to sit and read at el convento....

  10. Elizabeth, yes, but "my door"? How could I put them up in my little casita?

    Of course, you remember I mentioned that I have an animal shelter at my country house, remember? (12 strays- 11 dogs and 1 cat) I live in a wild animal park!

    This is the El Convento in Old San Juan, which is much more civilized. I love to take people around!

    It makes me see my environment through another's eyes. <3

    Lakeviewer, thank you for your visit! Come back and look at El Moro next post. <3

    Willow, thanks for coming over! Of course you know Botero...he makes me think of Sandro Botticelli, maybe because of the focus on figures or just "The Birth of Venus."

    The sidebar pic is from the previous post on "playing dress up". Thanks for your visit. <3

    Rudee,yes, I agree that what we think of as beauty is conditioned. Thanks your comment!

    Alyson, welcome from all the way over in New England...Puerto Rico and NE are very different lanscapes...and both beautiful! <3

    Braja, really, Copenhagen? I don't remember that...when I was there I saw modern must have been in the historic section? That's what this is, too. And if you move a few miles one way or another, you get an entirely different perspective of Puerto Rico. There is even a section in Hato Rey (San Juan) that reminds me of New York City! <3

    Phoenix, thanks for the visit. You should make a trip to Puerto Rico. I think the island has a lot to's a dream maker. <3

    Natalie, oh yes,I see you reading, right there on the bench! Thanks for coming over. <3

    Miriam, yes, reading at El Convento Hotel is cooler than the shaded park...and then you can sip your favorite drink and listen to the gentle sounds of Spanish in the background. <3

  11. Wow ! Thanks for the first tour. What a beautiful and historic place. I'll look forward to the next chapter. xo S.

  12. What a lovely post:) There's so much art to explore! But like you seems that it's just a part of life there in Puerto Rico. My husband occasionally travels to Puerto rico, and next time I should just hop along..especially since I now have a friend there! Wonderful Saturday to you my dear Cynthia:)

  13. Thank you for the wonderful tour. Love the paintings especially, though the best image is the pic of you.

    I love being a tourist when friends come to DC. It's great to rediscover all the reasons you live where you do.


  14. Susan, yes, El Moro is our next stop. (I didn't want to tire my blog friends with too much information so I decided to spread it out in three posts.)Thank you for stopping by all the way from 29 Black Street!

    Yes, Ms Lucy, try to come over the next time your husband travels here on business. I can meet you somewhere and we'll have lunch. Or if you want to go around, let me know. <3

    Reya, so true, it's fun to show people your favorite places. I went to the rain forest least part way. (We were in a rush.) Thanks for the compliment about my coffee drinking pic...I need to have another one that is not the pic! <3

  15. Oh I want coffee with you before we set off, what a wonderful place, looks so inviting.

  16. Cynthia,

    Oh I loved this! I too love being a tourist in my own backyard. I love being a tourist period, then we are never in danger of taking anything for granted.

    I am going to go on this tour again if you don't mind, I think there may have been a few things I may have overlooked! Maybe we could get a bite to eat too? What kinds of foods are there in P.R.?
    I'm so looking forward to your next post!

    lots love,

  17. and I did not get kicked off! not once! yay ☺

  18. A wonderful trip full of colour, music and art. Could well have been you think it is the climate that brings out the beauty?

    Cynthia, I hope you read my reply to your comment on my was sincere...why would I be a follower?

  19. Thank you for the tour! It's magnificent! I think Botero is the modern Rubens he also liked voluptuous women. Thanks for the visit to my blog.

  20. You have a lovely blog here and I love your pictures of Puerto Rico. The hotel does indeed look very inviting. I was only watching a travel show the other day on this fascinating place, advertising some quite luxurious hotels to stay.

    CJ xx

  21. Fire Byrd,

    I'm off to make coffee just now. Do you like cafe con leche or cafe negro with plenty of brown sugar? Both ways of serving are popular here. Soon we will set off to El Moro. Wear your comfortable walking shoes! <3

    Lori Ann,

    so glad that you made it over. And those question!! Now I have to go and fill in some of the visual I better get some pictures of food!

    I appreciate all of your comments! And happy too that you didn't get thrown out into cyberspace. Was it because you were using the Mozilla Firefox browser? Love to you, friend. <3


    so glad that you came over and answered my question on your blog. I feel much better now that I fully understand what you meant. I've been to Mexico many times over the years. I don't think that Puerto Rico is so similar to Mexico...I mean my perception of PR and Mexico has changed over the years. (I think I will go into this a bit in my next post.)

    You know that Latin America has a lot of diversity and Puerto Rico is complicated by the Caribbean location, Spanish language (introduced by Spanish colonization 500 years ago) and close association with the United States (for the past 100 years). It makes for a unique cultural experience. <3

    Reader Wil,

    thanks for the visit all the way from the Netherlands! Yes, a "modern Ruben", that's a great connection. <3

    Crystal Jigsaw, it's wonderful that you found me here because it helped me to find your unique Northern England blog. Thank you for following.

    What different sights we all see! <3

  22. Mucho Gusto de Los Angeles~
    I just had to say hello - I noticed that we have much in common, being profs, yoga practitioners, and animal lovers. Beautiful pictures and blog!

  23. this was so much fun ... one of these days, maybe I will do something like this but I must say, there is nothing like this where I live....I adored every picture and it's hard to say which I loved more although the paintings by Botero and the blue cobblestones AND the wonderful lobby are at the top...I found myself wondering what is that lovely plant cascading down the wall, how lovely is that park that looks like someone's gorgeous old courtyard....thank you, cynthia, this was beautiful and now, may I please join you in some of that coffee?

  24. You are so right Cynthia - it often takes visitors to open our eyes to the beauty around us. I think you must make a wonderful guide....wish I could take your tour, xv.

  25. Funny because we had considered going to Puerto Rico this year and realized we just didn't know enough about it to take the plunge. Now, taking your tour, I do.

    Must show this to husband.

    As for your dress up —— Gorgeous, darling.

  26. What an enchanting tour, it truly does seem like a slice of paradise. I am not familiar with Botero, I simply adore his voluptuous ladies.

    I also love the mind set behind the answers you received from the hotel staff. (Smile)

  27. C, everyone has said evrthing about this gr8 post..leaves me nothing except to say congrats..and thanks for passing by...really appreciate it..dear friend

  28. Not only did I enjoy the tour, but it brought to mind a song that referred to 'el viejo San Juan'. I'm sure it was a 'bolero' but I'm not sure. Many thanks for such a fantastic post. And your retro look is fab! :-)

    Greetings from London.

  29. You live in such a glamorous place, Cyn. It's great being able to see your city through your blog.

    I loved those Botero paintings - I could have posed for some of them :)

  30. DQ, so nice to meet you. I hope we strike up a friendship. Thanks for following too.

    I love that part of California-southern, too. We often went to Mexico when we lived in San Diego. So many people who love and appreciate the simple natural parts of life live in California, N and S, too. <3

    Linda, thanks for appreciating the beauty in such certainly are an artist. Probably the vibrancy would be captured by your own visionary talent. I'm waiting right here to offer you coffee. <3

    Vicki, you are surrounded in beauty (London and France) but be sure if you came out this way I would love to show you around.It is true that visitors make us see how unique our own surroundings are~ <3

    Beth, yes, do come and you must stay in the Old City. It's really the most romantic. The newer hotels in Condado are nice...but more like a Caribbean/Miami experience.

    Thanks for your sweet compliment about my "retro".

    Shrinky, yes, it's fun to be easy going and just enjoy the beauty. Thanks for commenting.

    R., thanks for your friendly visit. And no one can say what you think but you yourself! I enjoyed your credit card post also. It makes me think I need to make some changes.

    Sr. Cuban, yes, I was going to embed it below but was afraid that it would throw too many off the blog.

    What I mean is that some bloggers have told me that Explorer 8 browser is making it difficult to stay on OWL blog. THe problem seems to be in combination with too much computer processed detail and widget rejection. (I'm using Mozilla Firefox for now.)

    I was listening to the song as I typed. I found many pretty...I was going to post it on the third and final post about Old San Juan, regardless of the "abort operation" message.

    You must miss Cuba sometimes... Thanks for your visit and the Retro look was so fun!

  31. C, thanks a tonne friend...u r so hardworking and affectionate..i am sure u will not fall in the credit card trap..:) keep up the good cheers dear..

  32. FF, I'm still smiling from your sweet and funny comments. And what will I do with my own 'summer weight' when the regular year starts up (-and I start giving yoga again!)? <3

    R., thanks for the reassurance...I will do my best. <3

  33. Cynthia, I agree with you 100% about the splendour that surrounds us in our own backyards. And how often do we take it for granted? Too often, I fear. I played tourist late last summer when I visited our Capitol City of Ottawa. I was never so proud to be a Canadian when I saw real tourists marvel at the many historical sites and sounds that were all around us. And I never felt so ashamed for not doing this sooner. Believe me, I learned my lesson.

    I absolutely loved taking a leisurely stroll with you. Sometimes I really get caught up in the historical aspect of any culture. But, I will always pause and look at the warn cobblestones with amazement; thinking of the countless citizens who walked those paths ahead of me.

    So, looking forward to the next jaunt. You can lead the way whenever you are ready.

  34. Thank you for taking us on a tour of your "home!" What a lovely way to start my day, I'm going to look at my own 'hood with fresh eyes today. :)

  35. Thank you for the lovely tour.

    The view of the street with homes a part of the street rather than being set back from it brings life to bear at shoulder level, something that reminds me of Panjim, in the old portuguese quarters.

    This is a beautiful hotel, the arches are quite something, aren't they? Arches will lend grace like no others.

    Was struck your "Creative expression is more of a lifestyle here rather than a career path".

    I'm rooting for more street views of your beautiful old city.


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