One of the highlights on our cruise out of Miami was our first stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have always wanted to visit the island, especially after I was supposed to go for a work trip that ended up being unceremoniously cancelled. We didn’t dock until late in the afternoon, so that left us with a few hours to wander around before we found a local restaurant for dinner. Per usual, we waited for the rush of people to exit the ship before making our way out, and we headed directly for the San Felipe del Morro Fortress.Built to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, this fort became a part of the National Park System in 1961 after the U.S. Army officially retired it from use. Driveways were removed and green space added to restore the area to it’s original state. Luckily, the late afternoon sun in March wasn’t as hot, so we could enjoy going through the entire fort.
On our way back, I discovered one of my favorite views of this port happened to include the Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzi, a cemetery from 1863 that overlooks the ocean. Due to an interest in genealogy and a love of history, I have always enjoyed visiting cemeteries, and this one was no exception. Seeing the Spanish influence in the monuments with the backdrop of the ocean on a beautiful day is one of the reasons I love to travel; a picture hardly does it justice.
We capped off our visit with some of the best mofongo I’ve ever had at Cafe Puerto Rico before heading back to the ship. It’s hard to imagine right now, but the entirety of Puerto Rico is currently without power thanks to another hurricane this season. I’m hoping for blue skies to return soon, like in the pictures above.
About a year and a half ago, we took a Celebrity cruise out of Miami to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. It was our first trip with Celebrity, and we had such a fantastic experience it inspired us (or the drinks did) to book our next cruise on board to Alaska later that summer. In addition to everything the amazing ship had to offer, in our ports I had the best Mofongo at Cafe Puerto Rico, visited Blackbeard’s Castle on St. Thomas, and spent the afternoon watching planes land on Maho Beach. As Hurricane Irma bears down on all those islands today, I can only hope that the damage is not too devastating. I’ve had to write about hurricanes all too much recently.
Irma’s eventual path is still subject to change, of course, so I’m hoping that Florida might avoid a direct hit. I’ve come to love Miami and Ft. Lauderdale over the course of my annual work trips, and I have family living closer to Tampa who would also be affected by a direct hit. During Harvey, I exclusively followed Space City Weather for their non-hype forecasts and updates. While they are Houston-based weather reporting, they received enough inquiries on Irma to provide some forecasting. As of now, they have given the “near-miss” scenario a 50% chance (up from 30% yesterday), so I’m hoping that trend continues.
Until then, I’ll leave you with the gorgeous view of St. Thomas from Blackbeard’s Castle. It was a bit of a trek from the cruise port terminal to the top, involving a wrong turn, angry chickens, and cutting through someone’s backyard, but the destination was worth the work. They usually always are.
One of my travel quirks involves swiping all the soaps in my hotel each day. I never pack shampoo or soap to take with me; I always use what I find at the hotel and bring home the rest. I build up quite the collection of soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion and it turns out, these are great items to donate in a crisis. They’re free to me, and easy to transport. I’m sure those who were soaked in flood waters overnight would put them to good use if they can get access to a shower.
I’m off work for the entire week while the city continues to feel the effects of Harvey. Of course, that does not mean I’m not working at all, but it seems like I’ve received almost zero emails since this disaster began. None of my fall travel is impacted by the closures of our two major airports, but for both of our airports to be closed until at least Thursday, I’m sure the rest of the country is feeling the pain of flight cancellations or other interrupted travel plans. We are supposed to be on a flight to Seattle the middle of next week for a wedding, so we will see if air travel is back to normal by then.
Houston is resilient, but of course anything you can give helps. You can text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross, or donate to the Houston Flood Relief Fund, organized by the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. He’s already raised over 2 million dollars since Sunday and upped his goal to 3 million, which I’m sure we can surpass. The rain is about over, but recovery has a long way to go.
The last major hurricanes to threaten the Texas coast did so while I lived in Waco. In the panic of hurricane Rita, which developed shortly after the destruction of Katrina, the entire city of Houston and surrounding areas attempted to evacuate at once. As you might have imagined, that did not go well. It took my family over twenty four hours to get to my apartment, normally a three hour drive.
Three years later when Ike was threatening to make a direct hit on Houston, they made the same drive in similar traffic. With both Ike and Rita, my family was lucky that the hurricanes veered east enough to spare them any major damage, but especially with Ike, a lot of damage was sustained throughout the city. I distinctly remember seeing the blue tarp “FEMA roofs” adorning so many houses when I made my first trip back, weeks after Ike had hit.
I am so glad that no mandatory evacuation was ordered for us this time. That parking lot of cars you see above from the Rita evacuation? They would all be completely underwater. So many people would have died.
I described Harvey as a “zombie hurricane” on Friday, and that description has been pretty accurate, as he is still a tropical storm and is lingering along the coast. After devastating the city of Rockport, north of Corpus Christi, he is now devastating Houston with rain. The rain won’t stop, and it’s not going to for days. We have been extremely fortunate that we have only lost water pressure for a few hours, but never lost electricity, and only have a water leak in the drywall by our window. So many others have not been as lucky. One of my coworkers has lost absolutely everything.
If you are able to spare more than your thoughts and prayers for everyone here who has been through what is being described as the biggest U.S. flood storm of all-time, you can text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross, or donate to the Houston Flood Relief Fund, organized by the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. Anything will help. It’s still raining, and the flood waters are not finished with the city yet.
So, you may have heard that something is happening in Texas this weekend. Hurricane Harvey is supposed to hit Corpus Christi later tonight, but I’ve been calling him Zombie Harvey because he died after hitting Mexico and then came back as a monster. After forming in the Atlantic and taking his time crossing the Caribbean Sea as a tropical storm, he was supposed to have dissipated after passing over Mexico. However, after becoming disorganized, Harvey sprang back to life and is now a Category 2 storm, potentially Category 3 by landfall. If current models hold, he’s not even done there After bouncing off Texas, he will head east as a tropical storm and dump water all along the coast on his way out. Harvey came back to life and we need Rick Grimes to take care of him. Okay, who I’m I kidding. Probably Carol instead.
I’ve been to Corpus Christi numerous times and have friends whose families have had to evacuate (also I always get the best poblano soup at Nuevo Cafe when I visit), so I’m hoping that the damage to the city will not be devastating. When I was there once, a severe storm came through and the streets and roads flooded so badly that I couldn’t get to my destinations the next day. With that in mind, I can only imagine what a hurricane will do.
We are stocked up and prepared to ride out the floods, thankfully in a third floor apartment. Stay safe everyone, and be careful if you do venture out. It’s past time for Zombie Harvey to finally die.