I’m Back, with a long review on San Juan!!

Sorry about the delay in between posts. It seems its been getting worse over the year buy I’m trying to be more consistent. Just seems as if there is never enough time in the day. I’m pretty upset now that I went to Dominick’s to do some grocery shopping. I usually split the shopping between Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco, depending on what’s on sale at each. Since I didn’t have time to do my usually sales papers reviews before shopping, I just decided to get most of my stuff from Dominick’s and just pick up a rotisserie chicken from Jewel for dinner….. BIG MISTAKE. I walked in Jewel and realized that half the stuff I bought in Dominick’s was much less in Jewel due to their new price slashing!!!! Then I hear this one the news, reminding me of my big mistake. BOOOOO
All in all my No Spending Challenge ended great!! I made it all the way to the end and did a great job of tracking my spending and my thoughts. I am actually going to do it again soon because I liked the discipline and also the leftover money at the end 😉
Last week I went on a girl’s trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico and had a blast!!! It was the first time Gabbi and I had traveled together since we were kids so it was great to spend time and bond. We all woke up the last day wishing we had at least ONE MORE DAY there. Here are some details from the trip:
Lodging: El San Juan Hotel and Casino – I have to be honest and say this wasn’t our first choice for hotels. Sharifa and I had decided on Condado Plaza but after meeting a guy at a conference who used to for the tourism board of PR, and one of my TravelSisters buddies Tiggi told me about her amazing trip, we decided to follow their suggestion and go with El San Juan. TripAdvisor.com had some great reviews and some sketchy reviews (more of the recent ones being sketchy) so I was very hesitant and nervous. Most of that went out the window when I saw the lobby. The hotel was decorated nicely and had plenty of restaurants and shops on site. The location was great – very close to the airport and walking distance to plenty of restaurants serving local cuisine. We did have a problem with check-in, as the early check in was totally disregarded (which we expected based on the reviews) and the request for 2 double rooms turned into 1 double and 1 king room (which they fixed for the second night). These pics were taken in the hotel lobby…
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Food: Our concierge was ON POINT with his restaurant suggestions. The first night we walked to Mi Casita where we were introduced to “mofongos”, a mashed-plantain dish with a meat and sauce on top. Gabbi and I were hooked the first night!! The next day we hit up Metropol at the suggestion of the concierge. OMG – everything we ordered was amazing and the mojito I ordered was PERFECT. I was supposed to take pics of the food but by the time I remembered this is all that was left on our plates (mine was the second plate and I had the combination platter – so much food):
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The third night we went to Mojito’s in Old San Juan at the suggestion of the guy who worked in the hotel wine shop. Once again we hit the jackpot! I went for the shrimp mofongo and it did not disappoint, while the mojito I ordered was just ok (a bit too tart for me). That night we went to Koco in the lobby of our hotel and Gabbi and I shared the salad and pan-seared halibut with risotto. Another A+ meal! Sharifa and I shared the apple tart for dessert and that was nicely paired with a cinnamon ice cream. The 2 for 1 mojito deal made up for the tiny glasses the mojito was served in… but again, it was more on the tart side.
Activities: El Yunque Rainforest – This was probably the thing we were looking forward to most about the trip. We knew we’d have to rent a car – which turned out to be seamless with the Enterprise car rental desk being in the lobby (we made a reservation about 2 week prior). The employee was VERY helpful and did a great job of making sure we were set up for our journey. At Tiggi’s suggestion, we brought a portable GPS with us, which definitely came in handy after following the signs put us on a dead end road! (We also used it to find a McDonald’s to order some breakfast on the way!) After an interesting Spanglish conversation between myself and the guy at the information desk, he gave me his “trip plan” and we got in the car and were on our way into the forest. We drive up lots of narrow, winding, steep roads, stopping occasionally to take pictures with the roadside “objects” or to see what pics we could get from the random look out points and the tower.
Eventually we made it to the parking for Mino Falls, which required a bit of a hike to get there. SOMEONE in the car suggested we take the hike from the second point since it was 10 minutes shorter, not knowing that it was the more challenging, steeper route!!! So here are some pics we took along the way:
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And the prize at the end of the hike: The Falls!!!!! (I must have been caught off guard in this pic – LOL)
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The next morning we woke up and went to the Edouardo de Paris spa on the hotel’s 10th Floor. THIS PLACE IS EXPENSIVE. But we knew that ahead of time and had made our reservations a month in advance. We contacted the spa to negotiate a discounted package deal and ended up getting a facial and four-hand massage at a nice discount. Yes, you read that right. FOUR-HAND MASSAGE. Don’t ask. And yes, its even better than you can imagine! Well worth it!! (I will give you this – ladies, be sure to request Carlos)
We also took a trip to Old San Juan but by the time we got there and ate it was late so most of the pics I was planning on (El Morro – the Forts) are night pics and didn’t come out well because they aren’t well lit at night. Here are a few random pics I got in Old San Juan…
Overall, it was a great trip!!! Gabbi is already working on our next girls trip… LOL! They can be addictive! Here are two more pics – the “welcome committee” at the airport and Gabbi and I get our dance on at the BBQ place on the top floor of the hotel! (The facial expressions are hilarious – well, to me they are… maybe not to her!)
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item of the Day???? A GIRLFRIEND’S TRIP! Get your girlfriends (or sisters or cousins or even mom/daughters) together and start planning now! You can make it happen! You can google “girl’s trips” and get tons of ideas for making your own. Here are some suggestions and tips (based on girls trips I’ve taken in the past)…
pick a date. we usually send out all the dates that will NOT work and one of us (usually one of the nerdy engineers) compiles a spreadsheet highlighting dates that work for everyone. Form there we pick one and start planning. NO changing the dates!!
set a budget that works for everyone. If the trip is a year out you have more time to save. If its 4 months away you have less time. Find out what is realistic for everyone and what is included in that budget. If people are bad with saving set up a fund/account where the money is held and people can make regular payments or find a travel agent who can do this for you.
check hotel prices against the prices of rentals (homes, condos, cabins)… if you have a large group you can usually get a great deal. But be sure to ask a LOT of questions! We used a place we found on VRBO in 2007 for our girls trip to Chicago. The 8 of us rented a 2bd/2ba loft style condo near downtown Chicago. Four of the girls drove in together so we made sure we found a place that included parking. We also made sure it was close to train/bus for those flying in.
– get a general idea of the cost of activities and include this when selecting the location. For San Juan we knew we wanted a spa day and we also knew it was very expensive, but that was the only activity we paid significant money for! The rainforest was the $100 rental car for the day and a $3 donation each. Old San Juan included a $20 cab ride each way. That totals $38 each for 2 days worth of activities!!
check for flight specials (if necessary) and track using airline emails and sites like Kayak and Airfarewatchdog where you can get email alerts for your city pairs. We planned a trip from Detroit to MN when I was living there and one of these emails popped up with flights for less than $150. I called up all the girls on a conference line to let them know and they all purchased the tickets immediately saving potentially hundreds of dollars (that was typically an expensive flight).
– lastly, HAVE FUN! Check with fellow bloggers or friends to find out how their trips were, what they recommend and what they disliked. Plan a few big things and wing it on other things. Just make sure you take everyone into consideration and make it as much fun as possible!

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