Nothing ever goes quite like you plan when traveling, and this is especially the case when two people with laid-back travel mentalities leave the country together. As Michal and I deplaned, I wondered allowed, “Do you think we’ll have to go through customs? Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory?”
“Yeah, probably. Well, maybe not,” Michal answered. “I maybe should have done even the smallest amount of research before our trip.”
Turns out, NO, you don’t have to go through customs. It is also true that San Juan International Airport looks like any other American airport, filled with Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Hudson Booksellers.
We arrived at 12:30 a.m. My original plan was for us to sleep in the airport for a few hours before hitting the city. However, when we were standing in an abandoned gate of the brightly lit airport, Michal strongly suggested we book a cheap hotel for the night.
“Here’s one for $80,” she said, scrolling on her phone. Her cell service works in Puerto Rico, mine doesn’t. Neither of us know why this is.
“Alright,” I said. “What’s it called?”
Since everyone on our plane had already fled the airport, we walked alone through the empty halls. “I wish I had a switchblade,” Michal said. “This looks like where the zombie apocalypse is going to take place.”
“If it is, my plan is to just give up and let them bite me as soon as possible. I mean, so long as the transformation is instantaneous. I don’t think I could handle the stress of trying to survive.”
We were not, thankfully, attacked by zombies. Instead, we found a cab and sheepishly gave the driver directions to “Da House.” It’s just inside Old San Juan, and our disinterest in the dark streets suddenly turned to “ooo”s and “aah”s when we crossed into adorably quaint colorful old buildings territory. It had started to rain, and our cabbie let us out by a glass window labeled, well, Da House. We ran down the alley to the door and climbed two flights of stairs to the most randomly decorated hotel lobby I’ve ever seen. There were at least five kinds of tiled areas on the floor, and decor that felt sometimes Caribbean, sometimes Asian. Perhaps I have no taste, but I kind of liked it.
We booked our room, got breakfast recommendations, and headed upstairs to a sparse but clean one bed room. A tiny bathroom provided sweet relief from the ick of plane grease. Double doors led to a small balcony that overlooks a dance hall. An active dance hall with amazing Latin music that is probably going to keep me up until 2:30 (at which point the manager assured us they would stop).
This experience has led to my developing a new travel rule for myself: Always stay in two hotels/motels. Tomorrow we will head to our scheduled hotel, a nice place called CasaBlanca that we found on Groupon’s getaway deals. It should be pretty fancy. But there is something wonderfully charming about this walk-up alleyway hotel. Highbrow and lowbrow. It’s fun to experience it all (if you can).