UNESCO World Heritage Site #21: La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico

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The Atlantic ocean curls around the shore of Old San Juan, waves slapping the beach.  Kites fill the sky, while children scoot and run around.  The sunset fades to purple.  That’s how I experienced EL Morro and La Fortaleza in Puerto Rico.  It was magical.

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From UNESCO’s description:

The main elements of the massive fortification of San Juan are La Fortaleza, the three forts of San Felipe del Morro, San Cristóbal and San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo), and a large portion of the City Wall, built between the 16th and 19th centuries to protect the city and the Bay of San Juan. They are characteristic examples of the historic methods of construction used in military architecture over this period, which adapted European designs and techniques to the special conditions of the Caribbean port cities.

I didn’t tour the forts, or do any educational research before I got there.  Instead, I walked around and took it all in.  It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  When I think back now, I can feel the cool breeze and smell the sea air.  I felt like a little girl at sunset in front of Cair Paravel.  If only Aslan had shown up.

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I spent the afternoon before and the evening after walking around Old San Juan.  The colonial buildings are colorful and bright.  I passed through empty squares with beautiful refreshing fountains.  I was there with a friend, and the hours all kind of melted together in one long, hazy conversation straight out of a Richard Linklater film.  But with purple sunsets!

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After dark, we grabbed a dinner of mojitos and empanadas in a tiny restaurant stuffed in the back of an art gallery.  I don’t remember the restaurant’s name or street address, but the food was similar to these delicious cheap eats. The British waitress tried to give me back her tip, but I insisted.  Puerto Rico is technically America after all.  This fact made it so easy to picture picking up and moving there forever.  A place that is both home and the dream tropical island you’ve always been waiting to run away to.

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