Lechón

On Sunday we drove into the mountains to visit the farm of one of Pat’s coworkers. The occasion: said coworker Norberto’s retirement. The party: un lechón, which is basically the roasting followed by consumption of an entire pig. This is probably not as graphic as you think. Or maybe it is; I’m not privy to your imagination. Anyway, proceed with that content knowledge in mind.

If it helps, we also met some chickens, special Puerto Rican chickens known as Kikiriki, which are smaller than your average chicken. They were alive and remained so for the duration of the event.

So here are a bunch of photos from our first lechón, rather more of which contain a machete than you might otherwise expect. Plus here’s some video Pat took of an impromptu jam session. You can’t very well have a party without music.

Sobrevivimos El Monstruo

Last weekend Pat and I drove to the center of the island (where the mountains live) to check out Toro Verde Adventure Park. Alas, here “Adventure Park” roughly translates not to “amusement park” but instead “bunch o’ ziplines.” Rides per zipline are surprisingly expensive, so we chose to set our sights on only one: El Monstruo.

El Monstruo is the second-longest zip line in the world and the longest in the U.S. It’s 2.5km long, however the hell long that is. Okay, the internet says approximately 1.5 miles. There you go.

It also advertises speeds of up to 90 mph, but Pat and I conferred post-ride and we’re pretty sure you don’t so much as approach those speeds unless you’re at the top of the weight limit (which is 270 pounds, since you asked).

The “adventure park” (Oh yeah? SHOW ME ONE ROLLER COASTER) assigns you a time slot when you purchase your tickets, but based on our experience you can wander up whenever and they’ll start outfitting you for your ride. In addition to a helmet, they strap you into a harness before sending you up to the launch tower.

El Monstruo requires a Superman-style flight, so they pull a sort of sling under you before chucking you into the mountainous abyss. Not sure what I mean by that position? Allow this rando to demonstrate:

Oh, you want to see one of us do it? Fine:

The ride is a two-parter: you zipline out into the mountains, dismount, and then zipline back toward base. Not all the way back, though; you and your fellow zipliners will need to climb into the back of a truck for the final leg of the return trip. The general consensus was that this bumpy, hilly journey was the most thrilling part of the trip.

Which is to say that, being the jaded roller coaster-riding, non-heights-fearing people that we are, Pat and I found the experience rather underwhelming. I mean, it was fun enough, but it’s basically mountain views at speed. You can just as easily look out at the mountains from the Adventure Park (“adventure park”) bar while sipping a drink, which is a thing we did after for free. Well, the cost of the drink. But the drink wasn’t $70, so.

In conclusion: Toro Verde Adventure Park is okay. It’s certainly no amusement park. My kingdom for even so much as a Six Flags!

El Morro y Castillo San Cristobal

Last weekend we enjoyed a visit from Kyle and Becky.

The lighting is this restaurant is normal; it’s just that they’re both Smurfs.

As part of the grand tour, we all headed into Old San Juan to, among other things, poke about the architecture.

Most notably the city boasts two forts, the larger and older of which is El Morro.

The forts are run by the U.S. National Parks service, which grants access to multiple levels of the structure. The decor is sparse, and the most notable features are the views of the ocean, but there are also museum-esque elements including historical signage about the Spanish empire and how it really went downhill in its later years.

A famous feature of both forts is the garita, or guerite in English, a sentry tower of sorts, many of which line the walls of both the forts and the city. These are something of an icon for San Juan and even Puerto Rico in generally.

Your admission to any one fort gets you into the other on the same day, so we headed over to Castillo San Cristobal. This fort is smaller and younger by a bit, offering most of the same information, but it’s still nifty to poke around. My favorite part is definitely the tunnel to the dungeon, which features hundred-plus year old drawings of ships on the wall, allegedly the work of a captain awaiting trial for mutiny.

This field trip won’t compel anyone who doesn’t already kinda like forts and castles and things anyway, but if that’s your bag both buildings are definitely worth checking out.

Pat’s Quiver

Note: Surfing is in fact rarely relaxing and frequently just the opposite experience.

So a bit of surf lingo to start off: a “quiver” is a surfer’s collection of boards and is perpetually lacking at least one board which would really make it well-rounded. Now that the terminology is out the way – I’ve spent my free time this week getting a nice surf rack setup for my quiver. After a bit of internet research, a few Home Depot runs, and a few hours of stressing out the cats with drilling, it was all done. See Jenn so elegantly presenting my work below.

Unfortunately we don’t have too much to discuss this week as we’re getting ready to make a trip back to Maryland and have run out of time to pursue other adventures. We were hoping to get a bit of ziplining done but that’ll have to wait until we return. We may go out to meet our Spanish teachers for some beers later today at La Placita, a food market by day and bar/hangout spot come evening. We’ll update accordingly if it is as interesting as it sounds.

Now I just have to wait for some waves to arrive…

Ron del Barrilito Tour

Yesterday Pat and I went to the Ron del Barrilito factory for their tasting tour. They’ve been producing rum there (with a brief pitstop in medicinal alcohols during prohibition) since 1880.

The tour began in the visitor’s center, which is a new building since the original was knocked down by Hurricane Maria. Our tour guide was Edgardo, who is studying chemical engineering and hopes to take over as master blender one day. Since we were the only two people on the tour, we had free rein to converse and learned a lot of interesting stuff from him.

We started with a briefing on the history of the company, from its roots as Spanish naval officer Fernando Fernandez’s hacienda, to its sugarcane production and subsequent rum business, to post-prohibition development of new versions.

From there we headed outside to the hacienda (where a member of the Fernandez family still lives) and the windmill where they formerly ground sugarcane. Currently it’s their administrative offices!

We weren’t able to see the bottling process since that portion is closed on weekends, but we got an extensive look at the barrel warehouses. The barrels are placed first, and then the rum is siphoned in and labeled with the year. As the master blender puts together each batch, he uses this information to assemble 2 through 5 star rums.

The oldest rum barrel in the place is from 1952 and, per the request of erstwhile owner Pedro Fernandez, is to be opened exclusively on the day Puerto Rico gains its independence. According to Edgardo, it’s got about 30 years before most of it evaporates away, so we’ll see how that works out.

Finally, the tasting portion! We were given samples of a 2 star (aged 3-5 years), 3 star (aged 5-10 years), 4 star (10-20 years), and 5 star (20+ years) rum to try. Edgardo encouraged us to smell first and sip slowly, to really get a sense of each flavor profile; he even gave us items like cinnamon and coconut to smell alongside the rum to pick out its nuances. As the rums progressed in age they became noticeably smoother. Pat and I both like the 4 best, even above the 5, which was bolder but less sweet.

At the end of the tour we were given certificates and tokens to exchange for a rum cocktail at the bar.

While we were drinking, Pat decided to buy a bottle of the 4 star rum, which was a bit of a production – you have the option of drawing it and sealing it yourself.

Here is a video of Pat siphoning rum into the bottle.
Here is a video of Pat sealing the bottle.

It’s even on the official registry.

And that was our rum adventure! Which reminds me, if your name is Ron your name is rum. Enjoy!