A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Week in Paradise: Vieques, Puerto Rico - Day 4

Knowing that there would be less opportunity to see things on Sunday, we woke with the intention of taking the day a little slower. We'd gotten a fair amount of sun and were ready for an easier, less exposed day too. After breakfast (lighter today, we had brunch plans), I didn't walk the beach like I had been doing. Instead, we went looking for a local beach (in Isabel II) called Sea Glass Beach. I'd picked up some pieces on my walks on Bravo Beach, but was really looking forward to what this beach would offer. 

Based on our handy map, we knew roughly where it should be, but struggled to find access, as it seemed there was a sheer cliff at the end of many of the streets in the area. We parked and began to walk a bit, as a woman approached, also looking for the beach. A local man pointed us in the right direction and we left on foot to find it, together with the woman. We had been just a block away, but the road we needed to take looked more like a driveway to us, so we hadn't thought to check it out.

When we arrived, we found a small, unassuming beach with lots of teeny tiny bits of glass, and seemingly very few sizable pieces to pick up. I was up for the challenge and any associated adventure though. A sweet little tabby cat greeted us with rubs and purrs, as I imagine he greets all visitors.

I began searching the sand for treasures and took pleasure even in the smallest "gems," especially since I'd never really seen such nicely polished sea glass.  I only became familiar with the concept during my research on Vieques for our trip.

Here's what Wikipedia says about it:

"Sea glass and beach glass are similar but come from two different types of water. "Sea glass" is physically and chemically weathered glass found on beaches along bodies of salt water. These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass. "Genuine sea glass" can be collected as a hobby and can be used to make jewelry. "Beach glass" comes from fresh water and in most cases has a different pH balance, and has a less frosted appearance than sea glass. Sea glass takes 20 to 30 years, and sometimes as much as 50 years, to acquire its characteristic texture and shape."

Shane sat for a while, watching me comb through the sand and the water's edge, and decided (with my blessing) to head back to the room for a while. He'd return later to get me or I could walk back (it really wasn't that far).

I would gather a while, then place my treasures in a heap near my beach bag and hat. On one of my little rest stops to do so, I found that I had made another new friend, or was about to. This little lizard was curious about me and my belongings, or perhaps I'd simply set them a little too close to his home for his comfort.

I chatted with Rochelle, the woman we'd walked with; she was from Boston, traveling to Vieques on her own and with not much more than the backpack she walked in with. She's been a collector for years and taught me a lot during our time on the beach. She taught me about black sea glass, finding several pieces for me and showing me their unique qualities. She told me about some of her favorite places to collect and about her huge stashes of the glass bits in her apartment in Boston. I learned about other colors of glass she had rarely found and she gave me a few tips about where to look and how.

I collected until I was tired and hungry, and Shane had returned to give me a ride. I was pleased with the pieces I had gathered, knowing that most looking for seaglass go to this beach, so the chances of larger or rare pieces was lower here. As we left, I took this shot of another abandoned boat that no one has bothered to dispose of properly. It does appear that it has been stripped of anything and everything of use or value, though.

We returned to BBH to change clothes, have a rest and then head out for our special Sunday brunch plans. Several times during our stay we'd heard about a place called the Tin Box and that they had a great Sunday brunch, so we had to see what it was all about. 

We had reservations for 11:00, but arrived a bit early.  It wasn't an issue and we were seated right away with a nice jungle view in a booth on the lower patio.

Shane took immediate advantage of the exceptional bloody mary bar, and I ordered a watermelon margarita, made from watermelons pressed on site, not some icky syrup. Excellent choices.

The menu is written daily on a chalkboard, so the waitress brought it nearer to us so we could make our decisions. We would have been content to walk over to it, but she insisted on practically leaning on a gentleman at a nearby table for our convenience.

We tried to be quick with our choices. I decided to have another go at Lobster Benedict, since my first attempt was sub-par, and Shane ordered the Hangover Sandwich. She said it would have a little bit of everything on it...

While we waited for our food, we watched someone tending the restaurant gardens below. Not only was there this well kept area that can clearly be covered with shade cloth as needed to protect the greens, there were also freshly sown sections on the jungle floor wherever enough light peeked through.

The gardener was using a rake/broom that looked as though it were made out of branches of some kind. He used it skillfully to remove leaves and debris from between rows and plants, generally tidying up what the jungle sprinkled onto the orderly rows.

Our drinks kept us relaxed and content as we visited and took in the surroundings. It began to rain at one point, but only behind the restaurant. It rained hard, but we could see sun shining and dry spaces in the parking lot area, as though mother nature chose to water just the garden area that morning. What an incredible experience to sit quietly and listen to it rain in the Puerto Rican jungle. Bliss.

When our food arrived, we were floored by the portions and quality. We had high expectations due to the recommendations and having the knowledge that they make everything in house and source everything as locally as possible. We were not disappointed! WOW!

Just look at that sandwich!  It came with a pasta salad, but on the sandwich was a huge pile of just about anything sandwich like and then some, including fried oysters. Shane was one happy fella! My Lobster Benny was out of this world as well.

We couldn't leave without dessert, especially after the amazing meal we'd just enjoyed. We tried to narrow it to one choice, but ultimately tried two and shared them both. Our first selection was something called Tembleque - Puerto Rican coconut pudding - and our second was Key Lime pie (we had to see how it compared to Cafe Mamasonga's). The Tembleque was utterly amazing... and I was sure to write down what it was called so I could try to make it at home. I haven't yet, as of the writing of this post, but the ingredients are in the house.

While eating and chatting, we noticed papaya trees along the edges of the garden space, and as we sadly departed, we admired the stands/groves? of banana trees LOADED with fruit. We started dreaming of all the things we would grow if/when we live on Vieques....

A much less inviting item spotted on the way to the car was this big beauty. It reminded me of the enormous garden spiders at home that are huge and scary, but they are a favorable guest in the garden, eating a number of undesirable bugs. I chose to believe that this spider was one of those and not something frightening and awful.

After a long and relaxed brunch date, we returned to BBH and lounged around for the afternoon. It was nice to take a nap and not have to worry about what we "should" be doing.

Whenever we could, we asked about what was happening locally and what the locals recommended to do, to see and to eat. Somewhere along the way, someone told us there was to be some kind of local concert at the Fort on Sunday. We dressed for dinner and the concert and left BBH and returned to Cafe Mamasonga for dinner, as we knew we'd like the food and that it would be quick enough to allow us to get to the concert in time. They did not disappoint. We wound our way up the road to El Fortin Conde de Mirasol and could hear the music as we approached. We could see folks sitting outdoors on an upper level enjoying the show. From the ground it appeared that it was likely a school concert of some sort, and the music was fantastic. We walked around the grounds of the Fort as the sun set, admiring the views and listening to music dance on the breeze.

The fort was built in 1845 and was renovated in 1991 and now houses the historical documents for the island. It's a real jewel and it seems to be coming into its own with events, art exhibitions and the like.

It was smaller than I had imagined, but beautiful just the same. They light the side that faces the water at night.

The sunset was especially nice from above the city.

We wandered inside to check out the interior since it was open for the evening and meandered through the gift shop and display areas and then upstairs toward the music. There were books for sale about the island, but none were in English. I had hoped to pick one up to learn more, preferring something locally written in hopes of greater historical accuracy. Also for sale were little banners painted with symbols that are taken from the island's history.

There was a gallery upstairs with exceptional local art pieces including lots of paintings, some sculptures and mixed media pieces. It was unlike any other gallery I'd ever been in.  The culture was rich and beautiful. It was like a peek into the history as well as the modern world the folks of Vieques have lived and are living within.

Here are a few examples:

As we enjoyed the art, a nice man came out and asked us if we were there to enjoy the music. We explained how we had come to know about it and he invited us out onto a terrace or patio of sorts to be seated. He nearly insisted, as I suppose he was assuming we were just there for a free look around. We had really been enjoying the atmosphere created by the cultural immersion set to a lovely soundtrack of mixed music. We obliged and listened for quite some time, feeling privileged to be included in a small local event like this atop such a marvelous historic building. We learned that the group was a mixed age, mixed level community band that was having a seasonal recital of sorts. What a treat!

We made our exit at what must have been an intermission, and headed back to BBH to unwind for the night. I took some time to rinse and sort my seaglass treasures. I must have spent an hour or more ogling my haul. Shane watched a little television and I toyed with my gems. It was a nice way to relax on an easy going Sunday night.

We got a good night's rest and readied ourselves to begin a new week and start the second half of our honeymoon adventure on Vieques.

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