The great thing about living abroad is you get to meet a lot of great people. From all over the world. And even better…. you get to visit them too. But I think I hit the lottery…. because not only did I meet a friend from an amazing place but she ended up being like the sister I never had. Like soul mates. You could say we were cut from the same cloth (as my Mum used to say)… just thousands of miles apart. I call her my Puerto Rican sister and she calls me her Hermana Irlandesa. So I spent 6 wonderful years with her until she decided to go back to her home country. We were both distraught until it hit me…. what’s the point in making friends from amazing places unless you can visit them! So the result was my first trip to the Caribbean… bliss. If I close my eyes I can still feel the tropical heat on my back, the smell of the fresh fruit savoury and sweet dishes (and the scent of the impressive tropical flowers), the crunch of the plantain chips, the coolness of the fresh fruit frappes (not to mention the added rum on occasions as well as the brain freeze!), the warm water of the Caribbean Sea enveloping me, the sound of the music and the laughter of the people….
Puerto Rico was different to what I expected…..very green and beautiful (more green than I expected) due to the fact that every day they have a quick rain shower followed almost immediately by brilliant sunshine . And what surprised me was that the rain was warm and extra special when swimming in the sea. They also live a very simple life and dress very casually…. but I fell in love with the people and their lust for life. The beaches weren’t packed (as it wasn’t very touristy) but boy do they know how to party! Every square metre on the beach had portable music on wheels and I was amused by the fact most people would be dancing and drinking in the sea… that’s because when we swim in our part of the world it’s a quick dip in and out …. it’s so cold that there is no time for niceties! Even where I live in Spain you can have cool waters depending on the currents…. but there is NOTHING that compares to the crystal clear warm (almost hot) turquoise waters of the Caribbean … not to mention the snorkelling (yes we saw turtles and tropical fish swimming!!!) We visited one of the top 10 beaches in the world…. Playa Flamenco. And now I know why …… pure white sand and turquoise waters it was so clean and uncrowded and it was amazing to see by air…. Yes we had to take a small 8 seater plane and I may not do it in the near future but it was an amazing experience!
Back to the people…. One day we were at a beach bar and I saw an old lady going towards the bin to put her excess rubbish in. But she didn’t walk to the bin… she danced with her hips swaying to the music. And then she danced back to her table. It really struck me that a simple chore after lunch could be so enjoyable. But of course I should’ve known that because every Irish/Puerto Rican party in our house has been like that… we always ended up dancing to salsa music. Another day we took a boat to Gilligan Island and people just sat in their chairs deep in the water… singing, eating and drinking and didn’t move from the water. Amazing.
Puerto Rico is very diverse…. from the coast to the rain forests. We loved trekking through El Yunque Rainforest and finding the waterfall to swim in. The vegetation was divine and the water cooler than we realised but oh so refreshing… and a great place for a picnic, plantain chips and a virgin pina colada!
I just loved seeing coconuts growing on the trees everywhere we went. And it was even more special to buy a fresh coconut to drink from then cutting it open to taste the soft white and delicious flesh……
You may be wondering why I’m going on about swimming, warm waters, music, the people etc but atmosphere is almost as important as taste when eating a meal and drinking your favourite cocktail! You can have the most delicious meal in an empty boring restaurant but it just doesn’t taste the same when there is no atmosphere… even a poor meal can taste better if you’re having fun!
The drinks are to die for……
And the the delicious accompaniments of dips with plantains make you want to order more…..
The food is fruity, the drinks are cold and delicious and the atmosphere is AMAZING! But there is nothing to stop you from recreating that feeling in your own home….
For the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some Caribbean influenced recipes which I have been recreating at home as we want to keep the Caribbean feeling here in our household! Even my kids have the recipe for virgin piña coladas and plantain chips down to a tee!
I hope you will enjoy the taste of the Caribbean closer to home…… These recipes have been tried and tested many times in our home :
So Puerto Rico……. I’ll be back!!!!!