New Year in Puerto Rico

2015 was one of the most challenging years of my life.  So I decided to start 2016 off with a last minute family trip to Puerto Rico...and I'm glad I did.  What a great way to kick off a brand new year!

Caribe HIlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico

We knew we wanted a warm destination, but with our passports expiring in the spring, our choices were limited.  Make sure you check passport regulations for the country you want to visit.  For example, to travel to Mexico, your passport can't be expiring within six months of your trip.  But to travel to the Bahamas, you can go anytime up until your passport expires.  And Puerto Rico is best of all (for US citizens), you don't even need a passport.

Agua Viva restaurant for our anniversary dinner in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not only does the new year bring a fresh start, but it also brings our wedding anniversary.  What a beautiful place to celebrate marrying the most amazing man I know.  We made reservations at Agua Viva, which was a recommendation from several people.  It means Jelly Fish, hence the coolest lights ever.  We loved it: food, atmosphere and the service.

Caribe HIlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico

As this trip was meant for relaxation, we booked a larger resort close to Old San Juan and with its own private beach.  The Caribe Hilton did not disappoint.

Carible Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The beach service was fantastic with food and drinks, as well as, a Starbucks right on the beach.  I had never seen that before, but I was more interested in the Pina Coladas and Mojitos.  :)

View from our room at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Did I mention that this was the view from our balcony?  Every morning I sat there and drank my coffee while enjoying this fabulous view.

Fort walls in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I took this picture with snapchat (add me: swagtasticmama) of the Old San Juan fort wall.  We walked along the wall to dinner one night.  I loved the history and beauty of this place.

Two of the Three Kings celebrating Three Kings Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans celebrate the Christmas season well into the new year.  So we were witness to A LOT of celebrating.  They seem to love a good celebration.  I caught these "kings" heading out into the street party right outside the Princesa Gastro Pub where we were having dinner.  It was part of the Three Kings festival which was happening in a few days.  It was interesting to take in some of the local culture in this way.

A local Puerto Rican dish called Mofongo

Speaking of local culture, I ate lots of Mofongo.  It is made with plantains and it is yummy.  This one has chicken and shrimp in a garlic sauce sitting on top of the Mofongo.

Dinner at Oceano in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our final night we had dinner at Oceano Restaurant.  As you can see it is located right on the beach with stunning views of the sunset.  The food and service was also wonderful.  Our son is obsessed with calamari, so we pretty much order it whenever it is on the menu.  This was the best calamari we had ever had.  It was cut into steak strips instead of rings and served with cilantro aioli and mango chili sauce.  Delish!  And we ended with the best key lime pie I can remember eating.  Fabulous night!

Pina Colada at its birth place, the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I leave you with the Pina Colada I'm having at the hotel.  Turns out, the Caribe Hilton hotel is the birth place of the Pina Colada.  So, of course, every night I felt obligated to enjoy one at the outdoor bar area.  The weather was perfect as my husband and I talked about the last year and the challenges we powered through.  We sipped our drinks and smiled as we knew 2016 was starting off in a fantastic way.  Whether you were traveling or home, with family, friends or your wonderful self, I hope you are starting 2016 off in a way that you want.  My love to you all! :)


Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

After my long hike to Portofino, I was ready to sit down and have a drink.  I was so thirsty, that I opted for a cold soda instead of wine...that's really thirsty people!  The rest of my family was feeling the same way.  So we grabbed a table and each ordered a soda.  The drink was refreshing and the people watching was great, but the waiters were so rude.  When I asked for the restroom he actually started yelling at me in Italian because I couldn't understand his English.  To top off the event, our bill came.  It was $60 with tip for our FOUR sodas.  Portofino is not a cheap place, folks.

Portofino, Italy

I really wish my Portofino experience hadn't started in such a negative way.   I tried not to absorb that negative energy the waiter put off.  It knew it had nothing to do with me.  He could have just been having a bad day.  But I would have liked it better had he been kind.  Nevertheless,  I was in a beautiful place, so I decided to brush off those feelings and enjoy it.

Castello Brown in Portofino, Italy

Castello Brown is a former castle turned museum on this hill overlooking Portofino.  The 1991 movie, Enchanted April, was filmed there.  The tour desk on our cruise ship did not recommend going inside, so we just admired from afar.

Strange sights in Portofino, Italy

The Museo del Parco di Portofino was a strange strange sight to see.  Not only was there a rhino hanging in the air, but these strange bright pink animal statues on each post. (not shown)   

Museo del Parco di Portofino, Italy

PORTofino was aptly named.  What a gorgeous port!

Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

I throughly enjoyed walking around and taking in all the colors of Portofino.  The buildings, the boats and the beautiful colors of nature.  There are also several stores if you are into high end shopping.  

Portofino, Italy shopping

Dior, Pucci and Gucci are a good example of the stores in Portofino.  It fits the expensive theme of this place.  

Portofino, Italy

I love the way they have used all the old buildings to house modern stores.  Such a great juxtaposition of old and new.

Portofino, Italy

Overall, I thought Portofino was a very beautiful, very expensive little Italian village.  I'm curious to know if any of my readers have actually stayed in Portofino and what you thought?  Please comment below.  


Hiking to Portofino, Italy

When our cruise ship stopped at Santa Margherita, Italy, we had many excursions to choose from.  Our final decision was to hike to Portofino and back, while enjoying both cities and the views in between.  And what views those were!

Gorgeous view while hiking in Italy

The walk took a little over an hour and was easy at times, with a few moderate spots along the way.  We got an idea of what it would be like as we viewed the northern Italian coast from our cruise ship balcony.  Gorgeous!


What I Ate Wednesday

Just like every morning on our Mediterranean cruise, we started with room service breakfast on the balcony.  Not a bad way to start any day.

In room breakfast on a Holland America Cruise

Then we were off to explore Monaco, Eze and Nice.  It was going to be a big day of exploring, so we loaded up on breakfast, pretty much skipped lunch and ended the day with dinner in the main dining room.  Vacation eating can be a bit different.  Do you eat the same on vacation as you normally do at home?
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