Three stupid dogs, priceless!
Friday, March 05, 2010
Acklins and Crooked Island are two of the four islands forming an atoll which hugs the beautiful shallow waters of the Bight of Acklins. Bordered by the nearly uninhabited Castle Island and Long Cay, they are as natural as they were when The Bahamas was first "discovered." Columbus reputedly sailed down the leeward side of the islands through the narrow Crooked Island Passage, which has ever since served as an important route for steam ships travelling from Europe to Central and South America. This seaway, referred to locally as 'the going through,' also earned these islands the notorious reputation as convenient bases for buccaneers and pirates, who attacked ships in these shallow waters.
Quiet and remote, the island's natural attributes are many. An abundance of bird life thrives on the cliffs and reefs around the islands and magnificent limestone caves hide secrets from the past. Coral gardens, shelves and reefs are a treat for divers and the deep creeks, tidal flats, and pools filled with game fish make it a sportman's delight. Spectacular, untouched, white sand beaches stretch for miles.
Oh I love my history and this topped the list of the places I have visited in my travels!
The Iglesia de San José (San José Church) began construction in 1523. Juan Ponce de León gave the land where the Church now stands. Originally called the Church and Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas, it was built by Dominican friars to serve as the monastery's church and chapel dedicated to Saint Thomas Aquinas. The section erected in 1532, the Main Chapel or Sanctuary, is an excellent example of 16th century Spanish Gothic architecture. Ponce de León, was buried here for 300 years until his body was moved to the San Juan Cathedral in 1913. This was the family church of Ponce de León's descendants. Puerto Rican painter José Campeche, who contributed a great deal to the beautiful churches of his island, is buried here.
Plazuela de la Rogativa (plaza of the procession) was built in 1971, features a modern sculpture depicting a procession of religious women commemorates an event that took place on the site in 1797. During the spring of that year, a fleet of British ships led by under Sir Ralph Ambercrombie sailed into San Juan Bay, meaning to launch an assault on the city and take control of the colony. When the attack was foiled, they undertook a naval blockade of San Juan, hoping to starve the residents into submission. As the towns people began to despair of any help from soldiers garrisoned in the inland towns, the governor ordered a rogativa, or divine entreaty, to ask the saints for assistance. The women of the town formed a procession through the streets, carrying torches and ringing bells. The British, hearing the commotion and seeing the moving lights, decided that reinforcements had arrived and quickly sailed off.
This is a 465-year-old neighborhood originally conceived as a military stronghold. Its 7-square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets here are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over a ballast on Spanish ships and time and moisture have lent them their characteristic color. The city includes more than 400 carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. The Old San Juan attracts many tourists, who also enjoy the gambling casinos, fine beaches, and tropical climate. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. A leisurely foot tour is advisable for those who really want to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and frequently heavy traffic. To really do justice to these wonderful old sites, you'll need two mornings or a full day. I know I'll be back with Beth for a vacation to explore some more!
Even the word itself, "El Morro", sounds powerful and this six-level fortress certainly is. Begun in 1540 and completed in 1589. San Felipe del Morro was named in honor of King Phillip II. Most of the walls in the fort today were added later, in a period of tremendous construction from the 1760's-1780's. Rising 140 feet above the sea, its 18-foot-thick wall proved a formidable defense. It fell only once, in 1598, to a land assault by the Earl of Cumberland's forces. The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps. El Morro is studded with small, circular sentry boxes called "garitas" that have become a national symbol. The views of San Juan Bay from El Morro are spectacular. The area was designated a National Historic Site in February, 1949 with 74 total acres. It has the distinction of being the largest fortification in the Caribbean. In 1992, the fortress was restored to its historical form in honor of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Puerto Rico by Christopher Columbus. El Morro Fortress is a National Historic Site
During a store visit I had a chance to drive through the Old San Juan district of San Juan PR.
This is the Alcaldia (San Juan's City Hall). The building was constructed in 1602 and completed in 1789. In the 1840's the building was heavily remodeled providing its present day facade intended by its builders to be an exact replica of Madrid's. The building has a tourism information center and a small gallery for periodic exhibitions.