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“Sun in shining. Weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet.”-Bob Marley

Have you ever been transported through time by a moment? A moment that consists of smells, sounds, and movement that feels like it must have happened years ago. In the old, beautiful city of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, I experienced the MOMENT.

 

This November I had the opportunity to travel to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico for a dance competition. The entire trip was such a magical experience and I really didn’t want to come home. This post will be one of three posts about my time in San Juan, from the sites, to the dancing, to the YUMMY food. I hope this inspires you to travel to this beautiful island someday; I cannot wait to go back again.

We were super nervous at first about how our weather would be during the trip. We looked at the forecast the morning that we were driving to the airport and it showed a 90% chance of rain all day…EVERY DAY. Well that put a damper on things at first lol.

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But when we stepped off of the plane we were hit with HOT and HUMID. That Caribbean air instantly took over our bodies. We arrived at our beautiful hotel, The Ritz Carlton, around lunch-time. Greeted by the nicest staff that I have ever encountered, I seriously felt like royalty (this treatment lasted the entire trip). The hotel had such a light/airy, combined with a tropical/modern ambiance; I instantly loved it. But, I couldn’t wait to get down to the beach and just relax in the sun.

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So Amber, another girl from my dance studio, and I quickly changed into our swimsuits and walked (kind of ran) down to the beautiful strip of beach that was in front of the hotel. The water was a bright turquoise color and towering palm trees lined the sand. We were OFFICIALLY in paradise. Of course, we instantly started taking some pictures and twirling around the beach like the dancers that we are. Once we finished our mini photoshoot sesh, we headed to the pool. As soon as we were settled on our chairs that surrounded the GORGEOUS pool area, I felt a rain drop. The rain came quickly. At first we tried to shield ourselves with umbrellas but the wind picked up too much and we were forced inside. This continued on and off the rest of the day. The staff told us that November is one of the most unpredictable months for weather on the island…fantastic. But it didn’t really matter at that point because we were in Puerto Rico and NOTHING could kill our vibe.

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Our Baywatch moment….cue theme song

By the way, the food at this hotel was FANTASTIC. The breakfast buffet had so many amazing goodies, and you even could get your own omelette made with all the fixings that you could possibly imagine. The lobby had great food as well, and this soup was one of my favorites. I don’t exactly remember what it was, but it was delicious and the little bread crackers they brought with it were to die for. And of course the smoothies were delish.

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The next morning I woke up pretty early and went down to walk the beach; it’s one of my favorite things to do on vacation. It was competition day, so it was a great way for me to start my day with a positive mindset. I came across some beautiful shells on the beach (they were PINK!) along with some fresh coconuts. I really wanted to go all “Survivor” and chop them in half with a machete…but unfortunately I didn’t have one handy.

Amber and I caught a taxi around noon and headed into Old San Juan. This was one of the things that I was most excited about; it definitely exceeded my expectations.

Island pastries making me drool.
Island pastries making me drool.

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The colorful buildings, the romantic Spanish architecture, the cobblestone streets, cafes on every corner…my kind of place. I loved the beautiful balconies adorned with flowers and artistic railing. I could see myself having brunch out there every morning. We spent some time wandering up and down the streets, sipping from our fresh coconut that we got from a stand on the square.

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My future dance studio…JK but this space would be perfect for a dance studio right?!

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We got caught in a rainstorm so we quickly ran to a beautiful restaurant called Caficultura for lunch. Lunch was actually more of a brunch since we ordered yogurt with fresh fruit and granola. And of COURSE I had to order a Cafe con leche (A REAL LATTE). Our food was delicious and it was really nice to sit next to the window with the rain pattering against the glass, talking about dance, travel, and life.

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That evening I competed in the Open Gold Scholarship (which I will talk more about in my upcoming post Caribbean Dancesport). Since the competition itself was simply NOT enough dancing, we decided to go salsa dancing in Old San Juan on Saturday night. It’s just what you do “When in Puerto Rico.” There were several places we wanted to go, but we ended up choosing the Nuyorican Café which several of the locals had told us about. The dance space was small, but the live band was FABULOUS! There was a mix of locals and tourists which was nice. It had a great vibe and I had a lot of fun, but honestly I missed the salsa club that I used to go to in Utah. I’m definitely more a fan of the college salsa crowd.

My night was completely made (this is the MOMENT) when Amber and I decided to take a breath of fresh air outside. We started chatting with the guy working the door and he was talking about how he wished he was inside dancing. Amber grabbed his hand and said “Then let’s dance!” As the Spanish music drifted out through the doors, they danced along the cobblestone street. It was one of the most amazing moments I have ever witnessed; this is WHY I dance. People dancing just in this way evolved over time to what competitive dancers do today. It was that PASSION and carefree movement to the music that turned into this amazingly diverse culture of dance we have. When the song ended it snapped me back out of the almost dreamlike state I had entered. That’s the power of dance my friends.

On our second trip into San Juan we took the whole group. We did some shopping at a little local shop called Pure Soul (where I found some fabulous treasures) and really just explored the beautiful city some more.

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One of the highlights of this entire trip was experiencing the FABULOUS Casa Cortes ChocoBar, famous for their delicious hot chocolate. This chocolate company has been making chocolate since the 20’s, so they are definitely experts! The inside is a museum/art style restaurant that themes around the history/successes of the chocolate company.  The food was incredible (all of their dishes contain some type of chocolate) but my absolute favorite was the Choco Frioo (or cold chocolate). I got the frozen hot chocolate with coconut….HOLY COW you guys. It was unreal. Amber and I split this along with an order of Churros (classic) and Croquettas stuffed with ham, tomato garlic sauce, and dark chocolate. It was all so amazing. Needless to say we were stuffed. We left there on a chocolate high for sure lol.

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I loved everything about the island of Puerto Rico. The culture, the food, the dancing. Every bit of it related to the desires of my soul and the things I love most about life. I can’t wait to share more about my time on this beautiful island with all of you!

Don’t wait for moments, create them.

Ashlyn Tori <3