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Our Old San Juan Tour

May 1, 2018

 

As a rider in one of our vintage sidecar motorcycles you’ll often wonder about the sights that we pass by. It’s hard to go on our sightseeing tour and not be amazed at the beauty of the surroundings, the rich culture and history of our beautiful island. The history of Puerto Rico is long and very interesting with strong colonial influences. We can’t wait to show you around so come on an adventure with us.

 

Most of our sightseeing tours include a ride throughout Old San Juan. It’s where we usually start off and it's for good reason. We show you the San Cristobal Castle in the beginning of the ride. We then pass by the Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery and the Castle of San Felipe Del Morro (El Morro). The two castles are commonly referred to as forts. They were built in the 16th and the 17th century respectively to protect San Juan from the attackers. El Morro, which is a National Historic Site, was built to defend the island from the sea and San Cristobal to defend from the land. Both forts are very popular amongst tourists and also locals, who come here on weekends to enjoy the sights and to stroll around. In between the two forts is the famous Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. It's situated right on the ocean and is one of the most picturesque sites in all Puerto Rico. Among the gravestones, for only the most noble and the richest people of the island, is the highlight of the cemetery- a 19th century chapel with a stunning pink dome. It is truly one of the most scenic spots in Old San Juan and with the direct view of the Atlantic Ocean definitely one of the best resting places in the world. 

 

 

Next we continue our ride to La Casa Blanca (The White House). It's often called the house of stone and is the oldest house on the island. The Casa Blanca was the very first attempt at fortification in Puerto Rico, even before El Morro and San Cristobal. It was initially built to house the colonialists and as an edifice, but it came up short due to its poor location. The fortress was built by and for the descendants of Juan Ponce de Leon, a lieutenant under Christopher Columbus. Ponce de Leon is one of the most prolific figures in Puerto Rico's history. He was famous for conquering and governing the island. He established the very first Spanish settlement on the island in Caparra, the original Ciudad de (city of) Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon was also the very first governor of Puerto Rico. The Mighty Lion, as he's often referred to, was also known for discovering Florida and for searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth. He never found it unfortunately, and died being shot with a poisonous arrow to his stomach on one of his voyages, but his legacy remains and is very noticeable throughout the island.

 

The cathedral of San Juan de Bautista (Sant John the Baptist- patron saint of the city of San Juan and Puerto Rico) is coming up next on our tour. It’s the oldest church in the US built in 1521, and the second oldest cathedral in the Americas (after Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic). It was initially built in 1514 out of wood but it was destroyed by a hurricane. The current structure was rebuilt in 1540 and is an example of medieval architecture. The remains of Ponce de Leon and St Pio (Saint Pius) are on display here. St Pio was a Christian martyr, who was killed for his religious believes and his wax-coated mummy is encased in a glass box for visitors to see.

 

 

Next on the list is Capilla del Cristo (The Chapel of Christ). It is believed that during one of the horse races, back in the 18th century on Calle del Cristo, one of the competing riders failed to make a left turn onto Calle Tetuan and fell over the cliffs. The second rider shouted in despair “Christ of Good Health save him”. When it was discovered the fallen rider actually survived the locals decided to build a chapel there in the name of Christ. Soon, there was a painting named “Christ of the Good Health” placed over the altar of the chapel. In no time people started bringing offerings made out of silver and gold in hopes that their good health would be restored. There were so many offerings that the silver and gold was melted in order to make the altar. To this day people with health problems come and pray here hoping that their ailments will be cured. In that same area there's also a lovely Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park), and one of the narrowest houses in the world La Casa Estrecha (the Narrow House). 

 

 

Going forward we take our ride down Calle Fortaleza. It begins with La Fortaleza (another fortress built before El Morro and San Cristobal), where the current governor resides. Calle Fortaleza is a cobblestone street filled with colonial architecture. Colorful buildings with many shops, galleries, bars and restaurants can be found here. If time is of no constraint we will allow our guests to stroll down the street for a little while and maybe do little shopping.