Once you arrive in San Juan, rent a car and drive straight out
of town to the Southern shore of the island and get settled in
Ponce before exploring. There's nothing wrong with San Juan, you
can spend a couple of days there before you leave. It's the big
city, so to get a taste of the real Puerto Rico head on out of
town and prepare to be delighted.
The extraordinary mix of architectural gems in Ponce.
Ponce, the "Pearl of the South," is a grand dame of beautifully
preserved and restored buildings with cool, shady squares and
fountains reminiscent of Europe. The vibe is elegant and laid
back. The locals are very welcoming. And the art - visual,
architectural and culinary, is outstanding.
The European style
squares with fountains, public art and shady trees.
The Plaza las Delicias, is the central main square and a
good starting point. And it's home to the most extraordinary
fire station, Parque de Bombas. The whole building is a
jumble of red and black stripes.The colors make it very "heavy"
but it's a fun challenge to sketch.
There are plenty of benches, shady trees and the place is
crowded with subjects to sketch.
The Parque de Bombas,
probably one of the most photographed buildings in
Ponce's symbol is the lion. In 2012 they started a public art
project of life size lion statues placed around the square. Each
one is painted by a local artist, and they are just such fun to
explore. Each one is a work of art, some have a great sense of
mischief, others majesty. Pop over the street, choose a
refreshing ice sorbet from the hole in the wall, King's Cream,
to slurp while you cool off under the trees of the park.
Mango and tamarind sorbet from Kings Dream
There is a souvenir shop opposite the Parque de Bombas
called Mi Coqui Souvenirs which is full of the usual
stuff peddled to tourists. But this one has an extraordinary
hidden gem - ask to see the art gallery. You are led through the
back stock room, up some uneven stairs and a door is unlocked to
reveal a treasure trove of local art hanging on the walls and
stacked on the floor.
The 2 vejigante masks by
one of the most famous mask makers.
When I was there they had two very big and beautiful papier m‚che
folk art masks, the vejigante masks, made by one of
Puerto Rico's premier mask makers. He is getting on in age and
probably won't be making many more. I wished I could take one
home. The masks are worn traditionally during carnival by
costumed vejigantes who roam the streets with the idea
they'll scare sinners back in to the arms of the church.
rendition of the houses in Puerto Rico towns tumbling
down the hillside by a local artist.
The owner of the store, David Maldonado took me up to the
gallery and when I asked him how this Aladdin's art cave
started. He smiled and said he loves art and has always
collected. So he decided to open a gallery. I am so glad he did
and I hope he makes it easier to access because it is an amazing
place and at present has no outside publicity at all.
The inner courtyard of
the Centro Cultural de Ponce
Wander a couple of blocks up a side street from the square to
the Centro Cultural de Ponce Carmen SolŠ de Pereira. It
is housed on Calle Cristina in a wonderful apricot
colored restored mansion with a cool central courtyard. The main
function of the center is to promote local artists, further arts
eduction and many other cultural activities. They often conduct
painting lessons on the front porch and have constantly changing
art exhibits on display. After a warm welcome they encourage you
to wander about at will and leave you to enjoy the art and the
Wichie Torres and Eli Vega, one of the paintings on
exhibit in the Centro .
It's not near the center of town but it is definitely worth
making an effort to get to the Museo de Arte de Ponce.
This museum is the premier art museum in the Caribbean and it is
exceptional. What started out with a small collection of about
70 paintings, it is now considered to be a world class art
museum of approximately 800 masterpieces. It's housed in a
building designed by the architect for the New York City Museum
of Modern Art and Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts, Edward Durrell Stone.
The town of Ponce is an art collection in itself. Many of the
buildings have been restored to their former glory and the
narrow streets with their eye popping architecture is a joy to
Lovely restored buildings
line a back street of Ponce
I recommend, if you have the time, to head to the coast and in
to the hills for a day for two. There are some lovely beaches, a
couple hidden down bumpy dirt roads. The hill towns are great to
explore, One of those less touched by modern tourism filled with
restored historic homes and squares is San German. Another fascinating town architecturally with colorful
houses built like mosaics on the hill side and gracious mansions
in town is Yauco, once the major coffee town in the world.
historic hillside town of San German.
There is so much more to explore and discover all over the
island. Puerto Rico is not very big so getting around is easy.
You will be warmly welcomed. And you'll eat way too many of the
yummy snacks and food from stalls and food trucks on the side of
the road. Go soak it all up and enjoy ... the island,and it's
art, is glorious.
The art teacher on the
porch inviting us in to join them in Ponce.
Jenkins has published a mini-book, the first in a series, on
living with cats and cats with disabilities. Meet Chaussettes
and Geordie, two cats who had a rough start but are now living a
papmered life. Enjoy their antics and tall tails on life, travel
and family. This is an illustrated book, humorusly written from
the cat's point of view. Read it on your own, with your kids,
your grandkids et al - it's fun! And a percentage of the profit
will go to animal rescue/shelters. Please help us help the dogs
and cats who need it. ISBN # 9781311280992
from this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/498865