Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A New View

Buenos Dias! 

You may have noticed I have been off-line for awhile. That's because, starting back in January, my husband & I began planning a major move. After many years of searching for a relocation site (read: no snow and almost year-round warm temps), we have moved to Puerto Rico! You read that correctly: Puerto Rico. I will be the first to admit that never in a million years would I have expected to move to PR. In all the research I did for another place to live outside New Jersey and the northeast, PR never came up. My husband, B, dutifully (but not always happily) tagged along as I investigated North Carolina, California, Florida, Texas, even Portugal, but none clicked with us. There were parts of each place that we really liked, but not enough to move there.

Then this past January, Mr B suggested we take a break from the "polar vortex" enveloping New Jersey and visit the "enchanted" island. The last time I was in Puerto Rico was probably 40 years ago & I don't think I saw much more than San Juan on that trip. Well, no one has to twist my arm to get out of the cold for a few days so off we went.

We rented an apartment in the little beach town of Luquillo (known as the "Sun Capital" of Puerto Rico), and while the apartment was nothing luxurious, it had one big thing going for it - it was directly across the street from the beach.
The view from our Luquillo rental.
Every morning and night, the sound of the ocean wafted into our living room and bedroom. After a couple of days spent detoxing from the northeast cold and stress and basking in the warmth, we connected with a realtor "just to look around." 

The first property he showed us had a dynamite up-close ocean view but the condo was very small with a galley kitchen smaller than I've seen on a sailboat. So that was out. The building also appeared somewhat rundown and definitely not what we were looking for.

Quickly, our realtor picked up on our wants and needs, and found properties that more closely matched our criteria. The next day he showed us two condos in Rio Grande (about 35 minutes from San Juan, on Puerto Rico's eastern shore). One condo hit a home run -- set on the top floor in one of the buildings that are part of the residences at the Wyndham Grande Resort, we fell in love almost immediately. The sellers had made some architectural modifications that set this condo apart from the others on the market, including adding a loft, and raising the roof to install cathedral ceilings. But the big selling point for us was the huge balcony with expansive views of the ocean (see top photo).

After seeing this condo, we were pretty sure nothing else would compare. So, after some deep soul searching and robust discussions about moving to a tropical island, we decided to give it a go! We sold our home in NJ and made the BIG move just a couple of weeks ago. A plus on this apartment was that the sellers were including all the furniture (and luckily we loved their taste), which meant we didn't have to move our NJ furnishings, just our personal items, clothes, cookware, bakeware, etc. We shipped all of our "stuff" via the USPS; not as complicated as hiring an overseas mover for furniture, but still a logistical and packing nightmare. I won't bore you with the minutiae of the move, the bottom line is that we are here and so is all of our stuff!

You may be wondering what were the criteria I had in mind for a relocation from NJ, and how that lead us to Puerto Rico. My main requirements were no winter weather, and a desire to live somewhere other than NJ. After living my entire life to date in the Garden State, I really wanted to experience living somewhere else. Don't get me wrong, New Jersey is great. It pretty much has it all: proximity to NYC, beaches, mountains, beautiful suburbs, incredible produce, wonderful weather from late April to late October, fabulous restaurants, good employment opportunities. Of course, all of those things contribute to some of the not-so-good things. On the down side, New Jersey's property taxes are one of the highest in the nation (and going up every year), car insurance is the highest in the US, infrastructure is in need of serious repair, traffic is horrendous, it is one of the most populous states (11th based on the 2010 US census), and it's cold in the winter (not to mention possible snowy, ice-y conditions, and the occasional nor-easter). 

Puerto Rico, being a US territory (you'd be surprised how many people think Puerto Rico is a foreign country...) utilizes all of the same banking/monetary and healthcare options (US healthcare insurance, Medicare, Veterans Administration, etc) as the mainland. The average high winter temperatures run between 80-85 degrees (summer temps obviously run a bit higher), and thanks to our condo being on the top floor, we have an almost constant refreshing ocean breeze. 

People have said to me, "but what about the hurricanes?" To which I reply, "what about the hurricanes in Florida, Texas, North Carolina?" It's true that the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, but most of the island's power grid, telecommunications, etc., are fully operational (and have been for quite some time). Of course, there are some areas still without power but they are way out in the very rural regions. 

In the last few days, people have asked me about the protests going on in San Juan. The citizens are protesting the corruption, misogny, unethical behavior of Governor Ricardo Rossello, and several of his cabinet members have resigned. He is refusing to resign but has decided not to run for re-election in 2020. This is not enough of a concession for the people of Puerto Rico and they have vowed to stay in the streets until he resigns. My personal opinion is that he will have to resign in order to bring order to the streets (the protests, for the most part, have been very peaceful and non-violent so far) and bring tourists back to the city. Puerto Rico was on the rebound economically and I'd hate to see that momentum falter. A million people were expected in the streets of Old San Juan yesterday and many businesses did not open. 

Besides our usual reporting on baking, cooking, and travel (we'll be visiting northern Italy this September), going forward, The Cook's Tour will bring a new focus on the diverse cuisines of Puerto Rico. This coming weekend we will visit a local farmer's market to gauge how the local agriculture is rebounding. We haven't ventured too far yet from the Rio Grande area, but the island is only 35 miles north to south and 100 miles wide from west to east (it's comparable in size to the state of Connecticut), so I'm sure we'll be exploring very soon! I'm particularly eager to try some of the famous roadside BBQ mentioned in this NYT article from earlier this year, and the food scene in San Juan is hopping, with many well-known and world class chefs who have set up shop there. 

Mas por venir pronto!(More to come soon!)

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