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I was blasted with the strong scent of sunscreen as tourists made their way through the fort doors from the docks. Such a strong, potent 21st-century smell didn’t belong in this relic. It would be like smelling plastic while admiring the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. And that’s what this fort was, a masterpiece. The intricate stone walls comprised a small fortress ready for battle. The cobblestone clicking under my sneakers. Yet this force of magnitude looked out onto an even greater entity — the Atlantic Ocean. There she lied, still and calm. Small waves crashed onto the rocky, rugged coast blow. The sea of salt and longing wafted towards my nostrils. I longer for her crashing waves to embrace me and for the sun to warm my belly as I floated on my back. “Tomorrow,” I reminded myself.
The tourists continue to stream into the fort’s large, wooden gate. The form into small schools of fish drifting from one view to another snapping a quick photo then turning their backs.
I am like them — a tourist — but unlike them, because I soaked in the history and details that oozed from the uneven, weathered stone. The rolling vistas left me in awe of what else lies out there. What other adventures await.
My hostel is just around the corner from the fort. It’s tucked between a Caribbean bistro and a gimmicky souvenir shop. You walked up to six flights of tiled stairs to a balcony that is bombarded with the noises of the heart of San Juan. The white stucco makes the pastel-colored shops below pop in the hot fervor of the afternoon sun. The square below is filled with vendors huddled under white tents to escape the sun’s scorch. Drummers play occasionally to welcome the parade of tourists flooding off the large cruise ships. The echo of car horns travels up to the sixth floor accompanied by the police woman’s whistle as she ushers tourists across the bustling street.
Early the next morning
Last night after devouring mofongo I went to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. It was too dark to see the intricate layout of the fort, but I could hear the ocean waves crash on the rocks below and admired the twinkling stars and city lights. That was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.