Tuesday, July 31, 2012

san juan, puerto rico: intercontinental resort/isla verde beach

I wasn't sure if I should have lumped Isla Verde beach in with the InterContinental Resort, where Kris and I stayed, however, since both were pretty much in the same place, it seemed to make sense. Anyhow, looking at these photos makes me a little sad that it all happened so fast, our stay at this beautiful place.  Still, I'm very happy that we were fortunate to have been here in the first place. I've never been much of a resort fan, for reasons I won't get into here, however this was also the first time I actually stayed at one, and since I let Kris choose where we were staying, why not enjoy the ride, which I must confess, wasn't a difficult thing to do in the least bit.

More than anything, I was grateful for the gorgeous weather we got, despite a much different forecast. It seemed like the rain and storms they called for all happened in the very early morning hours, making for some ideal tropical temperatures and sea breeze later in the day.

The resort was really nice and I think we got a little too accustomed to this kind of living, especially eating at their excellent breakfast buffet, which was included as part of our vacation package. There were some very good dining options in and around the resort, as well as a casino, if you're into that kind of thing. I'm not a gambling kind of man, but we did have fun one morning playing the cheap machines and winning absolutely nothing.  I'll post more shots later this week of the casino, among other things in Puerto Rico, as part of a miscellaneous post.  One thing I was very impressed with was the gym, which I ended up using on five out of the six days we stayed at the InterContinental. It was in very close proximity, had lots of new machines and free weights, as well as an amazing view of the beach and ocean. So yeah, I had no problem working out in there almost every day, which in all honesty, was not part of the plan in any way whatsoever.

What I liked about where we stayed was that it had a very natural feel to it, and going to the beach from the resort was a smooth transition. Kris and I didn't swim in any of the nice pools they had at the resort, since we've got a great one where we live. Instead, we opted to hit Isla Verde beach, relax under a big umbrella in the sand, then swim in the ocean for extended periods of time.  There's nothing like the sight and sound of the tides coming and going, feeling the sand at your feet and tasting the salty water in your mouth. While there was a fair amount of folks on the beach, especially on the day some big salsa dancing festival was taking place at the resort, it never felt like we had no room to breathe.

Perhaps our favorite time was when evening began to fall, especially while walking along the shore. The sky naturally took on a magical presence, as did the air and the ocean. Outside, back at the resort, you could hear the sounds of nature come to life, as exotic bird calls mingled with those of local tree frogs, while human voices played in the pools below. There's no music better than what the natural world has to offer, and we could have listened to those amazing sounds all night long.

Both Kris and I were very pleased with our stay at the InterContinental in San Juan. Some things that people might not have liked about the place were the TVs were older models (not flat screen), which I didn't mind, since I sure wasn't there to watch TV. Also, you had to pay fifteen bucks a day for internet service, which didn't go down too well with Kris especially. Again, I was more than happy to disconnect, however, if you were there on business or had to be online every day, over an extended period, the cost could really add up. Hopefully that'll change soon. The plus side was the service and proximity to the beach, especially. There was plenty to do and experience at the resort as well. The people who worked there were also genuinely kind and helpful and went out of their way to make it a pleasant stay. I'd have no issue with coming back again. On that note, I'm hoping to do a miscellaneous P.R. post tomorrow or Thursday, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

san juan, puerto rico: old san juan

Last Tuesday Kris and I returned from spending nearly a week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After over three years of being married, we finally went on our honeymoon, and since we waited a little until things were more stable financially, I let Kris choose the destination.  She had visited Puerto Rico twice when she was very young, the last time being nearly two decades ago. She had always wanted to return, and I had never been there, so San Juan it would be.

We ended up staying at the Intercontinental Resort, which was about a fifteen minute cab ride from historic Old San Juan, an enchanting, rustic settlement with origins dating back to the 1500s. During our first full day in Puerto Rico, we decided to visit Old San Juan, since the weather forecast predicted that day would be the only day we wouldn't have thunderstorms the whole week we were in Puerto Rico, plus it was one of the main reasons we were there. Well, the weather people were very wrong, and it ended up that first day happened to be the most overcast day of all, with some occasional pleasant rain showers.  Still, this worked to our advantage, since the lack of sun and slight rain kept us cool while we spent a good portion of the day on foot, walking for miles.

Our first destination in Old San Juan was Fort San Cristóbal, followed by Fort San Felipe del Morro. For some reason, the overcast clouds and gray skies complimented these massive structures which provided numerous stunning views of Old San Juan as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Climbing up, around and inside the forts also made for a good workout, which built up some serious appetites for some tasty Puerto Rican cuisine.  Before settling down to eat though, there was more exploring to do among the beautiful, vibrant colored architecture in town.

Walking along the blue cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan made for a feast for the eyes and ears and provided some real color therapy. Kris was in love with the famous historic doors throughout the town, which were featured on many a souvenir item and postcard. One thing I noticed about Puerto Rico, in general, is the value they place on public art. I even discovered a favorite artist when walking through Old San Juan, named Jorge Zeno, whose highly imaginative sculpture works blew me away. Unfortunately, there's not much to find about this somewhat elusive (and still living) artist, born in DC(!) with an impressive portfolio dating back a few decades now. Kris and I even lucked out once it began to rain, and were forced to take cover under some big tents where a local arts and crafts festival was taking place. I ended up buying some beautiful handmade works by some local artists as a result.

There looked like lots of wonderful places to eat in Old San Juan, however one place we kept hearing about was a restaurant called Barrachina, which was home of the first made piña colada. I had never had one until my visit to Puerto Rico, so this made for a very special occasion. The good news is, not only was the drink excellent, but the food and kind service lived up to the hype. The place was beautiful as well, with both indoor and outdoor seating options, as well as a bar. While this area could be described as kind of "touristy", we actually didn't get that feeling at all too much, thankfully.

There were a few travel lessons Kris and I learned while in Old San Juan. Around 6PM, many of the stores promptly began to close their doors. Kris and I, happily exhausted from our Old San Juan adventure decided to get going back to the hotel at this time, and in a rush to walk back to where we were originally dropped off on the other side of town, we neglected to simply ask where the nearest cab ride back was located. After a long and hurried walk back, and losing five dollars to tip a guy who "helped" us find what we were looking for, which at that point was right around the corner, we learned we could have gotten a cab a block away from where we ate. Well, now we know. Other than that, we had a thoroughly good time experiencing the sights, sounds and culture of Old San Juan, and I'd love to come back again someday soon. In the meantime, I'll post more about our visit to Puerto Rico, hopefully in a day or so.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

floating face 10 & limbo, the organized mind

Here are just a couple examples of Jim Henson's genius. Above is a classic Sesame Street clip I loved as a kid, though it always gave me the chills a little, which was it's appeal I think. Known as "Floating Face 10", the application of electronic sounds and music, synchronized to the brilliant, psychedelic visuals and cool cat voice made this one of his most visionary concepts in a seemingly endless array of amazing, original clips from the early seventies. Below is basically the same concept, presented on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, a few years later in 1974, only with a much deeper twist, aimed at adults. At the very end it's revealed briefly somewhat how this skit was made, and you can't help but to wonder what Johnny was thinking after this aired on his program. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

mrs. jynx: "swiftlings (remix of mark swift)", "red over green", & "martian"

Just got back from a wonderful trip to a wonderful place with my wife, which I'll post more about as soon as I can. In the meantime, it's back to another music post, this one featuring Mrs. Jynx. I can't quite remember the first time I heard the music of Mrs. Jynx, real name Hanna Davidson, who is an electronic musician from Manchester, England. I think it was when I was checking out the Planet Mu roster a couple of years ago, wondering who was new on Mike Paradinas' (Mu-ziq) excellent record label.  Listening to her music struck a chord in me reminiscent of the first time I heard the sounds of Aphex Twin and Mu-ziq years ago, especially their more lush, melodic tracks, and it made me wonder why I haven't heard any of her work earlier! Needless to say, I believe Mrs. Jynx is perhaps one of the best, and most authentic electronic music-makers out there today, period. Not too concerned with the latest subgenre, her sound, without sounding too corny, comes straight from the heart, though many times it sounds like it might have been channelled by forces unknown to most mere mortals. Here are a few choice tracks from Mrs. Jynx, including her astoundingly good remix of Mark Swift's "Swiftlings" (above), which I played out last autumn during a DJ set, my jaw on the floor at how good this song sounds on some big, juicy speakers. The video is equally sublime. Below is the gorgeous "Red Over Green" from her 2010 "Shark Carousel" LP, as well as the powerful track simply titled "Martian" from her split EP with Oxynucid called "Symbiotix" from 2009. In the meantime, she's got a new EP out called "Atlanta", and hopefully a new full length on Planet Mu is in the making as well. Enjoy the tunes/vids!