Very early start – got collected from my house at 4.15am by the taxi for us to get to Heathrow. Flight to New York (JFK) with British Airways (sadly at this time in the morning even I couldn’t stomach the idea of free alcohol!), then a connecting flight to San Juan with American Airlines (obviously no food as it’s an “internal” flight...). taxi driver got lost trying to find our apartment in PR (7 of us were renting an apartment for the conference week as it was so much cheaper than staying in hotels like other people were doing), but fortunately there was a 24hour supermarket pretty close, so we were happily stocked up with beers and food before too long.
Sunday was a day off, with registration and social ‘mixer’ for the conference in the evening, so we went to the beach in the morning (yeay!) and got ourselves reacquainted with the delights of sweat, suncream and sand mixes. The social mixer in the evening was sponsored by Rum de Puerto Rico, a government initiative to promote the image of Puerto Rican Rum. Fine by me – free rum all night!! The convention centre is a pretty cool building too. Conference was mostly pretty full-on during the days, and then evenings we either ate out, or just cooked in the apartment. Had a big BBQ on our lovely little roof terrace one evening with all of the other Southampton people who were staying in and around the same area. Went on an estuary field trip too on the second day and saw tonnes of iguanas.
Went to a Puerto Rican local cafe for dinner one night, and had an amazing dish called trifongo. As far as I can understand, this is a combination of green plantain, yellow plantain and cassava. With a sort of curried chicken sauce it was AMAZING. I want to find a recipe but all I can find is in Spanish, so may have to employ the help of some Spanish-speaking people! Mmmm amazing. Lots of local Medalla beer drunk as well throughout the week :)
I presented a poster on the Thursday afternoon/evening, which went quite well, and got some good feedback for it which was nice. On the Friday lunchtime we discovered we could use the Sheraton hotel pool (literally across the street from the conference centre), which was amazing for a bit of Friday afternoon relaxing by the pool (an infinity pool no less), and a raspberry mojito. Yes.
Saturday was then a super busy day – went to the airport really early to collect a rental car (got a massively pimping jeep for the 2 days), which unfortunately I wasn’t able to drive as I was too young to be cheap on the insurance :(. Drove out of San Juan into the rainforest, and did some walking. It rained on us. Unsurprising really when you think about it. It was rather like doing a 5km walk in a steam room though, so probably pretty good exercise for us.
Then we drove down onto the south coast and stopped off at a beach to have our first dip in the Caribbean Sea (it’s technically still the Atlantic on the north coast of the island), and have a look at the lighthouse there (I like lighthouses – is that wrong?). Spectacular sunset, and the most hilariously bumpy road in the world to get in and out of the parking area. Also stopped at an amazing smoothie place – literally a wooden shed-type building by the side of the road doing fresh fruit smoothies. I had banana, strawberry and coconut. So good.
Then Sunday we played on the beach in the morning (the sea was so, so, so nice and warm and lovely), before driving back to San Juan via the Arecibo telescope (the radio satellite that was in James Bond Goldeneye). It’s pretty damm cool and absolutely massive! Got stuck in a massive traffic jam trying to get into old San Juan to drop Geordie off at his hostel before we took the car back – we ended up staying at the Cardiovascular centre in the hospital complex – weirdly they have one floor that acts as a hotel, only about 10 rooms or so. They were the comfiest beds in the world so I can’t complain too much! Flew back on the Monday, and to our delight managed to get 4 seats to ourselves each (there were 3 of us on that flight together) at the back of a reasonably full flight. I would have hated me if I was one of the other passengers. Oh well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Busy busy with work for the next few months now, as I’m trying to get all my lab work done by early-mid summer, so that I can start data processing and starting the mammoth task of writing up :s scary. Saw a lot of friends this weekend which was lovely, from all over the place, including two of my friends from Bermuda who were over as they’d been on one of the Antarctic science cruises, and were flying back through the UK. Now the usual task of Sunday afternoon room tidying, cleaning, and getting ready for the week ahead :(