A Sweet Spot in Old San Juan


Wandering in a city in which we’ve never been, this was the first time my husband and I
were on vacation without our two kids; enthusiastic to be empty-nesters, eager to reconnect.
“Maybe we should look at the map,” I snarled at my husband of 31 years, unfolding the
paper labyrinth. “We’re not going the right way.” Our plan was to embark on a romantic walk
through old San Juan and loop around towards the ocean front and explore Fort Morro.
“We don’t need a map.” He, proceeding to walk ten feet in front of me, became the
usual way we would walk “together”. I turned the map upside down and around to orient it to
the street we were on.
We turned up Calle Cristo. I have to admit, it was a great place to wander with its
numerous art galleries, tiny craft shops and charming 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial
architecture which encompassed bright red doors and freshly painted shutters in cheerful pastels
of green and yellow. “Look, at these cobblestones, they’re blue.” my husband observed, waiting
for me to catch up. Like a river running through the town, adoquine I remember reading,
were cast from furnace slag and brought over as ballasts on Spanish ships. Time and moisture
had given them their salient blue color.
Mistakenly turning right on Calle Fortaleza, we encountered a steady stream of souvenir
hungry tourists meandering through the plethora of jewelry stores and designer shops. “Ugh, we
went down the wrong road again.” Yelling ahead for him to stop walking further down the street.
“Let’s just try to get to the fort before it closes,” wiping the droplets of sweat from my brow.
We quickly turned away from the mayhem onto Calle San Francisco. Our eyes zeroed in
on a sign, Casa Corte Chocolate Bar and we quickly found our faces pressed against the store
front window like moths to a light bulb. We looked at each other, “Should we? We might not
be able to get to the fort before it closes.” Taking my hand my husband led the way in.
Modern and trendy, a long sleek shiny bar accentuated the left side of the
establishment peppered by chrome and red cushioned bar stools. On the right side were
matching chrome tables. Sitting at the bar we were immediately given small samples of hot
chocolate.
“Look at this,” glancing at the menu, “grilled cheese with chocolate on brioche bread!
Oooh, chocolate mimosas too.” I said, he said and back and forth we went, acting like kids,
speaking at the same time, pointing to the same delectable menu items which truly
upheld the true sense of the words, chocolate and bar.
We each sipped our samples of hot chocolate. I let out a school girl giggle. The rich,
creamy, delicious chocolate, combined with decadent cream, reminded me of something.
His eyes caught mine. “What does this remind you of? He asked, gingerly
wiping the splotch of whipped cream from my face. I gasped. “Oh my goodness.” I
remembered. “The incredible hot chocolate we had on our honeymoon in that
little café. This tastes just like it! You…” my husband then finished my sentence, “yes, I asked
them to make chocolate covered bacon and they thought it was a crazy idea”.
“Can you believe it’s been 31 years? Do you ever regret it?’
“Nope, never. Best decision of my life.”
Smiling at our quixotic behavior “If you’re looking for a snack, I recommend the tapas of
mofongito,” the waitress suggested.
“Do you make chocolate covered bacon?” my husband asked.
“It’s not on the menu, but sure, we can make it, but it’ll take a while to cook, then it has
to cool, coated in chocolate and then let cool again.”
I looked at my watch, “What about the fort?”
“The fort can wait.”
The long slices of bacon generously covered with a hard chocolate shell had the perfect
combination of sweet and saltiness. Sweet and salty, I smiled to myself, like our 31 years. We
stumbled out of the bar, drunk from chocolate and our newfound connection.
On the walk back the green cliffs met the crashing spray of the Atlantic Ocean. I
breathed in the fresh salty sea air and absorbed the spectacular views of San Juan Bay as we
strolled hand in hand with the stunning auburn sun setting to our side. It cast shadows on the
small, circular sentry boxes called "garitas" that have become a national symbol of Puerto Rico.
We reached the road leading up to the fort, “It’s closed,” I sighed. The sign: Hours 10am-6pm.
“I’m sorry, I know you wanted to visit the fort.
He leaned over and kissed me. No regrets.
Life’s sweet in more ways than one.

S.Ruyack

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