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Beyond the Beaches of Puerto Rico

Andrea Gross | photos by Irv Green | Nov 2, 2012, 1:02 p.m.

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Historic San Juan is filled with Caribbean color, literally and figuratively.

The next day we return to San Juan and, having become enamored of Puerto Rican flavors, start our day at the century-old La Bombonera Restaurant. There we treat ourselves to some traditional mallorcas [a sugar-coated pastry, eaten plain, with butter or, more frequently, filled with a combination of meat, egg and cheese]. We accompany the pastries with acerola juice, which comes from a tropical berry known for being rich in vitamins. I trust the health benefits of acerola will compensate for the indulgences of mallorcas!

Afterward we walk through the old parts of town, where the colors of the Caribbean overwhelm the senses. The buildings, painted in hues of turquoise, gold and salmon, have arched doors and handsome grillwork and are often adorned with bougainvillea. We pass the historic Fort El Morro and there, across the bay, is the Bacardi Rum Distillery.

While Ponce de Leon never found the fabled Fountain of Youth, he brought a fountain of rum to the island, and that may have been equally appreciated. In the 600 years since he governed Puerto Rico, rum has become central to its economy.

Over the next few days we try rum with mint and lime [a mojito], with cola and lime [a Cuba libre] and with pineapple and coconut [a piña colada].

We even persuade a bartender to make us a coquito, which is a creamy coconut-and-rum concoction that’s generally only served during Christmas and New Year’s.

But with its bright colors, good food, coffee and rum, every day in Puerto Rico is like a holiday. www.seepuertorico.com

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