San Juan – Palacio de Santa Catalina

La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina grounds and fountainsTwo years have already passed, but it recently occurred to me I never posted about one of my favorite Old San Juan walks: a $3 tour of La Fortaleza – Palacio de Santa Catalina (aka the Governor’s house). It was built between 1533 and 1540, and, according to Viator, is the the “oldest functioning executive mansion in the Western Hemisphere.”

The house doesn’t have the normal gloss of an official residence–instead the structure and grounds offer sumptuous blooms, palm trees, and ceramics (not to mention a view of the bay).

La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina view of the water

La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina grounds and fountains

La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina - mansion

La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina - palm trees

Adam Gopnik on language

Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik

A May issue of the New Yorker had been floating around my apartment, purse, and backpack for a while now (let’s not bother to count backward). When I finally did dig into it, though, I was delighted to come across Adam Gopnik’s “Word Magic.” Here are just a couple of my favorite parts:

1. On word use:

In truth, language seems less like a series of cells in which we are imprisoned than like a set of tools that help us escape: some of the files are rusty; some will open any door; and most you have to jiggle around in the lock. But, sooner or later, most words work.

2. An ode to good writing:

If lucid writing is the sign of a moral state, it’s the moral state of hard work, keener effort, acquired craft–a desire to communicate rather than intimidate, to have fun with a fellow-mind rather than bully a disciple. Sane and shapely sentences are good because they’re sane and shapely. There’s no guarantee that they’ll contain the truth: lots of sane and shapely sentence makers have had silly ideas. But, like sane and shapely people and homes, they are nice to have around to look at.

Hoover Dam & Colorado River

Colorado River kayak tour

Kayaking down the Colorado River, with Arizona on the left and Nevada to the right.

Happy 2015! And here I am, still posting pictures solidly from November. (It was such a pretty month!)

On the third day of my Las Vegas trip, I got up at 4 AM and headed out on a tour to the Hoover Dam and Colorado River (through the terrific Evolution Expeditions tour company). It had been years since I kayaked, and this was a fine spot to pick it back up–even if at an insanely early hour.

While the entire 12-mile stretch we covered was gorgeous, I might have loved its solitude the most. With the exception of an occasional pontoon boat, the river was quiet and we could take time to admire its natural good looks.

The Hoover Dam, early in the morning

The Hoover Dam, early in the morning.

Lovely Las Vegas

Las Vegas - dusk

I went to Las Vegas for the first time a few weeks ago, and, as the plane descended, became immediately enamored of its sweep, sun, and palm trees. There’s so much to do outside The Strip (and on it too): The Venetian, Hoover Dam, Colorado River, Cirque du Soleil, Fremont Street Experience… I’m already looking forward to my next trip there, hopefully in 2015.

Sunset magazine had the most interesting info when planning my itinerary; here’s their article from a year ago that really sold me on going.