May 31, 2011... Ponce

In Salinas, we spent time with Babbie and Ronnie on Campechano, who we met in Grenada last year. When we got back from touring in the north, Ronnie offered to show us his hometown, Ponce, and we set off for a whirlwind tour. From the minute we neared the city, Ronnie gave us history lessons, info about how everything in town was built or renovated, and showed us places we never would have gotten to on our own.

Starting in the center of town at the historic plaza, we stopped at the Catedral de Nuestra Senora; the old wooden firehouse, Parque de Bombas, with its antique fire engine; walked up the Atocha pedestrian mall; visited the market building designed by Eiffel of Paris tower fame (where Ronnie found nispero, a fruit we had to try -- good!); went back to the plaza for the best ice cream in the country (we all had yummy peanut flavor); got in the car and headed up into the hills.

For a real treat, Ronnie took us to the Castillo Serralles in El Vigia. This is now a museum but was the Serralles family home, built early in the 20th century. This family ran the sugar business in Ponce and now runs the rum company that makes Don Q, Ronrico, and Captain Morgan, among other brands. The house and gardens are absolutely magnificent and the view over Ponce is gorgeous. The board (on which Ronnie sits) decided to add a butterfly garden to the grounds and we stopped to see those too. What a fantastic place -- too bad we don't have a big party to throw -- this would be the spot!

Next stop on the itinerary was the port area, the Paseo Tablado La Guancha boardwalk and the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, all of which Ronnie had a part in building. We had anchored here last year -- it was certainly nice to get an idea from the land side how things looked.

Once we had exhausted Ponce, we drove to Juana Diaz, a small town to the east, as Ronnie had a hankering for some mabi and thought we should try it too. This refreshing drink made of fermented tree bark really did hit the spot after our visit to Ponce. We can never thank Ronnie -- our ambassador from Ponce -- enough, for this terrific day.

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