Puerto Rico is such an idyllic vacation spot – if it doesn’t torrentially pour, that is. The week before my mom and I were scheduled to go, the weather forecast predicted four straight days of thunderstorms. I was prepared to enjoy myself no matter what, but my mom was in the doldrums.

Not so bad after all.

As you can see from my photo, it wasn’t really so bad after all. Turns out in Puerto Rico they always predict rain because its more likely than not, but no one really knows for sure. Our hotel was located on the fringe of the El Yunque rain forest, in a small city called Fajardo. It’s about an hour from San Juan. The biodiversity there is mind-blowing  – I was lucky enough to see iguanas, pelicans, and tropical fish. I spotted several starfish, conch shells, and purple crabs while snorkling. I even saw baby sharks swimming around my legs as I swam on the beach! (I was glad to discover that the mother shark wasn’t anywhere in sight, and that apparently they’re harmless.)

I had a wonderful time relaxing with my mom and reconnecting with nature. I spent a large part of my vacation in the water because I love to swim, especially in the ocean. The hotel had its own private island, Palomino Island, that was different from any other place I’ve visited in the Caribbean in terms of flora and fauna. Opposite Palomino is a smaller island named Palominito (“Little Palomino” in Spanish). The distance is swimmable, but I decided against trying because of motorboats and possible water currents.

On Palomino Island, a private island.

When I wasn’t in the water, I was in one of these amazing beach chairs reading. The sun was so strong – Puerto Rico has one of the highest UV indices in the world – that I had to read with sunglasses on to make it bearable. I managed to finish a heavy book that wasn’t very good for the beach, Stendhal’s The Red and the Black. I don’t know what my problem is exactly, but I find it difficult to finish a French classic, and this was no exception. This book is a bildungsroman focusing on a young, liberal male who secretly idolizes Napoleon while he advances himself by working for wealthy families. Julien Sorel’s character irritated me with his sensitivity and erratic behavior. I appreciated the book’s ironice hypocrisy in the vein of Voltaire, but Stendhal didn’t pull it off nearly as well.

Le Rouge et le Noir, by Stendhal. (English: The Red and the Black.)

On the third day, I was sad when I had to swim back to shore for the last time. It was a bittersweet parting, and I realized that I’d like to live close to the ocean when I finally have a place. When I got home, I researched Stendhal and discovered that, upon his travels to Florence, he was so overwhelmed by its beauty that he was dizzy and nauseous and faint. The doctors coined this Stendhal syndrome (look this up on Wikipedia if you want!). I wasn’t quite as taken by Puerto Rico as Stendhal was by Florence, but I was certainly enamored by its charms and would love to return again.