The Story of San Juan - Among Other Things

The Story of San Juan

Got a nice little story to share with you guys today — Fashion Week Recap style!

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Ohhh yes. And it’s a good one.

At the moment, I’m actually in Mexico for a couple of days, but before we get into that, I’m finally ready to tell The Story of San Juan — through the lens of my Snapchat. (Which is ‘coralsncognacs’ — add me!)

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Backstory: Jess and I were invited to take a trip to Caneel Bay Resort in the Virgin Islands in December, and we were so gratefully thrilled to oblige.

When we embarked on our trip, though we had no idea what our should-have-been-12-hour commute would actually entail. To say the least, it took us longer. A LOT longer.

In hindsight, it’s freakin’ hilarious — but at the time, it was rather awful.

Here’s what went down:

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 2, 2015

5:40 a.m. Despite the fact that my alarm was blaring well before 6 a.m., it felt like Christmas morning. I was bound for Caneel Bay with my blog (and IRL) BFF Jess. Winter had started to settle in around the Midwest, and I couldn’t wait to trade snow for sand.

6:05 a.m. That morning, we grabbed a cab and made our way to the airport — slowly, of course. Traffic was horrific. Apparently, everyone forgets how to drive when there’s a few snowflakes dusting the air.

7:45 a.m. A little more than an hour and a half later, we arrived at the airport. I settle into a long line at security with my fellow airport peasants as Jess breezes through TSA pre-check. Jealousy pangs hit as I realize her feet will remain snugly in her shoes.

9:05 a.m. So far, all is going swimmingly. We board on time and the flight is fairly easy and turbulence-free. (Praise the lawd!) Airplane time is kinda like office hours — you get so much done. Why is that? Are you super productive on planes, too?

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3:15 p.m. Hours later, we arrive — at last — at the San Juan airport. It’s small, dusty and mainly under construction. We change concourses, walk for a while and finally find our gate. It looks a bit odd, though — the board indicates that it’s all super tiny planes that are going to different islands, departing within 10 minutes of one another.

3:35 p.m. This type of travel is new-to-me, so Jess mans the luggage as I approach the airline’s desk to ask a bored-looking Cape Air gate agent what we need to do. “Hi, we’re on the flight to St. Thomas,” I said, motioning behind me to Jess. “Is there anything we need to do?”

He looks up from his computer, shrugs and says, “be at the gate 20 minutes before your scheduled departure time.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Okay. Sure, easy enough. Right?

3:55 p.m. We’ve got time, so we settle into the only nearby bar (which is about 50 feet from the gate) and order a Corona. I quickly dismiss the fact that it’s not yet 5 p.m. — we’re already on island time, so it’s fine.

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4:55 p.m. Two drinks later (that’s it — promise), we remove our asses from the bar stools and head back to the gate, about 30 minutes before our Cape Air flight is scheduled to leave. Plenty of time, woot! The gate is pretty empty, so we plop down in two seats adjacent to the boarding area.

5:25 p.m. One by one, each of the flights before ours boards in a very easygoing manner. There’s only four to eight people on each plane, after all. The gate agent announces boarding for St. Croix, then St. Tropez… St. Thomas should be coming up soon. Very soon. We’re both feeling a bit anxious; it’s been a long day of travel and we’re eager to get to where we’re going.

5:52 p.m. After watching another Cape Air flight board, Jess looks at her phone and notes that it’s 10 minutes past when we were scheduled to leave. Must be delayed or something, right? That happens all the time, so I imagine that’s normal with so many flights leaving from this gate… Nonetheless, better safe than sorry. Let’s ask.

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5:53 p.m. Jess gets up and walks over to the desk. She asks Cape Air’s gate agent (who is still looking as bothered and bored as ever) when our flight is scheduled to leave. He raises his eyebrows, half-smiles and says with a smirk, “Oh, your flight departed.”

Sorry, what?

“That flight already left. Right when it was supposed to.”

Lol, no. Nope! He’s fucking with us, right? Yeah. There’s no way.

***

[Apparently, yes. Our tiny ass plane left — without us on it.]

6:05 p.m. We’re both  — understandably so — getting frustrated with the gate agent, who is providing no explanation or solution to our problem. We try to understand how we could have missed our flight when we essentially sitting on the actual tarmac, but he seems to be too busy on his computer to provide an explanation.

He passes us off to a colleague, who was also sitting a few feet away from us a few minutes prior.

“I paged you.” He says. “Five times each.”

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6:25 p.m. In so many words, I not-so-quietly articulate that there is absolutely no fucking way that he called both our names a total of 10 times and we didn’t hear a single one of them. Sorry, homie. NOPE. Not possible. Had I been sitting any closer to you for the last hour, I’d be actually on your lap. (See the image above of where we were sitting vs. where the Gate Agents were?) 

[Side-note: As we’ll later learn, with smaller planes such as the Cessna we were supposed to be on — the pilot/an airline representative physically takes a roll call before taking you down to the plane. A literal roll call, guys: Like, “Hallie Wilson?” Are you here?]

***

6:28 p.m. Namaste. Namaste. NAMASTE. This is a setback, I think to myself. That’s all. That’s life, right? We’ll get on the next flight out. Good vibes!

I unball my fists and calm down enough to speak with the gate agent about what our options are.

“I mean, I guess I can put you on the last flight out in a couple of hours,” he says.

Fine. Perfect. Thanks.

“…But there’s only one seat.”

Naturally.

“So, which of you wants to go tonight? I can put the other on standby, but you probably won’t get on.”

Dick.

6:35 p.m. We end up booking one seat on the flight in the hope that a second opens. If not, I suppose we’ll have to stay the night and fly out in the morning on the first flight (that we can get on).

6:40 p.m. After (losing at) an exhausting conversation, we return to the bar, because what else do you do.

Shots of tequila, thats’s what.

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7:50 p.m. We’ve been back at the gate for nearly an hour (my buzz is settling in nicely), and it’s time for St. John (Part Two) to board. There are eight seats on the plane, and there’s seven people lined up at the gate: Two sets of couples and two solo travelers.

Well, shit.

7:52 p.m. They are all aggressively avoiding eye contact, so I stand up and approach everyone individually. No shame in my game (especially given the aforementioned buzz I’m riding, ha).

I wish I could tell you that I was super persuasive, but no: I resort to tears, asking the non-coupled up folks in line (all two of them) how much cash they wanted to give up their seats. Is that even legal? I don’t care. What would you have done?

“Sorry,” they murmur.

Can’t say I blame them (or that I wouldn’t have done the same thing), so we watch the flight board, take off and yet again, approach Cape Air Agent Satan with our options. I really resent how happy this all seems to be making him. Don’t you work in customer service, sir? Or a better question: Aren’t you a human being?

8:14 p.m. He re-books us on a flight in the morning (10 hours from now) and hands me a ticket without saying a word. Thanks for nothing, a-hole. Later.

***

8:25 p.m. We grab our bags and set out to find a hotel that isn’t too expensive or far away, considering we have to be back at the airport in a few hours.

8:40 p.m. On the way out, we pass by a duty-free shop and decide to buy a bottle of wine. Silver lining, right here — at least we’ll have a good story to laugh about over a cheap bottle of wine. When life hands you lemons!

“I need your boarding pass,” barks the clerk.

“Which one?” Jess and I laugh. Literally, pick your poison.

I hand him the thick stack of boarding passes we’ve assembled throughout the day.

“Mmmhmm, you don’t fly out until tomorrow,” he says. We try to explain that we were supposed to fly out today — twice — but he says we can’t purchase anything in the shop unless we are flying out day-of.

Again, naturally.

“But you can return when we open before your flight, we can hold your beverage for you until then.”

Oh, so at 6 a.m.? GTFO. I can’t. Get me out of this airport.

9:35 p.m. Upon arrival, we’re happy to find that the hotel we decided on is actually quite nice — it’s the El San Juan, which is a Hilton Resort. It’s an expansive resort/casino type-of-place, which is the real silver lining of the day, my friends. Hell yeah.

9:47 p.m. We don’t bother unpacking our bags. Instead, we head down to the hotel bar (realizing we haven’t eaten all day), but the menu is really limited. Dinner that night entails hotel-made hummus (and multiple requests for more pita bread), because travel. And a bottle of Pinot Noir, obvi.

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12:05 a.m. Shoes off. Lights out. Alarms set. Let’s try this again tomorrow!

(…I’m pretty sure neither of us really slept since we were so anxious about sleeping through those alarms.)

THURSDAY, DEC. 3, 2015

4:55 a.m. We’ve both been awake for a while, but we finally get up and start to move around. There’s no f’ing way we’re not getting on this plane.

5:25 a.m. We check out and head outside, wondering how the hell we’re going to get to the airport. Is there Uber in Puerto Rico?

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5:32 a.m. The valet wakes up a nearby cab driver (sleeping in his front seat), who hazardously shuttles us to the airport. He misses the exit and neither of us notice, but thankfully he comes to and eventually course-corrects.

Jess and I now joke about how now we can cross San Juan/Puerto Rico off our list of international destinations we’ve seen/traveled to.

6:01 a.m. Security is a nightmare, but the real joy comes when I forget about the apple in my carry-on. Nothing like a little pre-coffee, full-body pat down to start the day!

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6:52 a.m. The gate agents today are much nicer. Phew! They ensure us that we’ll be on the flight. Ironically, we have plenty of time to kill.

8:25 a.m. The plane is teeny-tiny – it’s only us, two other passengers and the captain. If I wanted, I could touch the back of the plane and the pilot (I didn’t, don’t worry) with my arms expanded. She’s advising us “emergency exit” strategies and points to the window over her shoulder.

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8:40 a.m. We must have stayed at 2,000 feet above the water, because I had cell service the entire time. (I turned it on airplane mode after a minute, though… Not trying to interfere with these signals and shit.)

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9:10 a.m. We arrive in St. Thomas after a 30-minute flight (and a very nerve-wracking landing). Now, we’re sitting outside waiting for a taxi to transport us to the ferry…. And by taxi, I mean an open-top truck with rows of benches.

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10:13 a.m. After the 15-minute commute, we arrive in St. John with about an hour to kill before the ferry leaves, so we decided to roam the downtown area. Realizing we hadn’t eaten an actual meal in more than 24 hours, we find a husband-and-wife owned restaurant and sit down to home-cooked omelettes and buttered toast. And mimosas, because again: travel.

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11:40 a.m. The ferry is a private boat for guests at Caneel Bay, so it’s just us and the crew. One of our captains — named Dirty Nasty –makes us rum punches and sits atop the boat with us, helping hold our shit down because it’s so windy. (Dirt Nasty and I are now friends on Snapchat, in case you were wondering.)

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12:35 p.m. At long, long last, we arrive at Caneel Bay. Kelly, our gracious resort host, is waiting to greet us — and we are so happy to see her/to be there that I actually may have tackled her with a hug.

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//

Thankfully, Jess and I made the absolute most of our 48 hours on the island and at Caneel Bay resort. And hey, we got a pretty good story out of it, no?

Tomorrow, I’ll share more details about what we did/saw/ate/drank in Caneel Bay. (Spoiler alert: All of the things!)

Though we didn’t have much time on the island, it felt like a lot longer because of how much we packed into our time there. I’ll go over all that in more detail, though, so check back.

In the meantime, grab your phone and follow Jessica (@jessicasturdy) and I (@coralsncognacs) on Snapchat for more of our travel shenanigan realness.

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Find me on: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Lastly, one quick thing: If you used to receive corals + cognacs posts via e-mail (and are no longer getting them), you can re-sign up in the right-hand column of the blog. Scroll up, and just above “Shop The Feed,” type your e-mail and hit enter. Long story, but my server crashed last month and deleted all of this information along the way. Ugh!

***

Join the Convo:

  • This sounds absolutely miserable!! But at least you got there in the end.

  • Hahah Dirt Nasty. What. a. trip. Looking forward to your recap from the island – the water itself looks amazing!

  • Literally I was late to work bc I had to finish reading this first. Dying!

  • I thiiiiiink my favorite part is that you and Dirt Nasty are now snapchat friends. I’m glad you made it! Can’t wait to hear more about the trip.

  • Hahaha that’s amazing. I’m glad you guys finally made it. Have fun in Mexicao…it’s the arctic here in Chicago.

  • SO FUN!!!! And so jealous. You’re hilarious, Hallie. 🙂

    Kelly | Kelly in the City

  • Lisa

    Hahaha this is so good! I hope your trip to Mexico was seamless compared to STT!

  • Your storytelling skills are seriously amazing. It’s only a matter of time before you are offered a book deal!! 😉 xxx

  • Pingback: Recap from Caneel Bay Resort - corals + cognacs()

  • Aria Machinski

    Dirt Nasty will forever and always be my favorite part of this story ????

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