Travel tip # 101…Find the old stuff

In my neighborhood, old things are from the 1960s. Anything more ancient than that has likely been abandoned, bulldozed, and built over.

I’ve squinted over Kansas prairies to view the shallow depressions left by pioneer wagon trains. I’ve wandered New England cemeteries to find the oldest graves. I have roamed the back corners of the Badlands, hoping against hope that recent rains had unearthed some fossil remains for me to discover. History takes on a new meaning when you are standing on ancient ground.

In my pursuit of history, Old San Juan was something new.

Christopher Columbus stumbled on the island we call Puerto Rico when the trade winds dropped him there on his second voyage of discovery to the New World.

San Juan was established about 1510 and construction on the fort of El Moro began in 1539, more than two centuries before our country achieved independence, if you want a little perspective.

It’s easy to imagine history when you wander these sites alone. It’s more difficult surrounded by t-shirts and flip-flops. Go early, before the cruise ships disgorge their passengers.

Listen to your footsteps as they echo through the stone-walled passageways. Seek out the sea breezes from high above the surf. Imagine the assaults the thick walls were built to defend against.

I’m used to this sort of history in Europe…but it surprised me just two hours south of Miami.

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