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PUERTO RICO HERALD
Out With Old, In With The New
By J.A. del Rosario
December 26, 2003
Lately, island motorists are getting a dose of cultural identity from a billboard ad courtesy of local beer Medalla. The ad shows a sideways bottle of Medalla and a line that reads: The longest holiday season in the world.It's true. Puerto Ricans take their long holiday season very seriously. The first act is Christmas, and that sends everyone to their nearest shopping center for gifts, and to their local grocery store for what seems like enough liquor to last until the following Christmas.
After Christmas, there is New Year's Eve. And just when their stateside counterparts are getting back to work, Puerto Ricans are back out on a shopping spree for Three Kings Day on Jan. 6.
But let's not jump ahead. This column is about New Year's Eve, and there is plenty to do in the city to bring in the new year.
Puerto Rico is a popular tourist destination, and the holiday season falls in the middle of the island's high-tourist season; this means that every hotel on the island goes out of its way to have a better New Year's Eve party than their competitors.
Starting in Condado, the Condado Plaza Hotel will be hosting its annual year-end fest with local merengue star Manny Manuel. This young singer has a pretty steady following, which should make for an interesting show full of dancing. The Plaza party (which last year featured merengue bombshell Giselle) is a favorite for those who want to eat, eat, eat, drink, drink, drink and dance, dance, dance the night away.
The $175 ticket includes a four-course dinner, the music show and a bottle of champagne per couple.
Looking for a more casual approach? Drop by the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Isla Verde. This year, the five-star hotel is going for Caribbean-theme outdoor party at its pool-gazebo area. More merengue music for the fans. The musical lineup will include masters of bomba y plena Son del Batey. And when you are done dowsing yourself in local music there is the group Now or Never, playing your favorite American pop tunes.
Just imagine telling your friends how you greeted the New Year overlooking the Atlantic Ocean listening a Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf!"
There is a catch, if you need complimentary drinks to feel like you are getting a good deal, stay away from this event. The $125 ticket includes plenty of good food, but no alcohol.
There are other ways to celebrate. Jazz lovers need not hide in their rooms with their old John Coltrane albums this year. Ristorante Tuscanny, at the San Juan Marriott Resort in Condado, is bringing a jazzy end to the year.
For $300, couples can get a five-course meal, a bottle of champagne and enough live jazz to keep that Coltrane CD out of the player for the next two months.
And there is still more.
For those who want to say good-bye to the New Year in a very casual setting, there are plenty of bars who will be hosting free entrance parties with live music.
The Oyster Bar, a popular bar/restaurant where locals and tourists gather to stock up on their phosphorus, will be hosting a New Year's Eve party with salsa group Zona Brava. These guys really cook up a good mix of classic salsa tunes, and they are sure to keep you dancing, sweating and drinking well into the hazy hours of the morning.
For single travelers, the Oyster Bar in Isla Verde Avenue is a great place to meet up with some of local single people. For the past four years the bar has become such a social staple in the city that it is practically impossible to hang out in the place for more than an hour without buying a drink for someone and striking up a conversation. A perfect place to brush up on your collection of bad pick up lines.
A little further down the same avenue is Lupis Mexican Grill, a sports bar that is also popular for its regular lineup of live entertainment. This is definitely a rock and roll bar. New Year's Eve will feature house band Kamaleón, which specializes in recreating your favorite rock songs, and covering some great Spanish rock tunes. This favored hangout of the college crowd is perfect for those who need to greet the new year with some power chords reverberating in their heads.
And finally, something for the anti-socials and the romantics. The great thing about living on an island is that you are always near the ocean. Get yourself a nice bottle of wine, roll up your pants and take a walk down the beach at midnight. Do it alone, or do it with a special someone, the sea is very accommodating. No reservations required and no need to wear a watch...the midnight blaze of fireworks will remind you when its time to take your first swig of 2004.
Lupis Mexican Grill
J.A. del Rosario, a business reporter for The San Juan Star, is a remedial guitar player and an incorrigible nightcrawler. He can be contacted at: : firstname.lastname@example.org