My husband and I recently spent 5 glorious days in Puerto Rico.  I was there to do a conference presentation, and he came along so that we could extend our stay into a vacation.  The last time I was in Puerto Rico was ten years ago, also for a conference, so this was a joyful and nostalgic return.

As vegetarians, my husband and I found some delicious restaurants.  We even found a yoga studio that served delicious foods like hummus pizza, spring salads, and quinoa burgers.  We walked the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, swam at a beach where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea, danced salsa, and had dinner on the shore.

We also went on a guided tour of El Yunque, the 5th largest rain forest in the world and the only rain forest in the United States.  We saw glorious foliage and spectacular waterfalls.  It rained off and on as clouds rolled through the sky.  But I was most surprised by the unexpected aromatherapy that I experienced.

On our second stop in the forest, our tour guide disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a gorgeous yellow flower.  He rubbed it between his hands and then passed it around to each of us, asking us to identify its aroma.

I thought it was tuberose or perhaps frangipani, but it actually ended up being Ylang Ylang.  It was a flower from the only Ylang Ylang tree in the 28,434-acre forest.  I was surprised at how fragrant it was – which explains the tenacity of Ylang Ylang essential oil.  Long after I held and sniffed the flower its scent lingered, continuing to perfume my skin.

Nearby, I also came across wild ginger bushes, which smelled absolutely amazing.  I was told that Puerto Rican artisans make soaps and other beauty products from the wild ginger blossoms.  Though not as strong in scent as Ylang Ylang, Wild Ginger held a complex scent, warm and rich, but not the slightest bit spicy as one might expect.

These aromatherapy surprises, and the entire trip, were very refreshing.  After many travels over the last two months, I truly needed this vacation.  I look forward to going back again to discover even more surprises that await me.

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