The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #140

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A reader writes:

I have never entered the VFYW contest before, so here goes nothing. The general feel of the picture is that of Italy, Spain, or Latin America. Based on the condition of the road (smooth without any obvious flaws – EU transportation subsidies, perhaps?), the more “stretched” appearance of the license plates, the presence of what appears to be a uniformed police officer in the crosswalk, and the blue shorts of a man in the crosswalk which remind me of the Italian national football team’s kit, I’m going with Italy. I suspect this is somewhere in southern Italy, based on the slightly decayed appearance of some of the buildings. And it’s clearly a congested residential neighborhood in a decently-sized city. Beyond that, it’s a shot in the dark for me. So I’m going with Naples.


The narrow cobblestone street, the somewhat decrepit 19th century building, the mixed-race crowd in very casual summer clothes, the shot through a window in a wall a meter thick (perhaps an old fortress or church?) … it must be Southwestern Europe somewhere, and based on the crowd, I’m guessing a touristed but not wealthy part of Paris. Montmartre?


The bastions in Cartagena, Colombia have deep cuts like this, large enough for a person to sit it.  This looks like a view from the sea up one of the streets leading to the cathedral.


This looks like New Orleans to me. Mainly because I can’t shake the American vibe I’m getting from the streets and cars and the people. Also because its Mardi Gras season and you are a good Catholic. (I wish I was there right now with a big plate of oysters and a nasty drink from a street vendor.) Perhaps I’m reading too much into the time of year. This might be Lithuania. I’m notoriously bad at this contest.


Too hard! I’m not one to just write in with a guess without anything to back it up but that strategy does seem to work for people occasionally. And I’m still kicking myself for not going with my gut on #135 (Tehran). So there’s my guess: Rabat, Morrocco.


I have never played this game, do not have the where with all, patience or time to give these the effort that they need.  But I LOVE watching it every week. I’m not really playing now. I’m responding to this one only because that is just the coolest freakin window I think I’ve ever seen ever on The Dish.

Another gets very close:

Looks like the Caribbean, with the narrow streets and painted buildings. The ethnic diversity is right, and it looks like there are also some tourists. The billowy clouds suggest the humidity of the area, and the people are dressed for warm weather as well. The cars are on the right – plus they look fairly modern and American – so I don’t think it’s Cuba or a British colony. Maybe the view is from a church window? Let’s go with the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista in Old San Juan.

Another nails it:

Just took a mental break from sorting through photos from our recent vacation to Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands and checked the Dish, only to see a very familiar view in this week’s contest. After all these years, finally a view I’ve enjoyed in the flesh!

This week’s window is from a small chamber in the western front of Castillo San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Just behind the National Park Service ranger station at that entrance, probably the second chamber from the right of the several small chambers off the little courtyard by the chapel at that gate. We’re looking directly down Calle Sol and across Bulevar del Valle. At the bottom left, the ramp from the Bulevar up to the gate ends at street level.

If you haven’t been to San Juan, I must advise you that it’s one of the very few cities I’ve ever visited that made me wish to have stayed longer. (The full list: Edinburgh, Montreal, San Juan.) Usually, when my wife and I travel, we stay a day or three in the capital or the city with the airport and then head to the countryside for the rest of our stay, and almost always we regret not leaving the burg earlier.


This picture was taken from Castillo San Cristobal in Old San Juan looking toward the intersection of Bulevar Del Valle and Calle Sol.  The picture was taken from one of the small windows located just to the left of the main entrance:

castillo san cristobal

My wife and I spent our 25th anniversary wandering around Old San Juan during the off season and had plenty of time to explore both forts.  While this fort has the less dramatic setting of the two, it offers great views of the dense urban fabric of the old city.  We chose to go to Puerto Rico because we couldn’t afford to go to Europe and our passports had expired.  We ended up falling in love with the place.


This one jumped out at me as being in the Caribbean, where I travel frequently for work, but after a couple of minutes realized that I had walked past this spot the only day I ever spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2005. I had a pretty good idea of where it was on a map, somewhere near Castillo de San Cristóbal. A quick search of Google Maps led me to the intersection of Calle Sol and Calle Norzagaray (or Bulevar del Valle according to Google Maps). The view is facing west, looking down Calle Sol, from the arched window to the left of the entrance of the castle when facing the castle, indicated by the green arrow in this image:



Given the number of online photos taken from the same spot as your viewer, I’m betting you received quite a few correct responses. It was taken from a gunport in the Forte San Cristobal, one of several massive forts which guard San Juan and its harbor. Collectively, they make up the San Juan National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the VFYW contest is the utterly random knowledge you can draw upon to get the answer. When I was younger I played a video game called “Pirates!” which indirectly taught me the locations of the major cities and forts on the old Spanish Main. So when I saw this week’s view, the height and thickness of the fort’s walls told me that this was probably one of those major colonial cities, such as Cartagena, Santo Domingo or San Juan. Attached is a picture that shows your viewer’s window in the distance and the even more famous El Morro fortress in the foreground:

VFYW San Juan Forts Marked - Copy


Since I’ve only participated in one other VFYW contest, I’m probably not going to win, but I do have a strange tidbit to contribute.  The US Army used the fort during World War II (since the US had been controlling Puerto Rico for almost half a century by then), and made a number of modifications to the fort. One of the first you encounter is a “decontamination chamber,” which they built to help disinfect soldiers exposed to gas or chemical weapons.  There is a big sign up describing the room and how it was used, and at the end of the narrative, it says the following: “This antechamber is also known as a gas chamber but it is not to be confused with the gas chamber used in the Second World War to exterminate racial minorities.” Right, because when I go to old Spanish forts in the Caribbean, the first thing I think of is the Holocaust.

Another shifts focus:

I’ve included one of my own photos that shows what the buildings across the street look like without a fresh coat of paint:



As I’m sure your submitter has explained, the Castillo de San Cristobal is a beautiful colonial Spanish fortress and UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the biggest tourist draws in San Juan. Incidentally, in the area to the right is La Perla, a tragically crime-ridden slum that’s reputed to be also quite dangerous, but it is located outside of the old city walls and for that reason (and perhaps to blame for its situation) seems to be fairly isolated from the rest of the city.


I knew this right away – a blast of stale booze from a corporate retreat nearly 15 years ago. Thanks for the ugly memory. Since you guys always want the winner to have pointed out the vantage of the photo on a map like some kind of JFK assassination fetishist, here’s my attempt:



A few years ago I spent an evening wandering Old San Juan with folks from Louisiana and the West Coast. We had a feast at a family restaurant where the southerners fought over roasted fish eyes, the Left Coasters squirmed, and we all stuffed ourselves on plantain served a dozen ways. We dodged puppets on stilts ricketing up cobblestones, squeezed through an arched doorway into a salsa club with more musicians than dancers, and passed by crowds of locals watching films projected onto pastel stucco walls. For a New Orleans boy it was surreal, the same sturdy Spanish masonry as the French Quarter, but built on a hill instead of mud.

Of course hundreds of readers will also get this one so I won’t get the book, but thanks for triggering the memories.


So I just spent three days in intensive care and this contest kept me pretty busy.  Thank for keeping my mind off of a difficult situation. By the way, this is my seventh entry and believe my third correct one … what’s it going to take?

A contest in which dozens of readers guess the correct location but none of them have guessed a difficult window in the past without having won already. So our intensive care reader is the winner this week. From the photo’s submitter:

Well, that was fun to see pop up on my screen. When I walked into the fort and wandered into an empty hallway, I spotted this ancient window with a view of the beautiful city of Old San Juan. They just don’t build cities like this anymore, sadly. I knew you’d appreciate the “view from a 200+ year old window” looking down Calle Sol. It occurs to me that guessers may have some difficulty with this one because Google doesn’t cover Puerto Rico very well and there is no Street View. On the other hand, there’s probably plenty of tourist pics posted on the web, and I’m sure many people have vacationed here.

Indeed several readers have:

I stood in that window just a few weeks ago!


My fiance and I spent a few days in old San Juan in late December before heading to the incredibly beautiful Puerto Rican island Vieques to celebrate our engagement.  Both Castillo de San Cristobal and its sister fort Castillo San Felipe del Morro are part of a U.S. National Park Historic Site and a World Historic Site.  They’re gorgeous and well worth an afternoon’s exploration, particularly to see the U.S. WWII-era modifications to the forts so that soldiers could watch for German submarines attempting to derail Caribbean cargo vessels. First-time guesser and longtime fan so I suspect I may lose to some longer track records, but perhaps a View Inside Your Window gets extra points?

Another view from a reader: