April 23

This section talks about my two short visits to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic including some of April 23-24 and most of May 5-7.

Merlyn was with me a lot of the time and Alex and Carol for some of the time. We spent the intervening 10 days, the 25th to the 5th, in Cuba.
In Santo Domingo as everywhere, I always check out the Cathedral first since going to the Cathedral brings you to the Plaza Central. Here's a view from last night...
...and another (distort-o) one from this morning.

Santo Domingo is the first city of the Americans, this is the first cathedral, and many more firsts follow.

"After Christopher Columbus's arrival on the island in 1492, Santo Domingo became the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas. This colonial town, founded in 1498, was laid out on a grid pattern that became the model for almost all town planners in the New World."
The gates of the Cathedral.

"Lonely Planet review for Catedral Primada de América: Diego Columbus, son of the great explorer, set the first stone of the Catedral Primada de América in 1514, but construction didn’t begin in earnest until the arrival of the first bishop, Alejandro Geraldini, in 1521.

"From then until 1540, numerous archi?tects worked on the church and adjoining buildings, which is why the vault is Gothic, the arches Romanesque and the ornamentation baroque. It’s anyone’s guess what the planned bell tower would have looked like: a shortage of funds curtailed construction, and the steeple, which undoubtedly would have offered a commanding view of the city, was never built."
My dining companion for dinner. Merlyn, Alex, and Carol showed up just as expected mid-day of the 24th.
April 24

Casa del Sol is on the corner, where I stayed for two nights and everyone else stayed for one during our first stop in the DR.
It was funky and great. They had a lovely terrace overlooking a park and the sea in the distance, perfect for just hanging out...
...and where these lovely ladies served the included breakfast.
An evening at Casa del Sol.
The main square, the Plaza Central, called Parque Colon with a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus pointing toward a new world, and the center of the 'Ciudad Colonial' part of Santo Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.
Carol and Alex outside one of the several restaurants on the Plaza. Check out the phone on the tree in the upper left, there, I'm believing, so that the restaurant staff can keep to the shade of the tree.

It's a lovely spot and it seemed central to local family life as well as a tourist mecca.
Kids chasing pigeons...
...and pigeons on statues. Same same.
Our first night together out on the town. Tomorrow we travel to Cuba!

May 5

Back into Santo Domingo mid-day of the 5th, a view of one of the walk streets near the harbor.
Also near the harbor, we figured this fellow might have set up a dog grooming business here. He was working on the second while the first dried out in the sun.

BTW, when I take a picture like this I would have first pointed to my camera and called out 'ok?', or waved and waited for a wave back.
The statue of Fray Anton de Montesinos, a Spanish friar of the Dominican order who came to Hispaniola in the early 1500s.
"On the 21st of December, 1511, the fourth Sunday of Advent, Montesinos preached an impassioned sermon criticizing the practices of the Spanish colonial encomienda system, and decrying the abuse of the Taíno Indian people on Hispaniola."
Alcázar de Colón, "Built by Christopher Columbus's son between 1510 and 1514, this restored building was one of the first structures built in the oldest remaining European city in the Americas."
One word, sunscreen.
Wow, parade day! (Collage of many pictures, to spare you.)
Table games on the street - a popular pastime, this scene many blocks off the colonial center.

A view from one of the many restaurants where we enjoyed surprising meals. Usually when traveling I don't eat so often in restaurants but this trip we ate out at least twice a day.

I was very remiss in taking any pictures of the restaurants or the food. The food we ate in the DR was almost uniformly very good. I was continually amazed at how good it really was. I will remember!
May 6

After Alex and Carol left, Merlyn and I decided to do the big walking tour of the historic district, the Ciudad Colonial.
There are so many interesting buildings in this very old city...
...and they've done a good job making them interesting and accessible to visitors.
From a hotel lobby.
In honor of fallen heroes.
Guys are at many of the historic sites wanting to give you a tour and ask for nothing specific but 'a tip if you'd like'.

He actually wasn't very good, it was as if he could simply translate the signs, but interesting to have tried one of the guides.
According to the guide, this is a copy of the Sistine Chapel, but not so much I think.
All the trees were dumping their blooms.
The view from the dining room of the café below our hotel, Hotel Conde de Penalba, where they serve the complimentary breakfast and have a good menu of local dishes.

We had a great corner room right on the plaza with a big private balcony and windows on three sides. I was happy.
One view from the balcony. The plaza is to the left, trees hiding the view.
May 7

Off for the day, we were looking for the station to pick up the express bus to Boca Chica. We could take the bus for $2 or a taxi for $50. Merlyn agreed to try the bus and it went so easily we took the bus back too.

Part of the walk to the station took us through Chinatown .. the Chinatown in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic which explains why we've been seeing Chinese food selections on many of the menus.
We were not exactly sure of the station's location so I asked this woman. She took my hand and led us the several blocks. This happens often when I'm out and about but there is so rarely someone behind me to take the picture.

On the comfortable enough and deeply and most welcomingly air-conditioned bus.
At each bus stop there is a line up of these guys, moto-taxis who will take you the rest of the way to your destination.

Boca Chica is a beach town, once exclusive in the 1950s and 60s, now mostly 'overwhelmed with tourists from North America and Europe' as evidenced by the topless ladies sunning themselves on the sand and big-bellied men in thongs.

The water is gorgeous for sure.
Local people were much in view as well as tourists, but no where was particularly crowded.
Boca Chica doesn't get especially good reviews mostly because of all the hawkers trolling the beach but we thought it wasn't bad, the guys were entertaining and did not make aggressive pursuit.

Those are cargo loading cranes in the distance.
Everyone enjoying the fine white sand, warm clear sea, and heat so intense I thought it was too hot to go swimming and sweat was pouring off my face.

Roger asked why was it too hot to go swimming and I replied 'I was SO HOT that getting out of totally stuck-to-my-body clothes to try to stuff my swollen and sweating limbs into a bathing suit, and then do the process in reverse, sticky and sandy from the sea with no cool room to change in .. it just did not appeal.'

At one point I had to stick my head under one of the outdoor showers though, hot as I was.
Merlyn and a guy who is trying to get Merlyn to rent a beach chair, to enjoy a moment and have food and drink delivered.

According to Ms Wiki, 'In the evening, Boca Chica transforms itself into a town of party bars and prostitution.' We left around 3 thinking to get to the hotel in time for a little siesta before dinner.
Back in town and after a rest we did a walk-about and came across this shoot...

...and then blew all the money we had saved by taking the bus on a chic-chic dinner. In the morning, we packed up to begin our long journey home.

Thank You Merlyn! And HUGE thanks to Alex and Carol for making it all happen.
HomeMexico and the Caribbean • Dominican Republic • '13 Apr: The Dominican Republic

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