Monday, April 11, 2016

Santo Domingo

After staying in actual homes and eating proper food for a few weeks, I decided that I needed to keep it real and make a little side trip from the USA.  I was missing hostels.

But not really.

Santo Domingo – the capital of the Dominican Republic – is a quick flight from Fort Lauderdale so I bought the cheapest ticket I could find and hopped down for four days.  Santo Domingo doesn’t have the pretty beaches that lure in the travellers to all the other parts of the Dominican Republic, but it’s an old city with a rich history.  And I usually prefer museums to excruciating sunburn anyway.  Settled by the Spanish in the late 1400’s – shortly after Columbus arrived – Santo Domingo retains the title of oldest European city in the Americas.  With that, there are a lot of “first” this and “oldest” that.  Some of it is interesting.  Some of it is not.

A few highlights of my time in Santo Domingo:

Catedral Primada de las Americas:
The first cathedral in the Americas sits in the Zona Colonial.  Well-preserved, the church has a great little audio tour that takes you around the building explaining historical events and religious symbols.

Museo Alcazar de Colon:
This museum sits in what was once the house of Diego Columbus – the son of Christopher Columbus.  It has been restored to look like what it likely looked like when Diego lived there.

Museo de las Casas Reales:
This museum was my favourite in Santo Domingo.  It showcases the history of the city and the country, and also had a great little audio tour.

Elsewhere in the Zona Colonial:
I visited Fortaleza Ozama – the oldest preserved European fort in the Americas.  I strolled around Parque Colon to do some people watching and visited the Panteon Nacional just in time to hear the national anthem play.  At the Altar de la Patria (Altar of the Homeland), some shifty guards grabbed my camera to take pictures and then asked for money.  Fuckers.  I also saw the gate to their Chinatown (it’s not impressive in any way shape or form, but I suppose it’s impressive that they have one) and Ponce de Leon’s house.  I learned a lot about Ponce de Leon growing up in Florida because he was the first to discover the state.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go into his house because people still live there.  WTF?  Can you imagine living in the house of such an important historical figure?

Faro a Colon:
Commonly known as the Columbus Lighthouse, this is one of the two attractions I ventured outside the Zona Colonial for.  It’s not actually a proper lighthouse, but it does emit a big ass beam of light which is apparently visible from Puerto Rico when it’s on.  The “lighthouse” contains the remains of Christopher Columbus, except that his remains are actually buried in Seville, Spain.  So nobody actually knows who is buried inside the tomb and the government of the Dominican Republic allegedly won’t let the bones be exhumed for DNA testing.  Sounds dodgy to me.  Anyway, the tribute to Columbus is quite nice despite the fact that some hobo is probably in there and the “lighthouse” also has a big museum area and displays from all of the countries in the Americas, including Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, and a few others.  Wait a minute…

Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos:
The smallest national park in the country, this little park just a *hop, skip, and a jump away from the Zona Colonial contains a few nice walking trails, underground lakes with pretty colours, aboveground lakes without pretty colours, and a nice little boat ride through a cave.

*hop, skip, and a jump = taxi

Dominican food was… fairly uninspiring to be honest.  I had some chicharrones de pollo (pieces of chicken) with plantains at a nice restaurant overlooking the water.  For dessert, I enjoyed a majarete – which I think is a sweet corn pudding with cinnamon and delightfulness.  I enjoyed a semi-traditional mofongo – mashed up plantains and root vegetables with pork (except I swapped the pork for chicken).  In case you’re wondering, the mofongo in the DR is nothing like the mofongo in Puerto Rico.  I also enjoyed a few Presidente beers – the local favourite which was also the favourite of my grandpa.

And I had Mexican food.  Duh.

My little side trip to the DR was a success.  After leaving Santo Domingo, I headed back to the USA to repack my bag and get back on the road (or the air really).  But first, let me take a selfie.

To see more photos of my time in Santo Domingo, follow this link:

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