Off Again: Day 12

I can’t believe I’ve been gone 12 days already and tomorrow is the big day when I get to spend time with Eduardo and his mother.  I’m sooo looking forward to it.  Although I am a bit disappointed that I forgot to get a beach ball and none of the vendors open today have any.  I may try a particular store close by in the morning but the driver is picking me up at 9:30 so I may not get a chance.  Weather picture for today.

I started the day with the breakfast buffet here in the hotel again. Delicious and different each day. I went for a walk down El Conde and noted that many of the shops were closed and vendors absent. Some were just arriving/opening as I was coming back.  They respect the sabbath more here than at home.  A nice change.

There was a bit of a parade on Calle El Conde featuring the Lions of Santo Domingo complete with a little band leading the way and lots of banners. There seemed to be a second one being organized in front of the cathedral and the nice waiter from the Ki restaurant told me it was a day to celebrate Juan Pedro Duarte.  I gave him a Canadian flag pin.

Then, there was a young lady in a very beautiful dress who got out of a car on the square and her two little brothers each had balloons, one with a “1” and the other with a “5”.  They agreed to have their picture taken but the boys got in the wrong order so everyone had a good laugh while the boys changed places and I took their picture.  There’s some kind of special event when a girl turns 15. (I remember that from a Kevin Kostner movie.) I gave her a pin with the Canadian flag on it.

Arriving back in my room, I prepared to spend most of the day poolside. I’m afraid I wasn’t very organized.  I got up to the rooftop and spent a while chatting with a young man from Vermont (originally from Haiti) named Jameson who says he works 85 hours a week.  This kid is in serious need of a vacation.  When I settled down to read my book, I discovered it wasn’t in my bag so I put my coverup back on and went down to get it.  When I finished my book, I had a lovely swim at which point I realized I had forgotten my towel. Takes a while to dry so I didn’t go back in.

I stayed at the pool until mid-afternoon, then put on street clothes and went looking for our statue man.  Unfortunately he was dressed in the same outfit as yesterday but further away from the park I found a different young man doing the same kind of statue imitation.  I liked his outfit very much.  He had music playing and was making percussion noises and was quite different than the other lad.

I’m enjoying doing my blogging in the little courtyard near my room.  The internet is better and I work on my text a bit at different times during the day.  Then I’m able to paste it and save and add my pictures doing the slide show last and the program works much better that way.

I tried a new translator today as the one I downloaded yesterday didn’t seem to want to work for me.  It’s much better.  It doesn’t say the translation but it writes it from my speech and I can read it well enough.  It’s called Tourist Translator.  I’m looking for a beach ball is:  Estoy buscando una pelota de playa.  Worked quite well for me although I couldn’t find one.

Leftover pizza and Coke in my little courtyard where there has been a lovely breeze then got everything ready for the morning.  All the bags are organized, the basketball is pumped up (as am I), found the key ring from Ottawa for the driver, and I will have a quick breakfast in my room first thing and be ready for the taxi.  The only thing I have left to read is my Dominican Guide Book as I finished Disclosure at the pool. All the other books I brought with me are in the trunk of my car in Miami.  Hope I can sleep tonight; I am sooo keyed up.

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Off Again: Day 11

Tried the buffet breakfast at the hotel this morning. Everywhere, including the Palacio’s own website, it says free breakfast is included but there is no free breakfast. (Or should that be free lunch!) Anyway, for $7.98 USD (plus the exorbitant RD 28%tax) you get a rather nice spread of hot and cold, variety of meats, cheeses, cereal and juices, and tea and coffee. It was very nice.

Then, I headed out south toward the waterfront, taking pictures of the neat places I’d seen yesterday from the tourist choo -choo but hadn’t been able to get clear shots of.  I got some much nicer pictures of Parque Duarte and the statue of Juan Pedro Duarte (for whom both park and street have been named), a Dominican writer, activist, poet, military leader, and liberal politician, one of the “founding fathers” of the Dominican Republic, and crossed over to the Convento de los Dominicos and the little square between the church and its parish community centre where they run all kinds of programmes for both children and adults. They had an art programme going on this morning. The convent itself wasn’t open but enough doors and gates allowed me to get enough photos to get a good idea of the insides.

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Walking on towards the water, I saw some well-cared for homes and also the Spanish Cultural Centre. The park that stretched across my side of the street along George Washington Ave (the Malecon) had interesting defensive features as well as providing good shade.

There were no stoplights and although there was clearly a crosswalk, it was a heavy traffic street and I had just given up on attempting to cross and had started back toward El Conde when I passed a couple headed toward the beach. I asked the lady if they were going to cross and she replied, “We’re going to try”.  So the 3 of us held hands and away we went. They are Rolland and Joanne from Quebec City, here on a mission to build a school in a rural area north of here and have the weekend off.  They’ve actually rented an apartment in Santo Domingo for a month after their mission trip is over.

We travelled together down the avenue and then crossed back and worked our way back to Parque Independencia, which is more like a fortress, and then along El Conde until we parted at Calle Duarte where I turned back to my hotel. They had people they were meeting for lunch and I needed a shower and a nap before finally heading to the pool.

In addition to swimming and getting some sun, I’ve been doing some reading at poolside so completing more books than just reading in bed and more relaxed than the early days of the vacation when I was driving most of the day. Before I left Miami, I finished The People of the Raven, a book by two archaeologists about very early west coast rival tribes which I found rather gory at times and a bit of a slow read although it gave an interest insight into the cultural history of the various tribes.  The introduction and epilogue were extremely interesting as these archaeologists talked about recent finds that seem to prove that Caucasian’s also inhabited North and South America from ancient times and the controversies surrounding it all.

After that, I did a quick read of a Robyn Carr book called The Wanderer.  This was book one of a three book series, books two and three of which I had read in backwards order at my sister’s over Christmas.  I enjoyed all three very much but possibly book three the best. The last two days I read Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Collins — a bit of fluff but kind of fun for a murder mystery — my favourite genre.  Now I’m reading Michael Crichton’s Disclosure which I have seen in movie version starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore and I’m enjoying all the behind the scenes technical development that didn’t get as much focus in the movie. How nice to be reading in sunshine at poolside In the middle of January!

Dinner out tonight at Pizza Hut with leftovers for tomorrow and a little dessert from a very nice little café, then maybe a stroll down El Conde for another of those amazing frozen yogurt smoothies.  Taken to working on the blog in one of the various alcoves around the hotel.  Tomorrow I should hear from a friend who arrived in the DR today and hopefully we’ll have a chance to get together before I head back to Miami.  She stays further north, a part of the island I haven’t seen.  Day after tomorrow is my meet-up with Eduardo and his mom — so looking forward to it.  Lovely breeze out this evening — perfect end to a perfect day.  Cheers from Santo Domingo!

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Off Again: Day 10

Got an earlier start today although it could have been earlier if the Internet here was more reliable.  Tried to download one of those voice translation apps and it took over an hour. Finally have one called simply Translator. It will do voice translating as well as having a dictionary where you can look up words.  So far, haven’t been able to get it to work.

Desyuno today was across from Parque Colon again but at the restaurant next door.  I had a delicious ham & cheese omelette which I forgot to take a picture of until I was half way through so I’ll have it again another morning and try to take a picture first.  Friendly waiter with good English and gold wavy hair.

Right after breakfast, I walked to Spanish Square, Plaza de España, on the waterfront where they have the Museo Alcazar de Diego Colon. He certainly had a beautiful spot with long balconies facing both the water and the square and gorgeous cross breeze throughout. I loved the stone and brick. The furniture throughout had the same pattern mostly.  I’m pretty sure the furniture wasn’t all original to his house or else he really liked having a lot of dining rooms.  I’ll just put a few pictures here and then later I’ll add a page with all of them which you’ll be able to access from the header.

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Coming away from the plaza there was a lovely wide walk with many interesting buildings including a mausoleum honouring DR patriots; it’s called The Pantheón de la Patria. There is an honour guard on duty and an eternal flame.  It houses the remains of many of the heroes of the DR.  The building was originally a Jesuit convent (1715-1745) but the Jesuits were expelled from the DR around 1767.  After that, it was a number of things including a tobacco factory until the dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered it restored in 1958 in order to have a place to house his own remains.  I had visited it last year but left my camera on the bus as it had been a long day and we were told we wouldn’t need them. So this time I got my own pictures.

Out in front of the Casa de Ovando there were iron sculptures of a horse and a bull.  I’ve seen similar sculptures before and love them. A group of elementary school children in uniform were there and I asked one of the teachers if they’d like a group picture in front of the horse. So I got them all organized and took their picture. Then they went on their way and I got this clear shot of the horse.

I passed a lovely hotel (5 star) that had 6 flags flying, 3 on either side of the doorway. I talked to the bellhop for a bit; they had the DR flag, US, French, and others but no Canadian flag so I asked him where it was.  He’s going to try to do something about it.  Maybe.

By the time I got back to the park I needed a bottle of water, so I bought one at the restaurant, checked when the next little tourist train would leave, then sat down in the shade to wait.  While I was writing this up in Notes (I find it saves time later if I can copy and paste into my blog), yup, one of the hundreds of pigeons pooped on my back.  Two people giving out pamphlets and talking to people about God helped me get most of it off.  Then I waited a bit further up El Conde where it was a bit safer.

Lots of these street vendors have stacks of canvas paintings on the ground and when they sell a mounted one, they pick one up off the stack, grab another wooden frame and staple the new one on and put it up on display.  Some of the stores do that, too.

I don’t remember seeing this young man yesterday but I did see him on Wednesday and published his picture on my blog for that day.  Have to admire his ingenuity — he looked totally different today and I liked him much better.  I’ll try to track him each day now to see how many different poses he strikes.

I really enjoyed the Choo-choo Tourist train.  Many of the streets I had been down before but it was interesting to hear the history behind some of the buildings, the street name changes, and some of the modern history of certain places.  The photo I finished my blog with yesterday is of a street that is very famous.  Many movie scenes have been shot there and it is a main attraction.

Spent the rest of the afternoon poolside then had cheese sandwiches in my room.  There is a grocery store on the corner so I picked up a few things as I’m finding I could have used more cash on the trip.  I have my card but . . .  Tonight I went out and got a frozen yogurt smoothie.  Really cool.  They put kiwi and blackberries in for me and it hit the spot.  Cheers from the Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo!


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Off Again: Day 9

It is such a luxury to sleep in and to be located where there are so many interesting places I can walk to.  I was a bit concerned about sleeping well because my room is on the first floor facing a narrow road but it was not a problem.  (You can see my view in the photo.)  I slept ‘til 10 and just got a lovely, leisurely start to the day.

I was finally able to connect with someone at Compassion Dominican and we will now use What’s App to communicate the details for Monday’s visit with my sponsor child. Apparently all the details are in place and it’s a “go” so now I get very excited.  They will tell him now, I think, about our visit/excursion and I know he will be over the moon.  So funny.  At the Miami airport, security took the harmonica I bought him out of its box, placed it in a metal dog dish, and X-rayed it separately.

I’m using my DR pesos this trip. Last year I didn’t bring enough (200 are worth less than $4 USD) so this time I brought lots, I think, to manage most of meals out and a few gifts as well.

Had a delicious desyuno-Americanos with cherry juice (orange juice was not an option) for about $8 this morning at the Parque Colon.  A girl was standing in the park with pigeons on both her hands but she shook them off and went to sit down before I could whip my camera out.  Later in the afternoon, though, I got these pictures of the pigeons.

After brunch, I went to inquire about the little tourist train that leaves from the tourist information spot on the square.  I will probably take it tomorrow.  Then I walked across the street to the 14th century cathedral called Catederal Primada de America.  It was only 50 pesos to go in and like most places, all the photos you want — just no flash, no video.  It doesn’t look gothic from the outside, but inside it has all the alcoves along the side (transepts?) and incredible art work although there is a rather odd-looking nativity staged in one.  The section with the wrought-iron gate has a sign requesting silence and saying that the chapel is for prayer only.  As you will see from my photos, this is a beautiful old church, airy and bright, no flash required.

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Hospital ruins

Afterwards, I shopped the other side of the square before heading down Hostos St. toward the ruins of the Dominicans of San Francisco.  I also got some photos of the ruins of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari built in 1673 and the first hospital built on the island.  At the end of the street, before the Dominican ruins, the street goes uphill with lots of stairs and colourfully painted houses.  I chose to go to the next street rather than take the stairs but I got a nice picture which I’ll add at the end.  I hope to get to the main courtyard of the Spanish section tomorrow.

I picked up a tour guide/taxi driver who worked hard to try to get me to hire him but I finally had to insist I wasn’t doing this today after he walked 3 blocks with me talking all the way pointing out important points of interest.  Sorry old lad but it was time to head back.  Spent a bit more time in the square, spotted a Pizza Hut where I might eat tomorrow, was able to pick up a lovely colourful blouse for Eduardo’s mother and finally headed back to the hotel. Got organized and changed and headed for the pool where I swam, read, and dozed.  Very relaxing.

For dinner, I went to the Taberna Don Quijote here at the hotel where I discovered that the Internet works much better here than in my room.  I ordered the chicken breast with roasted vegetables which came with a side garden salad.  (Perhaps one day I’ll remember to take the picture before I start eating.) Anything liquid came from the bar and water was bottled and the wine choices were white or red.  I ordered a glass and it was quite nice.  The chicken was tender and succulent while the vegetables were just right but there was too much food for me.  Delicious though.

I stayed on with my wine and water to work on this post so that I am saved the frustration of constantly losing the Internet in my room.  I do wish the spell check would stop changing my Spanish to English words that have nothing to do with what I’m talking about.  I’m hoping that I’m catching them all.

This really is a lovely old hotel with lots of updates without losing the old world charm.  I have a shower stall and I love the brick-like stone tiles across the back of the stall.  Love the feel of them — fits so well.  Hoping for an earlier start tomorrow and possibly the train ride.  Here’s the picture I promised.  Cheers from Santo Domingo!

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Off Again: Day 8

Rooftop view.

While Miami was under the beginning of a cold snap (for it) and I froze for several hours in the air conditioning at the airport, I was dressed for the absolutely perfect weather in the DR and on the drive to the hotel along the coast highway, I felt perfectly at peace about being here in Santo Domingo.

It was a bit disconcerting driving through a rather run-down area of the Colonial Zone to get to the hotel.  However, when we turned down Calle Duarte the hotel was right there and looked exactly as advertised.  Inside were the 16’ high ceilings with the dark beams, wrought-iron chandeliers, the quaint little open courtyards separating the small groups of rooms, and the high French doors protected by wrought iron scrollwork.

After unpacking I sought out the restaurant area (Taberna Don Quiiote) and the pool on the 4th floor and then I headed out to explore the street mall, El Conde.  It is a delightful mix of tourist shops, cafés, street art, street entertainers, architecturally interesting buildings, outdoor restaurants, and a park in the middle of a square.  I’m not sure how I feel about the formally dressed young man standing on a pedestal as a work of art with a jug in front for tips.  The restaurants on the edge of Parque Colôn offer breakfast for $500 DR pesos (about $4.USD) so I will probably head there most mornings.

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The Internet here has been rather intermittent this evening so I’m not confident I’ll be able to post every evening as previously done.  I’ll have to play that by ear.  I was able to pick up a Croque Monsieur and a Coke (for about $3) and took it up poolside to enjoy the cool and work on my blog.  Didn’t work out as planned since I couldn’t get the Internet.

Tomorrow I’ll explore more of the Colonial Zone and try to pick up some information about a couple of places I may want to visit.  Maybe I’ll get a rest and a swim in during the afternoon.  I’ve been on the go 8 days and we lost an hour today so the plan is to take it easy.  Cheers from Santo Domingo.

Statue in Parque Colon

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Off Again: Day 7

Spent time this morning re-organizing suitcases so I’m organized for the morning, leaving a small suitcase behind in the car; I also phoned the hotel in Santo Domingo to arrange for the shuttle to pick me up at the airport tomorrow.  Then I bought my ticket for the Hop On, Hop Off and headed down Callie Ocho to the Big Bus bus stop in Little Havana.  I ended up parking twice.  My first spot was a Phone Pay and I didn’t know how to use it.  Someone told me there was free parking in behind so I went around the block and found a parking spot on the street in a lovely residential area.  I parked across the street from this beautiful house.

I was able to purchase a Spanish frittata for breakfast at a little bakery right where the Big Bus stops and I didn’t have long to wait for it to come along.  With all the car shuffling, I forgot my sweater in the back seat and it was quite cool and windy on top of the double decker.  The bus was heading directly to the ticket booth at Bayfront Park where I was to show my eticket and receive a hard copy ticket.  Well, the eticket they sent me didn’t show the bar code so there was a big hassle before the guy finally took a picture of my receipt and printed me a ticket.  There is a large area with a wall and message and a sculpture of  JFK.  Then the bus was ready to head off to the island, Miami South, and the iconic Art Deco buildings on the strip.  Some of my pictures are here but more can be found here.

After the island, we drove through an area called Wynwood where there was a lot of street art.  It was quite amazing.  I wish I had been able to get capture more of them on camera but here’s some of what I did get.

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When we arrived back at Little Havana, I had lunch at a place called El Pub and took out something for supper as well.  It was very much the Cuban culture — loud music, loud conversation, Cuban menu — and I was there quite awhile.  I was also able to do a little shopping.  I’ve been doing quite well with picking up some things for friends and relatives and also picked up a couple of really lightweight tops that should serve me well in the DR.

I need an early start to get the car to the parking lot and the shuttle to the airport.  I’ve signed in for the flight, so that is done.  Tomorrow night I’ll be writing from Santo Domingo, DR.

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Off Again: Day 6

The day started off very cool — about 11°C — which made it good for driving.  Yesterday afternoon I decided to cancel my original booking after finding my room at the bottom of a set of stairs and my neighbours were outside blaring music.  Also, the rather surly desk clerk said to change my room would be an extra $12 so I just cancelled and went to a place with free Wifi and sat with an ice cold cherry Coke and found a nearby HoJo that was lovely.  Dig the orange wall.   While looking for the restaurant, I discovered an outlet mall so I started my morning on the road there.  Got a very good deal on new shoes with laces that I hope will be really comfortable.  Will try them out tomorrow.

I was back on the I95S by 10 a.m. and in Miami by 11:45.  It is not an easy city to find your way around in and my GPS keeps trying to put me on a toll expressway but I’m learning my way around that.  My first stop was to Deal Airport Parking where I will be leaving my car while I head to the Dominican.  I spoke to the young man behind the counter and the shuttle will be no problem.  My motel is quite close — in Little Havana — right on Calle Ocho.  If I head out East in the morning, I will get to Domino Park where I can get on a Big Bus tour that will take me to all the places I want to see.

The Mayfair Hotel opposite Coco Walk.

This afternoon I did get to see a lot of Art Deco buildings while driving around getting my bearings.  I also got to Coco Walk (mostly under new construction) but it is part of a large area of small shops and outdoor restaurants. I ate at one called Jaguar which was very nice.  As soon as I sat down, a waiter brought chips and dip, ice water in a bottle, and a glass.  I thought it was a bit expensive and I wasn’t too hungry, so I ordered a spoonful of an oriental appetizer and a dish of grilled vegetables.  A bit disturbing, I used their Wifi and later got an email thanking me for visiting their restaurant.

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Tonight, my TV isn’t working and someone’s supposed to be coming to fix it.  If he doesn’t come soon, there won’t be much point asI’dliketo get ready for bed soon.  This is the first place I’ve stayed more than one night but a day and a half really isn’t enough to do Miami justice.  Hopefully the tour will give each chance to get to know it a little better and see some more of the points of interest.  Here is one of the Art Deco buildings I saw today.

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