I am not really sure where to start...I guess with Juan Dolio itself. As I said, it used to be an extremely busy tourist area, and the British lady, Matilda*, originally went there to be a scuba diving instructor. There is a main boulevard where all of the major hotels were located, but over the last few years, they all closed down, and now these massive apartment and condo buildings are being built right on the beach - which is preventing public access to the public beaches. As you can see, the boulevard is a pretty big eyesore at the moment, with mostly unfinished construction going on
. The only good thing about it is that the construction is giving the poor Haitians in the area some work...which is good, because there are about 1500 of them just around Matilda's house alone. However, all of the local businesses are suffering hard from the hotels closing, because now there are no tourists, and so there is no business. Matilda has a "colmado" (or store) on the strip, and she does alright, but she makes nothing now compared to when the tourists were around.
Juan Dolio is divided into 3 sections: villas (which is where Matilda and most people live), the boulevard, and Old Juan Dolio, which was the original Spanish settlement. Lindsay took me on a tour of all 3 areas, and the common factor everywhere was...it was DEAD. Nothing going on - on a Saturday...even the restaurants next to the accessible public beaches in Old Juan Dolio were empty. It is really sad, because it is obvious that it used to be a thriving place, and it really does have a lot to offer. But the hotels closing and changing over to apartments really killed the area - and there are hardly any buildings finished, and even fewer units actually sold and occupied.
There are some really nice restaurants in Juan Dolio, and one really posh one in particular, called Aura, which is where we decided to have lunch (see pictures)
. Their pizzas are spectacular, and I was really excited at the prospect of not eating Dominican food, for a change. Aura is a restaurant on the ocean, which means you can also come and lie on the beach there. There are lovely white cushioned couches, sun-beds, and chaises, and you can come and use those facilities for free...but the catch is you can't bring your own food or drink. If you want something, you have to buy from the restaurant, which is expensive...but going there for the afternoon and just ordering water would be totally worth it!
After lunch, we went to Matilda's house to relax for the afternoon...and W-O-W is all that I can think of to say. Her house is like an oasis tropical paradise - a mini all-inclusive resort (see pictures). My photos really do not do it justice, but you can get the general idea...how does she have all of this, you ask? Well, she has a VERY interesting story. She is originally from London, and used to be a very famous and successful financial advisor and business-woman...one of the top in all of the UK (she's been in business journals, on TV, radio, stopped in the street, etc.). Anyway, she was also a diving instructor, and after many years of being at the top of the corporate business ladder, she was really unhappy, and decided to go teach diving for longer than her usual 2 or 3 month stints (she has traveled all around Asia, Australia, Africa, doing diving and being an instructor)
. The one place that she found where she could go for a 6-month contract was in Juan Dolio, DR. So, she came here and taught diving, and during her 6 months here, she met a Dominican man, and then decided to stay another 6 months...which turned into them eventually getting married...and 8 years later, she is still here. So when she got married and took in his kids (his first wife abandoned him with 3 boys), they built this amazing house. It wasn't built as you see in the pictures all at once...this is a product of gradually working at it over the last 6 years. But, as you can see, it is spectacular. Knowing her previous career background, you can understand how they can live is a place like this.
You may think that she has it made, but she actually doesn't have any money anymore. Why, you ask? Well, 2 years ago, she got shot in the neck by a construction worker who thought that he wasn't going to get paid (he was working on building the guest house). She caught him breaking into her house, and he shot her out of fear of being caught, and took off. Her husband was working (he is head of the Dominican version of FBI/secret police for the Juan Dolio area), and she didn't realize she had been shot. Eventually she realized she was bleeding, but still didn't know what had happened. She was eventually found by a neighbour, but no one could take her to the hospital b/c they couldn't drive her standard car
. So, she was carried on the back of a moto-concho to the hospital, and after much shuffling around, she was finally saved. But she couldn't talk for one year, and it takes her a lot of energy (and, therefore, calories) to speak now, so she is a very tiny woman! She is completely un-phased by this having happened to her, and doesn't feel unsafe at all. She feels that it was just an unfortunate series of events that led to this guy thinking she wasn't going to pay him, and her showing up at the wrong time in the wrong place. Everyone in the community knows her - rich or poor - and they all have the utmost respect for her. So, because of this incident, she had many many medical bills and expenses...and now has no money left of her previous fortune. So, between her and her husband, they each have a few jobs and are able to make enough to pay their bills...but they are by no means wealthy like you might think by looking at their home!
So, as you can, by now, imagine, she is a very interesting woman, who also happens to be very generous, helpful, and an AMAZING cook! I thoroughly enjoyed the marinated chicken / seasoned lentils / wild rice dish that she prepared - absolutely delicious!!
Matilda is also a big animal lover. She has 3 huge dogs - a Great Dane, a Great Dane / lab mix, and a Lab / Pit-bull mix
. The Great Dane is called Tyson, and he has just been fixed this week (the vet came to the house, laid him across the table, gave him some sedation / freezing, and chopped his goods off onto the floor...welcome to the Dominican!) As a result, he was a bit keyed up because he is having a hard time staying comfortable. The dane/lab mix is called Sophie, and she is lovely. She is currently pregnant with Tyson's puppies (and why he was subsequently fixed), and is a huge ham and cuddly sook. However, she is apparently quite vicious - she kills cats in one bite, and has almost killed humans who she thought were intruding. When I was told this, I could hardly believe it, because she was trying to climb up into my lap and was licking all over my face, pawing me to pat her, and following me around. She is just a lovely girl, but she knows how to her job too, I guess, which is to protect the house and to protect her family. All 3 dogs are watch-dogs, but Tyson doesn't attack anyone - he just chases people and barks a lot. But I think that a 140-pound Great Dane lunging toward you will definitely send you running! The third and oldest dog is called Fred (she's a female though). She is also a little ham to people that are trusted, but is also a killer of intruders. I really loved spending time with these dogs, and it gave me my dog fix for a while, as I have been really missing Maggie and Dusty.
Between the pool, the yard, the food, the dogs, and the wonderful company, I had a really enjoyable time in Juan Dolio, and I think I will take Matilda up on her offer to go back to visit whenever I feel like getting away. Sadly, it is back to Consuelo, work, and reality on Monday! I guess my week off had to come to an end sometime! Ta ta for now!
This past weekend, I went to Juan Dolio, which is located about 30 minutes southwest of Consuelo, on the way to Santo Domingo. It is on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, and used to be a booming tourist area. There is a British lady there who knows Dean and Catherine, so I was taken to meet her, and stayed at her house for Saturday and Sunday.