Hola! Welcome to the Domincan Republic

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End May 09, 2008

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

We're not done yet!  After our short stopover in LA, we headed towards our next destination, the Dominican Republic.  We didn't get into Santo Domingo until 1am, so we're so glad we arranged airport pickup to another free hotel, The Courtyard by Marriott.  What was a little scary was that the cab driver seemed half-blind - he seemed to drive across multiple lanes and also the headlights didn't work. But we got to the hotel OK.

Since we only had one full day here before heading up north to Cabarete, we decided to just focus on exploring the historic area of Zona Colonial.  The hotel said it would take too long to walk - maybe 2 hours - so they suggested we take a taxi.

The taxi dropped us in the main drag, Calle El Conde, which is a pedestrian only street lined with many stores, restaurants, and hotels.  We wandered around a bit and came across couple of historic sites, but they weren't signed very well, and our guide book didn't have detailed information on them.  So after aimlessly walking around a bit more, a policeman approached us, and hooked us up with a private tour guide.  For $25US he would give us a walking tour of Zona Colonial for a few hours.   Frank thought it was a bit steep but I didn't think so as the guy's English was very good and he was extremely well informed and gave us a really good pitch about what we would see.  So we decided to go with the flow and took the tour with Leo.

Zona Colonial was one of the first European settlements in the New World and the old Spanish colonial capital.  It was founded by Bartolome Columbus 1496 after the fatal failure of La Isabella and actually ruled by Christopher Columbus from 1498.  1500 Nicolas de Ovando replaced Christopher Columbus, moved city to western bank of Rio Ozama and started construction of monumental stone building of Zona Colonial.  Zona Colonial has many of the New World's first institutions - the first cathedral, university, monastery, nunnery, hospital, all by the Catholic Church.  Many of the stone buildings built in the 1500s are still standing and some have been nicely restored - see pics.

After a couple hours we finished the tour and continued walking to the ocean, to walk along the Malecon back towards the hotel.  The Malecon is the city's famous boardwalk.  We walked for a long time on the Malecon from Zona Colonial, with not much to see except a rocky shore littered with garbage, and lots of cars whizzing by us along the road.  There weren't many shops or restaurants from the Zona Colonial area till we got to the street where we had to turn up to get back to our hotel, Avenida Maximo Gomez.  Part of Malecon, and the shops didn't seem to be packed tightly together as we thought they would be - it was really spread apart, so it wasn't very conducive to walking around.  We read later that the 'outdoor party zones' are further down the Malecon.  So maybe on our way back to the airport in a few weeks we'll try to check out that part of the Malecon later at night to see if it is any different.

We ended up having dinner at a local Italian place, which had a very different style of bruchetta and calzone than back home.   The bruchetta consisted of roasted vegetables on top of slices of French bread, and the prosciutto & pepper calzone had a filling that was a cross between a quiche and egg salad.  Not quite what we expected, but it was good to try something different.

The next day, we caught a taxi to the nearby Caribe Tours bus station, where we managed to get on the 10am bus to Sosua. The bus was fairly cheap, for a 4.5 hour ride it was only 250 pesos or so, under $10.  The buses were fairly new, with good seats and a/c.  They played a movie on the TV screen in the bus and then blasted loud bachata music videos the whole way to Sosua.  Since the established bus companies didn't go all the way to Cabarete, we then had to jump into a taxi in Sosua, and finally got to our Cabarete hotel around 3:30-4pm.  It was a little inconvenient to transfer to a taxi, but what was nice is this taxi driver drove us to my Spanish school in Sosua, and pointed out some landmarks so I could find my way to school the following day. 
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