Santo Domingo!!!

Trip Start Jan 29, 2011
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30
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Trip End Feb 26, 2011


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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb 18
Santo Domingo
Last night we arrived at Bettye's Hostel. It was the best hostel for cultural decor. We took a taxi from the Caribe stop. We waited a while because we wanted a van. Eventually we found one. Unfortunately, there wasnt any space left when I needed to put my bag in the van, so I ended up putting my backpack on my lap while sharing the front seat with Leah! Tight squeeze, and painful, but it was over soon and we were at Bettye's in no time!
We met Bettye in the plaza and then she let us into the hostel. I was amazed at the first sight! We entered through these wrought iron bar doors and ascended these steep Mexican tile stairs that narrowly wrapped back upon themselves. The staircase brought us to this area like a landing that had black wooden floor panels. There were about 5-6 bunk beds crammed everywhere! This part also had the kitchenette ( it was so small I didn't notice it until breakfast the next day). To the right was a door that opened into a middle room with 4 single beds and a bathroom. It was sort of awkward because we walked in on this guy getting a massage. We quickly opened the wrought iron doorand pushed back the Asian style partition back to reveal our room. There were exactly 7 beds in this room with two being part of a bunk. I took one of the singles and unpacked my stuff.
I grabbed my important things - camera, wallet and cell phone - and then we set out to walk around and check out the local markets! Before we left, Bettye had set out some egg salad sandwiches with fresh dill and some iced sweet tea. She has this room with lots of local art for sale. I looked at a lot of unique pieces of painted metal, a nativity scene with the manger out of a coconut shell and husk, framed mirrors, all sorts of paintings, some random Louis Vuitton and Gucchi purse key chains, and sculptures. The paintings were 50% off, so that was nice.
We ate then we set out to look at the local markets. We passed the first cathedral of the Americas and walked along the main strip where there are lots of pieces of art, paintings, various types of stores, two Helado Bons/Yogunfruz stores and, of course, chess players, mariachi bands and the occasional table of older men won drinks singing to their own tune! We checked out a store with a ton of Lari mar, but I'm glad I already had all my souvenirs. I was happy to see a lapel pin, but it was 100 RD, so I held out until the next day when I had seen other stores with pins for a higher price. At least I checked out other prices. We passed the Hard Rock Santo Domingo, and I am glad we didn't eat there because it's not that good in the states either.
We ended up eating at this small restaurant that Leah had eaten at before. I ordered something small because I wasn't that hungry. I got a Dutch grilled cheese and a Piņa Colada without alcohol. Wanted to compare it to the other restaurant I had gotten a piņa Colada at as well. The food was pretty good and the piņa Colada was just as delicious. I only wish it had come in a bigger size!!!
After dinner, we walked the streets towards this plaza where every friday night there is music. We happened upon this Ballet Foclorico that was about to perform a merengue. It was a warm, breezy night, perfect after it stopped raining. We watched the performance and then Leah and I walked back to the hostel. I took a cold shower (no hot water) and then called the parents and J and then passed out.
Feb 19
This morning I woke up quite a few times. Lesson learned this trip: if were staying at hostels in the future, I am going to make sure I have my pillow!!! The pillows last night were FLAT!!! it was so hard to sleep and the fan was so loud, I had to sleep with my earplugs in. I woke up so many times and felt like I hadn't rested at all.
Eventually, I woke up and when I opened my left eye, I realized I felt like Disneys Quazimodo - I had a mosquito bite just above my left eyelid. It was pretty swollen and I felt so funny trying to open my eye.
I was glad I had showered and packed the night before, so I got dressed in my red anthropologie dress and went to the kitchenette for breakfast of prepared milk (powdered milk mixed with water), the equivalent of honey nut cheerios, and a Biz ochito that Bettye had for us. It was the smallest communal kitchen I had ever used. But, it had the necessities, so all was copacetic.
I then went downstairs and bought some stuff for our new place (as of June this year!) and then we headed to Los Tres Ojos. Bettye called us a taxi- her trusted driver. It was good that she knew someone cause we got a fair price.
We drove past this sculpture similar to those metal sculptures in downtown Omaha. Then, we drove past the Christopher Columbus monument marking the first spot he landed in the Americas. Unfortunately, this monument is terribly ugly and it's placement and construction in the early 1980s displaced thousands of people. They even built a wall next to the monument to keep people from squatting on the land again. It is supposed to be a lighthouse, whose light is like that of the Olympic Torch, and the day it was lit up, the entire city of Santo Domingo lost power. Now, the light does not work. Nice.
We got to Los Tres Ojos and, surprise surprise, there were people trying to sell us stuff.
We payed the thirty pesos to get in as students, then we descended into the caves with the three grottoes that make up Los Tres Ojos. The first descent was amazing! I haven't been in a cave for years- since Laray Caverns with Tito Rudy and Rosie. I loved them then and I loved them today!
There were huge stalactites (c from the ceiling) and then out of nowhere was this beautiful grotto. This first one was Las Azufre. It was SPECTACULAR!!!! it was this crystal clear and had tures and fish in it! I took video and landscape pics, but nothing can do it justice without being there!! I went down to the bottom of the stairs at the level with the water!
Then, I looked back up and everything seemed as if I was back at the Henry Doorly rainforest. I walked next to La Nivera and, totally unexpected, there was a raft that was being pulled by some men (akin to the glowworm caves in new Zealand). It was 20 pesos to get on and cross to the other side, but it was worth it! I hopped on the boat (we had to get on one on each side for balance!) and we were pulled the short distance to the other side. There were lots of bats in the upper part of the cave as we passed under them to get to the other side. I got off and walked up a short way until the sun broke through the cave and exposed this lush green wall of vines with a lagoon in the middle. I think this is the lake that they are unable to find the bottom of, as it's name is "La Nivera".
After taking the photos I wanted to take, I climbed back onto the boat and then headed to see Las Damas. This was the smallest of the three but it was just as beautiful and there was crystal clear water here as well.
After seeing Los Tres Ojos, we left back for Bettye's place. We sat a bit and looked at more art, then headed to find a place for lunch. We ate at this espresso bar that has locations all over the world. I ordered a Coke Light and a salami, cheese and lettuce sandwich. It came out grilled and wasn't too bad.
Then, at 2ish, we met up with Dario, our tour guide for the afternoon. We started our tour at the Cathedral of the Americas, the first Cathedral built in the Americas! It's pretty cool it's a block away from our hostel!
We went inside (we were almost asked to put coverings over our legs because we were all I. Shorts or dresses) and checked out the many chapels of the cathedral. There were some dedicated to the Apostles, one for a christmas tree, one with the first painting of the Americas, one with a nativity scene that is covered up except for Christmas time. We saw a couple of confession rooms as well.
Next we walked the street of Dames (these women used the street to walk to work each day) and passed the nicest hotel in Santo Domingo. We then went into the area where a lot of the nations heroes are buried. There are women, men, poets, professors, and the lady who created the flag of the DR!
After, we checked out the place Trujillo governed from for 15 years. There was a model of Santo Domingo in the first years of it's cityhood, replicas of the Columbus ships, sailing tools, maps of columbus' travels to the Americas, a copy of the first world map, a sugar cane processing machine, and a stable with old carriages. Someone was holding their wedding reception in the courtyard and hey had their tables and cake already set up and everything! Made me excited about our wedding!!!
We then passed one of the original gates to the city, still used as a pedestrian archway. We saw the outside of the Columbus House, where three generations of Columbus family members had lived after Christopher Columbus died.
Then, we saw the old Monastery and then a cigar shop and a shop where they finish Lari Mar, Amber and Black Coral jewelry.
After, we went back to Bettye's, then went to get Yogunfruz. We had to try going to one Bon shop the. Another then back to the first one all for Yogunfruz, by it was worth it! I got a smallmone with pineapple and strawberries. It was pretty good!!!
Then, we walked to our hotel and sat on the front porch for a while and I journaled!!
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