Sunday, September 20, 2015

Anniversay Get-Away

September 13th was our one-year wedding anniversary! This first year has included several life changing events for us – quitting school and jobs, moving cross-country, buying and moving onto the boat, and sailing away to explore new countries while leaving loved ones behind. Several people have commented that if we could make it through this adventure of ours and still be together, then our marriage could survive anything. And I think I agree with them! We spend 90% of our time less than 35 feet apart from each other and we couldn’t be happier. We’ve gone through amazing, fun, boring, and trying times, and they have all brought us much closer to each other. Here’s to many many more years together!!

We wanted to do something different to celebrate and what better way to celebrate than taking a cross-country trip across the beautiful DR to Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. Luperon is located on the northwest coast and Santo Domingo is 144 miles away on the southern coast. To get there, we rode a Greyhound-like bus that made several stops along the way and took five hours to make it to our destination.
 As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were immediately approached by a taxi driver who was trying to shuffle us into his car. Communicating with him was hard since he didn’t know English and we only know a little Spanish. He didn’t recognize the name of the hotel, and even after giving him the address, he still didn’t know where we needed to go. Eventually we told him to just take us to the Colonial Zone and we would hopefully be able find our own way. He dropped us off at one of the well-known hotels in that area, and after ten minutes of using Google Maps (the app was off several blocks on a few different occasions) and asking a couple of people, we made it to Casa del Sol where we would be staying for the next three nights. It was a small charming hotel that consisted of six or seven rooms, and the very friendly owner Emmanuel spoke English, which was nice. It was late by the time we got there so we dumped our luggage in the room and went out to El Conde Restaurant, which Emmanuel had recommended. The food was superb and very affordable, and we ate on the patio while watching people gathered in Parque Colon. The atmosphere and the architecture had a very European feel to it. After that we stopped at a beer garden where David had his choice of hundreds of beer and I enjoyed a martini. Back in Luperon we don't have those options.

Rooftop Terrace at the hotel

Waiting for our complimentary breakfast of ham, eggs, cheese, toast, and fruit. Scrumptious!
The next day consisted of walking around and sightseeing. Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the New World. La Isabela was his first settlement in the New World, but it collapsed due to hunger and disease. It is located only ten miles from Luperon, and it is where we went on our first motorcycle ride. Columbus then ordered a new town be built, which is now Santo Domingo. Sorry for the brief history lesson but wanted to impress upon you how much history there is in this city. We visited the first cathedral and fort of the New World, walked down the first paved road of the New World where Diego Columbus’ (Christopher Columbus’ son) wife and other ladies would stroll while enjoying the breeze from the river, toured Diego Columbus’ palace, and looked around the Larimar Museum. We also walked down El Conde, which is a pedestrian street lined with tons of shops and restaurants. I enjoyed the palace the most where we were able to listen to audio about all the significant items in the house and see how people lived back in the sixteenth century.


View from the fort

Diego's palace

Painting of Diego and Christopher Columbus

 Our anniversary was the next day, but it was more of an errand day than a celebration day. We planned on buying several things that we needed for the boat, but only came back with bug repellant and a couple of spices, which is sad considering we spent a lot more on the taxi rides than on what we bought. Once we were done shopping and back at the hotel, it was raining so we stayed in to enjoy A/C, cable TV and a big comfy bed, which we rarely have.

Next up was my favorite part – the all-inclusive beach resort in Boca Chica. Boca Chica is about  thirty miles from Santo Domingo and people flock here from the city for some fun in the sun. The beach is surrounded by a reef, and the water is calm, shallow, and crystal clear. The beaches on the north coast of the DR don't have the white sand and turquoise water that I become accustomed to in the Bahamas so I was excited to be going there since the water would have that pretty blue color I so miss. It’s also the first time on our trip that we would be in the Caribbean Sea. We took a guagua (small bus) to Boca Chica, which took less than an hour and then walked a short distance from where we were dropped off to the hotel. There are only three all-inclusive resorts in that area, and I had read that the town has become run-down since not that many tourists go there anymore. I wasn't expecting a lot when we got there, but the food was good, the pool was nice, the staff was friendly, and the beach was great. My only complaints were the vendors that constantly came up to us as we were laying under our straw “umbrella”, and the weather turned rainy and overcast after our first day.

View from our room

Flooded street after rain poured down for two days
After two nights there, we headed back to Santo Domingo, where I had my first experience in a hostel. It was super cheap at $25 a night, but I don’t think I’d stay in a place like that again. The room was very small and bare bones, but at least it had it's own bathroom. I would gladly pay more to have a few amenities. One thing I didn’t like was that they lock the only door that leads to the outside. We couldn’t get out without telling someone that works there, but there was no front desk and we didn’t know where to find anybody. Eventually a guard from across the street saw us trying to get out and rang the outside bell, which brought down a guy who had the key. We only stayed an additional night in SD since there is one bus that makes the trip to Luperon, and it leaves at 8 a.m.
Getting back to the bus station was another issue that we encountered. When we first arrived in Santo Domingo, the taxi driver was all over us trying to get us in his cab, and we didn’t take time to note the address of the station or what time the bus left for Luperon. We didn’t worry about it until we got to the hostel and then couldn’t find anything on the internet about the company, much less a schedule. Thankfully we were able to get the information from a fellow cruiser in Luperon after I asked for help on Facebook. We made it to the bus terminal with time to spare and walked around until we found a food stall with breakfast, which ended up having the best empanadas I’ve ever had.
It was a great trip, but I was glad to go back to the peace and quiet of our little floating home.
Just a side note for those that might travel to Santo Domingo  (well the DR in general) – bring hand sanitizer and don’t expect to sit on a toilet seat because most of bathrooms that I used didn't have soap or the seat!

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