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Las Terrenas and Santa Domingo, Sites of the DR

Well Hunter has flown back to the States, so once again I am away from my sons.  It is always so hard to say goodbye, but I am fortunate that my children are self sufficient and making their own ways in life. So maybe I shed a few tears, but I have no complaints.

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The open air lobby at Marina Bahia.

LIB has been in Marina Bahia in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic this week.  I have to say, this marina is very nice! The people are friendly and happy and the facilities are great.  It feels pretty upscale yet the fees are very reasonable.

Our friends on s/v Mauna Kea and s/v Temerity are in this marina as well, so we have gathered for cocktails and pizza a few times in the lobby, then met in the gym to work off the calories. We are all waiting for a good weather window to cross to Puerto Rico, but this is such a comfortable place that we are not in a big hurry.

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These pretty buildings in Las Terrenas back up to the beach.

Hunter, Frank and I explored Las Terrenas, a town about 45 minutes away by car.  Las Terrenas, with a population of about 40,000, is a visual blend of tourist and local areas.  There are not any apparent building or zoning restrictions in the DR like you would find in the U.S., so streets often switch between clean and well maintained to much less so.

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A board walk along one of several beaches in Las Terrenas.

Although this is a fairly popular area for kite boarding, the wind was insufficient for us to ride.  Instead we strolled along the streets absorbing the ambiance of the area, which was aided by Hunter’s ability to communicate and read in Spanish.

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Lunch in Las Terrenas

The weather was overcast and mild so we found an outdoor spot for lunch.  The owner was originally from Spain and Hunter was able to order some of the foods he ate routinely while living there this past year.  It was pretty neat to get to taste some of the food he loved while living abroad.

Frank has decided that having his hair cut in random places by unknown barbers is part of the adventure of cruising life, so we were on the search for a hairstylist in Las Terrenas.

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I love the name of the shop.

We hit the jackpot with La Matematica De Dios, the mathematician of God?  Not only was the haircut meticulous, the location was quite unique…

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Frank and Hunter up on the roof where the barber shop is located.

The international airport on the DR is near the capital city of Santa Domingo.  Santa Domingo is the first city of the Americas and the third stop for Christopher Columbus. Since we were going to take Hunter to the airport, we decided to go a few days early and learn a bit about the history of Santa Domingo.

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A typical street in Zona Colonial.

You might remember that we took our own self-guided tour of Charleston, NC way back on the ICW and “Tour Guide, Frank” decided to stop at a brewery after only three stops on our tour.  Well we decided to self guide again in Santa Domingo, but there just wasn’t enough information available on the web to learn much.  We ended up hiring a private guide named Juan Sanchez who took us on a walking tour of the old city of Santa Domingo.  Juan actually does tours for the US Embassy in Santa Domingo and he really knows his history.  If you have the opportunity to hire a guide, I strongly recommend Juan.

Zona Colonial is the oldest city of the New World and many building remain.  The influence of the Catholic Church is visible because many of the old city buildings related to the church. Juan told us that even today the majority of the Santa Domingo’s 4 million residents are Catholic.

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Franciscan Monastery built around 1508.

Notice the rope design above the door to the left in the picture above.  This rope was symbolic of the rope used to tie the waist of a Franciscan Priest’s tunic and identified the building as belonging to a religious order.  If you look in Zona Colonial, you will find other buildings with the same rope design above the door.

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The ruins of a private chapel.

It was a fairly common practice in the 1500s for wealthy families to have private chapels and perhaps even their own priest.  Even before Juan told us this had been a private chapel, it was easily identifiable as a church by it’s three bells on top.

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Each candle holder is the shape of a kneeling priest.

There is a stunning building in Zona Colonial called the National Pantheon that was originally a Jesuit Church constructed between 1714- 1746.  The building has a varied history but today it is a national symbol for the Dominican Republic and houses the remains of the countries most honored citizens.

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A view from the highest point of  Ozama Fortress.

Construction of Ozama Fortress began in 1502 and is the oldest military fortress in the Americas.  The castle, built to protect the City of Santa Domingo, faces the Ozama River after which it was named.

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Town Hall, another first in the Americas.

This pretty building, built in the early 1500s was remodeled in the early 1900s to restore it’s original elegance.  The ironwork and plants give it a Spanish or European flair.

These pictures represent only a fraction of the historic buildings in the old city.  To my grave disappointment, we were unable to tour the Basilica Cathedral of Saint Maria la Menor because I was wearing shorts.  Ladies must wear a skirt or long pants to enter the cathedral.  The Basilica was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1504 and Mass is still celebrated daily! I am certain we will visit the DR again and I will NOT miss Mass the next time we visit.

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Ojo, Spanish for eye or hole.

After a thorough tour of the old city, Juan drove us to Three Caves, Los Tres Ojos, a natural and beautiful area right in the middle of the city! The Taino Indians, who were the first inhabitants of Hispaniola, lived in these caves although I did not see any information about their history or lifestyle.

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Refrigerator Lake was not really cold.

In actuality, there are four lakes in the area but only three have names: Sulphur, Ladies and Refrigerator.  “Ladies Lake” received that name because only ladies were allowed to swim there, but I don’t know the reason for the other two names or why the fourth lake isn’t named.  Juan remembers swimming in the lakes up until the mid 1970s when swimming was prohibited.

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Guides pull the boats along with ropes to visit the fourth ojo.

Los Ojos are truly beautiful and I could imagine all sorts of long ago scenarios with Taino Indians living here or kids sneaking away for a swim to escape the heat or perhaps young lovers meeting in secret!

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I would need a wide angle to get the whole building!

Our final stop with Juan was the Columbus Light House erected in 1992 to honor the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival.  This was a huge structure, built in the shape of a cross.

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The remains of Columbus are in this mausoleum.

In addition to being the resting place for Columbus, the lighthouse is a museum which houses display rooms for each country that donated to the building. The exhibits are well done and as varied as the countries represented.  I could easily have spent several hours here instead of the 90 minutes we stayed. (I am embarrassed to report that there is not a display for the U.S. because we did not contribute.)

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Juan told us the lighthouse is only lit for special occasions, but when it is, the light forms the shape of a cross.  I would have liked to see that shining in the night sky!

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The courtyard at Dona Elvira Hotel

After a very long and informative day, we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed sitting in the courtyard outside of our room.  We covered a lot of territory in just two days!

Sunday morning we drove Hunter to the airport so he could fly back to The States.  I am very lucky to have had my sons visit us together and to have Hunter stay a bit longer.  I’m incredibly thankful that they are willing to travel to varied destinations to visit “home.”

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

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