Jarabacoa and Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
I’ll be honest and say up front that I never really had the Dominican Republic on my radar before. I mean, what do you think of when you think of the DR? All-inclusive resorts, sure. (Flying from Ottawa to Saskatchewan via Punta Cana, definitely.) Baseball? Reggaeton and loud blaring music? Adventure tourism? I can appreciate all of that (except for the satire-friendly political grift), but I wouldn’t include any of those things amongst my preferences.
But hey, when in Rome DR…. I’m here for the wedding of my dear friends Paul and Louise, along with a small group of our friends who’ve all flown in from Vancouver. While I’m not staying with them in the resort, this event did bring me to the country, and I chose to explore a little with the few days I had before it.
After Santo Domingo though, I was definitely looking for a little bit of respite from the hustle and bustle. Mountains, fresh air, and quiet? Sounds great. Oh look, Santo Domingo weekenders!
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
On my first trip outside of Canada in three years, I find myself in a foreign land learning about Columbus (Colón). Amongst the beautiful Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo is the Alcazár de Colón, lived in by the sorta-Spanish-Italian explorer’s son and his family, with his familial artifacts lovingly presented by the obligatory local guides — an elephant-skin trunk here, a harp there, those tiny beds Europeans liked sleeping in back in the 1500s, all of that stuff. It’s the centerpiece of the tiled Plaza de España, ringed by some ritzy international restaurants.
A few blocks down, past more 16th century buildings — colourful, stately, balconied, and draped in jacarandas — is the Parque Colón, with a proud statue pointing opposite the first (and largest) cathedral of the Americas. It too is ringed by a bunch of ritzy restaurants, including a lovely rooftop rum bar overlooking the cathedral.
Across the Ozama River (lined by a Spanish fortress used as a prison in the colonial days, with a blur of other details I don’t remember) is the Faro a Colón (Columbus Lighthouse), a semi-brutalist…thing with a bright light that could sap all the electricity from nearby for miles if turned on. Championed by previous dictator/president Rafael Trujillo and eventually completed in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival, written large on it are Bible verses used to proclaim the virtues of expansionism as a means of spreading Catholicism.
So far, it seems like a great trip to Spain. Oh wait, you mean I’m not in Spain?