10.01.2006 - 10.01.2006
We said we wanted to do the city tour the next day, which was advertised as $45 each. The next morning Gloria came to see us at breakfast and said that the other couples who wanted the tour had backed out, and what did we want to do about that. I said that I still wanted to go on the tour, so she said she would take us in the car that we had come from the airport in. She wanted $50 each to be paid in cash.
We started out for the city about 10:30. First the driver took us to the Columbus Lighthouse Monument (Faro a Colon). Disappointingly, this is not a real lighthouse, but it is a cross shaped building which projects a cross into the night sky. Gloria said it had not been lighted in some time. The fountains in the grounds were not operating. I did not realize that there were displays inside the 7 story building (built in 1992) so I took some pictures of the outside and also of the statue of Queen Isabella (Isabel La Catolica) which is across the street looking over the city. The driver accompanied me - not sure whether he was protecting me or waiting to rescue me if I fell.
Gloria did not take us to Columbus's tomb. She explained that the body interred in the tomb which was supposed to be. Columbus had been sent to Spain for DNA testing to see who it actually was. We did pass a place where there was a large generator on a barge next to the city electrical plant. She also skipped Los Tres Ojoes (which was listed on the tour brochure) and the aquarium which she said we could walk to--- very close she said
Whether by accident or on purpose we went by and into the Base Naval 27 de Febrero and the Naval Academy of DR and from there we saw a real lighthouse which was a square concrete structure with spiral yellow and black stripes.
We went along the city wall into the Zona Colonial, and Gloria stopped where there was a movie called "The Good Shepherd" which was being filmed with Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie. She was hoping to get a look at the male stars. Bob got some pictures of the 50's cars lined up for the movie
and I took photos of signs and people.
There are often vendors on tricycles peddling various items - typically coconuts or drinks.
We got out on the pedestrian street though the middle of the old city which was still decorated for Xmas. Gloria bought a lottery ticket. (Lottery tickets for sale)
Gloria is build like me only younger, darker and shorter.
(Bob and Gloria)
We saw a statue of someone who looked like a native (West Indian), but it was either Don Bartolome Colon or Frey Nicolas de Ovando according to the inscription which I couldn't really read, and which Gloria couldn't translate very well.
The statue of Columbus was near the cathedral in Columbus Park. Lots of pigeons, and they are building a Hard Rock on one side of the square.
Gloria handed us over to a guide to look at the Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la Menor, which Pope Paul III pronounced to be the first cathedral in the New World in 1542. I take that to mean that it was the first building designated as a Cathedral and not the first church building. I was interested to see that there was netting over the top of the entrances, probably to keep out the pigeons. She sat outside and gossiped while we did the tour.
Bob was wearing Bermuda shorts - down to his knees - and no one said anything about this, although I understand that shorts are not allowed. The guide said that the inside was Gothic and with Romanesque arches and Baroque ornamentation. He said that the inside vaulting represented palm trees (they did look a little bit like that).
In the middle of his talk, they added another family - apparently the guides are assigned by language. That threw him off a little so he finished us up and started on the next group. We slipped away and walked around the cathedral a bit looking at some of the 14 side chapels. I took a picture of a pigeon that sitting over the pulpit (apparently bypassed the netting) and a statue of a priest with a box with a slot in the top marked Seminario - I presume for people to donate money.
We went back out to Columbus Park
and walked across and down to Calle Las Damas and to see the Changing of the Guard in the mausoleum. This is the National Pantheon which was originally a Jesuit church and was converted by Trujillo in 1955. It has a large bronze chandelier - a gift from Franco.
I tried to take a short movie with my video camera of the changing ceremony which involved a lot of rifle maneuvers, but someone walked and stood in front of me.
We came out and saw the church next to the palace, and there was a big sundial there. I walked over to the fort walls (with cannons) and looked out over the street below and the river (Ozama?) beyond that. There was a ferry terminal there, and on the other side was a small marina with mostly power boats.
After that we went to another museum which I think was the Casa Reales.
They had models of Columbus's three ships, maps of his journeys, a pharmacological section including a big cabinet with drawers labeled and painted with a picture of the plant (There was one for canabis),
a stables area with saddles and sedan chairs, an exhibit on sugar cane, armor, a border marker from between Haiti and the DR, and navigation instruments on display. The guide asked for a tip at the end, which I understand he isn't supposed to do and Bob gave him $1.00.
Gloria asked us if we wanted to shop, and I said no, so we got back into the car and drove to a restaurant called El Conusco.
She said this is where all the tours go for lunch. It is well set up for large groups of people and has a buffet of national foods for people to eat. They had spaghetti and yams and chicken plus various salads. The price was included in the tour price. Both Gloria and the driver ate a lot - more than we did. They also did a show here where they danced, including standing on top of a bottle and dancing.
There was a place labeled "La Purperia dia Pueblo" next to the entrance which had souveniers etc inside, and Gloria said it was the model of a country house. It was decorated with flowers, as was a horse buggy out front. I went to the bathroom which was pretty reasonable, except there was no toilet seat - or rather there was one on one side which had broken off the toilet.
I noticed that cars had cardboard on the windshields and Gloria said that this was to protect from the sun. The cars parked on the street were watched by folks who put the cardboard there for you to keep the sun out. You are supposed to tip them when you come back to the car.
After we ate, we went to the National Palace where we got out to take pictures. A jeep full of men in camo came up and parked and one of them got out and went to the gate guards and was let in.
I thought they might open the gates for the jeep, but they didn't. I stuck the camera through the fence for an unobstructed picture. I understand the palace is now government offices.
We did not get to see the Amber Museum or the Monasterio ruins or the homes of Columbus's sons, nor did we really see the Santo Domingo Fort.
We went back to the hotel on an expressway which went over 2 bridges, one of which is under construction and has scaffolding all over it. In the middle of the highway is a concrete barrier about 4 feet high, and there was a woman walking along on top of it. The driver and Gloria both said she was crazy. We got back to the hotel about 2:15 Bob tipped the driver $10 to make up for yesterday.
Bob said the experience reinforced the idea that he was not going to rent a car here. Some of the traffic lights don't work, and the ones that do are apparently disregarded as often as not. Stop signs (Pare) are ignored half the time. The only real reason that people don't speed are the many fairly aggressive speed bumps.
Tomorrow we will try to walk to the Aquarium