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The Dominican Republic is the eastern two-thirds of the island of
Hispaniola. Haiti makes up the western third.
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Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo.
In November, 1492, Christopher Columbus
visited the northern shore of Quisqueya and named it La Isla Espanola; to mark the
expansion of Christian Spanish frontiers.
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This was Columbus' first landing place, and because from the sea
the mountains 'appeared white as snow and shone like silver', he called it the silver
Along the Malecon, small-time operators wired large
cassette-recorders to the street lights' electric supply and set up little bottles of rum
and beer for sale.
The more adventurous staked out an area for tables and chairs, with a
portable generator in attendance.
And then there was the occasional car; doors wide open, stereo
full-blasting the bouncy beat. But the tune was the same: it was the first night in a
nine-night celebration of the island's famous merengue music.
The traditional merengue is played by a three man group called a
perico ripiao, which consists of a tambora (small drum), a guirra (a corrugated tube
scraped by a metal rod) and an accordion.
At the end of the coast road, near the colonial San Felipe fortress,
larger stalls were erected to supply the revellers with party essentials: food and drink
in greater quantities.
It was within this area that the rum brands of Bermudez, Brugal and
Barcelo, and the Presidente beer company promoted themselves with amplified music,
dancers, disc-jockeys and flashing lights.
The warm breeze off the sea helped to circulate the aroma of
charcoal-cooked chicken from the basic food-stalls behind the rum bars. On the grass bank
above the street party, a fairground glittered through the silhouettes of palm trees,
casting surreal shadows down their trunks.
Some of the party goers would need considerable stamina if they
intended to repeat the process eight more times in the nights to follow.
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On the second voyage (in 1496) Christopher Columbus' brother,
Bartholomew, founded Santo Domingo; the first capital in Spanish America.
Christopher's son, Don Diego, became the first Spanish Vice Roy of the
New World in 1508, and in 1510 he built his two-storey residence beside the Ozama river;
in which four generations of the Admiral's descendants were to later dwell.
Don Diego's marriage to Dona Maria de Toledo, a second niece of the
King of Spain, required that the building be some sort of Palace.
Although it was sacked by Drake in 1586, and gradually decayed over
the years, the Government of the Dominican Republic restored the building in the 1950s.
Today the elaborate furnishings hauntingly reconstruct the glories of
a former age; you almost expect the Vice Roy to step out from his private chapel.
It seemed that Bartholomew resided downstairs, while Don Diego and
Dona Maria de Toledo slept in separate rooms above.
If the bedroom furniture on display were true of yesteryear, then Don
Diego wrote at the desk and knelt to pray at the wooden prayer stand in his personal
chamber and visited Dona Maria's airier room, with it's sturdier four-poster bed, to play.
They had seven children.
Did the rotten chamber-pot in the centre of the floor suggest that the
lady suffered from stomach ailments?
The large wall openings allowed a good breeze to circulate, in pre
air-conditioning days, and offered superb views of the Vice-Royal's new land.
From the east balcony, Don Diego could twirl his Velazquez moustache
and survey the activity on the wharf below; as supplies arrived from Spain and new found
exports were made ready for shipment to his waiting Monarch.
Venture to the west balcony to survey the calm of the large courtyard
and the two giant palms, swaying their shade in the gentle breeze, and you'll soon be
disrupted in your meditations by the coaches arriving with Columbus studying
The Spanish ladies used to parade along the cobbled Calle Las Damas in
the evening, and the many colonial facades still afford the imaginative scenes of
bellowing ball gowns, fluttering fans, and accompanying conquistadors.
The Ozama Fortress, along this street, is the oldest in the America,
constructed 1503-05 by Nicolas de Ovano; whose house now breathes as an hotel.
Every postcard seller in the colonial town will gladly tell you that
Diego Colon laid the first stone of the first Cathedral (Santa Maria la Menor) in the New
World in 1514, and that the alleged remains of Christopher Columbus are inside it.
Someone else will then try to shine your shoes while you admire the
Avenue George Washington, also known as the Malecon, parallels the
sea, and it is here that romantics like to snuggle up in the evenings. Impromptu stands
offer sandwiches, hamburgers, soft-drinks, and Presidente beer or small bottles of rum.
In the darkness, carelessly discarded debris scattered along the sea
line is barely visible, but with a little care, the Caribbean coast could be better
appreciated by those parading under the palm trees.
It has the potential of a pleasant promenade, like the more famous La
Croisette of Cannes; perhaps it recently was.
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Visitors to the Dominican Republic should consider getting out of
the resorts and explore the country. It is reasonably safe and the people are friendly.
Be prepared to haggle for items that you wish to purchase and try
different forms of transport rather than just the taxis provided by the resort hotels,
travelling the way the locals do is much cheaper and a lot of fun.
Sosua is set in a sheltering horseshoe inlet on the north coast of the Dominican Republic,
approximately 20km east of Puerto Plata and 14km west of Cabarete. A typical Caribbean
town with a Spanish flavour, Sosua has one of the best beaches on the Silver Coast of the
Dominican Republic; with fine white sand and a multitude of palm trees to laze under.
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Santo Domingo, Sosua.
Caribbean Bike Tours:
Downhill cycling tours in the Dominican Republic. Also, combo tours such as 1/2 day
cycling, 1/2 day sailing, snorkelling or surfside horseback riding.
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Background information on why you might want to consider diving off Hispaniola.
This is no small Caribbean sandspit. The Dominican Republic has
five climatic zones, five mountain ranges, a desert, and a long coastline.
There are seven international airports now operating in the country
and since most large car rental agencies do not charge a drop off fee, you can fly into
one airport, such as Santo Domingo and fly out of another like Puerto Plata; getting to
enjoy the cosmopolitan and historically rich capital as well as one of the many fabulous
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