We’ve been to the Dominican Republic on another cruise. I remembered getting off the ship to explore and getting right back on the ship. I don’t remember the name of the port but it was nothing like what we found in Santa Domingo.
On our way to breakfast, we stopped for a picture of the city. The Spanish style architecture punctuated the skyline above the wall that surrounded the old part of the city directly across from where we were docked.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1492 (when he was out sailing the ocean blue). Actually the little rhyme I learned in school wasn’t far off. The Atlantic Ocean was called the Ocean Sea then. He named the island La Isla Espanola for the Spanish monarch who financed the Italian’s explorations. The island of Hispaniola, as it is now known, is occupied by both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It was Columbus’ brother, Bartholomew, who actually settled Santo Domingo and it remains the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas.
There were lots of old historic buildings to explore if you were a mind to but we chose to take an excursion that would get us out in the open and walking—at least that’s what we hoped. We didn’t read the fine print, I guess. The panoramic part of our tour took us past several historic buildings and many of the newer ones all described aptly by our guide who spoke very good English.
Arriving at the National Botanical Gardens that we were to explore, we discovered that it would be by an open air tram that ran through the park. It took several tries to get people situated and then we ended up taking a different train that held more people to accommodate our group. A few were exasperated with the organization and opted to do a little exploring on their own. I wish we’d joined them but then we would have missed the fun.
People are a hoot if you don’t take them too seriously. One lady just kept tapping her iPhone at all the “glorious vegetation.” To me it looked like the jungle with lots of palm trees, bamboo trees and vines everywhere clamoring to get more sun. A muddy stream that looked polluted was declared to be a beautiful brook. I looked twice to be sure I hadn’t missed something.
Then the driver warned us that the train would begin to move fast. A siren sounded and we took off at a dizzying speed of probably 20 mph for about three minutes then slowed as our guide kept naming the different trees we passed.
The highlight was to be a Japanese garden which was very nicely planted and trimmed and dotted with appropriate Japanese statuary as well as the token bridge. As one man said, there weren’t any original Japanese plants there.
The most beautiful part of the park was actually the entrance where a stone design in the paving made a nice pattern and the water fountains and plantings that were blooming created a pastoral area where you could sit and enjoy the lovely cool breeze that chased the heat.
On our way back to the ship, much to our chagrin, the guide took us to a shopping mall for “immersion into the culture.” The mall was very upscale. Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Nike, and other familiar names graced the six floors of the mall. It was quite a contrast to the mostly poor areas we had driven through and continued on through as we caught a glimpse of Chinatown. People were hanging their laundry from the bars that covered their windows. The bars we were assured were not because of crime but were there to allow fresh air to flow through the homes as the windows were kept open.
It was a very interesting morning. We arrived back at the ship just in time to grab some lunch and meet some new friends that we seemed to be running into at the same table each afternoon. The afternoon ahead would be spent at paddle tennis and blogging. I needed to catch up on some work while the ship was stationary and the internet not as busy.