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Pursuing the Florida Mermaids

Weeki Wachee


View Summer, 9-11-2001 - and then the 2nd time down the ICW & AFV Winter 2006 & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Prequel

When I was 16 with a brand new driver's license, my parents, my sister and I drove our new 1954 green Ford station wagon to Florida. We stayed with our former ice skating instructors at their Figure 8 Motel in Jacksonville, and went to a lot of the attractions which were at that time in central Florida, including Silver Springs, Lake Wales, Tarpon Springs and Weeki Wachee. My father's photos.
Theater above the water

Theater above the water

Below water

Below water

Mermaid has a snack

Mermaid has a snack

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feeding the fish

feeding the fish


Then after I was married with two children, when my husband Bob was stationed in Key West for three years, we took another trip to the west coast and central Florida, where we again stopped at Weeki Wachee.
Riding a seahorse

Riding a seahorse


In 1967 The mermaid shows included recreations of movies or plays. There were lots of little statues around where my kids could climb or could pose for pictures. The seahorse is named Bubbles and was in the Star Garden Hall of Fame. The original was in the Alice in Wonderland show.
Happy as a clam

Happy as a clam

The shows in those days had a theme - the mermaids presented musical shows where they lip synced to the music. The show when we went was the Wizard of Oz. If I had to pick a show to see, an Oz show would have been what I would have picked - I read all the Oz books as a child and have copies of all of them now. The theater had the big Oz head in it.
Big Oz head

Big Oz head


Mermaid Show in 1967

Mermaid Show in 1967


In 1967 there was more emphasis on the show and less on the mermaid aspect of it. The show was not a recreation of a broadway show or movie - instead it was a series of skits. At the end, one of the mermaids did a deep breath-holding free dive to the bottom of the spring
Wizard of Oz underwater

Wizard of Oz underwater

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz

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Bubbles as a curtain

Bubbles as a curtain


Judging by the pictures, another difference between 1967 and 2006 was that the mermaids did Ester Williams type routines. "Water Ballet" (now an Olympic sport as synchronized swimming) became popular when Esther Williams performed in a string of MGM "aqua musicals" in the 1940s and '50s. I used to try to do the ballet leg type of routine when I was at the beach.
Ballet leg

Ballet leg


I looked at my slides of that trip, and wanted to see the show again, so I made time for a stop when we were on our way from Gulf Shores Alabama to Miami.

End Prequel

6 January 2006

We checked out on the 6th and headed for the west coast of Florida. There was a Best Western Resort Hotel (now a Motel 6) next to Weeki Wachee, but I thought it was too expensive and also it was too far to drive from Gulf Shores. So we drove the six hours from Gulf Shores to spend the night at the Ocala Hampton Inn, and then drove the 75 miles to Weeki Wachee the next morning. I picked this hotel because it had high speed internet and a free breakfast, and it was about half way between Gulf Shores and Miami which was our next destination. I was a little surprised to see orange and grapefruit trees in the inner courtyard next to the pool. In Florida, the outdoor pool can be open year round. The hotel was full.The hotel is 3 stories and has an elevator, but the elevator doesn't sound too healthy. The rooms are exterior rooms, which means that you walk to them via a balcony from the elevator, instead of walking down a central corridor.

The high speed wireless was a joy, and enabled me to upload the hundreds of pictures that I took in Mobile which I couldn't do while we were in Gulf Shores because of the unreliability of the wireless there. We had the usual Hampton Inn amenities - free breakfast (which they now call On the House TM hot breakfast), or Hampton's On the RunTM breakfast bags (Monday-Friday), lapboard for writing or using a laptop computer, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, and complimentary in-room movie channel. Local calls are free and there is no surcharge for using a calling card. The clock radio appeared to have preset stations playing specified types of music.

Hampton Inns do not usually have restaurants, but a restaurant is usually nearby. We walked to the Lone Star Steakhouse rather than driving in search of someplace more exotic because we didn't want to lose our parking place near the elevator

7 January 2006

The next day (Jan 7) we got to Weeki Wachee about 10 when it opened.
Entrance to parking area

Entrance to parking area


Outside of the park entrance

Outside of the park entrance


The first warning - The guidebooks and website said that there would be a $3 parking fee. However the parking kiosk was not manned and there was also a flea market being held on the Saturday in January that we were there. So we didn't pay the fee. YMMV.
Fountain in front of the entry

Fountain in front of the entry

Prices

Prices


It was really cold (comparatively speaking) but the peacocks and peahens didn't seem to mind
Peacock

Peacock


Peacock with Mermaids Galley in the background

Peacock with Mermaids Galley in the background


Peahens

Peahens

Peacock coming around to see what's going on

Peacock coming around to see what's going on


Turning tail

Turning tail

Peacock giving the cold shoulder

Peacock giving the cold shoulder


Peacock with Mermaids Galley in the background

Peacock with Mermaids Galley in the background

Live peacock posing by The Mermaid Galley

Live peacock posing by The Mermaid Galley

Captain's Quarters

Captain's Quarters


You aren't allowed to bring food or drink into the park, so whatever you want to eat has to be bought there. We were there between 10 and 11:30, so we didn't buy anything to eat. I did note that there were several places to eat including the Banquet Hall, a rental hall for groups. The Captain's Quarters which is right by the underwater theatre, and the Sweet Stop and Shop which is a gift shop and snack shop by the entrance.
Gift Locker and Sweet Shop and Stop

Gift Locker and Sweet Shop and Stop


There are also two places to get food over in the water park (closed when we were there because it was January and COLD) called Pirate's Grog and Snack Shack.
Plaque about park history

Plaque about park history


Famous people who have visited the park include Elvis, Arthur Godfrey and Deborah "Gidget" Walley. I remember Arthur Godfrey talking about the mermaids on his radio show. Another visitor was Don Knotts who played the Incredible Mr. Limpet. The Premier was shown at Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida. This was, reportedly, the first (and probably still the only) under water premier.

Since we got to Weeki Wachee right when it opened at 10, and the first mermaid show was not until 11:00, we took the River Cruise which left at 10:15 first. I don't remember doing the River Cruise when we visited Weeki Wachee before. But this is definitely a worthwhile attraction to see. Second warning - the Wilderness River Cruise runs 10:15 through 1:45 and the boat is limited to 49 people, so all the literature notes that there is limited seating capacity and not everyone admitted to the park will be able to fit onto the boats. Boat passengers must remain seated at all times,
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Entrance to Wilderness Cruise

Entrance to Wilderness Cruise


and the boat captain reminded us that the birds sometimes sit on the roof or other areas of the boat and that the birds are NOT housebroken.
Boat with bird on the front

Boat with bird on the front

Great blue heron on top of the boat

Great blue heron on top of the boat

Great Blue Heron and Great Egret on boat top

Great Blue Heron and Great Egret on boat top

Leaving the dock

Leaving the dock


The boat was propelled with an electric motor which was very quiet.
We sat in the back of the boat

We sat in the back of the boat


The water of the river was very clear. Last year, I didn't re-do the Silver Springs boat ride to recreate the trip we did in 1967 because I thought it was too expensive, but this is more or less the same as I remember that boat ride particularly in regard to the clearness of the water.
Clear Spring Water

Clear Spring Water


Turtles in the springs

Turtles in the springs


Great egret in the springs

Great egret in the springs


Pelican swims around cypress

Pelican swims around cypress


and the guide showed us lots of birds, He had fish to feed them, and they sometimes sat on top of the boats to beg for food
Pelican stretching his neck down for a fish

Pelican stretching his neck down for a fish


Peaceful River at turn-around point

Peaceful River at turn-around point


Next to the Wilderness River Cruise is something called the Tranquility Trail. We did not have either the time or inclination to do this.
Anhinga in the top of the tree over the kayakers

Anhinga in the top of the tree over the kayakers

Kayakers out on a winter day

Kayakers out on a winter day


We saw some kayakers on the river, and also a kind of boat ramp where canoes or other small boats could be put into the river (if you can pick them up and carry them because the 'ramp' isn't paved).
Entry (to the river

Entry (to the river


The Wilderness cruise boat uses electric motors, and I suspect that gasoline motors are not allowed. I think boating equipment can be rented from the state park.
Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga


Wood duck nesting box up in a tree (over the water)

Wood duck nesting box up in a tree (over the water)


Woodpecker nesting box

Woodpecker nesting box


Normal food gathering for wood storks

Normal food gathering for wood storks


The wood storks feel around in the bottom and snap their bills on any fish they find.
Wood Storks

Wood Storks


It is cool to see the wood storks up close(although if any bird can be called ugly, the wood stork would certainly qualify). The wood stork is the only stork native to North America.
Cold wood stork

Cold wood stork


At the end of the cruise, the boat goes by this platform.
Wood storks and pelicans assemble to be fed

Wood storks and pelicans assemble to be fed


When the cruise got to this point, there was a great blue heron on the platform.
Great Blue heron with wood storks and pelicans

Great Blue heron with wood storks and pelicans


and the wood storks and pelicans were foraging around as they normally do
Wood storks and pelicans

Wood storks and pelicans


When the captain starts throwing fish out, the pelicans and wood storks rush the platform and the boat,
Wood storks with their black banded wings

Wood storks with their black banded wings


Wood Storks and Brown Pelicans fighting for fish

Wood Storks and Brown Pelicans fighting for fish


and the blue heron left in disgust. I don't know if there would be the same number of these birds here in the summer. They come to Florida in the winter to breed. In north Florida the Wood Stork is more numerous in summer than in winter, indicating a fall migration to South Florida. Spring migration occurs during March and April.

Then we went for the mermaid show. in 2006, the park was obviously in decline. There was still a mermaid show, but it was a little different than it was in 1967.

The theater was still there, underwater. Initially, they had the blinds drawn across the viewing window. Women working as mermaids, but not swimming in that particular show were acting as ushers and as a narrator and they showed a slide show
Slide show about the park history

Slide show about the park history


about the history of the place before the main show started. When they raised the blinds, we could see the wildlife of the springs (turtles, manatees) swimming around. I do not remember seeing that before.
Original mermaids - Manatees

Original mermaids - Manatees

Manatees swim by the theater

Manatees swim by the theater

Turtles in the spring

Turtles in the spring

Start of show - mermaids on anchor

Start of show - mermaids on anchor


In 1954, the performers just wore normal bathing suits and the show concentrated on how well they could "live" under water without masks and scuba tanks. In 1967, the performers did some of the show in costume where they were putting on a show. This time the girls wore mermaid tails for a lot of the performance
2543862-Mermaid_show_2006_Weeki_Wachee.jpgMermaid show starts

Mermaid show starts


2543366-Mermaid_Gulf_Shores.jpgPerformers in mermaid costumes

Performers in mermaid costumes


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Mermaids with turtle

Mermaids with turtle


Mermaid feeding a turtle

Mermaid feeding a turtle

large_2543943-More_Mermaids_Weeki_Wachee.jpglarge_2543858-Mermaid_show_2006_Weeki_Wachee.jpgMermaid circle

Mermaid circle


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Use of bubbles as a curtain

Use of bubbles as a curtain


Performers out of costume

Performers out of costume

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Finish of show "Proud to be an American"

Finish of show "Proud to be an American"

Third warning- there is a fee charged to pose with the mermaids. I didn't pay a fee, but I also didn't have the mermaid looking at me.
Mermaid after the show on a cold January day

Mermaid after the show on a cold January day

Another photo area for mermaids

Another photo area for mermaids


In 1967 there were a lot of photo-ops around the park with sculptures Now There were a couple of small 'riding' toys
226619702543571-2006_picture..eki_Wachee.jpgPicture ops

Picture ops


and a big clam shell were people could get in or stand in front and have their pictures taken but that seemed to about it.

Of course another difference is that in 1967 we went during the summer when it was warm, and this time it was January and there was a cold snap.

There was also a water park next to the mermaid part of the park. Since it was in January, and during a cold snap to boot, we didn't feel particularly inclined to do any water park activities. It was closed anyway at that time of year.
Sign at Entrance

Sign at Entrance

Water park from the parking lot side

Water park from the parking lot side


But the Buccaneer Bay park has four water slides and a beach area on the other side of the river from where the mermaids swim. They are the Pirates's Plunge, the Thunderbolt, the Pirate's Revenge and the Cannonball.
End of the Thunderbolt and Pirates Revenge slides

End of the Thunderbolt and Pirates Revenge slides

Map of the park

Map of the park

We drove on to Miami, and got there about 5. We all drove down to El Toro in Homestead
My dinner

My dinner


but it wasn't as good an experience as previously. The waitress didn't bring in our order in any kind of timely manner.

8 January 2006
We hung out in Miami with our grandchildren and their pets
Bob with the cat and dog

Bob with the cat and dog

Posted by greatgrandmaR 21:45 Archived in USA Comments (13)

Italian Santo Domingo

Exploring the City


View Summer, 9-11-2001 - and then the 2nd time down the ICW & AFV Winter 2006 & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

You should not confuse the Dominican Republic with Dominica which is a completely different place. The Dominican Republic is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Republic of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of only two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two sovereign states. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation by area (after Cuba) at 18,792 sq mi, and third by population with approximately 10,299,000 people of whom approximately three million live in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo, the capital city.

Preview:

When I retired in 2000, we started traveling south on our sailboat for the winter. But in 2004, when we ran aground in the middle of the channel south of wrightsville Beach NC, Bob decided that it was too stressful to commute south by boat. Bob's brother told us about the Space Available Condos that are available to retired military. So I started booking Space/A condos going south along the coast. In the winter of 2005-2006, I found a condo a Space/A condo available in Santo Domingo.

Circling around to the Santo Domingo airport - Dominican Republic

Circling around to the Santo Domingo airport - Dominican Republic

Our first visit was a week January 9-16, 2006 at this condo.

Hotel from the side street

Hotel from the side street

Santo Domingo City Tour
Picture of the lighthouse from the taxi

Picture of the lighthouse from the taxi

Dominican Republic Aquarium
Barracuda swimming over the tunnel

Barracuda swimming over the tunnel

Saona Island
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A Walk on the Coast and
Shore walk

Shore walk

A Visit to the Botanical Garden
Waterlilies - Bob's picture

Waterlilies - Bob's picture

End Preview

We flew out of Miami on Monday January 9, 2006. We started out at a little before 8 am and it took us about an hour to go the 10 miles to the airport. Then it took another 35 minutes to check in at the ticket counter (no self check or curb check for international), and a few more minutes to hand the checked baggage over to the X-ray person.

Bob got some currency changed. They were selling it at 0.034733 and he got 1030 pesos for $39.70 minus the commission of $3.95. There was almost no line at security though, so we went through as fast as I could hobble. We got to the gate at 9:56 - eight minutes before boarding started at 10:04. We pushed away from the gate on time, and then waited to take off. Neither I nor the person behind me could get the shade that was between us to go up. So I had to crick my neck around to look over the one a little forward of my seat.
Taking off - a golf course

Taking off - a golf course


The plane flew right over Virginia Key, Rickenbacker Marina and the Marine Stadium.
Rickenbacker Marina from the air

Rickenbacker Marina from the air


There are still boats anchored there although I had heard that wasn't allowed anymore. After Key Biscayne, the pilot said he was going south of Nassau, and we probably went over Andros before we flew over Hispaniola and out into the Caribbean
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and turned back to the airport. We were now in the Atlantic time zone, so I changed my watch and my camera and later my computer to the new time - we lost an hour on the way over. They gave us the customs and immigration forms to fill out.

We did not get any lunch of course - just a bag of pretzels and some juice. I brought water to drink, but did not bring food because of possible problems with customs.

We got into Santo Domingo airport a little later than scheduled about 2:05pm. The airport was a zoo, and it was hot and humid. There were a lot of lines for immigration and before you checked in, not only did you have to have your form that they gave you in the airplane filled out, but also you had to buy a tourist card which was $10. I saw no directions that stated this, and I'm usually pretty good about finding signs - you were expected to know.

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I went to an airport information booth and asked for a map, and they said they didn't have any information at all except a booklet in either German or French. They gave me the French one plus a CD also in French. I can still read a bit of French and the book actually proved very helpful as a supplement to the AAA book I had. Apparently for many years, most tourists to the DR were from Europe - French, German and some Italians.

I had called the resort before we left and the girl on the phone told me that they couldn't send someone for me and to just to get a taxi. As we were walking out there were people with signs with names on them, and I saw a man with a Hotel Acuarium sign with someone else's name on it. I showed him our RCI sheet with our names and the name of the hotel, and he asked if we were the people whose name was on the sign and I said no and gave our name. He said OK, and took us in tow. I found out later that we had hijacked someone else's transportation - they were a young couple coming in on a much later USAir flight.

Bob helping the driver unload the luggage into his maroon sedan at the hotel

Bob helping the driver unload the luggage into his maroon sedan at the hotel


Anyway the driver stowed us into a maroon sedan (after he took stuff off the seats including some kind of car alarm and rearranged stuff in the trunk which had a propane tank in it),
Propane tank in the trunk

Propane tank in the trunk


and shoved his car into the line of cars waiting to exit the airport.
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No drivers wait their turn here - it is who backs down first that has to wait. I didn't think much about it at the time, because our daughter drives a little bit the same in Miami under the adage "if you snooze you loose", but this was even more aggressive than that.

The car had A/C in it. After he paid to go out of the parking lot, he drove at great speed for some time, including a toll road, going on unpaved roads and around some strange interchanges. I was beginning to be afraid that we had been hijacked. But just about panic time, we turned unto an unpaved potholed road and after one block, there was the hotel. The driver asked for $20, which we gave him. The other couple had to pay $50 but they were cool with it.

We were about half an hour early for the check-in which is supposed to be after 4 pm. So they said we had to talk to Gloria. Gloria turned out to be the RCI rep and not connected to the hotel. They went to check if our room was ready, and gave us our room key which was attached to a 3.5"x 2" block of wood.

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Our driver (who spoke almost no English) took the bags up to the room for us and Bob tipped him 10 pesos, not being used to the system yet.

Before we went up to our room, we asked Gloria about a city tour for the next day, and she said she would see us at breakfast the next morning.

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The Acuarium Resort Hotel is an Italian RCI condo with Italian upper management who live on the premises. 90% of the hotel is RCI, although non-RCI people can also stay here. The other 10% are apartments owned by Italians. The posted rates were $70 for one person, $90 for two and $120 for four for a one bedroom apartment (US$). The RCI rates were $60/night for the same type of apartment (any number of people). The two bedroom apartments were more expensive. We were here as Space Available for military or retired military (or "charity" as the RCI rep, put it). We paid about $40/night.

There was a night guard in the front lobby and a notice which said "No Armas de Fuego" on one door. On the other door it said that it was an automatic door in 4 languages. It wasn't--unless you count that someone would open the door for you if it was locked, as it was at night. There was also a guard with a rifle sitting at the back entrance behind the building on the other side of the hot tub courtyard.

On the ground floor in addition to the pool in the middle with loungers and tables, there was a TV lounge, a bar,
Lounge area with the bar at the end

Lounge area with the bar at the end

bar from the restaurant

bar from the restaurant


and a restaurant between the pool and the other courtyard. There were maps on the walls of Hispaniola and the main cities on the island.

Our room was on the second level which we could access by stairs (no elevators) on two corners of the pool courtyard.
Pool from above

Pool from above


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In our one bedroom apartment, on each side of the entrance was a double door (wood doors) closet, one of which had a safe in it (which we didn't use). The side opposite the door had the bathroom and a narrow kitchen. The living room was on the kitchen side and the bedroom was on the bathroom side. The floors throughout were of some artificial marble material-tiles of about 20" on a side where the pattern repeated. The maid swept or mopped the floor each day, made the bed and supplied fresh towels.

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The bedroom had a queen bed (no blankets), a dresser with mirror, two night tables with table lamps and two wicker chairs with cushions. One night table also had the phone. The AC unit was high up in the wall
AC up by the ceiling

AC up by the ceiling


and controlled with a remote. The living room had a TV which got cable including some American channels (some with Spanish subtitles) and some local or Spanish channels. There were two couches which I think could be beds, a coffee table and an eating table with four wooden chairs.

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The bathroom was open to the outdoors through cement blocks with holes in them at the top of the shower. There was a toilet, there was a mirror and several wooden shelves. Bars of hand soap were also supplied and Bob thought it was a bit aggressive - he got some in his eyes and it made his eyes smart.

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The shower was in an alcove and the head could be removed and held in the hand. There was enough hot and cold water for a good shower. We got two towels and a bathmat. No hand towels or washcloths. If you wanted a beach towel you made a $10 deposit and if you lost the towel, you paid $20 more. This towel was slate blue and much bigger and thicker than the bath towels.

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The kitchen had an under the counter refrigerator, a four burner gas stove top (with no directions or matches) but no oven, a counter top microwave, a stainless sink and drain board in a pink molded plastic countertop, and various dishes and pots and pans. No dish towels, or dish soap to clean the dishes with.

Food: We could get the 'meal plan' (which was just breakfast and lunch) for $22/person a night, which we did although Bob thought at first that we would go out some nights to eat. He changed his mind though because there were no places to walk to even if it had been comfortable or safe to do so and by the time we got a taxi to and from, there would have been no savings.

Unfortunately they charged us in pesos instead of charging it in US$ which cost us extra money on the exchange rate each time. Bob says the national coin of the realm is the $20 bill (US).

The first night, we both ordered off the ala carte menu instead of waiting for the buffet which didn't begin until 8 pm - we were hungry because we missed lunch. The menu had categories for appetizers, first course (pasta), main course, fish course, side dishes and dessert. We were told on the meal plan we could order something from each section except that the fish course (lobster, shrimp, snapper etc) all had an extra charge over an above the meal plan.

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For appetizers we got Caprese Salad (190 pesos) which proved to be a large plate of tomatoes and molded cheese. For first course, Bob got
Lasagna

Lasagna


Lasagna (240 pesos) and I got Linguine Acuarium Style (200 pesos) which proved to be large tube pasta with a nice sauce. Both very big helpings. For the main course, Bob got Fried chicken
Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken


and I got Chicken criolla style - both 240 pesos. Bob got a side dish of mashed potatoes which he said were real potatoes and he also got a little tree of broccoli, and I got tomatoes - both 65 pesos.
Salad

Salad


My tomatoes were cross sections around heap of lettuce with grated carrot in the middle.

Desserts were 85 pesos, and Bob got chocolate cake
Bob's cake

Bob's cake


which was more like a brownie only pie shaped, and I asked for Jam cake, but they didn't have any of that so they brought me pineapple ice cream
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(or maybe it was ice milk) which was excellent and refreshing. This was almost more food that we could eat even though we were hungry and added up to 840 pesos each which would be about $28. Plus of course, tax and service charge.

None of the drinks were included in the meal. You have to buy them extra. We asked for tea and got a couple of 3/4 full cups of luke warm water and some tea bags for which we had to pay. We asked for more 'hot' water and to the astonishment of the waiter, we re-used the tea bag. We bought a bottle of water and soon learned to buy a large bottle of water and bring part of it (in a smaller bottle) down to the table with us at dinner time to drink.

10 January 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
Breakfast

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).(Faro is the Spanish for lighthouse). It is 668 feet tall built as a memorial to Columbus (Cristoforo Colón in Spanish).
Distance view

Distance view


The building was begun in the 1930s and was finished about 1992.
Brickwork

Brickwork


Weeds or flowers?

Weeds or flowers?


The huge building, designed by the British architect J.L. Gleave, is shaped like a cross, its wings stepped back with increasing height like a pyramid.
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Disappointingly, this is not a real lighthouse. There is no navigational beacon in the usual sense but the most outstanding and unique feature (and the reason that it is called a lighthouse) is the lighting system composed of 149 searchlights and a 70-kilowatt beam that circles out for nearly 44 miles. When illuminated, the lights project a gigantic cross in the sky that can be seen as far away as Puerto Rico. Gloria said it had not been lighted in some time.

I did not realize it but, in the heart of the structure is a chapel containing the Columbus tomb, and, some say, his mortal remains, so I just took some pictures of the outside.
Closeup

Closeup


The "bones" of Columbus were moved here from the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. (Other locations, including the Cathedral of Seville, also claim to possess the explorer's remains.) Gloria explained that the body interred in Columbus' tomb which was supposed to be Columbus had been sent to Spain for DNA testing to see who it actually was
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The fountains in the grounds were not operating.
Non-working fountain

Non-working fountain

Isabel looking out over Santo Domingo

Isabel looking out over Santo Domingo


I also to photos of the statue of Queen Isabella (Isabel La Catolica) which is across the street looking over the city.
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The driver accompanied me - not sure whether he was protecting me or waiting to rescue me if I fell.

Gloria skipped Los Tres Ojoes (a 50-yard open-air limestone cave located in the Mirador del Este park which was listed on the tour brochure) and the aquarium which she said we could walk to--- very close she said
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I was disappointed to find that Faro a Colon was not a real lighthouse. Whether by accident or on purpose we went by and into the Base Naval 27 de Febrero
Sentry and statue at Naval Academy entrance

Sentry and statue at Naval Academy entrance

Naval Academy Entrance from street thru windshield

Naval Academy Entrance from street thru windshield


Docks

Docks


Ships on the Navy base

Ships on the Navy base


and the Naval Academy of DR
Lighthouse sign on the base by the O-Club

Lighthouse sign on the base by the O-Club


and from there we saw a real lighthouse which was a square concrete structure with spiral yellow and blue stripes. It is part of an area called Sans Souci in Santo Domingo East.I was only able to find a couple of photos of this lighthouse (I was looking in order to find out what the heck it was). According to the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society (ARLHS) World List of Lights in addition to the Punta Torrecilla light, the Dominican Republic has nine other lighthouses
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Punta Torrecilla Lighthouse - Tower Height: 125 ft.
Zoomed in on the lighthouse

Zoomed in on the lighthouse


Height of Focal Plane: 135 Ft.
Characteristic and Range: White light; 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 4 seconds off; Range: 13 nautical miles.This light is operational Date Established: 1853 Date Present Tower Built: 1986 Current Use: Active aid to navigation. I don't think it can be visited.

We went along the city wall
City walls

City walls


(We passed a place where there was a large generator on a barge next to the city electrical plant.) 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
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and I took photos of signs and people.

03E242F201AC0696F856967A2AB2E9D1.jpg03E1BFD9F2F3C7E4005604F062F7270D.jpgWindow

Window

Art for sale

Art for sale


There are often vendors on tricycles peddling various items - typically coconuts or drinks.
large_04076462C7BD587BC39DC01AE157F528.jpgAnother trike

Another trike


We got out on the pedestrian street though the middle of the old city which was still decorated for Xmas. The pedestrian-only Calle El Conde connects the Parque Colon from the east with the Parque Independencia to the west. This is an enjoyable mile-long stroll, as there is no traffic down this street.

Gloria bought a lottery ticket.
Lottery tickets for sale

Lottery tickets for sale


Balconies above the street

Balconies above the street


large_46.jpgBricks in the sidewalk

Bricks in the sidewalk


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Gloria is build like me only younger, darker and shorter.
Bob taking a photo and Gloria

Bob taking a photo and Gloria


Bob's photo of me

Bob's photo of me


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.

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Columbus is BIG in Santo Domingo. The most famous plaza in the Zona Colonial is a square named in his honor
Columbus Square

Columbus Square


on the north side of the Catedral de Santa Maria la Menor (Plaza de Colón), which has a large bronze statue honoring the discoverer, made in 1882 by a French sculptor. The statue of Columbus was near the cathedral in Columbus Park.
Columbus Square

Columbus Square


The square surrounded by historical colonial and Victorian-style buildings. The town hall, dating from the 19th century, faces the west side of the plaza and on the north end, is the Amber Museum. There is also a tourist office, post office, tobacco emporium, and an assortment of restaurants and shops. Lots of pigeons, and they are building a Hard Rock on one side of the square.
0475D857B79173720067CC7E459DDDB8.jpgPigeons in front of Columbus

Pigeons in front of Columbus

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.
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I was interested to see that there was netting over the top of the entrances, probably to keep out the pigeons.
Cathedral entrance with pigeon netting

Cathedral entrance with pigeon netting


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).
Palm Tree-like arches inside the church

Palm Tree-like arches inside the church

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.
Side alter

Side alter

Gate

Gate


Scooter parked alongside the wall

Scooter parked alongside the wall


I took a picture of a pigeon that sitting over the pulpit
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(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.
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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 Iglesia de los Padres Jesuitas y Panteon Naciona mausoleum which occurs at noon every day.
Red carpet from entrance

Red carpet from entrance


This is the National Pantheon (The name translated to English means "A Church run by the Jesuit Fathers and National Pantheon") which was built in the early 1700s (some say as early as 1714, some say it was in use in 1747, and others say it was not finished until 1755) as a Jesuit church by Geronimo Quezada y Garçon . Later it was used as a tobacco warehouse, housing for the San Fernando seminar, public offices and and a theater for the independence fighters of 1860. The Spanish architect Javier Borroso adapted the building for the former dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in the mid 50s. (Some sites say 1955, some say 1956 and some say 1958.) The floor is made of Dominican marble. It was originally Trujillo's intention to be buried here.
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Now it is used to honor Santo Domingo heroes such as Gregorio Billini, Gregorio Luperón, Don Eugenio Maria de Hostos - a Puerto Rican who is revered by the Dominicans for organizing the educational system in their country, General Pedro Santana, the five-time president of the republic and others. It has a large bronze chandelier - a gift from Franco.
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I sat down on the steps facing the guard. The central nave is the widest and is covered by a vaulted ceiling covered with a mural. I asked Gloria what the murals above us represented, but she didn't give a terribly satisfactory explanation.
Fresco at the end of the former church

Fresco at the end of the former church


According to websites, they are a fresco inspired by the Death and Resurrection.
Guard changing

Guard changing


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 over 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.
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Windows

Windows

Texture of the wall

Texture of the wall


After that we went to another museum which I think was the Casa Reales.
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They had models of Columbus's three ships, maps of his journeys,
Bob looking at a map

Bob looking at a map


a pharmacological section
Old Medical Book

Old Medical Book

Old glass bottles

Old glass bottles

Copper kettle

Copper kettle


including a big cabinet with drawers labeled and painted with a picture of the plant (There was one for cannabis),
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a stables area with saddles
Pink saddle

Pink saddle

Leather saddle

Leather saddle


and sedan chairs,
Sedan chair

Sedan chair


an exhibit on sugar cane,
Suit of armor

Suit of armor


armor, a border marker from between Haiti and the DR,
One of the original markers between the French and the Spanish territories

One of the original markers between the French and the Spanish territories


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.
Spiral tower

Spiral tower


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. Egarrido explained to me that the word "conuco" is a Taino word (original inhabitants of the island) and it means "small piece of land used for farming or family plot."
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Gloria said this is where all the tours go for lunch.
People sitting outside the restaurant

People sitting outside the restaurant

Part of the restaurant

Part of the restaurant


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.
My plate of food

My plate of food


They also did a show here where they danced, including standing on top of a bottle and dancing.

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I think that the performers/waitresses or waiters would dance with the guests too (although not on the bottle).
There was a place labeled "La Purperia dia Pueblo" next to the entrance which had souvenirs etc inside, and Gloria said it was the model of a country house.
La Purperio del Pueblo

La Purperio del Pueblo


Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Display

Display


Cart covered with flowers

Cart covered with flowers


It was decorated with flowers, as was a horse buggy out front.
Horse and cart outside

Horse and cart outside


I went to the bathroom
Selfie in the bathroom

Selfie in 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.
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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.
Soldiers at the gate

Soldiers at the gate


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.
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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.
Taking a photo through the fence

Taking a photo through the fence


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,
Scaffolding on the bridge beside us

Scaffolding on the bridge beside us


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.
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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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On Wednesday morning, I wanted to go to the aquarium. The phone book had maps in it (like book maps of big cities) but it was hard to tell what kind of scale the map had so distance was hard to determine.

We asked the hotel several times for a map and they denied that they had any that we could have, although there was a map posted on the wall.
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So after breakfast, and checking email on the hotel's computer (since the promised wireless network had not appeared and I couldn't figure out how to get my computer attached to their network), we started off a little before 11 am.

We walked for about 10 minutes along the water and saw no sign that the aquarium was anywhere in visible distance.

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Building we saw trying to walk to the aquarium

Building we saw trying to walk to the aquarium


So we turned back to the hotel, and asked how much a cab would be. They said 100 pesos. So we got into the cab and in less than 10 minutes were at the aquarium. Bob gave him 110 pesos.

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The rates were 20 pesos for kids, 30 pesos for adults, and for Turistas $2.00 or 50 pesos. Bob gave them $4.00, but it would have been cheaper to give them 100 pesos.

According to the AAA guide, there was a short film available, but the people sitting in front of the theatre didn't appear to know anything about it.

It was extremely difficult to take pictures as it is in most aquaria because of reflections off the glass. But in addition it was very dark so for fish that moved at all rapidly, they were just a blur, and some of the water and the glass wasn't real clear and clean. Also some of the tanks were mounted in the wall above my head. Very difficult to see.

There were sea turtles at the entrance, some of which were wedged into some mangrove roots.
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Then there were some hermit crab habitats and some spiny lobster and reef shrimp (banded shrimp?). Sea Urchins
Sea urchins posing for their picture

Sea urchins posing for their picture


and Sea Cucumbers were fairly easy to take pictures of.
Sea Cucumbers

Sea Cucumbers


Fish that moved or swam were not. There was a large shell collection (also behind glass)
Shells in the aquarium

Shells in the aquarium


and some of those fish that dangle worms off their nose to attract prey, and a green moray eel.

We got to the tank with the big fish and there were divers scrubbing the walls. I could see that the coral wasn't real when the divers started to scrub that too.
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There was a tank with piranhas, and another with Venezuelan fish which had yellow and black vertical stripes.
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There were several large fish which were called Characidos y Ciclidos.
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Characidos y Ciclidos

Characidos y Ciclidos


These moved slowly enough that I could get a picture. They also had some big koi.
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After that there was a short shark tunnel with rays and sharks and barracuda swimming over you.

Outside there was an iguana pit,
Iguanas on the wall

Iguanas on the wall


and an open tank with starfish
Starfish

Starfish


and another one with smaller turtles.
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There was also what appeared to be a food concession where you could buy burgers or pizza. No one appeared to be selling anything even though it was now noon.

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I went to use the ladies room which had no toilet seat.
Me in the ladies room

Me in the ladies room


I think it did flush though. I came back in as it was raining, and asked one of the uniformed men about the film. He started it for us after explaining that it was (of course) in Spanish.
Picture of the tunnel from the film

Picture of the tunnel from the film


The film looked very interesting. Both the film and the aquarium itself probably would have been even better had we known Spanish. None of the signs were in English, only Spanish. Which was about what I would expect. So unless you knew what the fish were, you would have no way of telling. There was also no brochure or map to tell you where things were, even in Spanish. There wasn't even a map on the wall anywhere.

The film had a section on the formation of the island (it looked like they were saying it was formed by tectonic plates and not by volcanic action), and one on the building of the aquarium, where I saw that artists had painted the coral to look like real coral. The last section was on stocking and maintaining the aquarium.

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Now we wanted to get back to the hotel. So we looked around for a taxi. There were some food vendors out front, but I wasn't that hungry although I had originally wanted to eat at the aquarium. I asked a man in a police uniform (which said "Police" on it) where I could get a taxi, and he went to ask someone, and then came back and asked if I wanted to go to the Colonial Zone, and I said no, just to the Acuario Hotel. So he flagged down a taxi, and I asked him how much it would be and he said 70 pesos. So we got in and zipped back to the hotel.

Bob gave the man 100 pesos.

He wanted to know why it was 70 pesos to go one way and 100 the other way, and I said the guy was probably going that direction anyway. Or he was intimidated by the policeman.

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Opposite the hotel was this lime green fortress - supposed to belong to a member of the Chinese mafia

I was trying to think of what other aquaria I had been to, and I counted up to 10 - Baltimore National Aquarium, New Orleans, Gatlinburg, Fort Walton Beach Gulfarium, North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, Atlantis on Paradise Island Bahamas, BAMZ (Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo), Coral World in St. Thomas, Key West, and Chicago Shedd Aquarium This one was about the equivalent of the Gulfarium without the animal shows.

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Man and his girlfriend pick up some ice.

Many people cannot afford a car, so they use whatever transportation they can. There are lots of smoky little mopeds carrying multiple people, motorcycles, and regular bicycles. When there is a four wheeled vehicle it is usually packed with people. In the case of trucks, people ride in the truck bed in the back like we did when we were kids before everyone had to have a seat belt

Riding double

Riding double

Posted by greatgrandmaR 12:33 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (4)

Branching out - the Beach, and Botanica

Snorkeling, and Waves


View Summer, 9-11-2001 - and then the 2nd time down the ICW & AFV Winter 2006 & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I didn't want to go to the beach at Boca Chica on the free bus from the hotel for a whole day partly because I wanted Bob to avoid the sun as much as possible since his melanoma surgery in October, but I did want to go snorkeling. Based on Jere's recommendations (from his notes)..

>Catalina Island
> Tacky rest stop in La Romana. More terra cotta than I thought
>existed in one place
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> Guard had an interesting weapon: Chrome pump shotgun with no stock.
> Millions of motoconcha; clouds of smoke.
> Trip to Catalina relatively slow and boring
> beach nice. Snorkeling poor
> Saona Beach. A little more open and inviting than Catalina. All
>in all, we preferred it to Catalina.

...I decided not to go to Catalina Island but to go to Saona instead. I did think that I could snorkel there too. So on Tuesday after we got back from the aquarium, I arranged to go to Saona Island, specifying that we wanted to snorkel. They were charging $65 each for the trip which was to include lunch.

The hotel brochure said "From Bayahibe a speed boat will take you along the beautiful coastline of the eastern national park. Arriving at a natural pool, a shallow pool in the middle of the sea, than in an island you will enjoy the music, lunch, sun and open bar of national drinks. Return in a catamaran to Bayahibe. Leaving - partenza 6:30am"

The hotel manager said the tour would leave at 7:30, but the restaurant didn't open for breakfast until 7:30. I enquired about this, and was told that the time we left was actually 7:40 and that the restaurant would open at 7:15 so we would have time for breakfast. Three other people were also going on the tour.

At 6:30 on Wednesday morning we got a call - we had not asked for a wake-up call, but apparently they thought that we needed one. (Bob had a wind-up alarm clock.) We packed up and were downstairs by 7:15,
Breakfast - rolls, coffee cake and fruit

Breakfast - rolls, coffee cake and fruit


had breakfast and went out to the front of the hotel. We had our own mask and fins and I took the older digital camera, a film camera and an underwater film camera plus dive skins and towels and water to drink.
Sitting waiting for the van in front of hotel

Sitting waiting for the van in front of hotel


The three people from Naples were there - a young Sophia Loren type brunette, and older blonde and a middle aged man. He said they were going on the tour with Marcus. Marcus spoke no English. The only one who spoke any English was the Italian man whose name I didn't ever find out. I found out later that Marcus was also Italian - probably part of the hotel management. The driver didn't speak anything but Spanish.

We didn't actually leave at 7:40 - it was more like 7:50 when we got into a van. Marcus squished the three Italians in the back, we were in the middle two fold down seats and Marcus was in the front seat beside the driver. He took us past the airport and past Boca Chica, through San Pedro (around the cathedral, which I didn't get a chance to take a picture of because I was on the wrong side of the van) to the House of Bamboo with all the terracotta about 9:15.
Three Italians walking into the House of Bamboo

Three Italians walking into the House of Bamboo


This was a bathroom stop, and was a huge place with a lot of bathrooms. But while they had TP and the toilets did flush, there were no seats on the toilets. The bathroom lady wanted a tip. But I had no money with me.
Road to Saona

Road to Saona


The Italians were really squished in the back seat and the ladies complained that it was rough. I told them to wait (partly with gestures and partly through the man) until they got into the boat. They decided that on the way back we would have a different seating arrangement. We got to the beach after 10
Walking down to the beach/boats

Walking down to the beach/boats


Now here was a problem. Apparently the hotel had made NO arrangements for us to go with any particular boat. Speed boats were coming in
Loading speedboats

Loading speedboats


(stern to the beach as they had in Costa Rica so you could wade out and climb over the transom) and ferrying people out to the various catamarans and most of the catamarans had already left as it took them much longer being slower.

There was no place for us in any of the speed boats which were going to the island. Marcus would approach one and then another, and he would explain (I guess) and the boat captain would look at me and be doubtful and Marcus would fail to persuade him. Possibly the reason was that Saona Island is not really a snorkeling trip or all the boats were full.

Eventually Marcus spoke to the Italian man who came to us and said, that a speed boat which was being loaded with food and ice (and I could hear bottles clinking in some of the bags plus several boxes which said Pilsner so I guess they were beer) would take us out to the island because otherwise there wouldn't be anyone who could do it, and the captain would take care of us. Bob then understood him to say that if he couldn't do that, they would refund us 100 pesos. I thought he said that if he COULD take care of us, we should tip him 100 pesos.

Anyway they packed us (including Marcus but not the van driver) into the boat, with some of the staff (apparently the cooks for the lunch) sitting on the beer boxes, and we took off. The very thin wiry man in front of me was sitting on his haunches folded up like a jackknife. The boat had two 200 hp engines and the max. capacity was supposed to be 28 persons. I think we only had about 20 plus the food.

The boat was bouncing along whacking each of the big rollers. There was so much wind that I couldn't keep my hat on (it had a chin strap so it didn't blow away) and I had forgotten the things I put on my glasses to keep them from blowing off my face, so I just took them off and put them in my bag. Bob took off his hat and sunglasses also.

We got to the 'natural pool' (two sand bars with a depression in the middle) about 11:15 and anchored, and everyone that wanted to swim got off. I got off and snorkeled around a bit, but Bob didn't.
Bob on the boat and the ladder

Bob on the boat and the ladder

One of crew on left, Italian man on right

One of crew on left, Italian man on right


He took a picture of me and some of the others. People were standing in the water drinking 'national beverages'. Someone came up with a starfish. Not sure if it was alive or if it had been 'planted' for the tourists.

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I was able to get back into the boat (they had a ladder with round metal rungs which they got out for me and the Italian ladies), and we proceeded to Saona island. They unloaded everything except the two of us, the captain
Snorkeling boat

Snorkeling boat


and one crew,
One of the crew

One of the crew


and took us back near a dark area in the water and anchored (in the sand) and we got into our gear and started to snorkel. But Bob had a canine tooth out just before we left and he couldn't keep a seal on the snorkel and kept inhaling water, so he got back on the boat.
Bob staying on the boat

Bob staying on the boat


But I was going to snorkel, so I snorkeled.
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This was a little patch reef with a lot of staghorn coral which was pretty beat up looking, and some yellowtail large_21abb4e0-3e23-11ea-a5cb-6b5a357f1c47.jpg
and other little fish. I also saw some brain coral, fans, whips and some fire coral.
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There was also a lot of dead broken coral. The reef was quite near to the top of the water in places and there was a bit of surge toward the beach. The water was a little cloudy. Then I got back in the boat and we went ashore on the beach.
Island from the boat

Island from the boat


Bob gave the guys 100 pesos each.
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Once we got on the beach, I kept my dive skin on as a barrier against the sun. Sitting in the shade it wasn't hot as there was a nice breeze.
Palm leaves

Palm leaves


I was the only person on the beach that was covered up (Bob took his dive skin off and hung it on a palm tree to dry along with his towel.) We found where Marcus was asleep on a lounger and sat in the shade near him, and also near the massage table.
Marcus relaxing under the trees

Marcus relaxing under the trees


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There was a topless lady on the other side of us.

I got water and then was offered juice which was very good. Bob got some too, and went to use the bathroom.
Tables under the trees

Tables under the trees


He reported to me that there were no toilet seats on the toilets and that you flushed by using a bucket which you filled with water from a big water barrel outside the bathrooms. Not everyone knew that of course as not everyone has lived in the country with a well when the electricity was off, so they often went unflushed.

Eventually we got the word that lunch would be in the pavilion, so I went up and got a plate first
My plate

My plate


while Bob stayed with our stuff and then Bob got his. There was a small cross-section of fish in foil, some nice chicken, a tasty pork chop, hot potatoes (salad?), and various other dishes. I think there was watermelon too.
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It was a very good lunch. Bob lent his snorkel to a Canadian who was staying (I think) at the Occidental at Punta Cana, but there was too much sand in the surf at the beach to see anything underwater. The Canadian said that he didn't like the DR as much as Cuba - in Cuba everyone is very friendly and helpful and they aren't always trying to sell you something. Bob doesn't mind being generous to those people helping him, but he hates it when people take advantage of him. (Like posting the price in U$ and charging in RD$ so that we lose twice on the exchange rate.)

The people that came in speed boats went back on the catamarans and v.v. Some of the crew that went out with us with the food also went back on the catamaran to make more room for paying customers. So we were loaded back into the speedboat and from there onto the catamaran. We were among the first aboard. I got what I thought was a prime seat in the middle under the bimini (which was a hard bimini). The seats were nice and made of wood unlike the broken plastic ones in Aruba.
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Several more boatloads full of people came aboard after us. Many of them went up to the foredeck. The drinks continued to flow freely and the crew pulled the anchor and put up the sails. They had to move people around on the tramps to get the jib up.
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Bob observed that some of the crew didn't know how to put a line on a cleat and others did. They put up the main also,
Sails up

Sails up


but they didn't turn the engine off. I went to the back and looked at it - it was a single 80 hp engine in the middle of the boat and produced quite a lot of vibration.
Nav station

Nav station


Wheel

Wheel


After the sails were up, music was cranked up, and all the extra crew (except the captain who was at the wheel) started getting people up to dance right in the area in front of us which was turned into an impromptu dance floor. It was so loud I put in ear plugs and moved back one bench.
Bob on the bench in front of me

Bob on the bench in front of me


Bob refused to dance, and I didn't dance either. A lot of people did dance though (including Marcus and all three Italians), and at least one lady (not any of our group) became more unclothed i.e. was topless.

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Older blonde Italian dancing with crew on the right

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Younger brunette Italian dancing with crew in center

When we got to the beach they tied up both forward hulls to moorings which were spaced wider than the boat and tied off the stern to one in the back. It was tied down pretty tight so there must not be much tide. "Our" motor boat offloaded their passengers on shore and then came back and got us - just our group of 6 and some of the crew. Leaving the other folks waiting for their ride. It is good to have friends.
Loading the catamarans

Loading the catamarans


I didn't have too much trouble getting on and off the boats until now, but after I stepped off the catamaran onto the bow deck of the speed boat which was bouncing up and down due to the wakes of the other boats, I knew I had to get down off of there and the easiest way was to sit. The crewman holding my arm said "Sit", so I did, but with a complete lack of speed control, I just kind of fell down onto my butt and almost took the crewman down with me. (He probably weighted only about half what I did). It all worked out.
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After we got to the beach, I wanted to get back into clothes and out of my bathing suit, so I went to the bathrooms. The toilets in the ladies room didn't have any seats, didn't flush, and had no TP. But I could change clothes OK.

The Italian man asked us how our attitude was. What? Well apparently Mario was worried that we had not enjoyed ourselves. So I said, well we didn't drink or dance but that we had a good time and were happy.

This time they put Bob and Mario in the 'way-back' and the three Italians were in the middle two seats, and I had the front seat. Mario went to sleep. He'd had a hard day. The Italians found out that the middle seats weren't much better. I had the best deal.

We went back across the dam and over the river
Crossing a river

Crossing a river


which had a small marina in it. Mostly power boats. It was by now about 5:30 and getting dark. The Italians were all singing, and the guy was ignoring the van driver's request to put the window up so he could turn on the AC because he was taking pictures of the sun. The sunset was not very spectacular. Then they asked the van driver for music, so he turned on the radio. The "Sophia" type and the man were snogging.

The driver didn't take us through San Pedro again so I missed the chance to take a picture of the cathedral. Instead we went by some kind of industrial plant and over another bridge which was shorter and/or quicker.
Clouds at sunset

Clouds at sunset

Electric poles painted with location colors

Electric poles painted with location colors

large_Saona_8-9-..11-04-18_PM.jpgMoped passing an open jeep

Moped passing an open jeep

Dusk

Dusk

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We got back to the hotel about 7:15 pm. Bob tipped the van driver $10. He figured Marcus was management and didn't get tipped.
Dessert table

Dessert table


During dinner, the manager came and spoke to us to find out how we had liked the day. I guess Marcus was still worried

Friday January 13th

After the trip to Saona Island I was completely wiped out and slept until about 9 and then went down to breakfast, walked around the hotel and took pictures
Back patio area

Back patio area

Pool and rooms around the pool

Pool and rooms around the pool

Hotel cat

Hotel cat


and went back to bed and slept until 1 pm. When I got up and thought about what I wanted to do, I decided that the Botanical Garden would probably be the most pleasant, and I wasn't sure that it would be open tomorrow which was Saturday.

Bob changed some money at the desk. Gloria was downstairs on the computer and when we told her what we planned and asked how much a cab would cost she asked if the cab should wait and I said yes (remembering the aquarium) and Bob said no. So she called and the cab driver agreed to do it for 500 pesos.

Gloria then hopped into the cab with us which she said was going right past her house. There was a lot of traffic. The cab driver put on his seat belt sometimes which was a first.

Open area with a lot of balloons

Open area with a lot of balloons

Under the overpass

Under the overpass


He also paid no attention to the lights (or lack thereof - many of them were not lighted) and Bob said he blew through at least 8 stop signs. Usually he looked first.
Intersection with an ignored stop light

Intersection with an ignored stop light

This kind of driving spooks Bob. I'm too busy taking pictures out the windshield without getting reflections. Once, someone else made the driver back down, but that was the only time. We came down a hill
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and there were shacks and shanties up on the hill above a parking lot and here we were at the zoo.

I hadn't intended to go to the zoo. I didn't think we'd have time for both. Gloria had said that the zoo and the botanical garden were right next to each other, but they were not. (She also said that the red and green light poles were decorations for Xmas, but that didn't explain the green and yellow ones or the blue and pink ones.) [ I asked this question in Puerto Rico and was told that the different colors marked the different barrios or neighborhoods.]

We refused to get out of the cab and kept saying "Garden Botanica". I took a pen out and wrote it on a piece of paper. The cab driver looked at it, and then said "Botanic?" and when we said yes, he started the cab up and we drove another 10 to 12 minutes to the gardens - arriving at the Jardin Botanico Nacional Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso at 2:50.
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This time when the sign said pesos and dollars (40 pesos for tourists for the entrance fee and 40 pesos for the train), Bob gave them pesos.
Our tickets

Our tickets

Information sign in Spanish

Information sign in Spanish


We walked in the park (again no map) and saw the big floral clock and went down to the train.
The floral clock and the cab driver

The floral clock and the cab driver


The cab driver explained that the train would leave in 30 minutes (he meant on the half hour). There was a sign to that effect too. I was looking for the orchid house, but couldn't find it.

We took pictures of the water lilies and the parts of the garden near the entrance.
Fancy sidewalk

Fancy sidewalk


100_5192.jpg100_5192Image006.jpgBob's picture of me walking past the bougainvillea

Bob's picture of me walking past the bougainvillea


Bob taking a picture of Dr. Moscoso's bust

Bob taking a picture of Dr. Moscoso's bust

Dr. Moscoso's bust

Dr. Moscoso's bust


Rafael Maria Moscoso was a Dominican botanist who cataloged the flora on the island of Hispaniola.

We found a snack bar,
Snack bar

Snack bar


but they had no idea what we wanted (a map or some information). We stopped some ladies and one of them spoke English but she said the train wasn't running. So we walked back to the place the train was to leave from and sat and waited in the shade for about 10 minutes. I did not try the toilets here.
Little train engine

Little train engine


When we got on the train at 3:30, the guide came to us and said "English or French" (I guess thinking we might be Canadian, because I don't think we look French.) So he did the whole tour in both English and Spanish which was VERY nice. Our taxi driver hopped on the train too at the last minute and took the tour.

The guide told us about native and endemic plants. There was a palm area, a succulent area,
Succulents

Succulents


a water plant area, and a fruit tree area. Then we went down into the tropical jungle area along the river which was also a bird and animal sanctuary. Lots of ferns, but too dark to take pictures because we were moving too fast.
Bamboo from the train

Bamboo from the train

From the train

From the train

Banyan tree roots

Banyan tree roots

Seed pod in a tree

Seed pod in a tree


Bob's camera batteries have about died because I didn't bring a battery charger for his kind of batteries figuring they'd last a week the way he takes pictures (I take 277 and he takes 11), but I'd used them for the underwater camera the day before and I guess that was too much for them.

The tour was to take 35 minutes, but it was longer than that. We got to the Japanese Garden at 3:52
Japanese garden

Japanese garden

Part of the Japanese garden

Part of the Japanese garden


and got out to walk around. I found walking here EXTREMELY difficult because the ground and paving was quite uneven.
Bob's photo of me walking in the Japanese garden

Bob's photo of me walking in the Japanese garden


There was a red wooden gate
Red gate

Red gate

Reflections

Reflections

Bob's picture

Bob's picture


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Water for the birds

Water for the birds


and various sculpture plus bonsai trees and a water garden and a little bridge. I also found Iris pseudacoris. We got back on the train at 4:10, and the driver dropped us off at the gate. Bob was so grateful to have the tour in English that he tipped the guy $2.00
Bob by the train

Bob by the train


The cab driver drove us back a different way
City Wall

City Wall


and stopped at the Governor's palace for me to take a picture,
Governor's Palace

Governor's Palace


which I did because I didn't want to hurt his feelings by saying I already had some. Bob gave him $20 when we got back, which was more than we agreed to.
Dessert buffet at the hotel

Dessert buffet at the hotel

Saturday January 14th to Monday January 16th

On Saturday (January 14th), I mostly edited pictures and wrote up the trip. I took two pieces of bread and some cheese from breakfast and ate that for lunch. Then I swam 12 lengths of the pool. Bob walked to the gas station hoping to get a map, but no luck. He bought some chips and cookies.

He said there was a chicken place there.Spanish Oreos

Spanish Oreos


Map on the wall of the hotel

Map on the wall of the hotel


We talked to some folks from New Mexico who have rented a car and they said they bought a map from the hotel. And the hotel literature also says they have maps. So Bob went down and asked them AGAIN about a map. This time he asked if he could BUY a map, and this time (although they had to consult with someone to see if it was OK to sell him one) we got a map. It even has the hotel on it. Of course we are leaving Monday. Oh well.

They had said when we checked in that we should reconfirm our airline reservations 48 hours in advance and they said they would help. So I asked them and they phoned American Airlines for me. The AA guy said to check in 3 hours in advance.

Sunday - January 15th.

I noticed when we drove to Saona that the waves were hitting the black rock edge of the coastline and spraying way up into the air. So this morning after breakfast we set out to walk along the shore to see if I could get a picture of that.
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Black tanks on the roof

Black tanks on the roof

Intersection street sign

Intersection street sign

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There was at one time a walkway along the edge of the shoreline.
Washed out edge

Washed out edge


100_5294.jpgWalk on the Shore

Walk on the Shore


large_2685720-Walk_on_the_Shore_Santo_Domingo.jpgSpray on the far point

Spray on the far point

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We could see caves and holes along under the cliffs,
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lizards

lizards


but it was impossible to tell when the spray would come up. I got some good pictures though.
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Two lizards and a brown leaf

Two lizards and a brown leaf


Stick-tights on my clothes after the walk

Stick-tights on my clothes after the walk


Then we watched some football at the condo (on TV).

When I went down to use the computer for the last time after dinner, I erased the history and the part that saves the typing from their computer although I left the favorites alone.

Monday, we packed up and checked out. We figured that we needed an hour to get to the airport and we should be there by noon for the 3 hours. So we left the hotel at 10:30, and it only took 20 minutes to get to the airport and we were all checked in by 11:30. Again we had some kind of form to fill out (actually the same kind that we filled out at the beginning), but they didn't have any instructions and the forms were behind a desk.
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I bought a tuna salad sub with our leftover 190 pesos and $1
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and got some US change back. We sat and watched the activity at the airport - I had to dig out a sweater to put on because the AC in the airport was so cold.
Airport

Airport

From the plane

From the plane


Taking off

Taking off


Leaving Santo Domingo

Leaving Santo Domingo

Landing in Miami

Landing in Miami

On Tuesday, we got to see our grandson's last middle school soccer game. They lost the game, but all the boys looked tired - they had been in a tournament on Saturday and played 4 games - they got into the semi-final before they lost. One of the boys on the other team kicked our grandson on the calf and the ref didn't call it, so he was out the rest of the game.
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He allowed only two goals up to then, and after that, the other team scored 5 goals and they lost. Then we went out to dinner at Dinner Key
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Wednesday, grandson's baseball practice, and our granddaughter had her first baseball game. B was managing the dugout, and of particular note was a boy nicknamed "Squishy" (a very little boy) who was late.

I found it amusing (although B did not) when one of the opposing team sent a ball into the outfield and the two boys out there fought over the ball allowing all their kids that were on base to score. Squishy was the second basemen and he went out there to get the ball, but they wouldn't give it to him. Squishy was quite annoyed.

There was also an incident where the other team had the ball and was chasing down the runner which almost turned into a kind of dodge ball.
Playing third

Playing third


Our granddaughter played third except for the last inning when she was "pitcher". You could see her out there talking non-stop to the other coach
Coach pitch with Squishy at third base

Coach pitch with Squishy at third base


who was pitching to his team. (At this level, it is coach pitch so the actual pitcher is the coach who pitches to his own team) She had a hit each time she was up at bat - once she had a pop fly which the fielder caught and twice she got on base.

Periodically the coach would call out and say to the kids in the field to stop playing in the dirt. B was keeping score and running the dugout and she found it a little much because this age (first grade) aren't very organized. She made them sit down in batting order.

B is going to a farewell dinner for our granddaughter's teacher tonight and she has a field trip to the Everglades tomorrow (Friday).

Posted by greatgrandmaR 20:19 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (7)

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