Today was the day to leave the luxury of the compound and head out and explore.  We got a taxi from Ocean World, and Ramone one of the workers, went along to be our translator/guide.  No, we don’t speak Spanish, but we are trying.  We didn’t really have an agenda, we just wanted to see as much as we could and get comfortable, so we could rent a car and go by ourselves next time. 

Our first stop was to get coffee.  Dan is a big coffee drinker and Domincans love their coffee.  They serve it as an expresso, with milk, and even though I am not coffee drinker, I’ve become hooked.   The driver stopped at a small coffee shop and we ordered the coffee with milk, and it was more milk than coffee, so we need so me work on the translation.  It did give us an opportunity to see the do it yourself electrical wiring system in the city.

 

  When the power goes off, as it does frequently, Dominicans use it as an opportunity to attach their own wiring onto the city’s system.  You don’t want to be caught touching that wire when they turn the power back on.

 

 

 

 

 

The city driving is as crazy as it was the last time we were here.  It amazes me the way the motorconchos weave in and out of traffic.  I’m not sure I want  to get a rental car. Puerto Plata is surprisingly clean.  They are really working on their tourist image, trying to capture the tourist dollar, and I was really impressed.  It’s crowded, and old, but the streets are free of trash; a big difference from the Bahamas.   

We need some pesos so Ramon has the driver stop at a bank.  While Dan is getting money, I spot a street vendor selling DVD’s.  Leaving the kids in the van with the driver, I look through the selections.  Some of the titles are in English and some in Spanish.  I assume the Spanish titles means the DVD is in Spanish.  As in the Bahamas, they have all the latest US movies, the ones currently in the theaters.  (I miss Geno!)  I don’t speak Spanish, and he doesn’t speak English, but he keeps handing me movies.  After I have looked through the rack of DVD’s and picked out 3 he brings me to another pile.  He hands a DVD to me and I look at the cover, and at first I am puzzled, not really sure what I am looking at.  He fills me in with the one English word he knows, “Porn?”    After recovering, I decline. 

 Our next stop is the fruit market.  Dominican Republic is famous for fruits and vegetables.  I’m so excited.   In the Bahamas, french fries was the main vegetable.  Avocados are grown here, and after paying $4.00 for one in the Abacos, I  couldn’t wait to stock up.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These women loved Tristan

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market was alive with colors and fresh smells.  I have never seen so many varieties of produce; rice, beans, eggs, chickens, rabbits, pork, lettuce, grapefruit, onions, avocados (cheap!), oranges, plantains, lemons, potatoes, herbs, carrots, and much much more.  It was endless!  I bought bananas, garlic, tomatoes, canteloupe, watermelon, limes, sour orange, papaya, onions and of course avocados.  And eggs.  Stacks and stacks of egg cartons, piled high to the ceiling.  And at the edge of all this were little shacks selling food for lunch.  They didn’t look very clean, but they smelled delicious.  There were so many vendors so we tried to spread it around who we bought from.  The kids loved it.  The two women shucking beans loved Tristan.  They kept smiling  and nodding at him.  Tessa was concerned about the live chickens.  I didn’t want to lie to her, so I told her people were buying them to eat.  The kids and I waited by the chicken cages while Dan and Ramon took our fruit to the van.  As we stood there, this lady bought a chicken and they put the live chicken in a plastic bag for her.  Tessa looked at me and said, “You’re wrong Mom.  She’s buying it for the eggs.”   I wasn’t going to correct her.

Our next stop was the town of Sousa, about 30 minutes from Puerto Plata.  According to our guidebook, the town was originally settled by Jewish immigrants during World War 2.  It is now famous for its cheese and sausage.  It was overcast when we got there, so I am not sure we saw it at its best.  We stopped at a plaza to take pictures and I really wanted to walk the streets.  It was a much more upscale city than Puerto Plata, and very touristy.  We took a few pictures by the beach, and started to walk along the shops, but the sales people were just so annoying.  “I sell to you cheapie, cheapie”  Everyone is after your money.  There is even a charge for the public restrooms.

 

We stopped at a deli type store to buy some sausage and cheese.  We had no idea what we were buying.  Most of the sausage was in wrapped rolls and I wasn’t sure if it was precooked or not.  I pointed to a roll of meat and asked the lady behind the counter, “Is it cooked or is it raw?”  She doesn’t understand English.    I tried again.  Louder this time, with shorter sentences.  “Raw, or cooked?”  Still no clue.  I turned to Ramone our Spanish translator,  ”Can you ask her if the meat is raw or cooked?”

 He looks at me for a moment, then asks her, in spanish accented ENGLISH “Raw or cooooked?” Dan and I look at each other and try not to laugh.  Well, so much for a translator!

Our next stop further down is Cabarete.  Way back when we were in Palm Beach Florida, Tristan had read a magazine article on Cabarete, so he was excited to go there.  Cabarete is best known for kitesurfing, and is a big draw with the younger crowd.  From the main road, you can’t see the beach. You must park, then walk through shops on the main street, go out the back through another shop, usually a restaurant, that fronts a wide expanse of sand. 

 

It is really pretty here, if not a bit too touristy.  Of course you have all the vendors on the beach trying to sell you this and that.  That can get a bit annoying.  After watching the kitesurfers for awhile, we decided to get some lunch.  There was definitely not a lack of restaurant choices, and even though we were looking for some authentic Dominican food, Ramon steered us into the Casanova restaurant.  The restaurant inside was very Thai/Indonesian looking, with lots of teak, overstuffed pilows and fountains.  Very relaxing.  As we were waiting for our waiter, two vendors came in, one selling jewelry and the other selling DVDs.  After our waiter finished his DVD shopping, I signaled the vendor to come to our table.  He did speak a little English.  He set a pile of movies down and told us to wait until he came back.  So instead of waiting Dan and I grabbed a few each and started looking at them.  He had fairly new titles, but most were in Spanish.  The fourth movie in my pile crossed all languages…….PORN!  Twice in one day, what are the odds?   Dan and I look at each other, then look up at Tristan, getting ready to grab a stack of DVDs.  We lunge across the table and wrestle the DVD’s from him, just as the guy comes back.  He gives us a stern look as if  WE did something wrong, then hands us the DVD’s back after he filters out the adult movies.   Another vendor comes up with a case of  jewelry.  This is right up Tessa’s alley.  I wave him off but he hones in on her, pulling out a necklace and putting it around her neck.  Again I say no, but Tessa is going through his case.  I start to get annoyed but then smile to myself as I watch what is happening.  Tessa is determined to try on everything in his case, and the guy, thinking that he is on track for big sales, is happy to oblige.  I read the entire menu.  Tessa is trying on necklaces.  Dan and Tristan go to the restroom and come back.  Tessa is trying on bracelets.  More time passes.   The jewelry guy is getting antsy but he doesn’t know how to get out of the situation.  Tessa tries on the rings.  When she is starting to make her way back to the necklaces, I figure he has learned his lesson and again tell him we aren’t buying anything.  He unhappily closes his case and leaves. I know we won’t see him again.   The best revenge to the jewelry vendors is a 7 year old girl!

The food at the restaurant was alright.  My sushi was awful and I ended up sending it back and ordering something else.  That was the first time in my life I have ever sent something back, but it just wasn’t fresh.  Dan and the kids had burritoes and they were pretty good.   After eating we walked down the beach and watched the kitesurfing for awhile.  It  looks fun and we want to try it next time we come.  After that, we got back in the van and headed back to the Puerto Plato to see the fort.

El Morro de San Felipe was commissioned by King Felipe of Spain to protect Puerto Plata from pirates and other invaders.  It’s located on top of a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and protecting the entrance to the city’s seaport.  The fort was completed in 1577.  It’s really a pretty fort, with great views.  There is not much of a tour, and you are free to walk around by yourself after getting a brief oral history from the blind man at the entrance. The fort is very small and takes about 20 minutes to get a good tour, but we were happy we did it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I think the kids were getting a bit stir crazy, so we headed back to the marina.   That night I made a wonderful avocado dip.  The avocados are as smooth as butter and full of flavor.  Another slice of heaven in the Dominican Republic.