|Portrait of Columbus in Alcazar de Colon - Santo Domingo|
|Statue of Columbus - Plaza Colon - Madrid|
|Port of Santo Domingo - Ozama River|
To get the whole picture of Santo Domingo took two visits. The first time was a guided tour with 45 other tourists and the second with only my mom and I and a private guide. We arrived in Santo Domingo both times exactly like Columbus, following the Ozama river into the city. However, instead of being greeted by curious and friendly Taino Indians, our welcome was traffic almost as thick as the early morning smog. This is a hustling and busy capital city - the river Ozama feeding directly into the Caribbean sea.
Visit one found us following our guide, a 60ish former Dominican Navy Seal turned tourist escort, through the cobble stone streets.We were literally walking in the footsteps of the explorer. From the banks of the river Ozama through the ancient colonial city we saw how Santo Domingo changed from a Indian settlement to the bustling city it is today. Winding our way through the city we stopped at the 16th century Museo de las Casas Reales (administrative offices of all the Spanish colonies in the Americas) and the National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic(national symbol of the Dominican Republic and final resting place of its most honored citizens). But for me personally, it was at the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor and the Alcazar de Colon where Columbus’ story went from the pages of a schoolbook to right before my eyes.
|Alcazar de Colon - Santo Domingo|
|Ferdinand and Isabella cross. Santa Maria la Menor, Santo Domingo|
|One of the lakes of Tres Ojos - Mirador Este Park - Santo Domingo|
|Mirador Este Park - Santo Domingo|
|Woman with bananas - Santo Domingo|
|Presidential Guard - Resident of President, Dominican Republic|
It took two very different visits to the Dominican capital to really understand Santo Domingo. This is true of most places we may vacation. For those who know me well, shopping, eating and chatting are all within my wheelhouse, but the idea that I would willingly go down a bunch of steep, slippery steps in a cave that I later found out was full of fruit bats is probably amusing. However, if I have learned nothing else during my adventures, while a 'top 10' or 'must see' list is important to understand a place's historical significance... you must take some time to wander, to learn and like Columbus to simply explore.