I’ve been bugging hubby for years now. Come on. Let’s do something. We need to get out of the routine. So, in the past two years, we’re started taking a trip once a year. Air travel is something I’m still getting used to though I’m not sure I will be able to last for more than five hours on a plane. So far, we’ve only been to the Dominican Republic, but not the same city both years.
Last year, we decided to go to Puerto Plata even though many of my traveller friends told me to avoid it like the plague.
That day started out early, like most of my vacation mornings. The harmonious melody of birds singing in the morning served as a gentle alarm clock to begin the day. Hubby and I got dressed and made our way to the buffet for some breakfast as we had a fully charged day ahead of us. We were going on an excursion. He had his traditional freshly made two-egg ham and cheese omelette with a glass of half water, half orange juice; and I had a one-egg western omelette, a side of breakfast potatoes with bacon, a glass of water and a nice cup of coffee. I must not forget the coffee! It was my favorite part of my vacation morning ritual… sipping on that freshly brewed Dominican coffee. Ahhhhhh. I love this coffee so much that I brought myself a bag home from the trip. I even managed to find a local grocery store that carries this brand. Santo Domingo, I love you!
After breakfast we sat in the lobby waiting for our ride. We were taking the Puerto Plata City Tour. Our guide came to pick us up and we drove around a little while picking more tourists up for the tour.
Our first stop on the list was none other than the Brugal Rum Factory tour. Oh. My. God. You guys… If you love rum, THIS is the place for you. They explain the whole process from the harvesting of the sugar cane to the extraction and the distillation. They also detail how it was founded and who was in charge and when. Then, we got to taste the rum at different stages in the aging process. After all the blah, blah is done, we toured part of the production area, the packaging, labelling and shipping area. This is also an amazing process. I work for a small-scale manufacturing company, so seeing processes like this that are automated and semi-automated is simply awe inspiring.
After going through the factory, it was time to shop. Oh the booze! Hubby and I looked at each other and instinctively knew that we were going to exceed our maximum allowance for alcohol upon returning home. We bought 1.5L of aged rum for $5 USD. We also bought 1L of white rum and 375ml of a super aged rum. The whole thing cost no more than $45 USD. When we returned home we went to our liquor store and saw a 750ml bottle rum for $35. Insane! But of course a stop at the shop indicated that the tour was over. On to the next stop.
The next stop wasn’t a single stop per se. It was more like a series of little stops in one. The name of the excursion is the Puerto Plata City Tour, so that’s exactly what we did next. We stopped a couple of times along the way visiting different parts of the city’s center. We drove through the winding roads, through the “richer” area where houses looked like mansions enclosed in protective gates. On the way we saw people selling fruit by the road overlooking the city. We ended up at a gem store. I had a custom ring made on the spot for myself and I also had two pendants custom made for my sisters.
Destination #3 was the Amber Museum where we learned all about the amber stone in the Dominican. Yes, that’s the Jurassic Park logo!
Destination #4 was the San Felipe Cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful. There was a little of construction going on in the city (reminiscent of home!) so roads were closed. The bus dropped us off and we began our 15-minute walk through the noisy jack-hammer resonating sounds to the Cathedral. About half way through our walk, it started to rain lightly. We managed to get to the Cathedral before it really started to come down. We were all praying (no pun intended… well, just a little) for the downpour to end by the time the cathedral tour was over. Now, this stop is a must for anyone. Even if you’re not religious. I am not. Nonetheless, the architecture and the stained glass were something to see. I was mesmerized by the stained glass. It was absolutely beautiful.
By the time we were done at the Cathedral, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. This was a good thing considering our next stop was the San Felipe Fort. Unfortunately, going inside the fort was not part of the excursion, but the views from the plains was absolutely stunning. A couple of vendors had anticipated our arrival and had set up their goods for display. Some were selling carved wood statuettes while others were selling fashion jewelry. There was even a man with a donkey! Hubby and I were most interested in the kiosk with all the paintings. After all, we have been searching for something to put on our walls for a while now and thought this would be a great opportunity to find something unique. We actually found more than expected. We had already spent quite a bit of our money in the city on jewelry, so we had money, but not enough for everything we wanted. We were assured not to worry and told that we would be able to the hotels bank to withdraw the money that needed for the paintings. Great! We ended up buying two large paintings, two smaller paintings as side pieces to one of the larger ones and a tiny little painting that we put on our bookshelf at home.
Then it was off to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres. We had to take a cable car to get to the very top. It was pretty cool. It was rainy that day and the fog was so thick, you couldn’t see anything. It was as if the cable car was floating in mid air. At the top we saw the renowned statue and browsed through the shops. The humidity level at the top of the mountain was insanely high. You could smell the musk in the building. This was my least favorite part of the excursion simply because it was so foggy. I find that it took away from the experience and believe I would have soaked it in a lot more if I were able to see something without the haze.
This was the last stop of the excursion, which meant it was time to go back to the hotel. We ended up dropping every one else off at their hotels and the it was our turn. We still had to withdraw money because we had to pay the balance that was due for our paintings. The guide waited patiently while we asked at the reception desk where the resort bank was. He told hubby it was a two-minute walk from the lobby. Hubby and I decided that I would wait in the lobby with all our newly acquired souvenirs while he heads to the bank to take out some money. I look at the time. I don’t know why I did that, but I’m guessing I was anticipating his return in max 10 minutes considering the bank was two minutes away. Ten minutes pass. He should be here soon. Fifteen minutes pass. Why isn’t he here yet? Twenty minutes pass. I’m starting to worry. Was it a bad idea? Should I have gone with him? After all, what could I do? I don’t know, but at least two people are better than one. Twenty-five minutes pass. My heart is racing. My leg is starting to twitch. I’m stressing out. Why isn’t he back? The bank is only two minutes away. Did the guide rob him? What if he’s injured? How will I know? All these thoughts started rushing though my mind. My breath was starting to get fast and shallow. I need to pace. I’m pacing so fast. I need to sit. Thirty minutes pass. Where is he? Should I advise the clerk at reception? I need to call the cops. No. He’s fine. But it’s been half an hour. I know. If he’s not back in thirty minutes (an hour total), I’m having the hotel call the cops. That’s it. My leg is shaking like crazy and my heart is racing. I look up. He’s there! He’s walking toward me. I let out a sigh of relief Oh my God, you’re OK! and start bawling my eyes out. I hug him so tight I don’t ever want to let him go. He just looks at me, smirks, and says: “I knew you were going to freak out. Are you OK?”. I tell him No and we make our way back to the hotel room so I can gather myself. Back at the room, I relax. I need to relax. I ask him what took him so long. He says that all three ATM machines at the bank were out of cash, so he needed to go to the teller. But since he didn’t have his passport on him (I had it), the teller wasn’t allowed to let him withdraw any money, so he had to drive around to find another ATM. The moral of this story is always be two people and go together wherever that may be!
Even though the day ended on a more stressful note, this day was an unforgettable experience! I love doing excusions like this when I travel.