Tag Archives: Traveling

Checking out the Cuevas de las Maravillas – Dominican Republic

Richard, our local hero in the Dominican Republic, was hosting me for a day and a half.  He wanted to show me the Cuevas de las Maravillas which is just west of La Romana and is designated a national park.  I have been to a few caves in my time.  I remember well the caves near Nerja in Spain and the Postos in Slovenia.  Limestone plays fantastic tricks with water underground!  This was going to be a bit of an adventure.

Our first and minor obstacle were that the caves were closed on the day we were going to be visiting.  Richard, in his charming
Dominican Spanish, disturbed a guy from a siesta and asked him if there was any way that he could let us into the park and caves.  The “transaction” was done quickly and before you know it the gates had been opened and we were walking along a path with a stone wall on either side.  After about ten minutes, the first surprise came.  On both sides of the wall, hanging around on trees and munching away on plants, were iguanas or baby dinosaurs, I’m not quite sure.  Lots of them though.  That prompted me to inquire if there were any venom issues – apparently not.  Eventually, we got to the opening of the caves, all quite civilized, and then began the descent.  Inside the cave, there are about 500 paintings and engravings on the walls all made by the Taínos, the ancient inhabitants of the island and in general, most of the Caribbean.  There were human faces, animals, and geometric figures.  All pretty basic stuff but all incredible given the time period.  It is a rare photograph of life just before Columbus arrived.  Of course, as is the case with all of the native Indians, they got royally (pardon the pun) screwed by either the Catholic monarchy or the diseases that the discoverer’s brought with them.  So now we get to walk through their caves. For me it was a fabulous travel moment – alone, no tourists, just the guy who opened the door for us, and the only noise was the dripping of water through the stalactites that are endlessly fascinating and at the same time you wonder if today is the day that they will fall to the ground.

 

My First All-Inclusive Resort – Dominican Republic

I was picked up by a driver at the Santo Domingo airport in the Dominican Republic.  The drive to my resort was an hour and a half away.  Driving is a little crazy here and we did a lot of weaving in and out of traffic but eventually, we made it.  I was heading to one of those up-market all-inclusive resorts surrounded by golf courses, a marina, and a white sand beach.  I was taking advantage of an outstanding credit on our books and it was a chance to see a little bit of the Dominican Republic.

The resort was huge and had the feel of a TV show about it.  Golf carts rolled around and everyone had one.  It was a little surreal and a bit like the TV show of the 1960’s, The Prisoner.  After a while, you get into it.  The golf carts were a must anyhow because the beach and the marina were around 7 kilometers away.  There were polo fields and skeet shooting places, and golf courses with guys dressed up to the nines with their own caddies and looking surprisingly and shockingly bad.  It even gave me cause to think I could return here to play golf even though I’m appalling.  Unfortunately, I got lost easily and was fooled by speed bumps.  The golf cart even lost its front piece somewhere on the road and I had to get out to fix it.  It all became part of my routine.  Take advantage of the pool in the morning, a nice breakfast, a drive in the golf cart for about an hour, and then a sunset at the beach.  I didn’t take advantage of any of the main facilities mainly because I wouldn’t know how to skeet shoot, I don’t like guns, and polo was something that was way beyond my class station!

But the place was really nice.  I was traveling on my own, got used to my own company, and the service was impeccable.  The restaurant by the reception was decent although there was this irritating rule that you had to wear a collared shirt to eat there.  Really?  There were a bunch of restaurants by the marina that was great for lunch, but for dinner, at least in my golf cart, it was simply too much of a perilous thought to have a beer or glass of wine and then jump back into my golf cart to drive on dark roads with rarely any signposts.  My driver told me that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez lived in a complex not far from here.  I could get used to it I suppose.  I was very grateful that this was my introductory immersion to the Dominican Republic.

 

Exploring the Treasures in Colmar

Colmar was such a surprise.  I had no idea what treasures were there.  We had decided to go
Colmar because the famed Unterlinden Museum had some extraordinary medieval polyptychs from the early 1300’s.  The masterpiece was the Isenheim altarpiece.  My mate loved this stuff so frankly, he dragged us all there and what a pleasant and wonderful surprise it was.  In addition to these spectacularly colorful paintings, there were a scattering of Picassos and the museum held one of the three tapestries of La Guernica.  As for the other two tapestries – one is in Japan and the other is owned by Nelson Rockefeller’s estate and is constantly out on loan.

I didn’t know that this delightful town was a spectacular assemblage of Hansel and Gretel half-timbered houses that wound around the narrow streets and along the canals that crisscrossed the city.  The colors of these quaint houses were amazing, almost surreal.  We took what essentially was a punt boat with an electric motor and silently weaved our way under low bridges and gardens that backed onto the canal.  It looked and reminded me of Little Venice in London.  How had I missed this place on my prior travels?  It’s old brick marketplace, it’s completely authentic feel, it felt, unlike any place I had ever been to.   It definitely did not feel like France but they sure spoke French!  It was one of those places that had been trading nationalities for well over a century.  It was Alsace.