santo-domingo1Explorer Chicks flying into Santo Domingo for their Cabarete Adventures may want to spend an extra day or two exploring the Dominican Republic’s capital. It’s rich in history, culture, and architecture!

It’s fitting to begin your Adventure in Santo Domingo. It was the Gateway for Explorers. As explorers including Ponce de Leon and Hernan Cortez discovered new lands they had to stop at Santo Domingo to check in and “make it count.” In the picture to the left, I am standing in the doorway of Ponce de Leon’s home. You may remember he discovered Florida and never found the Fountain of Youth as we speak of him in  past tense.

I spent a couple nights in Santo Domingo near the Zona Colonial in January 2015 so I could tour the city. I began my journey with the decision to take my Lonely Planet book and stroll through the Zona Colonial. After touring and exiting the Cathedral, I was approached by Bill “Chino.” Chino convinced me that he was The Man to guide me around his city. Boy, was he right. We spent the first part of the afternoon touring the old city on foot. He then took me to his favorite restaurant for a Typical Dominican meal: Rice, beans, and chicken stew. Four dollars of greatness! Afterwards, we hopped in a van with “Lil Chicken” at the wheel and drove around the “New City.”

What I got was an amazing afternoon and introduction to the history and culture of Dominican Republic. Chino loves his hometown and took great pride in sharing it with me. And, he had jokes. From his Samuel L. Jackson statue and the Baby Factory, there was plenty of laughter.

Parque Colon: The adorable plaza that is the center of the Zona Colonial. The statue is of Christopher Columbus pointing to the north. In the background is the First Cathedral in the Americas, Santa Maria la Menor Cathedral. Little restaurants, park benches and specialty shops surround the plaza making it the perfect location to sit with a glass of wine and people watch.

Parque Colon: The adorable plaza that is the center of the Zona Colonial. The statue is of Christopher Columbus pointing to the north. In the background is the First Cathedral in the Americas, Santa Maria la Menor Cathedral. Little restaurants, park benches and specialty shops surround the plaza making it the perfect location to sit with a glass of wine and people watch.

The cathedral is the only Gothic style cathedral in the Americas. Can you say awe-inspiring?!?!?!

The cathedral is the only Gothic style cathedral in the Americas. Can you say awe-inspiring?!?!?!

The Choir pit inside the Cathedral.

The Choir pit inside the Cathedral.

The atrium of the cathedral and the front entrance.

The atrium of the cathedral and the front entrance.

These little guys are replicas of the original gargoyles that guarded the cathedral but never made it off the ground.

These little guys are replicas of the original gargoyles that guarded the cathedral but never made it off the ground.

The archway to Fort Ozama. Gorgeous!!!

The archway to Fort Ozama. Gorgeous!!!

Didn't actually go in the fort, but stopped long enough for the shot!

Didn’t actually go in the fort, but stopped long enough for the shot!

Street of the Ladies! Named for the women of importance who took up residence there.

Street of the Ladies! Named for the women of importance who took up residence there.

The National Monument to Samuel L. Jackson. Okay, well not really. But once Chino told me it was him, I lost complete focus. Of note: The Royal Palms are the National tree and the Palm Bird is the National bird. Chino will tell you its the Chicken. Nom Nom.

The National Monument to Samuel L. Jackson. Okay, well not really. But once Chino told me it was him, I lost complete focus. Of note: The Royal Palms are the National tree and the Palm Bird is the National bird. Chino will tell you its the Chicken. Nom Nom.

Ceiling mural over the mausoleum housing national, military, and civil heroes at Panteon Nacional. A member of the Honor Guard stands silently and completely still at the entrance. Chino spent sometime talking about the national flag. Its the only flag that features the bible which is turned to the gospel of John: "And the truth shall make you free." The colors of the flag are as follows: Blue for liberty, Red for fallen heroes, and White for salvation

Ceiling mural over the mausoleum housing national, military, and civil heroes at Panteon Nacional. A member of the Honor Guard stands silently and completely still at the entrance. Chino spent sometime talking about the national flag. Its the only flag that features the bible which is turned to the gospel of John: “And the truth shall make you free.” The colors of the flag are as follows: Blue for liberty, Red for fallen heroes, and White for salvation

The Alcazar de Colon, home to Diego Columbus (son of Christopher). Francis Drake (the pirate) ransacked it during his hostage take over of the city demanding $25,000 or he would burn down the city. He spent days burning it down little by little until the ransom was finally paid.

The Alcazar de Colon, home to Diego Columbus (son of Christopher). Francis Drake (the pirate) ransacked it during his hostage take over of the city demanding $25,000 or he would burn down the city. He spent days burning it down little by little until the ransom was finally paid.

Gate entrance to the old city. Curfew was 6pm. If you were late, you were sleeping outside the walls til 6am.

Gate entrance to the old city. Curfew was 6pm. If you were late, you were sleeping outside the walls til 6am.

Oh, Mamajuana. "It makes the guys do this," as the clerk flicks the small wood on the statue. AKA Dominican Viagra. Its a cure all for everything!!! A mixture of honey, rum, and wine cures inside the bottles soaking bark and leaves. And, yes, I did buy a bottle. For medicinal purposes of course.

Oh, Mamajuana. “It makes the guys do this,” as the clerk flicks the small wood on the statue. AKA Dominican Viagra. Its a cure all for everything!!! A mixture of honey, rum, and wine cures inside the bottles soaking bark and leaves. And, yes, I did buy a bottle. For medicinal purposes of course.

From the street, a passerby could easily walk pass this gem. The entrance is a simple canopy. Down a set of spiral stairs is a cave that houses the most unique restaurant I've ever seen. Meson de la Cava.

From the street, a passerby could easily walk pass this gem. The entrance is a simple canopy. Down a set of spiral stairs is a cave that houses the most unique restaurant I’ve ever seen. Meson de la Cava.

Little China. Who knew?

Little China. Who knew?

We stopped abruptly and Chino hopped out of the car. He returned handing me these small, but potent sweet smelling flowers. Oscar de la Renta used them for his Ylang Ylang parfum.

We stopped abruptly and Chino hopped out of the car. He returned handing me these small, but potent sweet smelling flowers. Oscar de la Renta used them for his Ylang Ylang parfum.

The Presidential Palace. Dominican is very similar to the US in that they vote in a president and congress. We had to stand outside the gates for the picture. No tours of the building are given.

The Presidential Palace. Dominican is very similar to the US in that they vote in a president and congress. We had to stand outside the gates for the picture. No tours of the building are given.

The Columbus Lighthouse built for the 500 year anniversary of his discovery, October 12, 1992. The story goes that remains that were assumed to be Columbus's were transferred to Cuba. They turned out to be Diego's. Christopher's were later discovered in the Cathedral. They were moved to the lighthouse and blessed by Pope John Paul II during the dedication.

The Columbus Lighthouse built for the 500 year anniversary of his discovery, October 12, 1992. The story goes that remains that were assumed to be Columbus’s were transferred to Cuba. They turned out to be Diego’s. Christopher’s were later discovered in the Cathedral. They were moved to the lighthouse and blessed by Pope John Paul II during the dedication.

Christopher Columbus's remains reside in the black tomb.

Christopher Columbus’s remains reside in the black tomb.

Chino: "Have you been to the chocolate museum?" Me: "No." Chino: "We go there now." A man after my own heart.

Chino: “Have you been to the chocolate museum?”
Me: “No.”
Chino: “We go there now.”
A man after my own heart.

CHOCOLATE everything!!! Assorted liqueurs, tea, wine, and of course chocolate. Big fan of the White Chocolate!

CHOCOLATE everything!!! Assorted liqueurs, tea, wine, and of course chocolate. Big fan of the White Chocolate!

Me and the man, Chino! I'll see you in 30 years so you can tell me if I still look 20.

Me and the man, Chino! I’ll see you in 30 years so you can tell me if I still look 20.