To Santo Domingo, I go (part 1)

First of all, let me update you (as I promised in my last post) on the difference between moros and habichuelas. I consulted two Dominican sources (aka friends) and they told me that moros is actually the name of the mix of rice and beans, any type, while habichuelas just refers to red kidney beans. So there’s that!

Now, on to my weekend trip to Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital city.

Santo Domingo is on the southern shore of the island, about two hours south-eat of Santiago where I am staying. We left early Friday morning in our guagua (bus) towards the first destination – lunch at El Conuco. We had a pretty nice buffet lunch and were able to see a traditional dance performance, which included the man and then the woman spinning with the ball of their foot balanced on the top of a bottle of liquor (video to come!). After lunch we headed to the Mercado Modelo in the city center of Santo Domingo, which was a warehouse-type space that had lots of little vendor stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs, artwork and jewelry.

Santo Domingo is know for its production of amber and larimar jewelry.While I didn’t buy any jewelry while I was there, I saw lots of beautiful pieces, including ornate necklaces sporting huge amber pendants with larimar accents. I opted for a small, paper-mache Lechon mask, a replica of the traditional masks used by Dominicans during their carnaval in February (picture to come!)

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The market is special because buyers are almost encouraged to haggle with the vendors, and so it was a great opportunity to test our spanish skills. Many of the vendors seem to insanely inflate the initial price so that the final number you reach is still profitable after haggling. It’s definitely not a place for the weak of heart – vendors are tugging at you, calling you into their stalls and constantly trying to get you to engage with them so they can try to find something that captures your interest.

Walking around Santo Domingo was a nice break from Santiago, where I’m constantly being told by my host mother that I shouldn’t be walking around alone, or even in a group. While I haven’t perceived Santiago to be overly dangerous or risky, I do realize that no matter where I go in this country, I stick out like a sore thumb since I’m tall and white with frizzy, curly hair.
Friday evening we we out for dinner as a smaller group to some restaurant we stumbled upon on Calle Conde, the pedestrian walkway street that runs through the colonial zone of the city. After dinner, we had some drinks and headed to Parada 77, which had a bar with a small dancefloor and an outside area plus and elevated terrace that my group quickly took over. We spent the rest of the night chatting, drinking and dancing to typical merengue, salsa and bachata despite the humidity.

Saturday and Sunday to come in another post!

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