To be sure, the pure luxury in and around the Casa Colonial Resort can capture, intrigue, and hold you for days, sometimes even weeks, but Juan Carlos Arvelo and I wanted to see more of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic so we hired a car and headed out to explore more, much more.
We began by driving through what was essentiaily the city center of Puerto Plata. There were an endless number of small shops and businesses, many of them offering food and drink, as well as a variety of retail shops and typical commercial enterprises. While nothing was quite in the “oh wow” category, it did have its own unique charm.
Once beyond city center we headed off to the world renown cable car that costs 25 cents to go 2555 feet up Mount Isabel. In spite of its amazing beauty, this cable car experience did provide me with a wee bit of a personal challenge. I was an airplane pilot for many years and thoroughly loved flyng high in the sky. But put me atop a tall mountain or even on a bridge spanning say a river or perhaps a highway and my acrophobia will kick in every time. So a part of me said “no”, while yet, another part said “this is just too beautiful to miss”. So up we went, but not until we enjoyed one other unexpected but much loved slice of Caribbean entertainment, a Merengue band. As we were cheerfully listenning and moving to the captivating rhythm of the band, one band member took a break. He got up and walked off no doubt to take care of a personal matter. Then the remaining band members invited Juan Carlos Arvelo to join them and he did with glee. Well I’ll be, Juan was pretty darn good at that talent too.
Back to our drive. Happily, the ride was very smooth and with each increase in elevation more and more of the beauty surrounding Puerto Plata was revealed. It truly was a mesmerizing ride capped off with the astounding revelation of a very large statue of Jesus Christ, a glorious edifice very similar to the famous one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once atop the mountain one can enjoy a stroll through the botanical garden, a meal at the very pleasant restaurant with an unprecedented view of the Carribean Sea, and the whole of Puerto Plata, or perhaps grab a souvenir or two from the souvenir store up on the mountain. All together, it is one thoroughly exhilerating experience that will never be forgotten.
Then it was time to go to church but not just any church. We went to The Cathedral of Puerto Plata founded way back in 1502, just a wee bit before I was born But sadly in 1863 it was totally destroyed by a fire that they determined had been deliberately set. It took until 1956 to completely restore the cathedral and by 2008 it was reshaped to its current condition and appearance. Today it is a truly majestic and holy vision complete with many stained glass windows that represent biblical passages and inside the cathedral there are twelve huge columns representing the twelve apostles. You do not have to be Catholic or Christian or even religious to appeciate the immense beauty of this breath taking true work of art.
The next stop was Fortaleza San Felipe. Commissioned by King Felipe II of Spain in 1564 it was completed in 1577 by Don Rengifo de Angulo, the fort’s major. There are several similar fort’s around the Carribean including one very famous one in San Juan, Puerto Rico and they all served the same fundamental purpose of repelling unwanted visitors such as military invaders and pirates. Today Fortaleza San Felipe of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic serves as a fascinating museum of artifacts from the history of the nation, the region and the world. It absolutely deserves any visitor’s time and attention.
A great day was drawing to a close, so Juan Carlos Arvelo and I returned to Casa Colonial, freshened up and headed out the door for a six mile stroll along the beach. Every step was a joy, with a pleasant sea breeze caressing our bodies and our eyes filled with unending but ever changing visions of pure beauty. The waves gently and steadily kissing the sandy shore; the warm beauty of the setting sun; and the sight of Dominican men casting their fishing nets into the sea to gather their next meal.
Our day was complete, but, there was more. Returning to our rooms we enjoyed just a wee bit of the fabulous Brugal XV the truly awe inspiring rum of the Dominican Republic. Then: Good Night!
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Photos: Ron Irwin