Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial

Day Two brought out the Dominican sunshine and people, allowing for a nice stroll around Old Town Santo Domingo and its many historical and fascinating sights.

Day #2 in Santo Domingo brought people out in the streets and bright Caribbean sunshine.

Lori and I took a stroll down Duarte and El Conde and stopped to have breakfast at Hotel Conde, a bustling outdoor cafe on the Parque Colon that offered a long list of omelets and sandwiches with a variety of exotic juices.

We knew the place wasn’t exactly a “local” joint, but was exactly the vibe we were looking for to help get a jump on our day of sightseeing.

We enjoyed our breakfast sandwiches, balmy morning weather, and people watching — a perfect start to our time backpacking the Dominican Republic.

Read more about what we’re doing in the Dominican Republic

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Stray dogs chillin’ outside of the cathedral near Hotel Conde.

After breakfast, Lori and I consulted our list of must-see attractions and paid a visit to Santo Domingo’s 16th-century colonial fort on the river (Fortaleza Ozama), which was actually really worth a visit.

The remarkably well-preserved fort was relatively empty, not the least bit commercialized, and no part of the structure was off limits to the public.

As a bonus, the natural light throughout the fort lent itself nicely to picture taking. And Lori proved a lovely and patient subject.

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Fortaleza Ozama (c.1502)–oldest colonial military edifice in the New World.

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
One of several period cannons at Fortaleza Ozama.

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Fortaleza Ozama parapet and Rio Ozama in the distance.

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Rio Ozama from the top of Fortaleza Ozama.

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Zona Colonial from Fortaleza Ozama.

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

One of the most fun and interesting parts of the fort was the eclectic collection of various military machinery and installations.

There were a number of armored trucks and tanks spanning several decades, canons, fixed guns, and (I hope) decommissioned bombs, missiles, and torpedoes — apparently now being used as seating for the fort’s many loitering police officers and military personnel.

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

Anti-aircraft gun at Fortaleza Ozama.

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

Next, our things-to-see-in-Santo-Domingo shortlist took us to the National Pantheon, a building with a fascinating history. Its most recent incarnation is (as the current name would suggest) that of national mausoleum where some of the DR’s most honored and beloved come to nap…eternally.

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Panteon Nacional, where the Dominican Republic’s most illustrious are laid to rest.

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

Next, we took a stroll through the Plaza España where we passed Chris Columbus’ son’s old palace, the Royal Palace and, of course, the Museum of Ham.

Visiting Santo Domingo?
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Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
“Museum of Ham”

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
San Francisco Giants fan serenading lunchtime passersby (the DR has a San Francisco also, along with a Giants baseball team with the same logo and colors…)

After some Presidente beers at a cafe in the Plaza España, we started making our way down to the Malecón via the ruins of a 16th-century hospital.

We hadn’t originally planned on walking down to the Malecón (seawall, also the part of the city along the sea) but a run-in with a “tourist guide” earlier that day piqued our interest.

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
Resting for a spell in the midday heat.

The guide seemed nice enough and claimed that his services were free, but he was way too eager and well dressed to want to lead us around town for an hour for nothing.

He even had his own little laminated photo tour of the Zona Colonial, but above all else, what he really seemed to want was for us to visit his friend’s cigar factory, which of course sounded too cool to pass up.

We eventually convinced him that his services were not needed, but agreed to go check out the factory, which (though labeled “Fabrica de Tobacco”) ended up being no more than an overpriced cigar shop, though we did learn apparently that Mama Juana, contrary to folklore, was not a Dominican afrodisiac, but a panacea of sorts for aches and pains, just FYI.

Another useful tidbit derived from our little side excursion was that today of all days just happened to be the final day of Carnival (a bit late we thought, considering we were already a few weeks into Lent by now, but this is merely a detail, apparently — easily overlooked by the carefree Dominican masses).

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

 

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

Hospital ruins (c.1503).

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial

Day #2 of our Dominican Republic backpacking adventure in the can!

Well…not quite. There’s still this business of lazy Carnival to address. Or, maybe the cigar factory tout was merely putting another one over on us. Vamos a ver

Backpacking Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
7 March 2010

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