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Ben Does Dominican

The boom of the all inclusive holiday has resulted in the Dominican Republic becoming one of the Caribbean’s more popular holiday destinations. However, I knew my trip to this country was going to be slightly off the well worn tourist track, as I wasn’t staying in a huge hotel complex. I think this made it more exciting.

I flew from Heathrow with Iberia. Because we travelled via Madrid, I seemed to be the only person on board who didn’t speak Spanish. Although I got a good deal, I wouldn’t travel with a Spanish airline again. The long haul flight seemed even longer when watching back to back movies in Spanish with no English subtitles to give me a clue as to what was going on!

I landed at Santa Domingo airport and after avoiding the passport control workers’ request for chocolate (chocolate in the Dominican isn’t so nice) I got caught up in a throng of people all wanting to drive to “the best hotel in the city”.

I had arranged to fly out and spend a few weeks with a friend of mine who was doing a few months voluntary work in the capital, Santa Domingo, so spent the next two hours matchsticks under eyelids, waiting for my friend to turn up in a taxi and save me from this madness.

The next two days I spent recovering from jetlag and trying to look interested (this is probably a bit harsh) as we looked around the sights of the oldest city in the New World. I felt a twinge of pride when I discovered, that the city had been sacked by Sir Francis Drake of whom my last naval base, HMS Drake, was named after.

As my friend was away a lot of the day teaching orphans English I was left to my own devices. I spent most of the days exploring the colonial district and soaking up the scorching Caribbean sun. I visited the first church in the New World which is reputably the place where Columbus had Holy Mass said for him after landing. I  looked like a prime target for the hustlers and street sellers walking around alone, but I spent most of my time cleverly pretending I spoke neither English, nor Spanish. They quickly lost interest in me.

I paid a visit to the lighthouse where it was believed Columbus’ remains lie. Coincidentally, while I was on the island, Columbus’s remains were in fact confirmed to be in Seville, Spain. I don’t know who is actually buried in that lighthouse, but it does look very impressive anyway.

The weather was spectacular as it is expected to be in the Caribbean, it seemed even more so considering I had left a cold spring behind in England.

One of the funniest experiences of my life occurred whilst in a supermarket in Santa Domingo. It goes something like this… I was in the checkout queue and as the lady was scanning my things, someone began piling their shopping onto the conveyer belt. Thinking I’d be helpful, I picked the divider thing up to separate the shopping, as I would in this country. However in the Dominican Republic they don’t have those divider things and the thing I put on the conveyer actually said “checkout closed”. I got both barrels from the checkout lady and the woman behind me, and the ensuing row ended only when an English-speaking local saved me from being lynched. Maybe you had to be there ha!

There are some fine resorts such as Samana, Punta Cana and La Romana on the island, and we spent one or two nights at a couple of these. The beaches are top notch too, Boca Chica being prime example.

Travelling around the island is relatively cheap but be prepared for some rickety old mini bus that is packed to its roof. On the whole the trip was good and I spent far less money than I imagined I would. Most things seemed so cheap. I’ve explored the island now and loved it. It was a fascinating place, but now I’ve seen it, next time I visit the Dominican I think I will go for the traditional holidaymaker experience and try one of the all inclusive resorts.

By Ben “José” Glass

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