An Old World experience in the Caribbean

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Having spent a week in the Dominican Republic, it is somewhat embarrassing to think about my pre-departure perceptions, Dennis Lennox reports in this travel piece for The Macomb Daily.

I’m not ashamed to admit my knowledge of this country, which shares the relatively large island of Hispaniola with Haiti, was fairly limited. I knew there were beaches — amazing beaches with endless miles of soft sand — but I didn’t know much else this Caribbean country.

However, in the process of spending six days in the Dominican Republic I soon learned that there is more to the Dominican Republic than the sun, sand and booze found in Punta Cana.

This, unfortunately, is the perception that too many American have of the country.

That isn’t to say sun, sand and booze are necessarily a bad thing, but let’s face it: If this is what you want then are lots of places in the Caribbean with consistently warm weather and affordable all-inclusive packages for those who want to escape the cold of winter.

What the Dominican Republic does offer is an unparalleled experience that isn’t limited to soaking up the sun.

Among the country’s emerging tourism sector are eco-tourism and authentic cultural experiences.

Settled by Bartholomew Columbus, the younger brother of Christopher, in 1496, Santo Domingo, the capital, is the oldest permanent settlement in the New World. And it’s this rich history that makes for a very European-esque experience that is much more authentic than the French Quarter in New Orleans and on par with Quebec City.

Behind the fortified walls of the Colonial City (Ciudad Colonial in Spanish), one goes back to a time of discovery and, yes, conquest.

This is the sort of place where one stumbles upon public squares with old men playing board games, takes in stunning architecture, including the oldest church in the Americas (the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, established in 1512), and engages in people watching over an espresso at Cafetería El Conde (telephone 809/688-7171), a street-level café that overlooks the cathedral on the other side of the popular public square.

Santo Domingo may not have the beaches, but Tequia Experiences offers a day package at Boca Chica Beach, a private beach club on the outskirts of the city, that includes return transportation, a guaranteed lounge chair, towel and welcome drink. Tequia Experiences also can arrange other tours, including of the city’s churches and a nearby family-owned chocolatier that specializes in organic and free-trade chocolate for export.

Whether it’s a weekend of exploring the colonial architecture and quaint streets of the Colonial City, or a day trip from the beaches of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s capital offers an experience unlike that of other Caribbean destinations.

For the original report go to http://www.macombdaily.com/lifestyle/20131003/an-old-world-experience-in-the-caribbean

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