Cabarete, Dominican Republic

IMG_4403 (2) (1024x246)1) Kite Beach in Cabarete … kite surfing mania!

We headed south and east in February, alighting first in New York City for but a day before flying south to Puerto Plata for a week visiting my cousin Paul, his beautiful wife, Su-Ming, and their twins who all live in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Cabarete is noted as one of the hotbeds of kite surfing in the world and is, oh, about a 20-minute drive east of Puerto Plata. That drive is harrowing as the DR has some of the most dreadful drivers on earth and you share the narrow roads with mopeds, pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses.You are guaranteed to see or come across accidents … and we did a couple times during our stay.

We had a tremendous time catching up as it’s been 3 years since I last saw Paul when we both were living in Toronto. Before that, heavens, we were babysitting the twins when they were but wee babies (see here). The linga franca in the Paul/Su-Ming household is Spanish … a language I studied in university (my final year thesis was on the impact of the Spanish Conquest of the New World on Spain [despite the wealth, it proved Spain’s undoing]).

As one can imagine, Dominican Republic is a fair distance from Vancouver and we routed through Newark heading down and back up upon our return. Despite poor weather in New York City, the flights were all on time and United did a nice job. Business class was fine but after Singapore Airlines, well, nothing really compares.

DSCF0897 (2) (1024x768)2) our plane awaits us in Newark 

DSCF0900 (2) (1024x512)3) there’s the city as we leave the airport

DSCF0902 (2) (1024x512)4) and there’s New York City

DSCF0903 (2) (1024x768)5) breakfast in business class was the usual fare – save we had them serve up wine

DSCF0907 (2) (1024x768)6) there’s Puerto Plata

DSCF0908 (2) (1024x768)7)  heading in to land

I have been to the Dominican Republic previously … I actually learned to juggle thanks to Club Med Punta Cana back in a life that now seems eons ago. Interestingly, Su explained the folks who originally established Puerto Plata as a sun destination (in particular the uber rich Dominicans who built the Playa Dorado resort area east of the city) abandoned it to establish what is now Punta Cana. When I was there all those eons ago, Club Med was the only game in town and it was rumoured that they built the Punta Cana Airport, which at the time, was but a straw hut. Today, the Dominican Republic is a mecca for tourists and expats of all kinds and the community of expats Paul & Su-Ming socialize with represent Australians, Canadians, Argentinians, Brits and South Africans. The country has a vast working class, a small middle class and a tiny (and tremendously wealthy) upper class. There are also tens of thousands of illegal Haitians living and working in the country having fled what is the despair in their homeland. While tolerated, Haitians are viewed very unkindly.

We spent our time whiling away the days in between touring Puerto Plata; visiting many (many!) a beach; eating and drank ourselves silly; playing with the boys; walking Bruno along the beach each morning; and spending an inordinate amount of time in the pool and body surfing in the Caribbean. It was heavenly and Paul & Su-Ming were the best hosts ever!

DSCF0909 (2) (1024x768)8) Su gets Paul’s kite ready to roll

DSCF0913 (2) (1024x768)9) … and he’s off!

DSCF0918 (1024x768)10) home :D

Puerto Plata was founded as a town in c. 1502 and was actually designed by those famous brothers, Christopher and Bartolomé Columbus, who first ‘discovered’ it in the 1490s. It is rumoured that Columbus named the city Puerto Plata (Port of Silver) because of the silvery appearance the mist took on the city’s background mountain, Isabela de Torres.

DSCF0930 (2) (768x1024)11) statue of Gregorio Luperón who was instrumental in DR nationalism after the country’s annexation by Spain in 1860s; Puerto Plata’s international airport is named after him

DSCF0932 (2) (768x1024)12) inside Catedral San Felipe Apóstol in downtown Puerta Plata

DSCF0938 (2) (1024x768)13) El Faro, the lighthouse near Fort St Felipe

DSCF0953 (2) (1024x512) 14) Fortaleza San Felipe, built between 1854-77

DSCF0950 (2) (1024x768)15) wanna ride?…

DSCF0944 (2) (1024x768)16) we head down to have view of the Puerto Plata port

DSCF0943 (2) (768x1024)17) Su and moi at the fort

DSCF0952 (2) (1024x768)18) Su and G head back down to the car after a visit to the fort

DSCF0957 (2) (768x1024) 19) leaving a posh lunch at the Verandah at the Casa Colonial Boutique Hotel, inside the gated community of Playa Dorada

DSCF0961 (2) (1024x768) 20) G takes Bruno out for a morning walk

DSCF0928 (2) (1024x768)21) such a good dog!

DSCF0964 (2) (1024x768)22) conch for sale at the end of Kite Beach

DSCF0969 (2) (1024x768)23) a stop on route to the city of Gaspar Hernandez

DSCF0972 (2) (1024x768)24) fisherman boats on the beach at La Yagua

DSCF0982 (2) (1024x747)25) a fisherman comes ashore at La Yagua

DSCF0996 (2) (1024x768)26) G strolls along the beach near La Yagua

DSCF0999 (2) (1024x768)27) I thought it was a porcupine or maybe a hedgehog!

As you drive further east – and if you know the cutoff (as it is not signed) – you’ll find yourself at the to-die-for wee beach called Playa Caleton. Should you ever find yourself in the DR and on the north coast make the point to get here if you can. It’s a terrific little 500-foot beach with calm water perfect for snorkling. There is an awesome restaurant (really more a collection of huts that folks cook at) right near the beach. Washrooms are, well, spartan. You can hire a lad upon arrival who will be at your beckon call the entire day. He’ll bring you beach chairs, a table, take your food and drink orders and dart back and forth ensuring you’re well taken care of. Su and I ordered deep-fried fish while G ordered lobster. These came with a spread of salad, beans (OMG the beans were SO good!), rice, and plantain chips. El Presidente – the beer of the DR – is plentiful and cheap. The afternoon cost us DOP3,000 or about CAD$70.

DSCF1006 (2) (1024x246) 28) the oh-so-fabulous beach at Playa Caleton (outside the town of Rio San Juan on the road to Nagua)

DSCF1007 (2) (1024x768)29) a fisherman at Caleton

DSCF1011 (2) (1024x768)30) G’s very real pina colada

DSCF1017 (2) (1024x768)31) here is the spread

DSCF1016 (2) (1024x768)32) G’s ‘lobster’

Eating at Su/Paul’s is awesome as it is plenty of seafood. What’s neater is that Su has a local fisherman whom she rings, as needed, who will bring fish literally to the front door. One day he arrived with what you see below – a dorado (or what we call out this way mahi mahi). Better yet, he comes right into the kitchen and cleans and filets for you. Talk about fresh!

DSCF1021 (1024x768)33) here’s the mahi mahi

DSCF1023 (1024x768)34) being cleaned

DSCF1024 (768x1024)35) ta-da!

DSCF1068 (2) (1024x768) 36) the lads watch some televison

DSCF1025 (2) (1024x768)37) Su made these sweets for the boys to take to school on Valentine’s Day

IMG_4413 (1024x1024)38) … while G made a mini Godzilla out of play-doh which the boys thought was such a hoot

IMG_4426 (2) (1024x765)39) needless to say there were pisco sours

IMG_4427 (2) (1024x1024)40) Su is Chilean and Paul and she lived for several years in northern Chile so Paul has definitely mastered making perfect sours!

DSCF1038 (2) (1024x768)41) this was another of our favourite places to dine

DSCF1037 (2) (1024x768)42) the place had a wee beach

DSCF1034 (2) (1024x751)43) and a lovely, open air restaurant

DSCF1039 (2) (1024x246) 44) the public beach at Sousa

DSCF1045 (2) (1024x768)45) Sousa beach

DSCF1058 (1024x768)46) wanna buy?….

DSCF1056 (2) (768x1024)47) yes, even on Cabarete Beach you can watch hockey :D

DSCF1057 (2) (1024x768)48) Cabarete Beach

DSCF1054 (2) (1024x768)49) one night was a boys night out and Paul, G and I headed to Papi’s for panfuls of scampi done in garlic sauce

DSCF1055 (2) (1024x768)50) so garlicy good!

DSCF1053 (2) (1024x768)51) you can shop right on the beach at night

IMG_4411 (1024x765)52) we spent a lot of time in this pool lemme tell you!

DSCF1080 (2) (1024x768)53) the lads head out for a walk one morning

DSCF1083 (2) (768x1024)54) selling conch

DSCF1088 (2) (1024x768)55) I saw a wave coming …

DSCF1089 (2) (1024x768)56) got them!

DSCF1079 (2) (1024x768)57) heading out on St. Valentine’s Day

DSCF0919 (2) (768x1024)58) fishes … on the wall at the condo

DSCN3439 (1024x768)59) our plane arrives to whisk us back to New York City

DSCN3442 (2) (1024x768)60) our room at W Hoboken

DSCF1106 (2) (768x1024)61) in Greenwich Village for dinner

DSCN3447 (1024x768) 62) the view from our room looking across to NYC was fabulous!

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