Friday, April 6, 2012

Puerto Plata with Pollie

To reconnoiter Puerto Plata we chose to go with the City Tour offered by the marina.  Fabio our driver/tour guide/ body guard showed up at promptly 8:30 AM.  After picking up a young Canadian couple at a resort, we were off.

Our first stop was the Burgal Rum Factory.  Established in 1888, Brugal founded rum production in the Dominican Republic.  This facility did not actually distill the rum from sugar cane, but did the fermentation, blending, and bottling process.
After tasting a few samples,
We made a few purchases.
Taxi Stand
Puerto Plata moves on motorbikes.  The yellow vests with numbers on the back indicate that they are a taxi, not a private vehicle. 

For about $.25 U.S. you can go anywhere in Puerto Plata.  We found the motorcyclists to be rather aggressive, and stop signs and other traffic signals to be merely a suggestion.  Driving in the DR is not for the faint of heart.
The DR’s presidential election is coming in May, so there are campaign signs everywhere.   The Dominican Republic has had a fairly stable democratic government for a number of years albeit with some U.S. intervention (Christians In Action) and the usual amount of corruption.
Much wealth has been generated in the DR, but unfortunately it has been unequally distributed.  A near riot broke out among the street kids when cash was flashed because Pollie wanted to tip this Michael Jackson impersonator.
While baseball is a national pastime in the U.S., it is the national passion in the Dominican Republic.  This is one of the many DR training fields that may generate a future U.S. MLB player.
Unlike the Bahamas, that produces little food, the economy of the DR is dominated by agriculture, with 56% of the country used for crops and agriculture.
Part of the agriculture is dedicated to tobacco, so our next stop was the cigar factory.

Pollie was a quick study, so they put her to work.

I was forced to test her handy work.

Another product they sold was a drink called Mama Juana.  The bottles are stuffed with Timacle, Osua, Marabelf, Magey, Palo Indio, Bohuco Caro, Brasil, Canelilla, two fingers of honey, three fingers of rum, and then topped off with sangria. 

It is quite tasty, and comes with a claim of, “THIS PRODUCT INCREASE MAN’S VITALITY.”  We’ll let you know if it is effective.
Our next stop was at the Amber Museum.  Dominican amber is resin from an extinct tree, Hymenaea protera, which produced a thick honey like substance that readily trapped insects and plant material.
The transparent quality of the Dominican amber has allowed scientist a glimpse into the ecosystem of a long-vanished tropical forest.  Remember the movie Jurassic Park, and its premise of taking DNA from amber to create modern day dinosaurs?  Much of the filming was done nearby.
No tour is complete without visiting the city’s fort.  Fort San Felipe was completed in 1577 to protect the city from French and English pirates that continuously terrified inhabitants of Puerto Plata.
The fort provided a great view of Puerto Plata Harbour which is mostly commercial and not very appealing to the cruiser boats.
Like most of the tourist attractions, Fort San Felipe had its share of vendors hoping to cash in on the unsuspecting vacationers.  Many of the hawkers said their handicrafts “were made by my father.”  So I figured their fathers must have been Chinese. 
Pollie’s blond hair seemed to make us even more of a target.  When she went up to pet the burro, she was suddenly lifted onto the animal.
She would have been happy with sidesaddle, but he insisted that she straddle the animal.
Turns out that a picture on a burro is worth $5.00, but I enjoyed the show so much, I was willing to pay $10.00.
He left me holding the burro while he ran for change for my twenty.

Our last stop was to the top of the mountain via cable car to see the statue of Jesus billed to be much like the one Rio de Janerio, Brazil.
Of course, our tour guide/body guard insisted on getting the normal tourist shots for us.

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