The pure luxury to be enjoyed in and around the Casa Colonial Resort can capture and hold you for days, sometimes even weeks, but Juan Carlos Arvelo and I had a desire to reach out and see more of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic so we hired a car and headed out to explore more, much more.
We began by driving through what was essentially the city center of Puerto Plata. There were an endless number of small shops and businesses, many of them offering food and drink. And there were, or course, a variety of retail shops and typical commercial enterprises. There was nothing quite in the “oh wow” category but it did have its own unique charm.
Once beyond city center we headed off to the world renown cable car that ascends 2,555 feet up Mount Isabel. For all of its amazing beauty this cable car experience did provide me with a wee bit of a personal challenge. For many years I was an airplane pilot and thoroughly loved flying high in the sky. But put me atop a tall mountain or even on a bridge spanning say a river or perhaps a highway and my acrophobia will kick in every time.
So a part of me said “no” yet another part said “this is just too beautiful to miss” and so up we went, but not until we enjoyed one other unexpected but much loved slice of Caribbean entertainment, a Merengue band. As we were cheerfully listening and moving to the captivating rhythm of the band, one band member took a break. He got up and walked off, no doubt to take care of a personal matter. Then the remaining band members invited Juan Carlos to join them and he did with glee. Well I’ll be, Juan was pretty darn good at that talent too.
Happily the ride was very smooth and with each increase in elevation more and more of the great beauty of the area surrounding Puerto Plata became increasingly evident. It truly was a mesmerizing ride capped off with the astounding revelation of a very large statue of Jesus Christ, a glorious edifice very similar to the famous one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Once atop the mountain you can enjoy a stroll through the botanical garden, a meal at the very pleasant restaurant with an unprecedented view of the Caribbean Sea and the whole of Puerto Plata, or perhaps grab a souvenir or two from the souvenir store up on the mountain. Add it up and it is one thoroughly exhilarating experience that will never be forgotten.
Then it was time to go to church but not just any church. We went to The Cathedral of Puerto Plata, founded way back in 1502, just a wee bit before I was born But sadly in 1863 it was totally destroyed by a fire that they determined had been deliberately set. It took until 1956 to completely restore the cathedral and by 2008 it was reshaped to its current condition and appearance.
Today it is a majestic and holy vision complete with many stained glass windows that represent biblical passages. Inside the cathedral there are twelve huge columns representing the twelve apostles. You do not have to be Catholic or Christian or even religious to appreciate the immense beauty of this breathtaking work of art.
Next stop: Fortaleza San Felipe. Commissioned by King Felipe II of Spain in 1564 it was completed in 1577 by Don Rengifo de Angulo, the fort’s major. There are several similar forts around the Caribbean, including one very famous one in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They all served the same fundamental purpose of repelling unwanted visitors such as military invaders and pirates.
Today Fortaleza San Felipe of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic serves as a fascinating museum of artifacts from the history of the nation, the region and the world. It absolutely deserves any visitor’s time and attention.
A great day was drawing to an end so Juan Carlos and I returned to Casa Colonial, freshened up and headed out the door for a six mile stroll along the beach. Every step was a joy with a pleasant sea breeze caressing our bodies and our eyes filled with unending but ever changing visions of pure beauty. The waves gently and steadily kissing the sandy shore; the warm beauty of the setting sun; and the sight of Dominican men casting their fishing nets into the sea to gather their next meal.
Our day was complete and we had more to come. So back in our rooms we enjoyed just a wee bit of the fabulous Brugal XV the awe inspiring rum of the Dominican Republic. Then, Good Night!
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Photos by Ron Irwin
Ron Irwin was born in Chicago, Illinois a long time ago. He served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, became a trial lawyer, TV and radio host, CEO of a public company and once held an Emmy. He never won an Emmy he just held one. Ron has written and published twelve books. His most important book to date is “Live, Die, Live Again” in which Ron tells of his early life and his unexpected and very temporary death in 2012. That experience dramatically refocused his life and within the pages of that book Ron reveals how he achieved a much healthier life, ridding himself of Diabetes, Cancer and Heart Failure. Now Ron enjoys writing about many things including health topics, travel [he has circled the globe several times], adventure, culinary experiences and the world of performing art. Ron’s motto is “Live better, live longer and live stronger because it feels great and annoys others.” Contact the author.