Thursday, January 12, 2017

Escape from the Roosters and Santiago Exploration

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It was another long night for us at Tia Yesy's, unfortunately. We had planned to go up to the mountain town of Constanza for lunch (there are supposed to be gorgeous views on the way up) and then maybe get to the Jimenoa I waterfall that we didn't have time for the previous day...but plans quickly changed. After two loud and long nights for us, and knowing that New Year's Eve was just around the corner and would only be exponentially worse (Mike said they love to celebrate all night long), we had one mission, escape :-)! While Mike cooked us up a delicious breakfast (homemade hashbrowns from some potatoes we found at the colmado the night before along with eggs and bacon) I was searching online as best I could with our limited internet for other hotel options for the next two nights. I looked at other options in Jarabacoa, in Puerto Plata (where we already had plans to stay later, but it was close to our jungle lodge) and then in Santiago. In the end we went with Santiago because it was between Jarabacoa and the jungle lodge and because I found a hotel that looked nice and modern for a decent price. Mike called David and he was able to pick us up at 11 to take us to the new place.
We will definitely return to Jarabacoa again but be ready to spend a little more staying in one of the beautiful ranch style hotels at the top of the mountain with beautiful views. We still want to see Constanza, Jimenoa I, river raft, climb Pico Duarte, and the list goes on. It is a gorgeous area and the weather is amazing.
As soon as we walked into the Hodelpa Garden Court we knew that for this trip we made the right decision! It's location wasn't great (right off a freeway so not a lot within walking distance), but the hotel itself was really nice inside and it had a good restaurant of it's own. The rooms weren't ready yet but the kids were able to play roblox on the lobby computers while Mike and I enjoyed resting a bit and having some space from them ;-).
Eventually we got settled into adjoining rooms and it was so nice for everyone to have some space. It was a nice hotel and the kids could dead-bolt the doors so we left them watching TV and went downstairs to the restaurant for a little date and then walked a ways outside to see what was close by. We hadn't realized how much we had missed having some space from the kids until we had it again haha! Although there were no restaurants in walking distance we did find a little colmado where we stocked up on waters and some snacks. I really enjoyed walking through the neighborhood to get there and seeing people out and about just doing their thing...playing dominoes, having their hair done, listening to music super loud...the usual on every street we walk down :-). When we got back we took the kids down to the restaurant where they enjoyed normal hamburgers, waffle fries and even onion rings! It was a New Year's miracle.
We all went to bed early excited to know there were no roosters to be heard!

What a difference a good night sleep makes!!! We woke up and had a lazy morning but did get some exercise in for the first time since Santo Domingo which was actually really nice. The hotel breakfast ended up being amazing!!! Made to order omelets, fruits, pastries, Dominican specialties like mangu and fried cheese, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and more. It was quite a pleasant surprise!
The plan for the day was to drop off dirty clothes at a lavanderia and then head to the Centro Leon museum. Unfortunately when the taxi driver pulled up to it the gates were all locked and we discovered it was closed because of the New Year holiday, boo. We quickly changed our plans and headed to the Monumento a los Heroes de la Restauracion de la Republica instead which actually was quite interesting. There were little exhibits set up about the country's history and we could climb up 5 stories for some nice views of the city.
From there we started walking toward the Parque Duarte and hadn't gotten very far when we ran into a man named Giovanni. His English was surprisingly good and he was super nice. He started walking us around Santiago on an impromptu tour. We walked through a little courtyard area with some interesting things to see and then he took us into some random little bar that supposedly Hillary Clinton came and had a drink at?! They have a picture of her in there on the wall but who knows, it was pretty hysterical haha! From there he walked us over to Fortaleza San Luis giving us some of the history of the city and showing us where they now hold classes for some children that he helps with the Catholic church. We stopped by a store and bought some items for the children which we felt good about, especially since we had missed the opportunity when we first got to the Dominican Republic to do something similar.
After saying our goodbyes to Giovanni we kept walking a bit more to Parque Duarte for a quick glimpse of the Catedral de Santiago Apostol. I thought there may be some good restaurants nearby but we didn't see any so we just started walking back towards the monument instead. We were watching for an Helados Bon ice cream store but weren't seeing any food of any kind and the kids were all getting pretty hungry. There were TONS of people out shopping and the lines in all the shops on the main road were super long so there must have been some kind of New Year's sales going on or something. Eventually we came upon a McDonald's and they had a little window facing out to the street that sold just their desserts so we all got a treat...the hot fudge tasted just like home :-). Of course, almost immediately after we left with our ice creams and started walking we came upon an Helados Bon haha! Oh well, we will be sure to find one before we leave hopefully.
The taxi guy we ended up with to get back to our hotel was a super sweet guy name Teo. Mike talked to him a bit about where we were needing to get the next day (our jungle lodge) and he seemed willing to take us! We gave him the number of the hotel owner to talk directions with him and made plans for him to pick us up at 1pm the next day (that is when check out is and we decided to stay as long as possible! It was definitely lucky to have it work out so well with Teo!
We got back and ordered the kids room service while Mike and I headed down to the restaurant for another little date (we had the feeling there would be lots of family bonding going on at the jungle lodge the next 3 days :-) and then went to catch a taxi to pick up our clothes. We ended up hopping in a carro publico. It was a junky old car with one lady up front in the passenger seat already and one guy in back. Mike and I got in back with him and I thought we were full and on our way, but we managed to squeeze in two more large adults! 2 smooshed in the passenger seat and another in back with us. I was trying to sit on Mike's lap...it was hilarious. The laundry was attached to a La Sirena store, which was kind of like a little Dominican Walmart. We were able to find party hats, paper plates, dominoes, some candy and some apple soda (since we couldn't have sparkling cider) to complete our party supplies for New Year's Eve. We all ate too much junk food and loved it...especially the chips and queso, such a treat! We were sad to miss out on the family festivities of fireworks and dinner for my mom's birthday, but we did facetime with her which was fun. The one downside to our long vacation is missing our families!
Today marked our half-way point as well which is pretty crazy! Despite the recent frustrations we experienced I still haven't felt like, “Man, I just want to get home!” which surprised me. I have definitely felt like, “Get me out of here and on to the next place” but that is different than just wanting to get back to normal life. I really don't want to do that at all...I could so do this full time!

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