December 10th, 2012

travel

Travel Catch-up Part 2: Santo Domingo

Thanksgiving is an annoying time to travel in some ways, but it's also convenient for a long weekend break. It also falls squarely in Dominican baseball season and that was my excuse for a trip to Santo Domingo.

I flew out of EWR, which meant taking the train up to Newark on Wednesday night. The train was surprisingly uncrowded. I stayed overnight at the Courtyard by Marriott by the airport. I am fond of Marriott largely because I find their hotels to be very consistent, but this was a decidedly substandard Courtyard. It was adequate for a night, but not up to my expectations. I've stayed at the Renaissance there in the past and that's a better choice.

The airport was only mildly chaotic on Thursday morning. I've found that traveling on Thanksgiving Day itself can be a good option and that worked well this time. I was even upgraded. On arrival at SDQ I got a taxi to the Zona Colonial and the Hotel Francis, which was comfortable enough and very conveniently located.

In terms of sightseeing, I spent most of my time exploring the Zona Colonial. That included the Casas Real (a museum), Alcazar Colon (home of Diego Colon, the son of Christopher Columbus), the cathedral, the fort, and so on. I'd say that this part of Santo Domingo is very much a typical Spanish colonial city. It was attractive and, except for Calle del Condo (a shopping street) pleasant to stroll around. I also spent one day sightseeing outside that area, including a trip to the modern art museum and then on to the Malecon (waterfront). I had considered staying in one of the big Malecon hotels and am really glad I didn't, as the only real appeal of that area is nightlife and casinos, which are less my thing than colonial architecture.

Baseball - or, shall I say, beisbol, is very much my thing and going to a game was a high priority. It was easy enough to take a taxi to Estadio Quisqueya, where there was a game between Tigres del Licey and Leones del Escogido. I should note that the former name really means "jaguars" not "tigers," which are not western hemisphere beasts. Whatever cat they are, they were defeated by the lions. There were, by the way, several familiar players, including Hanley Ramirez (who I last saw playing for the Miami Marlins, but who did start his MLB career with the Red Sox), Mauro Gomez (a relatively new addition to the Red Sox roster) and Julio Lugo (whose career as a shortstop for the Red Sox was as error prone as the glory days of Marvelous Marv Throneberry). I'll also note that beverages are sold in the stands by young women in blazers taking orders, but hawkers come around with food - pizza, empanadas and, oddly, large wedges of cheese. The empanada I had was decent and the mojito was full-strength, which is certainly not the case at any ballpark I've been to in the U.S. All in all, I had a great time.

The trip back to EWR was similarly hassle free, but I have to admit that the Copa lounge at SDQ is decidedly unimpressive. Immigration at EWR was very quick, but it took a long time to get to the Hilton Penn Station, where I spent the night. They mention on their website that they have an airport shuttle, but don't bother mentioning that it runs once an hour. Had I known that, I'd have sprung for the air train. The point of staying there was a way too early train on Monday morning, which was surprisingly crowded.

Overall, it was a great weekend getaway and I highly recommend both the Zona Colonial and Dominican beisbol.