Stand-off in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo

Tile street plaque - Calle Mercedes

Please know that this account of our stand-off in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo is being written with the most good-natured and accommodating smile on my face. We began our drive in sunshine; we reached the Colonial Zone in a tropical downpour. The kind where so much rain falls so fast that it feels like you’re standing under a warm waterfall. And then it’s over.

So here we are, on a one-way street with a tight line of cars parked on my left, which leaves a very narrow single lane for traffic. On my right is a gutter about 8 to 10 inches deep. Whenever the road needs to be resurfaced they lay the new layer on top of the old. (Yes, over time the Colonial Zone will be a tell of asphalt.) If I don’t gauge my driving very precisely, I will fall into this gutter and get high-centered. Naturally I was feeling keenly about Rhonda’s oil-pan, right axles, and inflated tires. She’s the front car with quite a line behind her.

About 4 car-lengths from the intersection where I need to turn, a driver comes straight toward me. I’m absolutely nonplussed. What does he expect me to do? Does he really want us all to swerve into the gutter so he can continue the wrong direction on a one-way?

My kindergarten sense of justice takes over. I make huge hand motions telling him to go back. He makes huge hand motions telling me to move over. I inch forward. He continues to wave me over to the gutter. I continue to inch forward until we are nose to nose.

Now, if this had truly been a Dominican stand-off, I’d have laid on my horn to beat him back with noise. I restrained myself. Finally, he gave up on me and backed away. I was the cork, but for the first time ever I was also the victor!

Colonial Zone Exploration

All this driving drama occurred at the corner of Mercedes street, where our restaurant was located. In the Colonial Zone, many of the streets are identified by a beautiful handmade tile plaque, this one located on the wall of the Church of Mercedes. This plaque on an exterior wall helps explain the history of the church, which I hope will delight all you Spanish speakers. The rest of us will copy/paste into Google translate, which may or may not render it sensibly.

Luckily, we found a parking spot where we waited in our car for the downpour to slacken. Yeah, the rain had found us all over again. The exterior of the church we stared at for half an hour seemed to be built a bit like a fortress. Doesn’t the architecture of this tower look a little Mayan?

We dashed through heavy mists into the Iglesia de las Mercedes. This gated archway opened to a small interior chapel as we entered. Can you get an idea from the photo of how very narrow this opening is? And maybe five feet nine inches in height? Gives you a strong feel for the size of Columbus’ crew and the early Spanish settlers.

Iglesia de las Mercedes

I particularly liked this stained glass depiction of the Holy Family. I deliberately didn’t crop out the beautiful tiles forming an altar. Lovely, aren’t they?

Beautiful Parking Structure

When the rain had stopped completely we still had an hour left to explore, so we walked downward (which always takes you toward the sea), and found a paved walking street with all sorts of interesting stores and vendors. It was Saturday night, so the locals were prowling, the same as the tourists.

We turned a corner and discovered an arresting structure. It struck me as so beautiful that it took a few moments to realize that it was a car parking garage covered with ornamental grasses. When I first saw it, I had the impulse to reach up and try to touch it. Of course, petting plants isn’t really a satisfying activity–but still, you can see how at first glance the invitation was there, right?

Ornamental grasses enhance parking structure

Ornamental grasses enhance parking structure

Maison Kreyol Restaurant

Some friends invited us to dinner at a Haitian restaurant in the Colonial Zone, Maison Kreyol. Based on the name, I was eagerly anticipating the new tastes from seasonings that would be French Creole cuisine. The dinner was delicious and the company was excellent, but I didn’t discern any difference from the Dominican fare, which I very much enjoy.

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