Confessions Of A Tourist In Puerto Plata
Blog - July 28, 2016

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Have you ever gotten yourself into a situation and thought, “how did this happen?”

I have a past life as a model and bartender so um…ya.  No one needs to know the war stories, but yes, I got myself into some sticky situations.  And it was usually too late to get myself out of them!

So fast forward twenty five years and now I am a wife and a mother to two boys. I have to say that the wildest Friday night I have had recently was going to an “All You Can Eat” sushi restaurant, not just with my husband but with his gym buddy.  We were home before ten p.m. to catch Dateline (don’t watch it alone).

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But I recently went on a trip that would change my life forever.  Not only because it was impactful but because I went alone.  The last time I traveled alone was when I was modeling in Greece and Spain.  That was decades ago.  This was the first time I went on a cruise alone…

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When I say alone, I mean that I stayed in a cabin by myself, no kids, no husband. I wasn’t alone since I was traveling with my friend Tre who was also going on this impact cruise called Fathom.

I met Tre Harrington of Nonperfect Parenting, on Facebook in various blogging groups and she was one of the few bloggers willing to guide me through this blogging journey.  She pretty much took my hand and led the way when I was clueless.   I am truly grateful to her for that.  But as I got to know her, our friendship evolved and blogging was not the only thing we had in common. So I was happy to have her and her son over before the cruise.

What I didn’t know about Tre is that she is adventurous like me. Since she took on the leader role in the past, I just felt comfortable following her lead on this trip.

When we got to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic we were excited to get out and about as we had been stuck on the boat for two days traveling.  Tre was ready to explore.  I, on the other hand, would have had no problem

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eating, and checking out the library on deck.  I could probably live on the Adonia!

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We talked to some people about going into town and decided that we would not take the standard bus to town, and grab a cab on the main street instead as we thought it would be cheaper.

We didn’t walk half a mile out of the port before we saw a gentleman who’s smile was so big, we were drawn to him. He asked us if we needed transportation.

“Come with me,” he said, still smiling.  I’ll introduce you to my good friend over there, he pointed, who will show you the town.”

Back in my party days, “Let me introduce you to my friend,” was usually a sign of mischief and uncertainty.  But I was young enough to embrace anything reckless.  Suddenly now I felt a shift in my body.  I think that’s what they mean by “intuition,” but Tre kept walking, so I followed.

What I was expecting on the main street was a line of cabs, that literally said “Taxi” on them but no, this was a beat up old car that we were escorted to and we were told to get in.  I was waiting for Tre to come to her senses but she just got in and started talking about fares to and from our destinations.

Off we went.  To where we had to idea.  But we were going…

First, they took us to one of the first European forts to be constructed in the Dominican Republic, Fort San Felipe, where we were given a brief tour by the gentlemen who found us on the street.  He showed us the ocean and it was beautiful, especially with the picturesque fort.

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Tre purchased some gifts and then we were whisked away to the next destination.

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They took us to another beach that was full of locals.  I snapped a picture of the back of a restaurant where I purchased a water.  As we left we saw a heated conversation between our driver and the police.  We had no idea what was going on.

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Here we were in a town we didn’t know, with people we didn’t know, and finally we started to get nervous.  We had no idea where we were.  All kinds of crazy thoughts rushed through my head.

We went back to the car and everyone stayed silent.

Then, they took us to the Amber Museum.  We were dropped off and told that we would be picked up when done.  Apparently, they knew when we would be done.  I guess they had done this before…

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I have never been to a museum like this. It was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone.  We shuffled up the stairs, deep into this dark building where we paid a gentleman for our tickets.  He walked around with us and explained the history of the various types of Amber.

We were left alone for a while and then shuffled out to the back of the museum where an old gentleman with a cane, who spoke very good English guided us into a back room.  He had those eyes that look into your soul.  Now we were tripping out as we thought maybe he was some kind of mobster and we were going to be “taken care of” in the back.

He walked us into another dark room where suddenly the lights flickered on and we were in front of jewelry displays.  We walked around and looked at jewelry mostly made with amber.

When we walked out, we were taken to a gift shop.  Now I’m not sure if that was the standard tourist museum tour or if we had the special treatment because we were with locals.  Either way, it was an experience to remember.

Our ride picked us up and took us into town where we were dropped off in the square and were greeted by five million birds.  If you do not want to be surrounded by birds, when you see the “Bird Guide,” run the opposite direction.  He will offer you food for them which in turn will keep you surrounded by birds.  Run, just run.

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We walked into a beautiful church where another “Tour Guide” showed up out of nowhere and started showing us around.  We were happy to follow.

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He showed us around this beautiful church and although it was quite big, it didn’t take all but six minutes to tour the church.  When we left, he asked for money for his family and children.  It was at that point that I started to put things together.  “Tour Guide” was an improvised job for some people here.  So I gave him a couple of dollars.  We were in their territory after all, in a place of worship, and no where to run!

We were picked up again.  Funny how our ride was always there waiting…standing by their word to us that they would wait and not leave….until…

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We got to an alley and were dropped off where we wandered into a cigar shop. A very cool cigar shop where was an older gentleman who spoke particularly good English.  He stood out and I wondered how he managed to find his way to Puerto Plata.  So I asked.

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His story:  He was living in Germany where he met his wife and they had a child.  They got divorced and she moved to Miami, so he moved to be close to his child.  From there he went on vacation to the Dominican Republic where he met his second wife and had a family and stayed there.  Wow.

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When we got out of the cigar shop, we shopped at one of the touristy gift shops, and as we left and crossed the street to the other shop, there was a bit of commotion and I felt like maybe there was a little retail competition for our business.

We stood outside, and looked for our ride but did not see them anywhere.  There were kids playing in the streets and soldiers with machine guns, and there we were, just hanging out.  We stood out like a sore thumb.

We started to get nervous as time was ticking when finally they showed up.

Lastly, we went to the town market to look for coffee.  It was not just a farmers market but a market where you could buy much more, including coffee and alcohol.  Here we got the raw experience of how the locals live.

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As they drove us back to the port, we noticed that cars where coming at us and not flowing with us.  They told us that there were no rules on the roads.  You could drive how you wanted in Puerto Plata.  So we said some prayers and hoped for the best as we dodged in and out of traffic.

Our driver and his guide stopped and got us water and we arrived safely.  Stunned at how the day unfolded but grateful to experience the real local Dominican experience and be set up with such open and helpful people to take us everywhere,  we were exhausted and happy to be back on the Adonia.

I will never forget those two gentleman who picked us up and kept us in their care.  They showed us around, which is what we wanted, and we got more of the local experience because we took a chance.  We just got into that little beat up car and took off.

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I will also never forget taking a chance on a friendship online and following through with it.  Thanks Tre. Until we meet again.

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