Saturday, March 16th: I got off to a slow start today, partly from catching up on sleep, and partly because I have a cold (its been going around the group). I had breakfast with three of the English members of our group (some people had already left before I got up), then went for a walk in the Zona Colonial.
It's easy to get to the Zona Colonial, just step out the door! The main pedestrian avenue, the Calle El Conde, is at the next intersection. I walked down to the Rio Ozama and up to the Alcazar and Las Atarazanas before visiting any of the buildings. My first stop was at the the Alcázar de Colón. It was not built by Christopher Colombus, but by his son Diego.
From there, I headed down the Calle de las Damas, stopping at the colonial museum in the 16th century Las Casas Reales. The National Pantheon was next. I continued down the Calle de las Damas to the Fortaleza Ozama and Torre del Homenaje. The latter was built during 1505-1507.
I was dragging due to the cold and started back to the hotel. However, I did have to make one more stop, at the Cathedral Primada de America and the adjacent Parque Colón. I had planned to do a bit more, but that didn't seem reasonable now. I got back to the hotel in time to see the ending of the IU-Wisconsin game in the Big Ten tourney. Unfortunately, IU lost. Since I wasn't feeling well, I just had dinner in the hotel.
Hotel Palacio, Santo Domingo
Saturday, March 16th: I went out this morning for a walk in the Zona Colonial. My western limit was just past the Puerta del Conde (the Count's Gate), one of the old city gates, to Parque Independencia and the Altar de la Patria. The Dominican revolution started here. The Altar de la Patria contains the remains of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic.
It was easy to get a cab to the airport. The DR requires an exit form. Unfortunately, the airline didn't give me one, and I didn't see any signage, so I was sent to fill one out when I got to front of the line. Even without that, this is the slowest exit process I've seen anywhere. I also encountered a problem when trying to get on the plane. They'd put some mark on my boarding pass requiring some extra check. What it was wasn't clear. They wrote some passport info on a list, then returned me to the plane. It took surprisingly long to do this. One of the security people apologized for the excess delay and told me that the guy writing the info down was new and just learning his job.
As we taxied out, I caught a glimpse of an interesting-looking bird. It could have been a Double-striped Thick-knee, but with my binoculars packed away, it was hard to say for sure. I don't think they're supposed to be at the airport, so it was probably something else. However, I have seen them on a airstrip before.
We landed ahead of schedule. As usual, this does no good in Miami. We had to wait for our gate to be available. I got through immigration a bit before my bag arrived. The customs line was amazingly short, perhaps the shortest I've ever seen in Miami (I thought the sequester was supposed to make lines longer, not shorter).