Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dominican Republic - May 8

Today we drove to Azua to see Cesar’s family. It was about a 2 hour drive. It was nice to get out of the city and see some of the country. It’s very dry in this portion of the island. We saw lots of sugar cane and plantain fields. Many of the bridges had been wiped out in the hurricane. So there was a lot of new construction along the way, but it wasn’t too bad. Azua

Azua is a small town – much smaller than sprawling Santo Domingo. We went to meet Cesar’s three aunts, Mercedes, Carmen and “Mama.” Cesar grew up with his aunts in this house. It’s small, but not terribly so. Mercedes and Carmen were there when we arrived. Mama lived nearby and came over a little later. These are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Even though there was a huge language barrier, they made us feel so welcome in their home. They spent the morning preparing lunch for us – which I thought was incredibly generous. The meal was sautéed steak full of wonderful spices including onion, garlic, oregano, cilantro and other things. It was served with beans and rice, and a salad with green tomatoes and something called taiyota (I’m probably spelling that incorrectly). It’s a green (fruit?) that she peeled, sliced, boiled or blanched then cooled - a very subtle flavor with a pear-like texture. I’ve tried to find more info on it online, but haven’t had any luck yet. After lunch we had café con leche and that afternoon they made fresh papaya smoothies. Later we also had smoothies made from the passion fruit we bought the day before and brought with us. The best meal of the entire trip by far!

They had this really cool tree in the patio. It’s called a Higuero Tree. It has strange rough-looking bark, with pretty green leaves that break from old wood. It has these round, EXTREMELY hard fruits. We learned that the fruits are used to make Maracas (and I always thought they were gourds).

We also had the opportunity to meet more of his family – some of his uncles, two of his sisters and many nieces and nephews. All of them were very kind and gracious.

On the way back, we stopped at a few of the roadside souvenir booths. I bought a couple insulators for Presidenté. In Boca Chica, they served them by putting the entire bottle inside a piece of PVC pipe with a handle. This helped insulate the bottle and kept it from getting warm too quickly. I thought the wooden onces were pretty cool – so I bought a couple for home. One is big enough to hold a bottle of wine, the others would hold Coronas.

Back in Santo Domingo, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Vesuvio. I had a julienned caprese salad that also had sun dried tomatoes (to die for!) and baked chicken. With the exception of the salad, the dinner was okay all around, so we decided that we should go back to the Renaissance for coffee and desert again. But by the time we got back through the casino and to the coffee bar, it was closed! Dessert just wasn’t going to be the same without the coffee, so we decided against it.

On the way back to our hotel, we drove by the presidential palace, which just happened to be on the way. But as luck would have it, there was a security checkpoint performing random searches. It was a little disturbing to have the car suddenly surrounded by armed guards. Cesar explained that we were tourists and that we didn’t speak Spanish (thank God he was with us). We got out of the car and stood by while they searched the trunk. It was only a few minutes when we were able to get back in the car and head to our hotel.

View the entire photo album of this day...

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