Mixing Business And Pleasure In This Oldest Of Old Towns
Lief and I arrived late Wednesday in the Dominican Republic. This has been a quick visit planned over last week’s independence day holiday in Panama with two objectives:
First, we’re here to pick up our residency visas. No, we’re not moving to the Dominican Republic. However, Lief never met a go-offshore opportunity he didn’t like… and acquiring residency in the DR is quick, easy, and cheap… so, when our attorney in the country suggested we go through the process, Lief was all in.
It has been, as our attorney promised it would be, the most painless of all our getting-residency experiences to date. As of Thursday morning, we are cédula-carrying permanent DR residents.
That business concluded we took off early Friday for the three-hour drive from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata to investigate a potential agricultural investment opportunity. Lief has begun his due diligence and is working with the DR’s Ministry of Agriculture to crunch the numbers. Lief will report first on this discovery and his specific recommendations for his Global Property Advisor members as soon as he’s satisfied it is what he thinks it is. GPA members, stand by.
We’re here on quick business, but I’m also trying to savor what I like most about this island nation.
Many (and more all the time… this is the fastest-growing tourist destination in the Caribbean) travel to these shores to lie on the white sand enjoying the sun and the breeze.
DR beaches are as good as beaches get… but, for me, they’re not the appeal. I appreciate a day or two lounging seaside as much as anyone… but I’m a city girl.
For me, the real appeal of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo, the oldest European city in the Americas.
Our first night in town, we sat with local friends at the rooftop bar of our old-town hotel appreciating the inky skyline punctuated by big buildings of stone built as many as 500 years ago. In the starlight we could make out the arches, the columns, and the balconies that have stood watch over the nearby harbor since Christopher’s brother Bartholomew and his crew settled the place on behalf of mother Spain in 1496.
The rooftop terrace and the hotel it’s attached to are a renovation of one of these classic colonial structures that, like many buildings in this oldest of old towns, layers the best of our age (high-end fixtures, ice-cold cava, and air conditioning) over the best of a long-gone age when men dreamed big and ventured far for discovery.
We’ve eaten many of our meals these past few days al fresco. Here’s the view from our table at the sidewalk café where we had breakfast this morning…
Passing by as we ate were Escalades and Fortuners… 25-year-old Toyotas dented and rusty missing hubcaps and dragging mufflers… and, every now and then, a horse-drawn carriage…
Street life in an emerging market.
Our hosts are confounded by our choice.
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable at the Marriott?” they wonder.
Why would anyone choose to stay at a Marriott when you have this Old World option?
The Hotel Bellini where we’ve stayed in Santo Domingo’s old town is housed within a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named for the Bellini family. One among the family, a priest, earned such a reputation for being such a good guy that, in the Dominican Republic, one isn’t a saint like Mother Teresa… but like Padre Bellini.
The hotel that bears his name on the street by the same name is globally competitive five-star luxury… at a cost of about US$125 a night.
We were last in the DR in May, coincidentally presidential election week.
This week we’re in town with representatives from the EU here to discuss the idea of Dominican Republic passport holders being allowed visa-free travel to all EU member nations. Our contacts tell us the meetings have gone well and it is believed that a deal is being struck.
If this happens, a DR passport (as straightforward to acquire, we’ve been assured, as DR residency) will become a whole lot more valuable.