The Basilica Catedral Santa Maria de la Encarnacion (otherwise labeled the Catedral Primeda de America, or just simply the Catedral) is the oldest cathedral in North America, depending on what the exact definition of "oldest" is. The cornerstone was laid in 1514, with construction proceeding grudgingly from 1520 onwards. The Catedral has a very eclectic design style with evolving Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and other influences. The interior has a nice vaulted ceiling and fourteen chapels along the aisles. Be aware that shorts and other informal garb are generally frowned upon. There is a very peaceful courtyard adjacent to the south entrance. A series of peculiar howling wolf gargoyles guard the grounds along the east facade of the Catedral.
The pedestrian-only Calle El Conde connects the Parque Colon from the east with the Parque Independencia to the west. This is an enjoyable mile-long stroll, as there is no traffic down this street. Calle El Conde is fronted by a motley selection of cafes, fast food stops, shops and so forth. If you really need a cheap "pica pollo" fix, why not try a local chain like Pollo Rey over an international conglomerate like KFC (both are on El Conde)? You will encounter a colorful mix of street musicians, vendors, and see tourists being led about by tour guides (or perhaps you are one of these tourists!). In a way, Calle El Conde is the inland version of the malecon, which runs parallel just a few blocks south. If pressed for time, try to do a loop by walking up El Conde in one direction and going down the malecon in the opposite direction.
April 19, 2002
From journal Bill in the Dominican Republic - SANTO DOMINGO