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September 11, 2006
From journal 3 Days in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
April 19, 2002
The cobblestoned Calle de las Damas is the oldest and most historic street, dating from 1502. The pedestrian-only street is charming as it meets landmarks like the Fortaleza Ozama, Panteon Nacional, Museo de las Casas Reales, the Royal Sundial, and the Casa de Francia.
The Panteon Nacional was originally designed in 1747 as a Jesuit convent. This building also has been used as a theater and a tobacco warehouse. It was converted to become the National Mausoleum in 1955 to house the remains of revered political and military figures whose actions have shaped the history and scope of the Dominican Republic. Their remains are sealed within a set of marble walls. In the midst of a lonely but sunny Sunday morning, this is an appropriate time to pay your respects to these local heroes within the dark but reverential interior, although they are just a bunch of names if you are not familiar with the history of the Dominican Republic.
The recently renovated Plaza de la Hispanidad is an open and colorful area bordered by Las Atarazanas, a row of little shops and cafes. This area was the first commercial center in the Americas, and is still a hub of activity today. The Alcazar de Colon, the former colonial palace of the Columbus family, is now a well-regarded museum displaying period furniture and decorations. The building was originally built in 1510, but has been drastically restored over the years. Even if you do not formally visit the museum, take a walk around it because of its fabulous location over the old city walls.
Are you looking for ruins? The ruins of the Hospital San Nicolas de Bari are interesting, as long as you are aware of the pigeon population, the dreary parking lot adjacent to the site, and a few charming beggars wandering outside the nearby Our Lady of Altagracia church. Just up the hill are the ruins of the Monasterio de San Francisco, which has a history as an insane asylum. This latter set of ruins is a little quieter and more attractive to this visitor. Both of these sets of ruins date from the early 16th century, and both have met similar fates due to a variety of earthquakes, hurricanes, and foreign invasions.
From journal Bill in the Dominican Republic - SANTO DOMINGO