Going to Santo Domingo is not a treat. It’s a minimum of 3.5 hours if you drive, and 4.5 to 5 hours each way by bus. We have to go down there at least once a year because in order to maintain a pistol license, the government requires that the gun undergo a ballistics test every year in Santo Domingo, and you have to show up in person.

Other reasons we go: Medical … most particularly, our eye doctor is there, Dr. Battle, a Duke University educated physician and researcher. He did two cataract operations on Bruce and we are big believers in him and his clinic. Also, every four years we have to renew our residency and cedula (national ID card). As foreigners all of that has to be done in the Capital.

Over the last several years, we have stayed in a small hotel in NACO, walking distance from the eye clinic. We liked it because it has parking right in front, a kitchen, a grocery store a block away and a number of decent restaurants in the area. Once we get to Santo Domingo, if we drive, the car stays parked and we either walk or take taxis. Driving in Santo Domingo is also not a treat, although taxis can be stressful, too!

But this time, I had to go on my own. My passport pages were just about filled up. Normally, I would get that done at the Consulate in Puerto Plata, a 30 minute drive, but our consular agent, who has to approve the paperwork, is in the U.S. on Medical leave. So they set up special appointments at the new U.S. Embassy for folks from Puerto Plata — at 7:30 AM! That means going down the night before.

Wow. What a nice hotel! The star centerpiece is the pool.

The room is curved, with floor to ceiling windows (shades available). I was on the 11th floor and the city view is fabulous.

I was going to just book our normal hotel, Apartahotel Turey, but decided to see if there was a Hilton property that was conveniently located so I could just use points and up-scale my stay a bit. Turns out there is a relatively new (3 years) Embassy Suites a couple blocks from Turey! So that’s where I headed.

On the 5th floor, surrounded by Plexiglas, this infinity pool is amazing. I don’t think you could find a more beautiful pool anywhere!

And then the best hotel bathroom ever!

Plus the hotel has several restaurants. The downside is no mini market on site. It has a micro and fridge, but you have to walk two blocks to get to a mini market. I didn’t want to do that at night. There is also a free breakfast (very nice), a free cocktail hour and room service from 11 AM to 11 PM. Underground parking is also a plus. The downside is all non-smoking rooms (Bruce smokes). But the pool area is easily accessible 24 hours a day and is a designated smoking area. Turey has balconies, so smoking is not an issue there.

So … 5 hours on the bus, a relaxing evening (it was baseball week at the Embassy Suites; scouts for the Mets and one other team were there, along with a group who are player agents. I had a taxi pick me up at 6:30 AM — usually, if I come on the bus and end up with a taxi driver I like, I just use that person till they are no longer available. We called Nicholas each trip for several years, but now he lives in the states. Jaime was my driver this time, so I arranged for him to pick me up the next morning.

My appointment was at 7:30, but you never know what traffic will be like. Well, took us 20 minutes to get there. I was first in the line for Citizen Services, and totally amazed at how many people were already lined up trying to get visas.

Finally the Citizen Services person showed up, checked me off the list and sent me in to go through security. The building is pretty new, and quite lovely. I had my small backpack with me, with a tablet and cell phone. I knew I probably couldn’t take them inside but when I was at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, I was able to check my stuff with them. Not so here. So I had to hot foot it 3 blocks or so to get to the parking area above the embassy where Jaime was waiting and consign my bag to him. Got back by 7:30, skipped the line and went directly to security, passed through successfully (though they dug through my small purse), and the lady from Puerto Plata was there to greet me and direct me upstairs.

Well, 15 minutes later, I had all the passport renewal stuff done. Yikes, 10 hours on busses for a 15-minute appointment!

Back at the hotel by 8:30, so decided to just come home after breakfast. Jaime waited for the half hour while I ate and packed. Bruce said I should have stayed to enjoy the pool and spa, but I didn’t. Jaime took me back to the bus station, and that was it.

Two more trips to Santo Domingo this month. We tried to consolidate everything, but that often does not work here. Now to renew your residency, your attorney (or you directly, though we prefer to work through our attorney, Jordi Carrasco Bladé) goes online, submits your file, and gets an appointment for a medical exam — they are looking for drugs and diseases, including TB and HIV I guess. Once you get that appointment, you show up. 10 days later the results are supposed to be ready and you go back to get your residency and cedula. Each of these events takes a half day.  So since we are both going, we’ll drive. And stay at the Embassy Suites!  I am supposed to get my passport back in 2 weeks or less, and I have a trip to Switzerland in early July, so timing is tight. I hope everything works, but if not, in this country there are always workarounds. The key thing is to get my passport back. If I don’t have the residency done, Jordi will provide a certified letter that says it is in process. That has worked for me before at the airport. We’ll see!