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NOV-DEC 2016

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By Graham Ricks 26 selecttraveler.com N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6 Plata. Many of us took this advice and got to spend more time at the highlights we had visited on our earlier Puerto Plata tour. The Brugal Rum Factory was a big hit with almost ev- eryone I talked to. Rum is one of the most famous exports of the Dominican Republic, along with chocolate and tobacco for cigars. We also stopped at the Larimar Museum, where we learned about the history of mining larimar, the precious, ocean-hued stone found exclusively on the island of Hispan- iola. Graham even talked me into bringing home a deep-blue larimar bracelet as a memento of our trip. Afterward, we headed to Independence Park in the heart of the city. The pigeons here were so tame they would come sit on your knee or your shoulder, and I thought that would make for a cool photo. Unfortunately, there weren't any pi- geons around, so I scattered some granola on the ground to attract two or three for a photo op. That was a big mistake: I was suddenly swarmed by what had to be 100 or more pi- geons fl ocking to the food. Graham said it made for a memo- rable photo, even if it wasn't the one I had in mind. After spending the morning running around the city and doing a bit of shopping, we asked our driver to take us to a local restaurant. We weren't disappointed when he drove us to Long Beach, the same beach where he brings his children to play, and we were treated to a meal with amazing ocean views. Afterward, we topped off our experience with some fresh coconut, hacked open before our eyes by the street vendor with his machete. A SPECIAL SURPRISE Our day exploring was also Graham's birthday. Our hosts, Russ and Susan Rosenberry, the owners of Islands in the Sun, had planned a wonderful surprise for him at dinner that evening. As we enjoyed our impressive spread of dishes, we were suddenly surrounded by the wait staff, who, along with many others in the restaurant, sang him a special version of "Happy Birthday." This year ended up being exceptionally memorable, even though we weren't able to celebrate with our family. I'm so appreciative of By Graham Ricks The children love posing and then seeing their pictures. Courtesy Fathom By Graham Ricks Children often only attend half a day of school in the Dominican Republic and spend the rest of the day with their friends. This artist spends his days painting and selling his beautiful pictures in the park. Sometimes the most memorable stories aren't what we imagine they will be. By Graham Ricks Puerto Plata San Marcos

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