At Punta Cana and Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic

My family does enjoy the beach more so one of the options when we travel together and are not hitting a cruise (a great way for us to travel together) is to go to a nice resort.  A few years back, we chose to go to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where we stayed at a Riu resort.  We lived for many years next door in Puerto Rico and were quite familiar with the Dom. Rep. since there were many Dominicans in P.R. and you heard about it often enough in TV.  But I had never gone.

Now, I am not known to be the type to lay at a beach for hours on end, days on end.  I like my time in the beach to be an hour or two, most of that in the shade of some tree (or umbrella) enjoying the breezes and sounds of the sea – a most relaxing activity.  Couple that with a beverage and it is perfect.  Then I get bored.  Sure, a dip in the water or two helps.  And then I move on.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana is on the eastern coast of the Dom. Rep. – almost exactly on the easternmost tip of the Hispaniola, pointing towards Puerto Rico.  There are many resorts in the area at all price levels.  The beaches are Caribbean prime.  Why go further from North America with places like this at its doorstep!  The resort had a great beach and great pools – areas we enjoyed on a daily basis even if sometimes I just hung out under the shade napping or reading a book.  Of course, food is part of the enjoyment of a good vacation and we ate pretty well.Riu resort, Punta Cana, pool, Dominican Republic, Caribbean, travel resort, Punta Cana, pool, Dominican Republic, Caribbean, travel, beachThe room was very spacious and very nicely done – that’s all REAL wood, not pressed wood…

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My nephew enjoying the resort room while playing his beloved video games!

Altos de Chavón, La Romana

But, the itch to explore is never down-and-out with me so we did plan for a day of seeing the countryside and visiting a couple of places we had heard about before.  One, the basilica of Altagracia in Higüey, was on our way out to La Romana so it was an easy stop to admire this massive church.  At La Romana, we visited Altos de Chavón, a charming recreation of any-town Middle Age Europe, complete with an amphitheater that has been used by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Duran Duran, and Julio Iglesias.

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Beautiful medieval European architecture with tropical foliage!

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The skinniest cat I have seen. It was tough being a medieval cat!

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Charming details around the town

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The amphitheater – would love to see a show here

We all enjoyed walking around, exploring the town, looking at the shops and, why not, even a burro ride!

Altos de Chavon, La Romana, Dominican Republic, girl on a burro

My niece enjoying a ride around the town

On the way out we crossed the Chavon River which offered incredible views!Chavon River, La Romana, Dominican Republic Chavon River, La Romana, Dominican RepublicLeaving this corner of paradise was hard to do but this view was a nice departing gift!

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View of Punta Cana resorts from the plane

Have you been to the Dominican Republic?  What are your favorite spots there?


Roaming Around Panama, Coast to Coast

I visited Panama to see relatives and enjoy a little low-key sightseeing beyond my usual haunts of Panama City and the Pearl archipelago.  It started with an unusual stop for a tourist…

Witnessing the good work of the Missionaries of Charity

One day during my visit, we visited the house of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order).  My aunt volunteers there every day and she wanted to show us the place.  WOW, these nuns do incredible work with those who have nothing and who are the worse-off of the poor and sick.  Amazing.  The nuns themselves come from all over the world and many actually come from India.  It is neat to hear their Spanish with a very slight Indian accent.  Later, when we drove to the other side of Panama, to the town of Colón, we visited the other house these Missionaries have in Panama.  So in one weekend I covered all their houses in Panama!  Anyway, kind and selfless work.

Colón, a true Caribbean town in Panama

Colón, on the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal (Panama City is on the Pacific end of the Canal), is most definitely a Caribbean town.  The architecture, the people, and something in the air just made me feel I was in the Caribbean.  Interesting how less than 50 miles distance can make such a big difference!  I was told the road was really bad (the new highway is still being built but is close to being finished) but, actually, it didn’t seem that bad to me.  Perhaps I was expecting rural Tanzania type of road conditions…  Anyhow, the drive took an hour and a half and it will be very nice when this highway is finished as it should take an hour or less.   The drive is scenic though my relatives said it wasn’t totally safe.  Colón is the second largest trade free zone in the world (after Hong Kong) and it seems to be doing OK with that business.  I wish I had more time to stay around and explore but we had to get back to Panama City as I was leaving the next morning.

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Damaged building

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Typical home in the center of Colón

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The streets of Colón are very colorful!

An inland “oasis” in Gamboa

I also got to visit Gamboa in the interior and next to Lake Gatún (which provides the water the Panama Canal needs to operate since water is a key tool in operating the gates or “esclusas” that control ships crossing the Canal).  We visited the Gamboa Resort which had great views of the area.

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The view from the main building at the resort: spectacular!

There are tours that take you to see monkeys and other wildlife as well as a canopy tram tour that allows a bird’s eye view over the area.  Next time, I will try to take advantage of some of those tour opportunities for a change!

Beach time near Coronado

Finally, we went to a beach next to Coronado on the Pacific called Punto Barco where one of my cousins has a beach house.  The beach may not be the best in the world but to have a house there would be a dream!  My cousin outdid herself with great food (ceviche!!) and the family had a great time hanging out.Coronado, Punto Barco, Panama, beach, Pacific coast, tropics, travel, photo, sand, Canon EOS RebelCoronado, Punto Barco, Panama, beach, Pacific coast, tropics, travel, photo, sand, Canon EOS Rebel

As usual, my visit ends and I long for more time there.  My relatives there always manage to take great care of us and make us feel very welcome.  I hope to go back and maybe this time not take 2 years in between trips!

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