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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

DR bathrooms: a study in contrasts

DR Bathrooms: a study in contrasts

Bathrooms here in the Dominican Republic characterize the co-existence of the first and third world. The photos here tell the story.

My room at the Barcelo Palace has one of the best bathrooms I've ever experienced. An 8-foot long shower has stations for two people to shower together, including a big foot-wide showerhead for a quick drenching. The toilet is in a separate cubicle caddycorner to a pair of freestanding basin sinks. Perhaps best of all, the lights are on some sort of motion detector that illuminates the area when one gets up in the middle of the night to use the facilities.
The porch to my room has a large jacuzzi in which I sat last night drinking a glass of wine as I watched the full moon rise over the sea.

The resort is among five Barcelos strung along this 30-mile stretch of snow white beach in Punta Cana, a resort area developed mostly in recent years on the northeastern part of the island of Hispaniola. Guests here come mostly from Europe so in addition to the island's native Spanish, I've heard Italian, Swedish, German, Russian and French spoken among my fellow guests. Knowing that Haiti, which shares this island to the west, is a nine-hour drive away gives a sense of its huge size...second only to Cuba in the entire Caribbean

The Barcelo resorts and most of the others are all-inclusives, meaning food, drinks, lodging and even airfare all are included in packages. Guests can avail themselves of 14 different restaurants, a spectacular night club show, casino and several swimming pools.The Barcelos also have their own water purification and power systems, separate from the rest of the island. One never needs to leave the premises or spend another dime to have a great beach vacation.

But booking an Outback Safari allows visitors to see how the islanders live. They are a proud and beautiful people who live in a state many North Americans would consider poverty. But they are happy, hardworking family people who dont seem to view themselves as poor. Their world only gets electricity 8 to 10 hours a day and few people have indoor plumbing. But they are surrounded by flowers, trees bearing all manner of fruit, and live open-air lives cooled by ocean breezes. Every village has a church, a school and an arena for cockfights. contracts with Apple Vacations and other tour operators to take visitors around the area. The company also contracts with local families on a rotation basis to bring people to their homes.
Our visit was to a two-acre coffee and cocoa plantation operated by the Cedeno family.

Because the tour operator brings groups to their family compound once each week, the family has constructed an outdoor bathroom for their visitors to use. The path to the gender separated facilities is lined with flowering plants and flush toilets are fueled by water brought the village well by donkey. It is clean and very impressive.

I'll have a more complete story in coming weeks for readers of the Sunday Travel section. But those who need a break from winter before then might wish to check it out at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wife wife and I are leaving for Punta Cana DR in 1 1/2 weeks. This will be our third time there, each at a differant resort. What a wonderful place. It is very laid back and the people are nice, the resorts are nice and the price is right. Apple vacations does a good job both with trip planning and once you get there. I wish we were staying at the Barcelo. It looks very nice.

January 14, 2009 at 10:14 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like a nice vacation spot. I wouldn't have considered DR for vacation prior to reading your blog. I really hadn't seen much written about the resorts there. I would imagine that it a fairly good vacation value at this time?

January 15, 2009 at 9:54 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moving from Florida to London in the middle of winter, I had much the same thought.. wow why is it so cold! I'm looking for warm vacation spots and this looks like it might just fill the bill!

January 16, 2009 at 3:04 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read more about it. It sounds like a interesting place to visit, Certainly on my list of places to think about for a vacation

January 21, 2009 at 8:33 AM 
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January 23, 2009 at 12:05 AM 

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