RSSArchive for September, 2009

“Dame Fodor’s” graces the north coast

Photo Caption: Fodors’ correspondent Eileen Robinson Smith enjoys a gourmet meal at Puerto Plata’s Aleph Restaurant

PUERTO PLATA—This month, businesses along the north coast welcomed Eileen Robinson Smith, 17-year correspondent for the prestigious Fodor’s Guide to the Caribbean and Fodor’s Dominican Republic.

Ms. Smith visits annually to update the guide. Her advice and recommendations enjoy a loyal following of upscale readers seeking quality and luxury and travel recommendations. Considering the influence that a stroke of her pen may have on  this important audience, her views on Puerto Plata are of note.

“Puerto Plata is interesting because it is a real city, where you get an authentic Caribbean experience, with an added Latin spice. It’s not just a man-made tourist attraction, it’s the real deal.”

Ms. Smith was complimentary, noting that the city is “looking better than ever. I’m so pleased to see the renovations of Central Park completed. It looks fabulous,” she said. “The Malecon is delightful too, with that long stretch of reconstructed beach that looks out to the rocky islets.”

She lauded the recent announcement of a museum to be in the family home of (instead of historical) (Dominican Revolutionary hero, General Gregorio Luperon, who was a native of Puerto Plata. She exhorted the community to make more investments in the restoration of the city’s colonial architecture: “Restoring and furnishing the “gingerbread” houses as they would have been, say at the turn-of-the-century, and opening them for house tours could attract numbers of tourists to the city. Folkloric performances and other cultural events held in El Parque Central would also be a magnet!”

Meanwhile, she criticized what she called the exorbitant taxi fares imposed upon visitors. For the first time, she chose to rent a car, instead. What Puerto Plata needs to do now is to facilitate inexpensive transportation so that tourists can get downtown easily and cheaply, she said. “It will never succeed with current taxi fares. I am aware that the cost of both purchasing a vehicle and gas is more here than in the states, but taxi fares are higher in the D.R. than in New York City!”

During her north coast sojourn, she visited with Tourism chief Cesar De Los Santos and checked in on a number of north coast establishments.  Among them were Sea Horse Ranch, Casa Colonial, Victoria Hotel, Gran Ventana, Barcelo, Blue Bay Hotel, The Bungalows at Sun Village, Tubagua Plantation Village, Aleph Restaurant, Villa Castellamonte and Hotel La Catalina. Many more places are on her itinerary both on the North Coast and throughout the country.

This January and February, www.Fodors.com is creating an editorial platform designed to help winter-weary travelers find the best warm-weather escape for them. The program is entitled “80 Degrees, Your Ideal Winter Escape.” The Dominican Republic will be featured prominently within this program. One of the components is a slideshow that will highlight the best experiences the country has to offer. Ms. Smith is “shooting” her way through the island to supply the photos.

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DR is world’s “second happiest “country

The Dominican Republic is the second happiest place on earth, according to the New Economics Foundation, an independent research group in Britain. (Costa Rica topped the list; nine of the ten highest-scoring nations are Latin American.)

The organization’s second annual Happy Planet Index 2.0: Why Good Lives Don’t Have to Cost the Earth, was published in July, 2009. The new Index is based on data for 143 countries around the world, representing 99 per cent of the world’s population.

The aim of the New Economics Foundation is to “create a new economy that serves people and the planet. We want to begin to redefine “wealth” and “progress”; to judge our systems and economies on how much they create the world we actually want, rather than how much money they generate.”

In addition to the “most content” factor, the foundation also considers the ecological footprint and life expectancy of countries. Britain ranked 74th, while the United States is 114 on the Happy Index, due consumption patterns and a huge ecological footprint. The report noted that the United States was greener and happier 20 years ago than it is today. Most developed nations lagged in the study.

While Britain ranked 74th, the United States snagged the 114th spot, because of its hefty consumption and massive ecological footprint.

The United States was greener and happier 20 years ago than it is today, the report said.

Other populous nations, such as China and India, had a lower index brought on by their vigorous pursuit of growth-based models, the survey suggested.

“As the world faces the triple crunch of deep financial crisis, accelerating climate change and the looming peak in oil production, we desperately need a new compass to guide us,” said Nic Marks, founder of the foundation’s center for well-being.

Marks urged nations to make a collective global change before “our high-consuming lifestyles plunge us into the chaos of irreversible climate change.”

The report, which was first conducted in 2006, covers 99 percent of the world population, the statement said.

For more information visit the New Economics Foundation web site

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