Taking a boat ride down the famed Ganges River is to learn the saying “waste not, want not.” The river serves many purposes for the residents of Varanasi, some that seem a bit conflicting to the foreign eye. Along the banks of the river you can find families washing their clothes, cooling off from the midday heat by taking a dip in the waters, or fishing for dinner from small, wooden boats. The river is a source of life and hope, and so I found it interesting that it is also used as a burial place. In the same water that is used to cleanse and feed, the funeral homes pour the cremated ashes of the newly deceased. It took me a while to comprehend how water that was viewed as holy and pure, could contain these bodily remains. Yet once I saw the circle of life there on the banks, children laughing and playing not 20 feet away from a funeral service, I saw the larger picture.
Picking the perfect place to stay on a vacation is a constant struggle. Do you want to stay on a resort your entire trip? Are you looking to meet people? Do you prefer modern amenities or local flavor? After choosing the Dominican Republic based on its warm temperatures and proximity to New York, I was disappointed by most of the suggested resorts. Punta Cana seemed to be a hub for spring breakers and the all-inclusive crowd and I was looking for a side of culture to my vacation.
After reading more about the capital city of Santo Domingo, I realized that the mix of history, outdoor cafes, and ample sunshine would make it the perfect combination. I chose to stay on the Hostal Nicolas de Ovando, a hotel that was formerly the home of the city’s first governor. This sprawling white stone building sat high above the river, giving poolside views of the ships passing through. Located on the first paved road in the New World, just a few steps away from Christopher Columbus’s family home, the hotel was a living piece of history with an oasis within.