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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Punta Cana, finally

I haven't blogged much about my trip to Punta Cana, mostly because it was really a quiet trip, which is exactly what I needed.

Flying in to Punta Cana was so different than anywhere else I've flown. Never before I have seen such vast expanses of wild vegetation. When I looked out of the airplane window, it was green and native for as far as the eye could see with maybe one road on the horizon. Unfortunately, I don't think I have any good pictures of that.

From the air2

The Punta Cana airport has a grass/straw roof which was pretty cool and was completely empty on the Tuesday we arrived.

Airport

The drive to the resort was winding and spine-shocking and about an hour long. The bus was moving too quickly to get any good pictures, but we passed some really impoverished looking concrete dwellings where people were gathered in mismatched chairs on the porches. We also passed some elaborate and posh homes that were protected by concrete walls and high gates.

The Dreams Resort where we stayed was gorgeous. The entry stairs led to a large open lobby.

Hotel lobby

The pool stretched almost the entire length of the grounds and never felt crowded. There was a spa and beach access and several restaurants on-site.

Pool2

The resort was all-inclusive, which was nice when I wanted a drink on the beach or a late night snack delivered to the room. The food was just ok, although our dinners at the onsite French and Japanese restaurants were excellent. The morning omlette station was also quite good.

On our first night there, we were headed to a cocktail reception. For the first time in months, I saw my arms in short sleeves. Boy did they look like gorilla arms! So, I bit the bullet and shaved them. That was certainly a new experience. Which is how I learned that arm hair must have something to do with temperature regulation, because after I did it I was sweaty and chilled at the same time. For the first 24 hours or so of the trip, I couldn't seem to regulate my temperature right. But it all evened out. That's the price I pay for vanity, I suppose.

Speaking of vanity, I didn't have time to get a pedicure before I left, so I took advantage of the spa and scheduled one. The pedicure stations looked ultra comfy, big boxy platforms covered in soft, thick pillows. However, the average Dominican must be taller than my 5 feet, 3 inches because when I sat up on the chair for my pedicure, my feet barely submerged in the foot bath below me. So instead of reclining comfortably, I was stretched a bit awkwardly with about 6 pillows behind me. No matter -- in the end my toes did look mah-velous!

I really didn't pack enough dress up clothes. I guess I had my mind on laying around, relaxing. I packed one "dress for dinner" outfit, a pair of brown capris and an orange peasant top. Let me tell you, those clothes got quite the workout, though I was able to change up the shirt a few times. I'm sure that my sister Angie's co-workers -- most of whom are much younger than me and who must have brought ginormous suitcases of totally hip clothes to ensure no repeated outfits -- were wondering why I kept wearing the same thing over and over again.

Photobucket

But if they wondered, they didn't say anything. Even if they did make me feel (all of my own doing) old and a bit frumpy, they were very nice and good company.

Dressed to kill


I read two books -- One More Day by Mitch Albom and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I started to read, again, Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, but just couldn't get into it. One afternoon, I sat in the hammock on our porch and read. Reading was such a luxury to me and definitely one of the benefits of leaving the laptop at home.

hammock

(Excuse the ashtray. It was a little weird to be in a place where smoking was allowed and ashtrays were everywhere. Trust me, the one on our porch went unused.)

After two days of gorgeous weather during which we sat poolside (or swim-up barside) and at the beach --

Pool

Beach view



Friday was gray and rainy. We decided to walk to a local market just outside the resort grounds. We got down the long drive and out the gates when we decided we were getting too wet. So we walked back up to the hotel lobby and asked the bellman to get us a cab. He did -- after he stopped laughing at our wet rat appearance.

Wet rat

Our 90-second, $7 US taxi ride told us that in the time it took us to head back to the hotel, we could have arrived at the market. Oh well, live and learn. The market was just a couple of concrete buildings with garage-like openings in them. No electricity and most each of the shops sold the same thing. We saw wild turkeys walking through the grassy center of the market.

Market exterior

Market turkeys

In the first store, I picked out a dress for Annie. The owner of the shop asked where we were from. I said the U.S. and he said, "I give you Walmart prices. Cheapie, cheapie." When I asked how much for the dress, the guy told me $35. No way, I said. So he handed me a calculator and asked me to make an offer. $10, I offered. He countered at $20. I said I'll take the dress and a coordinating necklace for $20. Deal.

In another shop, I found a necklace I wanted for Charlie. $25, Mr. Nicholas GoodDeal told me. (That's how he introduced himself. "Good morning! I am Nicholas GoodDeal. What's you're name?") C'mon, Nick...I'm not paying more than $2. After acting put out, he agreed to $5. Let me tell you I'm glad that I didn't pay anymore than that because when I got home and gave it to Charlie, there was a sticker on the necklace that said "Made in the Philippines." I probably could have ordered the same thing from the Oriental Trading catalog!

Here's my sister in the shop of Mr. Bargain (boy, they have weird names in the Dominican Republic!)

Ang @ market

Despite the warnings not to drink the water, several people in our group ended up sick. I got a bit a of an intestinal bug on our last night there. When I went to the gift shop to buy Immodium, the clerk sold it to me, then opened the box and gave me just one of the two blister packs of pills in the box. I thought that was a little weird, but the language barrier between us didn't allow us to resolve the situation and I took my one pack and hoped it would be enough. Thankfully, it was.

All in all, the trip was good. It wasn't the best resort I've stayed in. No pay-per-view movies, spotty TV reception, no poolside food service. I had to keep reminding myself that despite all the attempts to disguise it at the resort, I still was in a Third World country. But I did come back rested. I got spend a lot of time with my sister, who despite being eight years younger than me, is way better at hair and makeup and helped me look decent -- even if I was wearing the same clothes night after night!

And, besides my passport renewal and the $100 I spent on tips and gifts, it was a free trip. And who can complain about that?

9 comments:

recipeforchaos said...

Looks like you had a great time. The resort looks beautiful. I was once able to take a cruise with my sister and like you it was a memory I'll always want to keep.

Liz said...

I think it sounds marvelous. A beach, a pool, nothing to do... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Angie said...

I hope "quiet" isn't code for boring...sorry if I wasn't too exciting - I too needed some down-time! Thanks for going with me!

Amy said...

@Angie -- No, quiet was perfect! Exactly what I needed. Thanks for taking me.

Sharon said...

Um, GORGEOUS!!! Sorry you got sick, I'd love to see pics of you shaving your arms, and next time I wanna go. ;)

Shannon @ Gabi's World said...

Wow! That looked like a relaxing place minus the need for Imodium. And such the negotiator you are! And it's always nice to know you didn't go in debt having your vacation... it sure makes relaxing a bit easier!

joicy said...

WOW!!! it really sounds great... very nice beach :)
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Joanie said...

I'm catching up here. I found several of your posts that I somehow missed! That sounds like a fantastic trip!

Just Safari Punta Cana said...

Really nicely described vacations. Did you had a chance to visit Punta Cana after this trip ?
It's a bit cleaner now, gift shop vendors are catching up with english language much better, and even russian language is increasing (because of hordes of Russian visitors in Bavaro and other touristic places)