Archives by Tag 'Airport'

Playa Dorada All Inclusive Bubble in a 3rd World Country

By DD - Last updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dami offered me a trip to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic for my birthday. He just couldn’t resist the Sunwing offer so we flew Mama D over and went for an all inclusive week to the adult only Viva Wyndham V Heavens Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. We spent my birthday with dolphins and sea lions at Ocean World in Puerto Plata and it was a great time although the trip had its ups and downs. There was the filming of The Bachelor and Dami played Paparazzi and got us in hot water!

It was my first time flying with Sunwing and we chose Elite Plus class for extra leg room, priority boarding with extra luggage weight. We got a private transfer from the airport and the porter who brought our luggage was very unprofessional; I had to tell him his fly was down and when we got to the shuttle he demanded his tip!  Our driver was very nice though and we had a nice chat on the 15 minute ride to our resort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AT the Resort when informed that the room they assigned us would be ready at 1:30 I got a little nervous not knowing what room they would give us regardless of our preferences and needs. We changed into summer clothes and walked to the beach, and right away we got harassed by relentless vendors, and I mean relentless like hungry mosquitoes (I wish they had a spray for those!). While I was sitting on a lounge chair in the shade of a palm tree, I was chatting with a lovely retired couple from Quebec city and the vendors interrupted us so many times, each of them multiple times: sunglasses vendor, bracelets and necklaces vendor, Sea shells vendor, coconuts vendor, sculptures vendor, drums vendor, hair beads vendor, massage services lady, Manicure and pedicure lady. I am naming 10 different vendors here who each harassed us at least twice each so that’s a minimum of 20 times! I had read reviews where people wrote “Just say no thank you” and I wish it was that easy to get rid of them. And I’m not even counting the photographer and the activity vendor. I might have been curious to see what they were selling if they hadn’t been so agressive. I was in shock. I calmed down when we got to our room with a full tummy after a snack at the beach and a lunch buffet at the main dining room. It was super clean and spacious, it smelled fresh, and walking in the cool air conditioned room was nice. The view was very ordinary but at least it was on the outside not facing the pool, the disco and the activities. We took a nice long well deserved nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our second day we ventured out the resort for a walk on Calle Principal Playa Dorada, and got harassed by horse drawn carriage drivers, at least 4 of them each twice. We stopped at the mall but because of the aggressive vendors we walked back out pretty fast. We walked by Blue Bay Resort and I thought about dropping by to check the place out since it’s another similar adult only all inclusive resort to where we were at. We walked in the lobby after being escorted by the security guard and right away was welcomed by Circle One Vacation Club sales representatives. From there we got sucked into a presentation about the Vacation Club. As much as I tried to get out of it, Dami said he agreed to stay and watch. I felt anxiety not unlike somebody trying to get away from a Scientology rep. Finally, after at least an hour and a half we walked out never looking back. All we wanted was to visit the premises but because of that experience we will never stay there. We also preferred the vibe at our resort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our third day was stress free and we just relaxed. On our 4rth day though our stress level went up a bit. We had reserved a rental car to be able to do things that suited us more than the onsite activities and along the process of getting the car there were a few bumps and potholes. Dami’s last rental experience at the Riu Bachatta was a smooth one unlike this time. When he got to the guest service desk he was told he had to drive with the rental company employee to the office in town. The office in town was a company called Kayac, in a derelict building, and the credit card couldn’t go through because of a problem with the network. The vendor tried to convinced him to go get money at the bank machine but Dami asked to be brought back to the resort. We then walked to the Budget rental company that was a 5 minute walk next to the shopping mall and the same problem happened there, the network was down. Dami phoned the bank and tried again but the connection was down. The girl told us we could go get 400$ usd at the bank and that would cover our rental and deposit. So we did just that but the network was down there as well! It was pretty nerve racking. At the bank, rules were pretty strict. We had to stay withing the marked lines on the floor and if a toe stepped out of line the security guard would tell you. The teller pretended he didn’t speak English and seemed to be mocking us watching us scramble with the customer next to us being the interpreter. He took Dami’s passport and credit card number and gave us 500$ usd but when we got to the dealer, the manager said that for security they needed a working credit card. So we were back at square one with half a thousand dollars on us. Now I just couldn’t handle it anymore and left Dami there and went back to the room. It took a few hours until the network was back online and they were able to finally put the card through; Dami went to pick up the car that we rented with a Pad and an internet connection. The connection was working fine at the office but back at the resort it didn’t work so Dami had to go back to Budget once more. It was so ridiculous that it was starting to look like a scene from The Out of Towners, the 1970’s movie with Jack Lemmon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were able to leave at 4 pm and only had a couple hours before sunset. We drove 3o minutes on the most hectic road I’ve ever seen to Riu Bachatta, where Dami spent 2 weeks in March but the security guards didn’t want to let us in. Dami remembered the road that led to the shop area with a pond and we parked there and walked on the beach where we were able to see the cats Dami took so many pictures and videos of although our little Taffy ( Dami’s favorite beach cat during previous trip) was ill with diarrhea digging and covering one hole after another: poor thing! We drove back to our Resort and at one red light got our windshield squeegeed. I locked the doors and took a picture of the guy in case he wanted to do something stupid. With all the scooters driving and passing left and right, and nobody signalling and even going through red lights and driving the wrong way it was a crazy ride. One more time, we were happy to get back to our resort, our sanctuary, our oasis, our bubble where we felt safe and relaxed. We took a walk to the beach after dinner and saw a tiny female pregnant cat. Some customers were appalled by the sight of the cat but we are cat lovers so we didn’t mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our 4rth day we went to the San Felipe Fort. We parked in the shade at the back entrance of the Fort across a municipal building surrounded by Police vehicles.  It was a nice stroll with a paying section with informative boards and a headphone guide. There was an adorable homeless female wiener dog sitting under a tree with the local vendors. She was so nice and affectionate. I was able to share a nice moment with her before the visit and before leaving I gave her some water although she looked tired and only wanted to rest in the safe company of humans. We then walked to The Museum of General Gregorio Luperon and once we got to the street, we got escorted by Police 2 Policemen telling us they were there from 8-6 for our safety, and it made us realize the possible danger we were in. I’m not sure if they wanted money though.  The Museum was very nice and well maintained compared to the surrounding buildings. I was looking forward to going back to the resort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5th day was my birthday! We got to Ocean World around 11 and did the Dolphin experience with the behind the scenes tour. They gave us a yellow t-shirt with matching baseball cap to wear for the tour. We were the only ones doing the 30 minute dolphin tour and had the trainers and dolphins all to ourselves! Dami got to be pushed above the water twice and I got more hug time with Narissa and Niagara. We were also the only ones on our Behind the scenes tour so it was really like a full VIP birthday including the lunch buffet (not as good as our resort buffet). We had an amazing experience with all the animals we encountered including the dolphins, the parrots, the iguanas, the love birds and the sea lion. It was very quiet being the beginning of the low season. The snorkeling in the tank was nice and relaxing, and the water slides were exhilarating! It was a fun day filled with a little bit of everything including two more crazy 3rd world car rides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our 6th day, we were fortunate to arrive at the top of Mount Isabel de Torres by cable car just a few minutes before clouds wrapped themselves around the mountain to block the beautiful views of the forest, the ocean, the towns and the airport. It was a lovely visit with more stray cats and harassing vendors while going to the restrooms, with a lovely 2 hour walk in the rain forest Botanical Gardens. A lot of birds had already left north but we were still serenaded nonetheless while admiring the beautiful scenery. It is built not unlike a sunken garden that covers the whole summit with lots of moss covered and sometimes slippery stone winding pathways and staircases. It was an enchanted 2 hour spent 800 meters up in the clouds. When we returned to our room, there was a water shortage but it came back after a couple hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On departure day, the next morning, I got awoken half an hour earlier than planned by traveler’s diarrhea despite all my efforts using Purell, washing hands often and rinsing my toothbrush with bottled water. How happy was I for bringing my anti-diarrhea pills and even happier they worked! I do not want to imagine what would have happened on the flight if I needed to go when the seat belt sign is on forever because of turbulence! When we arrived home I was a grumpy cat and felt so exhausted! I didn’t understand because I had a good night sleep and feeling well rested earlier and the motion sickness pills’ effect had waned. It was around 5pm and I had to lay down and decided to go to bed a while after telling everybody to shut up (I’m so sorry!) and put on earplugs and eye mask, got up at 10 for cookies and went back to sleep and just slept all the way until 10 the next morning. I woke up with a bad sore throat and Dami started to feel ill a day after me. I had no energy for 3-days and slept a lot.

Among the extra things we brought with us was an hygrometer and an indoor / outdoor thermometer that was handy; the temperature was 23 indoors and 27 out in the shade of the cool balcony with 60-70% humidity indoors and almost 100 outside. We both agreed it was time to try a drier destination next time. With the extra luggage weight allowance, we were able to bring all those little extras we didn’t use but had just in case like mosquito bug spray, room bug spray and travel games. One cool app game we love is UpWords. We can play together from wherever we are as long as we have an internet connection. We just basically have many games going on at at the same time and play whenever we have a free minute. We didn’t need the other games like the travel Scrabble board game we barely ever used!

Would I go back? I don’t think so but thank you Dami for the memorable birthday gift! The Resort itself was fine but we like to do things on our own and go on hikes and visit historical places and museums and gardens. It was my first time in the Caribbeans as I had never been attracted for fear of catching something and for being uncomfortable with the idea of basking in luxury while so many people have next to nothing and live in poverty and misery. A lot of people prefer Mexico to Cuba and The Dominican Republic but then again, I do not want to get sick. I never got sick in Florida and I’m hoping mosquito transmitted diseases don’t get worse. I sure got to practice my Spanish: “Muchas gracias pero me gusta Florida mas que los países del Tercer Mundo”. Walt Disney World is still my favorite place to travel to and if I bought a vacation club membership it would be a Disney Vacation Club one! Even though the tap water in Florida doesn’t taste good it is not a health hazard. In this time in my life, I do like the comforts of home when I travel and there is nothing wrong with that. We had our share of not so comfortable travels like when we hiked section 5 of the Sunshine Coast Trail in British Columbia: It was the most rugged section of the trail and we did it backwards meaning we got lost many times because of all the logging trails up there. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done; 4 nights back country camping in the rocky mountains, at mount Troubridge in the clouds, sleeping on the ground. There was no facilities like cabins at the time, I’m talking about 15 years ago. We were carrying 100 lbs of stuff between the 2 of us and it was during the hottest time of the year, and we finished just in time for the mandatory forest fire evacuation! Boy that dip in the ocean felt great after that! I wish we had that on Tripsister. Another project! I like to travel but there are places I’d rather visit through a National Geographic Channel: it always looks better in brochures and documentaries anyway! Cant wait for virtual reality travel. How about something like Total recall?

Victoria, British Columbia: The trip of a lifetime!

By DD - Last updated: Saturday, August 16, 2014
The Beautiful view of the Washington Mountains from Craigdarroch Castle In Victoria, British Columbia.

The Beautiful view of the Washington Mountains from Craigdarroch Castle In Victoria, British Columbia.

Mama D and DD just returned from an 8 day trip to Victoria, British Columbia and it was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. We packed a lot in those 8 nights and 7 full days of sightseeing. We hope this itinerary will inspire you to plan your own trip to Victoria, British Columbia, one of the best destinations in the world!

To minimize jet lag, we went to bed early every night, between 8 and 10pm. We were early for breakfast and the dining room was quiet which was a bonus.

We enjoyed the ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver. We couldn't have asked for better weather.

We enjoyed the ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Day 1

We took a day trip to Vancouver with Pacific Coach Lines. We had to get to the bus depot early and left the hotel at 7 am. The station really could use a makeover as it is the blandest and boring places ever. Our morning driver with a Scottish accent was a grumpy character. We were fortunate to be waiting in line along with a British couple from Yorkshire going to an Alaska cruise. They had a great sense of humor and laughed about it all.

A frog at the Vancouver Aquarium.

A frog at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The ferry ride to Vancouver was awesome. It is number one on the National Geographic 10 best boat rides in the world. We spotted a sea otter and had lunch watching the islands go by. It was windy on the upper deck but we had our wind jackets. The ocean was calm and DD didn’t have a problem with motion sickness. Once in Vancouver we took a cab from the closest stop – Empress Hotel – to go to the Vancouver Aquarium. We enjoyed our visit very much and hope the belugas, dolphins and sea lions will stay. We got back to Victoria with Mama D’S friend and her 8 year old son who came for the night to spend the next day with us.

 

Young Queen Victoria was out welcoming visitors and she even came inside to chat while we were visiting on our guided tour.

Young Queen Victoria was out welcoming visitors and she even came inside to chat while we were visiting on our guided tour.

Day 2

We started the day with a guided tour of the Legislative Building where we had to leave before the end to go to our Hippo tour, an amphibious bus that goes in the water.

Mama D and her friends ready for Hippo to go!

Mama D and her friends ready for Hippo to go!

It was a fun 1.5 hour tour for an 8 year old boy who sat on the right side of the bus to make sure he would get splashed while rinsing the bus when we came out of the water.

The amazingly small world of Miniature World in Victoria, BC. The tip of my finger is smaller than a dime.

The amazingly small world of Miniature World in Victoria, BC. The tip of my finger is smaller than a dime.

We came back to our hotel – Harbour Towers – for lunch and then went to Miniature World where we were transported into another time and dimension. After the visit our friends still had some time before their return to Vancouver so DD and the boy went to the Bug Museum to look at some giant cockroaches, tarantulas and a colony of ants living in translucent tubes. We went with our friends to the Pacific Coach Depot and DD had a long chat with the Security man – a retired pharmacist -who at 80 years old with cancer was still trucking.

The real life size diorama of the seashore animals at The Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

The real life size diorama of the seashore animals at The Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

Day 3

We spent the whole day at The Royal BC Museum and watched 3 IMAX movies: Rocky Mountain Express, Vikings Journey to New Worlds, and Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. What a day! We had a picnic right outside in the park, past the coat check where we were able to leave our insulated lunch bag while we visited.

They have picnic tables right outside the Royal BC Museum with trees and birds.

They have picnic tables right outside the Royal BC Museum with trees and birds.

While we were waiting in line for one of the movies, we had a nice chat (and a good laugh) with a retired preventive medicine practitioner who was wearing his 3-D glasses as he thought they were his regular sunglasses! He had such an interesting story, having traveled to 40 Countries and studied in Chicago with 7 degrees… it seemed like an incredible journey and DD asked him if he had seen the Twilight Zone episode where a compulsive liar is abducted by aliens because he knows so much and then he is forced to admit it was all lies and then when asked by his patrons where he had been, they don’t believe him of course. Anyhow, the episode is called “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby” and the man with the 3-D glasses had seen it too!

The historic and famous Fan Tan Alley of Canada's oldest China Town in Victoria, BC.

The historic and famous Fan Tan Alley of Canada’s oldest China Town in Victoria, BC.

Day 4

We visited the lobby of the Empress Hotel, shopped at the Salvation Army, Value Village, and walked through China Town’s Famous Fan Tan Alley.

The vegetarian restaurant Green Cuisine at Market Square in Victoria, BC.

The vegetarian restaurant Green Cuisine at Market Square in Victoria, BC.

We had lunch at the vegetarian restaurant Green Cuisine where Aunty J works and DD was able to have a meal in a restaurant which hadn’t happened in a long time! Of course she wasn’t able to have any of the soy based meals but at least she had a nice plate with lots of rice and veggies.

Collection of knots at the Maritime Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

Collection of knots at the Maritime Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

After lunch we went to the Maritime Museum where we were told about the resident ghosts in which DD doesn’t believe and attributed the knocks in the wall to carpenter ants.

The world reknown oldest working birdcage elevator at the Victoria Maritime Museum in British Columbia.

The world renown oldest working birdcage elevator at the Victoria Maritime Museum in British Columbia.

We took a ride in the oldest birdcage elevator in North America which is 2nd on the National Geographic list of the world’s best elevator rides! Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the courthouse because there was a private party.

The Atlas Moth at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens measures 10cm.

The Atlas Moth at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens measures 10cm.

Day 5

Aunty J picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the Butterfly Gardens and to the Butchart Gardens where we started with an awesome and refreshing boat tour.

What a beautiful day Mama D, Aunty J and I had at the Butchart Gardens.

What a beautiful day Mama D, Aunty J and I had at the Butchart Gardens.

It was a very hot day, especially in the sunken garden but it was worth it. We were parked in the rabbit section: how cool on such a hot day! We ended the day with a stop at Aunty J’s house where we ate cherries and blueberries watching hummingbirds and admiring her collection of wooden mechanical toys. We had the chance to hear her better half play an original song on the piano for us!

The Best Western Premier Prestige in Sooke, BC on Vancouver Island is one place Dami and I would love to stay at one day.

The Best Western Premier Prestige in Sooke, BC on Vancouver Island is one place Dami and I would love to stay at one day.

Day 6

We booked a private all day guided tour with Trev’s Adventure Tours of Victoria and it gave us a better idea of what Victoria and its surrounding was. We saw some neighborhoods around Victoria and went to many places tour buses don’t go. We had a picnic at the Lagoon behind Hatley Castle watching birds and later visited – among other places – the Best Western Premier Prestige hotel in Sooke where DD and Dami would love to stay at one day.

The very popular Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia.

The very popular Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia.

Day 7

Our last day was spent visiting Craigdarroch Castle, Government’s House’s Gardens, another lunch at the Green Cuisine Restaurant at Market Square on Johnson Street, and lastly we took a boat taxi ride to Fisherman’s Wharf and we walked back to the hotel.

Another popular place to visit in Victoria, BC is Fisherman's Wharf where more than 30 permanent residents live in boat houses.

Another popular place to visit in Victoria, BC is Fisherman’s Wharf where more than 30 permanent residents live in boat houses.

What a nice trip! We could’ve have easily spent another week as there were more places to visit but it will have to be another time. We loved our hotel and loved the city. Our room was facing the harbor where we saw the Harbor Air planes, the boat taxis, the ferries from Washington USA, the Empress Hotel lit up at night, the seagull families on the roof of the hotel across the street, the fireworks on August 3rd, and the beautiful sunrise. We loved Victoria, BC and will return one day!