Archives by Tag 'Gardens'

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?

July 2016 Nova Scotia Tour (11 nights) Part 2

By DD - Last updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2016

uniacke-estate-lakeAfter postponing writing this second part many times it’s about time we post it. We’re so thankful for taking notes! A pictures paints a thousand words but still, there are some details we wouldn’t have remembered without notes. This article is about the second part of an 11 night trip to Nova Scotia we made this past summer. We toured the Nova Scotia Museums, among other attractions, using a Parks Pass, skipping those we had already visited before.

We started our trip in Moncton, driving counter clockwise. In part one (Day 1-5) we drove through Truro, Wolfville, Annapolis, Yarmouth, Liverpool, Lunenburg and Bridgewater.

Day 6

Our day started in Halifax at the Best Western Chocolate Lake Hotel. We weren’t very happy with our kitchenette suite, one of the last rooms not refurbished yet but it had everything we needed, including a delicious complimentary breakfast looking out the lake. Despite being cold and rainy, we had a great day and did all we had planned.

Our first stop was at the Museum of Natural History. This was DD’s second visit and her favorite parts were the wildlife dioramas and the indoors bees nest connected to the outside world by translucent tubing. We did a quick tour of the Halifax Public Gardens right across the street while we still had some money in the parking meter. After a quick visit of the Maritime Museum we drove 35 minutes to what would become one DD’s favorite houses in Canada: Uniacke Estate Museum. Before our tour, we had lunch in the car admiring the grounds behind the rain drenched windshield. Later, as we were touring the house, DD had this feeling of dejà vu, this sense of having been there before and told the lady working there about the movie Somewhere in Time which she had never heard of. In the movie, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeves) travels back in time at the Grand Hotel to be with the love of his life, Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). Then, walking to another room, DD got a flash back all the way to the Big Island of Hawaii at the Jacaranda Inn, the old Ranch Hotel that we had almost all to ourselves back in 2007. We walked around the property and along the lake and it was with great sadness that we left the Estate as if we had to go back to 2016…

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Day 7

After another plentiful breakfast buffet we started the day at the Halifax Citadel where we used our Canada Parks Pass. Although it was still grey, cold and windy, thankfully it didn’t rain. It was Dami’s first visit to the fort and DD’s second; DD had visited with Mama D before. We went on a French guided tour then explored some more on our own and had a comforting cookie and a soothing hot beverage at the coffee bar before heading out to Shubenacadie Wildlife Park (home to the famous groudhog Shubenacadie Sam), a 45 minute drive from Halifax. On the way there, we realized we had left our binoculars in the room; We gave the park a call and they reserved two pairs of binoculars for us at The Greenwing Legacy Interpretive Centre! We were able to use them on the trail around the pond and in the park as well so we were able to get a better view of the animals that were further away. Even though we only did two activities we still did a lot of walking: DD’s phone registered 13000 steps and 8.5 km: almost a Tater Tour day; A little later on our trip, in Sydney, we spoke to a woman with an organized tour group called the Taters. They are a group of people that travel across America and hike ten kilometers a day. We’ve seen them at a few places we stayed at.  We’d love to participate in one of their tours!

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Day 8

After leaving Halifax, driving towards Cape Breton Island, our first stop was at the Fisherman’s House. The lady there highly recommended we stop at Memory Lane Village which we were glad we did. The highlight of our visit was playing and cuddling with Laurel the tabby kitten who had lost his brother we presumed was named Hardie. We also met a widow at the church who told us she was wed to her deceased husband in that same church a long time ago; it was a special moment.

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Our next stop was the Sherbrooke Village we had been wanting to visit for so long! But before doing so, we checked-in to our hotel Liscombe Lodge which was on our way to the Village. We started our Sherbrooke Village tour with a very disappointing lunch at the Tea Room. We were expecting a meal like the ones we had at Louisbourg, Le Pays de la Sagouine, King’s Landing or at the New Brunswick and the Nova Scotia Acadian Villages but The Tea Room was more like any ordinary diner with nothing special and a very limited menu. We should have listened and have eaten at Memory Lane. The best part of our visit at Sherbrooke Village though was that the streets were almost empty as it was the end of the day and we had our picture taken at the photo shop using the original 1860’s wet plate collodian ambrotype process. It was so neat as we dressed up and stood still for the photographer. We would like to go back next year for another picture which was a lot more exciting than our Passport pictures! We drove twenty minutes back to our cabin at Liscombe Lodge.

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Day 9

Liscombe Lodge has a beautiful setting but the bed as in other cabins we rented in Nova Scotia, was not comfortable. We’d love to go back but unfortunately our cellphones were not working in the area so we will not be able to go back as we need to stay connected at all times for our work. After a morning walk, we set off for the longest drive on the trip (five hours total) to Canso, another place we had been wanting to visit for a long time; Every time we drove to Cape Breton Island and saw the signs to Canso. For some reason, everywhere we went was quiet but whenever we mentioned it we were told it was either super busy earlier in the day or the day before which was fine by us. On the road, not far from Canso, we stopped at a lookout where there was a plaque and information about “The Chronicles of Prince Henry Sinclair’s Voyage to the New World in 1398”: Who knew? At Canso, we took a boat ride to Grassy Island that we had all to ourselves for an hour and we could have stayed longer if we had wanted to but we still had a long way to go to Sydney. The island is a berry picker’s and a birder’s paradise. We didn’t find any berries as they had all been picked along the trail but we did hear a lot of different bird songs we hadn’t heard before. On our way to Sydney, we stopped in Guysborough for lunch at the Days Gone By restaurant and bakery. It was a very busy place and food was better than at the Sherbrooke Village in our opinion. DD had a seafood chowder and Dami a bowl of chili with a spinach salad. We shared a bowl of bread pudding. We arrived at The Hampton Inn Sydney early in the evening, did some laundry and had the last of our prepared meals.

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Day 10

A day at the Fortress of Louisbourg! One of our favorite places in Canada. Before taking the bus from the Welcome Center to The Fortress, we hiked the short trail next to the parking lot. We like that trail with its view of the Fortress. On the bus to the Fortress, we were disappointed there was no introductory recording –  that on our previous visits reminded us of the ones on the Disney buses to the parks – but we were still happy to be there once again. Since we moved to the Maritimes, we’ve been to Louisbourg at least once a year and some years twice so that would make it at least our 6th visit. We were told at Canso Islands to mention we were from Canso when at the gate of the Fortress and if the guard knew his history we’d be put in jail but no luck, we walked straight in! As always it was very windy but it was sunny and for once all the buildings were open. In one of the houses, just as I mentioned we hadn’t seen any cats yet (we’re always on the lookout for cats), I turn my head and there I see it, a drawing of a family with children playing with a cat in a cradle! We saw the sheep and goats and had a delicious turkey meal with a vegetable and rice soup and bread pudding for dessert. We left Louisbourg with some freshly baked buns to take with us from the bakery.

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Day 11

After two nice days of blue sky, rain came back with a vengeance so we decided to go shopping and we got three dwarf African frogs to bring home; they don’t sell them in New Brunswick anymore. It was so much fun to have them in the hotel room with us! We had a little precious Cargo the next day on the ride back home. They made it fine and adapted very well to their new tank with our other frogs, tetras, plants and snails. After shopping we came back for lunch to our room and then went for a walk at the Petersfield Provincial Park trail. It was a lovely trail with beautiful views of the water. And that is the end of our July 2016 trip to Nova Scotia. We can’t wait to go back next year! It was an awesome trip.

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Back in the spring, Mama D and DD were in Alberta and British Columbia and while at the Calgary Tower were lucky enough to be there while they were filming the last season of The Amazing Race Canada. We waited anxiously for the season to start and enjoyed watching the show, especially the Western Canada part and the Maritimes! We have been to almost all the places they visited in Canada and it made us so proud to be Canadian and have such an awesome Country! We were so happy for the winners: Steph and Kristen; they are on our pictures of day! DD posted the picture she took as they were the first to come out of the elevator at the top of the Tower. Mama D and DD have a trip coming in December. Can you guess where they are going to?