Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Our Club Med Home Away From Home

La Nina

TRAVEL THERE: GENEROUS AND GRACIOUS SPACES

Since I’d won our trip to Club Med from CTC Travel, we had no idea what kind of accommodations to expect.  How bad could things be at a five star resort, right?  Still, I’ve usually pored over the available information and carefully selected our rooms to be as economical as possible, while providing what we need.  We made out just fine in what they provided – in fact, better than fine.

The Big Picture

Most of the entertainments and dining facilities are centrally located on the property.  If you go one way from there, you’ll reach the Zen side of the resort.  That’s the more exclusive, adults-only part.  If you go the other way, you’ll find building after building after building of more family-oriented hotel rooms.

Our Accommodations

I can’t speak for the rest of the rooms in any of the other buildings, but I can tell you 662 La Nina is a nice place to stay.  When you enter the door there is a hallway.  On the right is a room with a toilet and next to it is another room with the balance of the bathroom facilities, a huge walk-in shower and a large two-sink vanity.

The view from our front door

On the left side is a huge, and I do mean huge, closet.  Along with plenty of hanging space and hangers, there were two stacks of roomy shelving.  If I would have had my druthers, I would have preferred a dresser with drawers, but that’s just me.  The shelves worked fine.  There was also a shelf all around the top of the closet that was great for hats and such.  There was room for everything and to spare.

The room came with some equipment, a hairdryer, a frig, a coffee maker, an iron and an ironing board.  There’s also free wi-fi, not the fastest in the world, but more than adequate for the usual stuff. The Dominican Republic is on the same power grid as the US, so they had the same kinds of power and plugs as we do.

After you get past the bathroom facilities and closet, the room opened up.  To the right was a nice bed, queen-sized, I think.  It seemed a bit smaller than at home.  To the left was a secondary space with two sofas that could be made into beds.  We didn’t have to guess that this was great for families, a pungent smell told us someone had recently had an accident there.  As soon as we notified housekeeping they took care of it, but they had points taken away for it nonetheless.

The view from our balcony

There was also a nice balcony.  I wasn’t really roomy, but there were two chairs, a table and an ashtry, which we no longer see in America very often.  I spent some quality time out there, but had to be careful to wear socks, because if my ankles were bare, some invisible pest would begin to gnaw on me.

We were very comfortable there.  The rooms are not what I consider luxurious, but they weren’t spartan either.  Nicely, but not opulently furnished – it was a beach resort after all.  We especially appreciated the bonus room.  I’d retreat there in the mornings before Bill woke up and he liked to enjoy his online games there.  We slept well every night without any interruptions.

The Fitbit tells the story

We also walked a million miles or at least it seemed like it!  La Nina was sort of in the middle of the cluster of buildings with rooms.  I’m guessing there is a premium to pay for rooms which were closer to the entertainment section, but there were buildings which would have doubled our steps taken.  I hope they are a bargain.

At the reception area they tell you that you can call whenever you like and a cart will come and transport you back and forth.  On our first day we tested that theory and attempted to grab a ride to our room.  So, had everyone else on the property.  Well, not everyone else, but enough someone elses that we weren’t going to wait – especially when we watched an aggressive group jump on a cart and zoom away, rather than allowing the ladies who had been waiting ahead of us to take it.  In other words, we didn’t plan to fight that battle on a regular basis.  While I did see a lot of carts whipping around the property, it was rare for them to have guests as passengers.  Usually they were toting bags or equipment.

So that’s it for our accommodations.  Come back next week and we’ll go to breakfast.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Casino Night in Freeport

TRAVEL BUG TALES: PUTTING ON THE RITZ

It’s at least a little ironic I’m going down memory lane at one resort on Mondays and sharing my latest trip to another resort on Wednesdays.  While Club Med Punta Cana is on the other end of the quality scale from Jack Tar’s Grand Bahama Hotel, I’m exactly the same person.  I’m just not much of a relaxer.  I completely failed at relaxing on the beach.  Let’s see how I do at a casino.

Primping for Our Big Night

Gambling was completely new to me.  I grew up Baptist and Baptists don’t gamble.  Well, I’ve heard my mom loved slot machines.  Let’s just say I had never gambled.

When we got back to our rooms after a day in the sun, it was time to get all fixed up for our big night.  That’s why tanning had been such an important activity for the rest of my friends.  Women in evening gowns.  Men in tuxes.  Fortunes won.  Fortunes lost.  Every hair had to be in place.  I’ll admit it was a little frenetic and I tried very hard to plug into the energy source.

As you can see in the photo, my spot by the pool without baby oil, rendered me just about the same shade of brown as the other ladies.  With my uber short hair I had less to worry about while getting ready.  My mom, the slot machine queen, gave me a roll of quarters to play the slots with.  I slipped them into my little evening bag with great anticipation.

Frolicking in Freeport

Then we boarded the bus for Freeport.  How very touristy of us!  The bus dropped us off on the side of the casino, allowing us to stroll to the door and pretend we did this all the time.  Since nothing is scarier than a clump of women desperately looking for a good time, my friends and I headed off to try our fortunes at the tables, but I assure you, we weren’t the least bit interested in winning any money.

My first stop was the slot machines.  I did pretty well to begin with.  I more than doubled my roll of quarters, but almost as quickly I was empty-handed.  I figured out, Baptist or not, gambling was not my thing.  It felt like I had just taken a perfectly good pair of shoes and tossed them in to the traffic.  Next time someone gave me a roll of quarters, I was going to do something better than lose them in a slot machine.

My winning and losing had taken what?  About 15-20 minutes.  Now what was I going to do with myself during the hours I was stuck there at the casino.  While I have no trouble being the life of a party where I know a lot of people, throw me in a room with a bunch of strangers and I want to find someplace to hide.  Instead I looked for places to lounge while trying to pretend I was cool.

Just like at the beach earlier in the day I had the sense that I should be enjoying myself, but I wasn’t.  In my many strolls through the casino between lounging sessions, I’d see my friends, ordering a drink, playing a game or chatting with someone.  Meanwhile, I was just trying to look cool rather than desperate.

Eventually the bus did return and I got to quit working so hard at having fun.  Everyone had stories to tell and I was able to just oooh and aaaah.  When they turned to me for my report, I laughed about how much money I’d had in my possession for such a short period of time.  When they wanted other details, I said I’d spent my time people watching.  It was true.  I’d spent my time watching everyone else have a lot more fun than me and wondered what kind of disease I had that was keeping me from properly enjoying this vacation.

So far, the best part of the trip had been dancing at the local club and reading by the pool hadn’t been so bad.  Up next was a shopping trip.  Now that’s my kind of activity.  Come back next week and see how I do.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

Let Club Med Punta Cana Entertain You

Cirque du Soleil

TRAVEL THERE: ENJOYING THE EVENING PERFORMANCES

If you were looking for it, there was always something to do at Club Med.  As I said earlier, live music entertained the guests in the Cielo Bar before dinner.  After dinner there would be more live music, often from a different band.  And so it would go into the the wee hours of the morning, but we can’t tell you much about that, because we usually turned in after the evening show.

Not Broadway, But Not Bad

Perhaps you read some of my reviews of our recent Royal Caribbean cruise which included scathing remarks about the on board talent, or lack of it.  At Club Med, the performers weren’t pros (with a few exceptions) and they didn’t try to pretend they were, but the entertainment was completely enjoyable.  Most evenings, some time in between the end of dinner and the beginning of the hard core partying, there would be entertainment.  We found it quite fun.

Michael Jackson Tribute

Our first night featured a tribute to Michael Jackson.  A professional performer danced to familiar Jackson tunes and he was accompanied by a cast comprised of Club Med staffers – known as GO’s (Gracious Organizers).  We discovered a large number of the GO’s are interns on a stipend.  Pretty much slave cheap labor, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The pro had the right build to play MJ and had someone doing great make-up.  His wardrobe was very convincing and so was his dancing.  While I can’t say it was just like watching MJ himself, it was high-energy, fun and entertaining.

After the MJ tribute there was something very familiar – an introduction to the staff.  I felt like I was on a cruise – but without the trays of champagne.  The intro went overly long I thought, but the Chef du Village (the guy in charge of Club Med Punta Cana) was embarrassing people who left early, so we sat in our seat until he was through.

Balloon Party

Creactive Demo

Creactive is the name of the Cirque du Soleil (CDS) trapeze training school at Club Med Punta Cana.  There guests can pretend they’ve run away and joined the circus.  Bill wasn’t the least bit interested in taking a high-flying class and I’m a little acrophobic, so we didn’t take advantage of Creactive at all – except for the show they put on one evening.

The show was great.  Performers, alone and in pairs, put themselves through their paces high in the sky.  If you’ve ever been to a CDS show or seen one on TV I don’t have to tell you of the aerial feats of skill and awe they performed.  However, it was also different from the usual performance.

There was no plot or theme and I missed it.  I love the crazy costumes and surreal stories featured in the CDS shows I’ve seen previously.  There was also none of the floor acrobatics, juggling and magic that make a CDS show so fantastic.  As I said, it was a great show and this isn’t meant as criticism, just a warning about what to and not to expect.

After the show, there was a Balloon Party in the Rondele, a circular patio next to the Cielo Bar. Whatever they called a party at Club Med, it contained a lot of singing and swaying.  There’s a song they sang all the time that started out “alle’ alle'” and included hand signals that everyone seemed to know – but us.  It was called the Crazy Dance and they gave Crazy Dance lessons every day, but since I don’t know my right from my left, I stayed away.  This was the Balloon Party, because they dropped balloons on the crowd.  The White Party was white, because they dropped white confetti on you.  The Red Party was red because…well you get the idea.

The Brazil Show

Another evening we were entertained with a show featuring Brazilian music and dance.  As far as I could tell, there were no professional performers for this one, just jiggling GO’s giving it their all in skimpy costumes.  I’m not complaining.  It was a lot of fun.

Then out came the Chef du Village (CDV).  This guy really needs his own TV show.  I don’t think the stage at Club Med is big enough for him.  He had on a knock-out Carnivale costume and performed some “magic” that were actually gags, which poked fun at his victim, but entertained the audience.

From Carnivale, the CDV moved on to world peace.  (See I told you his stage was too small.)  He recognized all the countries represented by staff and then moved on to the audience to see how many other countries were represented.  Then we all sang, “We Are the World.”

No Dominican Show 

We were disappointed on our final day that there was no show.  It was supposed to feature the Dominican culture, which I would have enjoyed.  The show had been on the schedule I took a picture of that first day.  The show was on the schedule I picked up in the lobby.  However, the schedule at the Cielo had been changed somewhere along the way and the Dominican show had disappeared.  The only people to show up were Bill and I and one other group.  There’s being prepared and being over-prepared.  I think I was over-prepared – as if that’s a surprise.

Sometimes after the show we would head over to Cielo to check out the action, but usually we were worn out by so much relaxation, so we’d head to the room.  Come back next week and I will tell you about our accommodations – and as always, thank you CTC Travel.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Is This Supposed to be Fun?

Debbie and Francis on the Beach

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE BEACH IS NOT MY FRIEND!

So there I am in the Bahamas with some of my best friends from college. I’m in my early twenties and have spent my life taking vacations on the beach. It’s our first full day at this tropical resort and we’re going to spend the day hanging out in the sun and sand.  This is supposed to be fun, right?

Everything Starts Out on the Right Foot

We’re on vacation.  We sleep late.  We get into our cute swimwear.  We head out to the beach.  We find a spot to line our towels up on the sand.  We grease down our bodies with baby oil – sunscreen wasn’t yet a thing.  We lay down to soak in the sun.

So far so good – right.  Then the breeze kicks up.  Do you know what happens to your greasy body when the sand starts blowing.  I guess I didn’t or I wouldn’t have put the baby oil on in the first place.

My Beach Frame of Reference

See, my beach world had been very different.  The only hanging out we did on the beach was the early morning when we’d go beach-combing for shells and you didn’t need suntan lotion in the early morning.  We’d spend the rest of the morning shopping and then make lunch for the guys who had been golfing.  After cleaning up from lunch we’d head out to the beach en masse and mom would put some suntan lotion on us.  Please note, this was not your soccer mom’s sunscreen.  It was only supposed to keep you from burning and was not designed to protect you from harmful rays.

Here’s the trick.  We didn’t lay down on a towel.  We hit the water and stayed there.  There would be floats for playing in the surf, but most of the time we’d just jump with the waves as they came rolling in.  The Lides had a net and we’d seine for treasures.  We’d play with Frisbees in the surf or play some catch with a beach ball.  We wore ourselves out and yet we still complained hours later, when every inch of our skin was shriveled from the water and our mom would insist we had to get out of the water.

We’d grab a towel from the pile, wrap it around us and head back to the beach house where showers and naps would fill the late afternoon.  For dinner we’d head out and eat at some incredible seafood restaurant.  Once back at the beach house we’d play games, sing songs and talk about life.  

“I Don’t Like This Place”

The moment the wind covered my body in a thin sheet of sand, I stood up and said, “I don’t like this place.  I want to go home.”  This tropical vacation was ganging up on me.  First, they put me in a cinder block room with a salt water shower.  Then they expected me to get in line for every meal and fill my tray like I was still back at SFA.  They also expected me to play bingo and then when I revolted the natives ripped me off in a classic tourist trap move.  Next thing I know I’m supposed to want to lay on the beach covered with sand – and I’m supposed to like it.  I wanted my mommy.

I’ve never been much of a complainer. I’m more of a let’s-have-fun-anyway kind of girl.  I think the very fact I was complaining must have shocked my friends and to boot, I had tears streaming down my face.  They got that I was dead serious.

Let’s Fix This

Debbie and Frances jumped up and put me under a beach-side shower-head.  One friend sat me down in a pool-side chair and the other went to the snack bar to score me a burger and some chips.  Then someone put a book in my hand.

I soon realized how completely juvenile I’d been.  Blood sugar may have had something to do with it, because we’d slept late and missed breakfast.  I began to laugh at myself, which meant that now my friends could laugh, too.  We made an executive decision.  I was not allowed on the beach.  I’d sit next to the pool and read my book.  They moved their towels to be closer to me and everything was all good.

One of the reasons my buddies were so interested in getting a tan had to do with the evening’s entertainment.  Adventure Tours was loading up a bus and taking us to the Casino in Freeport.  Everyone had packed a special dress for the occasion.  Most likely we had visions of meeting some version of James Bond in his tuxedo and we wanted to be ready.

How did that go?  Well, come back next week and find out!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Dinner is Delightful at Club Med Punta Cana

Dessert was Divine

TRAVEL THERE: SAMANA, THE INTERNATIONAL BUFFET

I have no complaints about Club Med Food.  I liked some things better than others, but there was not a thing available that was anything but good.  Meals were delicious all day long, but dinner at Samana was something special.

Bon Jour & Bon Appetite

After our visit to Cielo, we’d stroll across the patios to Samana and climb the stairs.  Just inside the doors we’d be greeted by a delightful lady we came to recognize by sight – even if we doubted she recognized us at all.

We’d tell her there were two of us and she’d find us a table.  You could sit wherever you wanted, but we discovered we needed the hostess.  One night we arrived and she wasn’t standing there, so we wandered around on our own.  A bit later we came back to the door, happy to see her waiting, feeling quite silly for having tried to seat ourselves.

As soon as we had a table, a server would appear and offer us a beverage.   Bill would get red wine and I would get white.  Then we’d disappear off to the many, many buffet table.  We didn’t stick to a particular order for our food.  We’d wander about and pick the things that interested us most.  I think the first night was by far the best, Beef Wellington, escargot, veal and much more.

Confession, I ate more cheese, morning, noon and night, than anyone probably ever should – but it was SO good.  There’s a reason I don’t keep a variety of cheeses in my frig – I would eat them.  Mozzerella, Blue, Gouda, Swiss, Emmantala, Tontine, Farmers, Feta, Brie – along with amazing breads, dried apricots, nuts and more.  I ate enough that it should have been all I ate, but this was vacation, right?

The menu rotated every night. Around the central area,

  • a huge section for appetizers, mostly fresh seafood and shellfish
  • cheese and bread
  • the next section would vary by evening.  The section next to the bread would vary with the evening and then the desserts would begin.
  • An inner circle would offer very international dishes, like tempura, sweetbreads, Mongolian bbq, schwarma, enchildas etc. etc. etc.

The back wall had

  • a salad bar
  • a pasta bar
  • a section for grilled seafood
  • then grilled meats and other entrees, like the Beef Wellington or Halibut Oscar
  • one corner had a pizza oven offering fresh slices – very popular with the kids
  • a section with Dominican foods.

In my youth I went with a group of my college friends to an all-inclusive resort – a Jack Tar Village on Grand Bahama.  Eating was no problem.  You couldn’t eat all the food they offered, but beverages were a whole ‘nother thing.  The beverages were supposed to be included and you could usually manage to get one, but good luck getting refills.  Thankfully, we discovered a rum factory nearby and dosed ourselves quite liberally with coconut rum, but could get little of anything beverage-wise from the staff.  We also discovered the vending machines had beer.  I didn’t have any of that, but I think our group had cleaned out every beer out of every vending machine before the week was over.

There was no stinginess with alcohol at Club Med.  All throughout dinner the waitstaff kept our glasses filled – both the wine and the water.  It wasn’t fine wine, but it was fine – if you know what I mean.  The guest population of the resort was primarily French, if you remember, so I doubt Club Med could get by without the good stuff.  I noticed that most people were drinking rose’, something that surprised me.  I knew it was becoming a thing over here, but apparently the French like it, too.

After dinner there would usually be entertainment, so come back next week and enjoy the shows with us.  I can’t sign off without another thank you to CTC Travel.  Thanks so much, we loved Club Med.

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

First Impressions

TRAVEL BUG TALES: NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR

Like the lyrics of “Both Sides Now,” I find myself fond of illusions.  Yes, I do end up being disappointed from time to time, but what fun I have anticipating things – and sometimes I even get it right.

Welcome to the Bahamas!

I always know in my head how I want things to go and much about this trip was a perfect fit for a young girl’s first international travel – especially on a trip without my family.  Some things weren’t so great. 

Take meals for instance.  I’d never been to an all-inclusive resort, so I didn’t realize I’d be going through a buffet for every meal.  I’m not all that fond of buffets – especially free or all-you-can-eat varieties.  The food was fine at the Grand Bahama Hotel, but standing in line with my tray and dipping up my selections didn’t merge very well with my dreams of elegant tropical meals.

Or take the hotel itself.  The entry area was grand enough.  There was a lovely pool area.  Even the beach was very nice.  However, the cinder block buildings where we stayed were not exactly deluxe accommodations.  The furnishing were serviceable, but not more.  In fact, they weren’t even as chic as what I’d become accustomed to in my parents’ favorite hotel chain – Holiday Inn.  What’s more, we showered with salt water!

Bingo?  Are You Kidding?

We checked-in to our cinder block room and unpacked our luggage.  One of our first assignments was to go to the Adventure Tour desk and pick up vouchers for our various entertainments.  That’s when I realized that the first night’s entertainment was going to be bingo.  BINGO?  Was this some kind of joke?

Other events seemed to be pretty good, a native show, a manager’s cocktail party, a catamaran ride with a beach picnic, etc.  That’s what I came to the Bahamas for.  But bingo?  BINGO? I wasn’t buying it.

I started a rebellion.  First I convinced Debbie and Frances that we were not going to play bingo.  I preferred to stay in my room and take a salt water shower over bingo.  The table next to us at dinner felt the same way and soon we had a large group of people who weren’t going to spend their first night in the Bahamas at any stinking bingo game.

I forget exactly how the logistics went, but it wasn’t too long until we were loading into taxis and limos in front of the hotel.  They drove us through a series of unfamiliar streets.  We paid them for a round trip and told them what time to come back and get us.  You probably know how that went, but we were young and had no idea.  So we were on cloud nine.

The taxis had delivered us to a local bar.  Our group was just about the only patrons and that was sort of disappointing, because we were trying our best to go native.  We ordered up some cuba libres and settled in for a good time. After a while, a band began their first set and soon afterwards the natives arrived.  To our delight they were black.  We were going native!

For the first part of the evening the tourists and the natives kept their distance for the most part, but kids will be kids.  Soon enough, the groups melted into one another and we were all dancing and laughing together.  It really was one of the best evenings of travel I have ever had.

Eventually, it was time to go and our transportation showed up, but they claimed we’d only paid for the first half of the trip and we’d have to come up with X dollars to get back to the hotel.  I forget the price, but it seemed steep and we were just college kids who pooled nickels to get drinks.  Somehow we came up with enough money to pay.

That’s when we discovered we’d only been around the corner from the resort.  All the driving around on the way to the club had been a ruse.  We could have walked to and from the club quicker than we could get to the beach and the resort was on the beach.  We could have been mad, but we decided not to be.  The folks who had played bingo were sitting in the lobby looking miserable and we wanted to be sure they regretted not joining us, so we put on our smiles and wrapped our arms around one another.  We’d only just arrived and we were already having adventures.

Next week we’ll head to the beach, so please come back and join us.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Drinks at Cielo Every Evening & All Day Long

TRAVEL THERE: ROCKING WITH A TROPICAL RHYTHM

When they raise the traffic gate and welcome you into Club Med Punta Cana, you enter another world.  It took me a few hours to slither out of the daily grind and figure that out, but I did.  I was still in a bit of a rush as I hobbled back to our room and then headed out again for dinner, but by

dessert, I was on island time.

Denim and White Night

Dressing for Dinner

Sandra Rubio, my travel agent at CTC Travel, warned me they had themes each night at Club Med.  It wasn’t a have-to thing, but something to add to the fun.  She’d mentioned a pirate night, but if they have one of those at Punta Cana, it didn’t happen while we were there.  Our first night was White Night.  I wore a mostly white top and some white jeans, but if you are into themes, be warned, don’t take any shortcuts, especially on White Night.  Your fellow members have spent a lot of money on gorgeous white sundresses, white linen suits and all things white.

Saturday was Denim & White, Sunday Red & White, Monday Flowers, Tuesday 45 & Fluorescent – then we went home.  The 45 thing requires an explanation, but it can wait.

Meet You at Cielo

Cielo Bar is a large, circular, open air, (wait for it) palm-frond-roofed bar/cafe/coffee shop/living room sort of place that takes central stage in the entertainment section of Club Med Punta Cana.  We were wandering in and out of it all the time.

During the day they had salsa lessons and various games.  The bar was always open for coffee or drinks.  A serve-yourself soda fountain sat at one end of the U-shaped bar.  A very convenient restroom was around the back.  Though we never quite figured out a schedule, there were often snacks available – pastries in the early hours, chips, salsa and guacamole during the day and at night hors d’oeuvres.  Comfortable sofas and lounge chairs hugged the outer edges.

Red and White Night

Most of our evenings began on the white sofas of Cielo.  A live band would entertain the crowd.  We’d try to make conversation with some of our fellow GM’s (Guest Members), but most of them were French.  We grew to absolutely love the French Connection.  We also discovered we weren’t particularly proud to be associated with the other Americans on the property.

We didn’t usually bother with evening hors d’oeuvres, because the fabulous buffet meals kept our hunger at bay, but we would have a drink.  The first night I tried a rum & coke, which was fine, but I’m really a white wine girl and that became my regular.  Bill would get a beer with a tequila shot chaser.  He really was on vacation.

Many of our French friends would arrive at Cielo in family groups, but unlike the usual situation with American families, the children were not the center of attention and they didn’t sit staring into a tablet or phone.  French children of all ages were expected to sit quietly in their seat, enjoying their hors d’oeuvres and sodas, while the adults chatted with one another.  We were very impressed by this.  Temper tantrums and meltdowns just didn’t happen.  Americans are doing something wrong.

Eventually, we’d leave Cielo and head over to Samana, the dinner buffet.  Dinner officially began at 6:30, but the Cielo experience began at 7, so Cielo is where we began our evenings.  Then we’d wander across to Samana.  I’ll tell you about that next week.

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Grand Bahamian Adventure

TRAVEL BUG TALES: ADVENTURE TOURS, TEXAS INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES & JACK TAR RESORTS

Your eyes are not deceiving you!  Seven days and six nights at an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas for only $219 including airfare.  Today I couldn’t get as far as Houston on Southwest for as little as that.  Makes me nostalgic for the good old days.

Off We Go!

I may have dropped out of SFA, but my SFA friends didn’t drop out on me.  My buddy Debbie was moving to Dallas and along with another friend named Kathi we were getting an apartment together.  Before we moved in though, Deb and I were going to the Bahamas, along with Frances, yet another SFA friend.  In fact, pretty much the whole plane was full of SFA grads and drop outs, headed off for an adventure.  I guess that’s why the tour company was called Adventure Tours.

My mom and dad were well acquainted with both Deb and Frances, so they weren’t worried about me heading out with a bunch of strangers.  Frances and I had been suite-mates my first semester at SFA and Debbie had been my roommate my second year.  She’s the one who talked me into staying at SFA that last summer.

My parents didn’t blame Deb and Frances for me dropping out of college.  In fact, since they had both graduated, I think my parents hoped they’d inspire me to go back to school.  I was the black sheep of that particular trio – or at least that’s what my parents thought.

Getting There

Our big adventure began in Houston, so our first job was to get there and for me, that was also my first flight.  For all the miles of travel I had already booked by the time I was 22, none of them had been on a plane.  My first flight was a quick hop on Southwest Airlines from Love Field to Houston Hobby.  In those days the flight was something ridiculous like $25, but the experience was pretty much the same as it would be today.  Your plane climbs for 25 minutes and then it descends for the next 25 minutes.  However, I’m pretty sure we got peanuts and a soda.  Can you imagine them serving peanuts in today’s hyper-allergic atmosphere?

My next flight was a Texas International flight from Houston Hobby to Grand Bahama Island.  Texas International Airlines doesn’t sound familiar?  Maybe that’s because they merged with Continental in the 80’s.  I was no longer a rookie flyer.  I climbed aboard with aplomb.  This flight was quite a bit longer, though, and we had a meal instead of peanuts.  You probably wouldn’t recognize it as an airline meal.  There was real china, real cutlery and real stemware.  If I had known that kind of service would one day disappear, I would have probably taken a picture with my Instamatic, but I didn’t know.  I also had no idea I would one day be blogging about the flight.  The internet hadn’t been born yet and the going computer language was Fortran.

Arriving There

While many things about travel have changed, arriving in a foreign country doesn’t.  I had dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s, but as I stood in line for customs I wondered what would happen if they rejected my paperwork.  I felt that way this year arriving in Punta Cana, last year in Cairo and the year before that in Budapest.  They didn’t turn me away from the Bahamas, nor have I ever had a moment’s trouble, but this was the first time.  However, before I even got to the customs officer, I realized they were barely even looking at the paperwork.  I was waved through without so much as a how do you do.  Our bus was about to leave and they didn’t want us to miss it.

The scenery on the way to the all-inclusive Jack Tar Resort was a little worrying.  We’d arrived in Freeport, but were soon whisked away and all we passed were rural scenes.  I don’t even remember seeing palm trees and we couldn’t see the ocean.  What had I gotten myself into?  Come back next week and find out.

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Falling for Club Med Punta Cana

The Evening Line-up

TRAVEL THERE: LEARNING HOW TO BE CLUB MED MEMBERS

Though I was pretty put out that the orientation tour had fallen out of my grasp, I had to admit we had landed in paradise. Have I mentioned how grateful I am to CTC Travel? I still can’t believe I won the trip.

Learning Our Way Around

As I marched all over the campus trying to get my bearings we made some important discoveries. The tile around the pool was pretty slick when it got wet. We found Samana, where the evening buffet would be served. We found the Cielo Bar, which was sort of the living room of the property.  We found the auditorium where we would have met the tour and where the evening’s entertainment would be. We also found the gift shops and the area where we could get pool towels.

Perhaps my best find was  the schedules for every day of the week, posted on a wall in Cielo. I took pictures of them, because the Club Med app was not only sssslllllooooowww, it also ate up a lot of battery.  I suddenly didn’t feel so frantic.  I’d gotten the general lay of the land and even if the app wouldn’t serve up the schedule as fast as I wanted, I had a back-up plan.  Later, I would also discover a place in the lobby where they made printed schedules available every morning.  My hysterical anxiety began to abate.

 And Then I Literally FELL for Club Med Punta Cana 

A quick look at my watch said dinner was not far off and I wanted to freshen up a bit beforehand. The rain started falling more seriously and Bill told me to watch myself on the slick tile.

We headed towards our room in the rain. I took off my flip flops, because they seemed to add to the slickness of the tile. As we came to some steps, four at the most, Bill grabbed a hold of me to be sure I didn’t slip. I was being really careful, but suddenly there was no traction and I was down.

I hit so hard that Bill was convinced I must have broken my hip. He kept trying to roll me over to see the damage. I knew I hit an elbow and one of my arms, but my buttocks was well-padded.  No problem there.

Everything else paled in comparison to what was going on with my foot. Since my foot had come out from under me without any traction whatsoever, I couldn’t imagine why it hurt so much, but my big toe and my fourth toe hurt like a cuss word I am not going to say.  After I got home I decided my foot had hit a wall next to steps as I came down, but it had all happened so quickly I couldn’t figure what had happened.

So, rain was pouring down and my foot is killing me, but right that minute all I wanted to do was get to the room. I put on a brave face and limped away as Bill tried to convince me I should instead be figuring out what was broken.  Come back next week and find out what happened.

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

The Travel Gap

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE LOST YEARS

Something strange happens in my “Family Vacation” scrapbook after 1974.  The family vacations continue, but I’m not in any of the pictures, with the exception of a couple of day trips.  In 1975, I took a detour.  Let’s talk about it.

What Did I Do Instead?

I graduated from  Bryan Adams High School in 1973 with great expectations.  Going away to Stephen F. was nothing I expected.  That’s a story for another day, but when I took the vacation with my family in 1974, I didn’t realize it was the end of a era.  It wouldn’t be my last family vacation, but it would be the last vacation I took with my family until 1990.  That’s sixteen years!

1975 is easy to explain.  My roomie talked me into staying at SFA for the summer as a Summer Orientation Student Assistant.  I didn’t make good choices that summer and it didn’t get any better that fall.  By the end of the Fall semester I was done with SFA.  My poor choices included missing a lot of classes and my GPA was in the dumpster.  What happened next?

The Life Detour

While I take responsibility for my bad choices, in part, I also blame the times.  The world was changing.  I had come to SFA armed with the expectations my mother gave me and those expectations did not equip me for my experience in Nacogdoches.  There were good things about my time there.  I was a more self confidant person than the somewhat gawky girl who first moved into an SFA dorm.  I had a more open mind and was more likely to take chances.  I did not have a college degree however and when it comes to poor choices, that tops the charts.

I had been sent to college so I would be able to “get a job.”  After five semesters at university I didn’t feel as if any of my courses had gotten me any further towards that goal.  Though I started out as a Liberal Arts student, those were a dime a dozen out in the job market and after my first year, my parents wanted me to get serious about my career path.  I enjoyed my business courses, but to graduate with a business degree you needed business math and after three tries I knew I wasn’t ever going to pass that course.  I made a detour over to the fashion department, but for some reason they thought anyone interested in fashion could sew, which I could not.  My real interest was writing and had been from the beginning, but my parents wouldn’t support that career track.  It was one thing for me to be a Liberal Arts student my first year, but after that I needed to focus on getting a job.

Now I know I would have been so much better off if I’d just stayed the course and gotten a Liberal Arts degree.  Any degree is better than no degree at all.  I also know there are all kinds of jobs related to writing.  You don’t have to become a Pulitzer Prize reporter or write the next best seller.  You can write ad copy, do technical writing, even be a reader for publishing house, but I didn’t know enough about anything to even know those kind of jobs existed.  Neither did my parents.

Getting a Job 

When I announced I was leaving SFA, I reminded my parents they had sent me there to get a job and I was certain I could get a job without a degree.  Besides, since I had no idea what I wanted to do, I didn’t know what to get the degree in.  We didn’t discuss the writing thing.  The subject was taboo.

I did get a job pretty quickly.  By February of 1976 I was working for Sears as a management trainee.  You had to work there for a year to be eligible for a vacation.  When 1977 rolled around, all my SFA buddies were graduating and several of them were going to the Bahamas to celebrate.  Since I’d been working, I had money in the bank.  Guess who decided to go with them?

I still have fourteen years to explain, but I think it would be more fun to go to the Bahamas.  Come by next week and join me!