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

Frances is Found

TRAVEL BUG TALES: AN ANTI-CLIMATIC REUNION

So the phone rings and it’s Frances.  She was so nonchalant you would have thought she was calling from the lobby.  She’d gotten word in town that someone was missing out at the resort and she figured out it was her.  She was headed back now and we were to be sure the boat didn’t leave with out her.  We were taking a sail on a catamaran and having lunch on a deserted island.

Best Activity of the Trip

Yep, Frances is the one adjusting her sunglasses.  She sashayed into the resort and onto the boat like she’d been with us all the time.  Most of us know that feeling of never having wanted to see someone quite so much and also wanting to kill them at the same time.

The catamaran sail was lovely.  The water was beautiful and the weather perfect.  We sailed to an abandoned beach and hung out on the sand while locals barbecued fish for us.  I avoided baby oil and there wasn’t much wind.  The meal was good and soon we were headed back to the resort.

A little change in itinerary would have improved my opinion of this trip.  The first night should have been the Live Show, with dancers, swords and flame.  That would have gotten us off on the right foot.  Then we should have taken the catamaran and had our picnic.  What a great introduction to the Bahamas!  My salt water showers would have been much more bearable.

Farewell Party

I have no idea whether our final evening was an official event or just something cooked up among us.  The bar was serving conch balls for appetizers and we never made it to the buffet.

And remember the all-inclusive thing?  Well, all that was included on that evening was the first drink.  Even though we were in the bar for hours on end, we could never get a second one.  Instead we made trips out to the pool and communed with the coconut rum crowd or poured our coins in the Heineken beer vending machines.  The rumor existed that someone in the crowd had found a machine that would dispense the beer without the coin, but I can’t say for sure.

I was ready to go.  Though we’d all come to the party together, when I’d finally had enough, both Frances and Debbie were missing.  Someone invited me out for a walk on the beach, but fresh air was not what they wanted.  No love connection was made.

Instead, I went to my room, but I couldn’t get in.  Someone else had made a love connection and they were using the chain lock to keep me out.  Now I was just mad.  This had been no tropical paradise for me and I just wanted to go to to bed, which was currently being used by someone else.

While $219 hadn’t been a lot of money, even in those days, I felt as if it were money down the drain – money I could have used for something else.  I even resented the quarters I’d put into the slot machine.  Someone offered me the opportunity to sleep on their couch, but I wanted my pjs and my toothbrush and I wanted to take out my contacts.

There had been fun moments, but they’d all been overshadowed by disappointment.  The memory of the night at the local club had been compromised by the trick the limo drivers pulled on us.  The sandy beach experience had sidelined me.  The casino had been a bore.  My almost love connection had been washed out by a storm.  The delicious planter-punch-drenched meal was marred by my friend’s disappearance, that went on for entirely too long.  The only really entertaining time had been the sail and picnic, but just a few hours later I was sitting alone fighting tears.

I went back to my room and banged on the door.  I negotiated a pass-through to our room’s balcony.  Soon my friend and her latest romantic interest joined me there – as if I wanted their company.  Then my other roommate showed up.  I’ll leave the identities vague to protect the guilty.  Thank goodness we were leaving the next day.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I’ll head home next week.  Don’t miss the flight!  I’ll see you then.

 

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

Frances is Lost

beach birds calm clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

TRAVEL BUG TALES: WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

When Frances didn’t return to the hotel the evening after her boat ride, we were concerned but we still thought she’d show up, eventually.  We took a survey among our fellow travelers and the consensus was we were worry warts.  Frances had made a love connection and we’d hear from her soon.

The Day After

Well, she didn’t come home that evening and if she was having a good time, well then, that was OK, but geez, couldn’t she send a smoke signal or something.  This is where the whole cellphone thing comes in handy, but it wasn’t a thing yet.  Back in our day, people not only didn’t have cellphones.  Sometimes they didn’t have phones at all.  It wasn’t inconceivable the casino dealer didn’t have a phone.  He’d called her the other day, but it could have been from a pay phone.  We didn’t even know his name.

Debbie and I decided to stay around the resort, so we’d know whether she showed up or not.  We refused to stay in our room by the phone, but we wanted to be reachable.  There was a low buzz filtering through the resort.  Someone was missing.  Damn kids, some would say, so irresponsible.  Oh my goodness, others would say, and encourage us to contact her parents.

Contact her parents!  That’s the absolute, very absolute last thing we wanted to do.  We talked about it and decided it didn’t make any sense.  Frances was going to show up and then we’d all feel very silly – but what if she didn’t?  What if she was at a hospital somewhere, in need of her asthma machine?  Never, ever, never do this to your friends – ever!!!

By the end of the day we talked to the Adventure Tour people.  We didn’t want to alarm them, but we’d lost Frances.  They didn’t seem all that worried.  They did a lot of these college tours and someone was always disappearing, but they always showed up, just in time to catch the plane.

I’m pretty sure this is the evening we discovered two things, coconut rum and that a store across the street had Dr Pepper, along with other American things.  We borrowed big plastic iced tea glasses from the buffet, filled them up with chipped ice and poured the coconut rum over the ice.  The first time we may have sprinkled a little Coke over the concoction, but we soon dispensed with that altogether, sitting in the dark around the pool enjoying the smooth liquor.

There was no pretending now.  We were worried sick about Frances and we began to wonder why we’d waited so long to sound the alarm.  We’d be on TV.  People would stick their microphones in our faces and ask us why we hadn’t notified the authorities immediately.  Heck, we didn’t even know who the authorities were.  Adventure Tours was in charge of everything and they’d blown us off.

Debbie and I both still felt she’d show up, but we were also worried sick she wouldn’t.  If you drink enough coconut rum, you will go to sleep, even if your friend is missing.  The next morning the phone rang.  Who was calling?  Come back next week and find out.

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

A Few Final Points

TRAVEL THERE: CLUB MED PUNTA CANA IS WAITING

Here’s a few things I didn’t have a place for in other posts about Club Med Punta Cana.  I hope they’ll help you decide you need to go there and visit.  If so, call my friends at CTC Travel.

Dinner A La Carte

You never have to face down a buffet at Punta Cana unless you want to or unless you didn’t get your Indigo reservations in soon enough.  Indigo reservations can only be made in person at the restaurant on the day you want to eat there.  They start taking reservations at 9 AM and if you wait too long, you either won’t get the time you want or you won’t get in at all.

We celebrated our anniversary by having dinner at Indigo.  It was a lovely meal, but Bill made better choices than I did.  He had some kind of whole fish and he says it was one of the most amazing meals he’s ever had.  I had some Dominican shrimp in a plantain bowl.  Good, but not one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had.  Here’s a few pics from Indigo and that meal.

 Another Dinner Choice

With so much free food and drink available, we didn’t see much reason to spend money that way, but there was one opportunity to do just that.  It was called La Cava.  On the patios of Samana and Hispanolo (for dinner only) there was a section set aside for La Cava guests.  You become a La Cava guest when you purchase wine, whiskey or cigars from La Cava and enjoy them with a meal.  If we’d been there longer, we might have considered it, but we did just fine with the included comestibles.

Shopping

There were a few shops at the resort and they had lovely things – but there were no bargains.  Not a single one.  Especially not on larimar, a semi-precious gemstone found only in the Dominican Republic.  The cheapest larimar I found at the resort was a pair of earrings with a tiny piece of larimar hanging from each stud.  The price was $80 and if someone had brought it to me, I would have thought it was some cheap trinket they got for about 5.  So none of my friends got larimar.

At the resort, everything is priced in Dominican pesos and while everyone can tell you how much that is in euros, they are not so good with dollars.  That made shopping quite challenging.  It also almost caused Bill a heart attack when he saw a receipt with a bottom line of 4210.

45

Several years back, Club Med celebrated its 45th anniversary by printing up lots of T-shirts and other items with the number 45.  The items sold like hot cakes  So, when their 50th came, encouraged by the sales of the 45 items, they printed up lots of 50 merchandise.  However, the 50 merchandise was a bust.  They almost had to give it away to get rid of it. but while everyone was rejecting the 50th anniversary merchandise, they were still requesting items with 45 on it.  You’ll see the 45 logo all over the resort on everything from t-shirts and bikinis to flip flops and beach bags.  Vintage 45 items are a status symbol.  We spent a lot of time speculating on the ubiquitous logo and as we asked around, trying to solve the mystery, we discovered there were almost as many answers as their were t-shirts.  Some Americans thought it was for Trump – NOT!  Some French people claimed it was the number of a popular soccer player.  I asked the Chief of the Village and he gave me this skinny.  So, in case you ever go to a Club Med resort and wonder, well here’s the answer.

Farewell to Punta Cana

I think that about covers it.  You should have everything you need to enjoy a resort vacation with Club Med – and I heartily suggest you give it a try.  I’m probably the only person on the face of the earth that wouldn’t think it was the best vacation ever, but my best vacations are devoted to satisfying my inner Museum Girl.

Would we ever return to Club Med Punta Cana?  If we were the sort to repeat destinations, then there is no reason we would not.  It is a beautiful resort with great food and a lot of fun things to do.  We just rarely return to someplace we’ve already been.

So will we ever do Club Med again?  It is certainly a possibility, but we’d probably only go for three nights, not five.  We had a great time, but while Bill is more active at sports than I am, neither of us prefer sports for days on end.  I can see us doing it before or after a vacation devoted to all my museums, palaces and historic sites or just getting away for a few day.

Winning the fabulous door prize from CTC Travel certainly gave us a new favorite possibility on our wish list, but we’ve already got the next trip planned.  I’m just not ready to tell you about it yet.  Right now, as I finish up this post it is June, shortly after our Club Med vacation, I have no idea what I’ll be offering up next week on Travel Talk, but please come back.  I promise it will be fun!

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

The Plot Thickens

Gilligan's Island PosterTRAVEL BUG TALES: WHERE IS FRANCES?

I know exactly how the families of those stranded on Gilligan’s Island felt.  Frances left us to take a little boat tour and then she was gone – just gone.

We’ll Show You!

OK, we were disappointed when Frances didn’t return to the hotel that afternoon, but we weren’t surprised.  We had a special event that evening, one she’d gotten us lined up with, so we were sure she’d show up about five minutes after we were supposed to leave.

We absolutely refused to be upset about this.  We were dealing with Frances and that’s just how she was.  Only she didn’t show up.  We climbed into the transportation arranged for our excursion and headed off to another part of the island.

While Frances did have a tendency to run late, she wasn’t otherwise irresponsible.  Debbie and I agreed that we weren’t happy about her absence, but it would be silly to make a big deal of it one way or the other.  We were going to enjoy our outing and ignore that little twinge that kept saying, “What if something is wrong?”

Dinner Was Also Late

So we arrived at the restaurant, which was full of happy patrons, to discover that somehow they didn’t know we were coming.  Not to worry, have some planter’s punch and chill.

So we had some planter’s punch and then we had some more and then we had a little more.  See, the planter’s punch was complimentary and it was also very, very good.  It was also strong enough to knock you into next week.

Now if Frances had been with us, I’m sure she would have negotiated some wonderful compromise and we would have been served al fresco out by the sea.  But Frances wasn’t there.  Whoever had decided they were in charge instead did not have her skills.  We were sequestered in a side room and drowned in planter’s punch, but the only other thing we got were promises.

In spite of being three sheets to the wind, we began to realize our transportation would soon be coming back and there was no food in sight.  We’d paid for dinner and there hadn’t been any.  Now I will confess I was so out of it that I have no idea what all went on, but there was a lot of it.  Remember, there are no cellphone, no Uber, no UberEats – nothing.  We’d missed the dinner buffet at the hotel and there was no Mickey D’s.  Somehow it was communicated to our transportation to come a little later and eventually, we got a table.

I have to tell you, that’s one of the best seafood dinners I ever had.  I’m sure it helped I was starving to death, but that wasn’t all of it. Everyone agreed we’d been lucky to find out about this place and have the chance to eat here.  We decided it was worth the hassle of waiting – and besides, the planter’s punch had been amazing.

As we dug into the bounteous feast, the food soaked up the alcohol and I began to come out of my haze.  By the time we left, I was stone sober.  I hoped that Frances would be there when returned.  Come back next week and see if she was.

DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Yummy for your Tummy at Club Med Punta Cana

Jane’s favorite lunch

TRAVEL THERE: LET’S DO LUNCH

Breakfast is never my favorite meal of the day and dinner at Club Med Punta Cana was, well, in a word, overwhelming.  Day after day, lunch proved to be the meal I enjoyed most.

Bounteous Buffet

Every day, except the first one, we ate lunch at Hispanola, the buffet dining choice.  I made an exhaustive list of all the things available at breakfast, several weeks ago.  It was the same sort of thing at lunch, but as I’ve said, I preferred the lunch menu.

My favorite lunch was the one pictured above.  The seafood stew had mussels, clams, shrimp and other delicious things.  Also on the plate is a sample of the Dominican Beef I learned to love and a chicken dish of some sort and even if I don’t know it’s name, I can tell you it was good.  And veggies?  Always a wide variety of them, prepared in a myriad of ways.  I love veggies.

I also love bread and cheese.  Those were available in astounding numbers and varieties.  Salads were always being served, but my favorite salad experience was the day I chose what I wanted from the salad bar and a lady tossed it with an amazing vinaigrette and some of the most delicious ripe avocados I’ve ever eaten.

There was a grill offering hamburgers and hot dogs.  A pizza oven produced several different kinds of pizza every day.  The delicious seafood stew came from a seafood grill.  All around the huge buffet were all kinds of delicious choices up to and including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

If your thing is really dessert – never fear.  The dessert bar was just as awesome at lunch as it was at dinner.  The kids seemed to love the soft serve ice cream, with plenty of sprinkles and chocolate syrup available.  The adults lined up for a selection of freshly made gelatos.  Was there plenty of fresh fruit if you preferred?  Of course, there was.

It was never a good idea to leave your food unattended

My Solo Lunch

Lunch was so good that one day, when Bill was just too tired to make the hike to the restaurant, I went ahead on my own.  It wasn’t as if I was actually  hungry.  I just didn’t want to miss lunch.  The evening meal was lovely, but far removed from the beach.  I preferred to sit in Hispanola, enjoying the gorgeous Caribbean day and the sparkling turquoise water, while I lingered over a delicious meal.

On the other days, when I’d eaten lunch with Bill, there was always another activity cued up right after lunch.  On those days, I stuck to water and soda.  A glass of wine or beer would have put me to sleep.  I wouldn’t have made much of a cheerleader under those circumstances.  For my solo lunch, I allowed myself the luxury of cool white wine.  It made everything perfect.

Yes, the Meals Were Great

In case you haven’t caught the drift of it yet, one of the best things about Club Med Punta Cana is the spectacular food offerings.  I came home with a few extra pounds, but I love my friends at CTC Travel anyway!  There’s only a few more things I need to share.  Come back next week and we can probably wrap up our stay.

DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Breakfast Choices at Club Med Punta Cana

Morning at Indigo

TRAVEL THERE: TO BUFFET OR NOT TO BUFFET

Mornings came with a choice – Indigo Beach Bar & Grill where you ordered from the menu or Hispanola, a buffet.  Both were great and both offered unique experiences.

Indigo

Our first morning, we still didn’t have it all figured out.  I didn’t know where Hispanola was or even if it was available, since the day before, our friend in reception said it was closed.  We did know Indigo, because we’d had lunch there and I knew it was near the place where the orientation tour was supposed to begin.  Decision made.

If you like a great view, a laid back atmosphere and ordering from a menu, then Indigo is the place for you.  We had our first breakfast there and our last, with little to complain about.  The menu is somewhat limited, but there’s an egg choice, a pancake choice, a healthy choice or you can just tell them what you want.  They will deliver a basket of pastries and fixings to the table and/or you can graze from a small buffet with cheese, cold cuts and cereal.

If I was going to complain, I might say the service was a little slow and not exactly four star, but things are so relaxed in Punta Cana that it would almost be ridiculous to complain.  One more thing, if you don’t like runny eggs, then you are in trouble.  The menu says sunny-side up, so I specifically asked if they could flip it over and cook the yolk hard.  The waitress said yes, but the plate delivered said no. Then I looked at the view and decided I could live with it.

Breakfast at Hispanola

Hispanola

Forget everything you ever knew about breakfast buffets!  I’ve had breakfast buffets all over the world and never in my life did I ever see such variety.

  • A grill for the egg, bacon and sausage crowd
  • A huge table with every sort of bread to slice that you can imagine
  • The entire front of the facility was one long buffet with everything from the most gorgeous pastries you have ever seen to oatmeal to pork & beans – and everything else in-between – but that was only the beginning.
  • Another buffet offered sweet breakfast treats, like pancakes, crepes and Belgian waffles.  For some reason that’s also where you’d find cheese quesadillas.
  • Another vast expanse offered toast, muffins, English muffins, bagels – all the stuff you like to heat up before you enjoy and yes they had a toaster.
  • One section had dried fruits, cold cuts, nuts – probably pickled herring – but I never got very close to that table.
  • An entire bar of fruits – all fruits, every fruit – juiced, sliced and whole.
  • A dairy bar with my precious cheeses in a wide variety, as well as milk, cream, yogurt and cold cereal

In other words, breakfast at Hispanola was an event.  We’d enjoy our morning repast out on a covered patio, but in reality the whole thing was one huge open-air facility.

And this is where I have to mention the flies.  Al fresco dining is a wonderful thing, but there is nothing you can do about the flies.  Even though Samana is not actually open air, they leave both sets of double doors wide open all the time.  It’s not like the buffets were fly-covered or even that you were pestered by flies, but if you are going to melt-down because a fly might have crawled on your beignet, I’d say you should skip Club Med Punta Cana.  I’m no fly lover, but having come from the food industry, Bill is more particular.  He just sucked it up and lived with it, but he didn’t like it.

Great Mornings

Whether you choose Indigo or Hispanola, breakfast at Club Med is a great way to start the day.  I confess, I did not work out every morning at Punta Cana the way I do at home, but I don’t walk all day at home the way I did in Punta Cana.  I have to say that waking up whenever you darned well please and strolling over to a beautiful breakfast is a pretty nice life.

As I said grace over my morning meal, I’d say a little thank you for CTC Travel that had made it all possible.  Come back next week and we’ll talk about how we kept ourselves busy during the day.

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.

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.