DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

You’re Going Where?

TRAVEL TALK: FRANCES MAKES A LOVE CONNECTION

While we’d been focused on whether or not Michael and the gang were going to make it to our end of the island or not, apparently Frances had been fielding some other calls we’d been totally unaware of.  When we woke up on the fourth day we discovered Frances had other plans.

Frances in Charge

So, at SFA I’d met Frances before anyone else.  I remember her introducing herself the first day and helping my family carry in my stuff.  Frances was an operator.  By the end of the first week she had a connection to pretty much everyone on campus. She was constantly heading off to this party, that trip or another hot date.  As I said, she was our organizer.

At the same time she had health issues.  Allergies to this or that.  Asthma bad enough to need one of those inhalers and for good measure, on this trip she’d brought along some mechanical devise we were supposed to hook her up to if her inhaler didn’t do the job.

She was also late to everything, always.  It was her trademark.  Debbie and I knew that when we planned the vacation, but it was just part of Frances.  You take the good with the bad.  However, it did get a little irritating.

Every morning it was something.  She’d be the first one to take a shower and be sitting on the sofa waiting for us, but as we started to walk out of the room, she’d start to paint her finger nails.  Just as every bus driver closed the door, she’d be the one to say, “I forgot __________, can I go back to my room.  It will only take a sec.”  If it had been me, they would have told me to just catch the next bus, but folks always waited on Frances.

A Different Sort of Morning

Debbie and I were just about through with Frances and her shenanigans.  We loved her, but everyone on the trip had begun to paint us with her brush.  Every time we showed up, late or not, there would be some sort of verbal jab at our roommate.  Like contestants on Survivor we’d conspired to band together and whatever Frances dreamed up that morning, we were leaving her behind.  Someone had to let her know her behavior was unacceptable.

Only we didn’t get the chance.  She was ready to head out the door when we did and she had her beach bag all packed up to go.  She was going sailing with a dealer from the casino.  What? When? Where? How?  Somehow she had met one of the dealers at the casino and made a date to go sailing today, because it was his day off.  One of the many phone calls the night before had actually been from him and they’d confirmed he’d be there to pick her up this morning.  And then she was gone. She promised to be back in time for dinner.  We were going out to a special restaurant with a small contingency from our group.

Well that was a fine how-do-you-do!  I think this was the day Debbie and I rented bicycles and took a little tour of the resort and its surrounding.  There wasn’t much, but Debbie had spied some ladies selling craft goods on the road to the resort and we used the bikes to get there.

While I’d faced disappointment and frustration on this trip, I was about to become acquainted with fear.  Come back next week and find out why.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

What Do You Do at Club Med Punta Cana?

Bill excels at archery

TRAVEL THERE: KEEPING BUSY IS EASY!

The list of potential activities is quite long at any Club Med and that is very true at Punta Cana.  I would think that most people in the world would find more to do than they can imagine.  So, what did we do?

And They’re Off!

If you like to wake up early and get busy, you can do that at Punta Cana.  The buffet opens early and early tee off times beat the heat.  The gym opens early and if walking or running is your thing, well then there’s 42 acres to trot around in 24 hours a day.  The beach also beckons 24 hours a day and it’s so beautiful all the time, that’s always appropriate.

Bill enjoys water volleyball

Official activities begin around 9.  Some a little earlier.  Some a little later.  We were usually ready to roll around 10.  And what are those activities?

  • Water Sports – Kayaking, Stand-up Paddle Baords, Snorkeling, Windsurfing, Sailing (some fees)
  • Creactive by Cirque du Soliel
  • Archery
  • Tennis – courts, lessons and tournaments for all ages and levels of skill
  • Bill practicing his chipping swing

    Land Sports – Jogging, Walking, Beach Volleyball, Soccer, Triatholon, Marathon, Bocce Ball, Basketball

  • Fitness – all kinds of classes, everyday, in the gym, in the pool and by the beach, from Aqua Zumba to Yoga
  • Golf – Lessons for all levels and a mini-golf (putt-putt) course – actual rounds are off the property and must be paid for seperately
  • Excursions (fee required)
  • Kid’s Club – for all ages from nurseries for infants to teens
  • Shopping – a variety of boutiques from art and jewelry to cigars and whiskey -they don’t charge you for looking 🙂
  • Spa Treatments (fee required)

What’s even more amazing is that the lion’s share of all this won’t cost you a penny extra.

Jane relaxing with a book at Punta Cana

So What Did We Do?

Well, Bill was a regular on the tennis courts, the archery field and he took advantage of the golf lessons.  Around noon every day, there would be a Crazy Signs lesson after the Aquasize class, followed by volley ball, water polo and other games where Bill’s height and excellent coordination made him a popular player.  Bill also played in a ping pong tournament.  I was the official sidekick and cheering section.

On the first day, I thought that after the orientation was over I might hang around the pool until the Aquagym class at 11:30.  Someone else, who will remain nameless, thought it might be better for me to follow him to the tennis courts and observe his lesson – and that’s pretty much how I spent my five days at Club Med Punta Cana.  It wasn’t what I had imagined, but it wasn’t bad at all.  I read a great book and made wonderful memories with my husband.  Not a bad use of my time.

Things I Wish I’d Known

I had imagined starting my day with yoga on the beach.  There was actually a palapa for yoga right next to the beach, but yoga was at 5:30 PM every day.  By that time, Bill had put in a full day and we were back at the room for Bill’s afternoon nap.

I had also envisioned getting up bright and early and hitting the stationary bike, as I do at home and on cruises.  Of the things available at Punta Cana, the gym was the least appealing.  It was clean and they had lots of almost new equipment, but the space was cramped and I like a little elbow room.  None of the stationary bikes were recumbent either and an hour on one of those saddle seats didn’t seem very appealing.   Also, walking all the way to and from the gym to get saddle sores, when walking to and from is what took up most of our time, was a little discouraging.  So, the gym was not my friend.

I had also dreamed of cabana boys delivering exotic drinks with paper umbrellas in them.  There were no cabana boys.  You could get as many drinks of whatever variety you wanted, if you walked up to one of the bars, but there were no paper umbrellas to be found and if I wasn’t going to be waited on hand and foot, I’d just as soon have another slurp from our bottle of water, several of which they left for us in our room each day.

Relaxed Myself to Death

The bottom line is that I nearly relaxed myself to death.  I’m just not athletic, not even a little bit, but I’m also usually a very busy person.  I don’t relax very well.  My thing on vacation is to see as many museums, palaces and historic sites as I can, but Punta Cana was not a hot bed of museums.

So, we had a great time at Club Med and Bill took full advantage of all the activities.  I ate a lot, relaxed a lot and walked a lot.  Speaking of eating, isn’t it time for lunch?  Come back next week and we’ll grab the mid-day meal.

 

DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

What’s a Little Rain?

close up photo of coconut tree
Photo by Suparerg Suksai on Pexels.com

TRAVEL BUG TALES: A TROPICAL THUNDERSTORM

Into each life some rain may fall.  You might say we had a little shower while we were in Grand Bahama.

The First Phone Call

We’d had dinner and were waiting for the guys we’d met that day to come join us.  While we’d been given tickets for all the activities we were supposed to attend at the resort, we’d learned early on that one’s presence was enough to get you in. No ticket was needed. So the guys were going to come see the show with us and then we’d hang out.

As we waited in the lobby, a staff member said we had a call and it didn’t matter which one of us took it.  I’m pretty sure it was Francis who talked to them, because she was the organizer on our end.  The borrowing of the car was not going as planned.  We were to go on to the show and they’d be along a little later. 

I was actually quite relieved.  It was the age of the pick-up.  There was a sort of game going on where guys must have gotten points for obtaining phone numbers, but were put in the penalty box for using them.  The fact that we’d actually gotten a call boded well.  We went to on to the show and watched native dancers, swords and a lot of fire.

gray rotary telephone
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Next Phone Call and the One After That and…

We left the show with a skip in our hearts, but instead of three guys waiting in the lobby, we had a message.  They were still working on getting to our end of the island, but things were not exactly going well.  They’d make the next call to our room.

Now this day and time, we’d be texting like nobody’s business.  We’d already be friends on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat and Instagram.  Uber would have made getting to our side of the island both easy and cheap.  Millenials have no idea what they are missing!

I don’t remember how many calls were exchanged after that, but they got the car, then it broke down.  They found a taxi driver who would come out there and then the guy changed his mind.  We got tired of dancing attendance on the phone and suggested we try again tomorrow.  That’s when we found out they were leaving the next day.  It was now or never.

I was trying to keep it light, but somewhere along the way it was Michael that called and he wanted to talk to me.  A humdinger of a storm had hit and there was no way they could make the 30 mile trek out there.  The storm wasn’t out our way yet, so at first I thought it was just a blow off call and I teased him about it.  Before I could get off the phone the wind picked up and it was obvious we were in for some violent weather.

I can’t remember exactly what Michael said to me that evening on the phone.  He seemed genuinely distraught.  He reiterated all the reasons we’d clicked and none of them had anything to do with looks.  I can’t even remember if it was business or the military or just the end of a vacation that was taking them away, but whatever it was,  he and I both regretted it.  We marked it up to fate and went on with our lives, but when I’m playing what-if with myself, that evening is one I entertain.

Since those days of innocence the cynical side of me has suggested he was probably married with three kids, a dog and a mortgage.  Who knows? Maybe that’s so.  But who knows, maybe it’s not.  Whatever the case, this vacation had just delivered another blow.

We’d been there three days and each one offered more in the way of disappointment than anything else.  Was my love of travel going to be able to withstand all this?  Come back next week and find out.

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, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Let’s Go Shopping!

TRAVEL BUG TALES: SOMETHING I WAS GOOD AT

Three days into my tropical vacation I was finally excited about something.  We pooled our resources for a limo (one way only) and headed to Freeport.  I was happy to finally be on familiar ground.

We Hit the Sidewalk Shopping

Our limo dropped us off at a shopping area near the casino.  Each of us had a list of people to buy for and some cash to spend.  This one wanted a watch, someone else was looking for jewelry and I’d heard you could get good deals on porcelain and crystal.  My list really just consisted of Mom and Aunt Edie, so I took an interest in what everyone else was looking for and helped them in their search.

When it came to understanding what was a bargain among the luxury items we saw, my friend Debbie actually had a better grasp, but I was the one with a good sense of direction.  I was able to maneuver us around the shopping maze with ease.  We browsed around all morning and at the end of it, I was able to direct everyone back to the place they’d seen their favorite thing for the best price.  I got some Wedgewood pieces for Mom and Aunt Edie.  I was going to get my dad a golf cap from the resort.  That just about did it.

What’s for Lunch? 

We’d heard from somewhere that the best place for lunch was at the Freeport Princess snack bar.  Like the shopping area, the Princess was near the casino.  I have to confess that when I got there I wished we were staying there rather than out in the boonies.  This place was happening.  The clientele was very different from the families with 2.5 kids and the college students we had out at the Grand Bahama Hotel.

That’s where we made the love connection.  The guy in the solid yellow shirt and bell bottomed jeans was Michael and he was a hunk.  It was one of those across a crowded room sort of things.  He had a crew of friends and they sorted themselves out among my friends, but Michael and I had energy.

The guy in the white jeans and hat was the organizer of the group.  He pointed the conversation towards the guys coming out to see us on our end of the island.  Michael and I were happy to go along with whatever anybody else dreamed up as long as it meant our chance encounter would get an opportunity to develop into something.

It was nearing the time we’d arranged for our limo to return and pick us up.  The guys planned to borrow a car from somewhere and drive to our end of the island.  It seemed like a great plan.  After all the disappointments I’d endured so far, it seemed as if my vacation prospects were picking up.

There was giggly girl talk all the way back to the hotel.  While Michael and I had been an item from the get-go, the other connections were still pretty loose, so there was a whole lot of bargaining going on.  We all agreed on one thing, Michael was the hunk of the bunch and he was all about me.

We had dinner at the buffet and started watching for the guys.  Come back next week and see how that went.

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.