14 April 2011

"Looky Looky for FREE"

March 2007 (DR trip, part II)

Welcome to the land of palm trees. 

Just off the bus, there we stood facing the entrance to the Occidental Grand lobby (click here to a link that'll show you a 360 degree tour of the lobby and then come back to my post to finish reading)!!  Pillars, all open air (no windows or doors), marble, wood, paintings...I can't even fit into words how wondrous this was.  Even at three in the morning with our slight gaze of a stare, it was unimaginably breathtaking.   Quinn handled everything during check-in (still very much a blur) when she whispered "we've been moved to the Royal Club (private section) of the resort", I just knew that anything that started with "an upgrade" had to be a good thing. :)  Room keys were given out, holiday bracelets were placed around our wrists (pretty little red ones) and there was "beep beep" (aka: our driver) waiting for us with our luggage to escort us to our oasis, via golf cart! 

In what felt like minutes, my eyes went from happily shut, to wide open.  I'm not sure if it was Quinn's alarm clock, the birds outside or maybe one of the two of us wiggled too much in our shared twin bed?! (we were too tired to ask and wait for a third bed upon our arrival, so sharing it was :P cozy).  Whatever woke us up, Kenya's voice (the lady who was our guide from the airport last night) sang out in our minds as we rushed to get to the theatre:  "DON'T MISS YOUR 9AM ORIENTATION MEETING".  With two of the three us showered, coffee and breakfast to wait, resort map in hand, we entered the theatre just as Nicole, our Air Transat Rep, originally from Quebec some 15 years ago (I loved her) began the "Do's and Don't's" review for our stay.

Most tour companies offer a representative who will visit your resort at least once during your stay.  Hotel staff are also well versed when it comes to the 'what you should and shouldn't do' during your stay.  Ask questions ... eliminate the risk of finding out any other way.  Nicole was great.  She talked about the significance of the grey and gold bracelets (but not our red ones?!).  We learned the basics:  bartering is a way of life here, they expect it.  When you're wearing a bracelet, locals believe you're a rich tourist. If you don't want something, "no gracias" works well (even if you have to say it over and over).  Dominican Pesos is the currency, 100 pesos equals $4.00 Canadian, or did then, and they always accept USD.  There were all kinds of free activities to enjoy on the resort and who doesn't like free?!  Plus, Transat also offered many off-resort excursions that you could book through her.  OMG, what a great week this was going to be!!! :)

Finally free to explore, but first things first -food!  Off to the buffet and for any of you who haven't experienced this yet; some things you'll find delicious, other things interesting and some will be absolutely el-grosso.  Just never expect for the same foods to taste the same as home (common misconception).  Not being fussy, I tried just about everything that was available.  The fruit and most local dishes in tropical places are must try's, aaa-mazing!  Although I can remember trying this scrambled egg looking dish, 'yucca' ... let's just say that wasn't my favourite ;) the name of it should've been my first clue lol.  OoooOOh the bacon! (YUM)  The bacon was sooo good (it was sort of sweet, must be from all the sugar cane?!). 

Usually at the beginning of your stay, you're pigging out.  Eating, loving the food, coming back to the buffet morning, noon and night.  Just try to keep up that pace for the next seven days. ;)  Fortunately, to help bring variety to guests, resorts often offer a la carte restaurants.  These are restaurants that allow you to book a timed reservation and come eat a specific type of food (Italian, Oriental, Seafood, Steakhouse...the kinds and 'number of' vary for every resort) selecting from a menu.  After Nicole's chat, an extended breakfast and a short self guided resort tour, we were off to the lobby to meet Rafael, our hotel representative.  

Bah!  We're on vacation so might as well try a little Caribbean vacation beverage while en route. ;)  A few stops, the exchange of an "hola" ("hello" in Spanish) here and there and a couple of random "oh la la's" as we passed by ... seriously?!  Where are we?!  Have I died?  This must be Heaven?!  So flirty! 
Full of compliments, every single one of them ... "your eyes" "your pretty smile" "you're beautiful" “aye yi yi yi”... how will I ever make it home with my head so swollen? It wasn't like they were treating us like a 'piece of meat’; it was more like a true appreciation for beauty.  For me, it was unexpected and a touch overwhelming but fun and exciting all at the same time.

Sorry, where was I!?  Right, right.  We were in the lobby, standing in line to meet Rafael.  As we were standing there, Quinn strikes up a chat with the girl in front of us.  The usual conversation questions: 'When'd you get in?' 'How long's your stay?’ 'Where are you from?'  She says "Newfoundland".  Really?  Hmmm, but there wasn't any accent?!.  We all laughed, because from that moment on, it was unleashed!! We understood about every fifth word hahaha.  Stephanie was her name, there with a party of six ladies from the Rock.  Just then, two others joined our wait in line (Tanya and Tracey, friends of Stephanie's).  What a time we all had in those 10 minutes or so.  Tracey was so lively with her description of the Disco the night before, bouncing, laughing and her accent so thick and with her excitement I wasn't sure what she said until Stephanie translated. I nicknamed Tracey, Tigger (bounce, bounce and totally animated lol)!!  This was going to be fun, a bunch of party-ready Canadian gals from the East Coast, we should've come with a warning label. ;)  With promises to meet up later, off they went.

<< For any of you who have heard me go on and on about my best friend Stephanie from Newfoundland, whom I met in the Dominican...this is exactly the story of our coincidental encounter that started our friendship.  Yes it's true, you can meet good people all over the world, just some you're lucky enough to stay in touch with!  Tanya, Tracey, Lisa, absolutely wonderful to have met these girls too and yes, I have visited them all since this trip.  My motto, 'talk to strangers, :) they’re your friend whom you haven't met yet. 

Having a chance to talk to Rafael, we booked as many a la carte nights as we could.  We also learned of our fashionable red bracelets.  This piece of plastic, allowed us gated entry into our private section of the resort (only about 15 rooms are available there).  There was a private pool, loungers, a lobby area, free internet, a bar, restaurant (menu order) open until 4pm daily.   We were going to get a 3rd bed for our room (yay, not that cuddling wasn't great lol), a complimentary bottle of rum, slippers and robes.  This bracelet also gave us beer and water in the bottle, as often as we wished and our very own section on the beach, with an attendant. WOW.  We'd be served food and beverages to our room if we so wished (I felt like a princess, OMG what treatment). We had 3 servers in total, all of whom worked solo on a rotating schedule:  Noroberto, Sylvie and Valentine.  I fell in love with all of them (wonder how they are now and if they're still there?), such beautiful people. 

Off we trek to the playa!  A beautiful coral walkway next to a lagoon area, where benches lined the entire way offering you a place to sit in the shade of some incredibly unique trees.   Then you enter the beach
buffet (by day - disco by night) and down a little ramp and there it is!!  OCEAN.  Didn't take Thomas long to find us (my guess it was those bright red arm bands?!).   Confused, I kept saying "no gracias".  Finally he's like "excuse me, but I work for you".  OMG.  Thomas was our beach attendant.  Of course, lol! He set up our chairs, grabbed us tables and ashtrays and took our bubba kegs (huge travel mugs that the guys at my work refer to as my “sippy cup" haha).  And then he gave us a lecture about coming down to the sand so late.  Apparently it rains every afternoon, around 4pm.  Didn't look like rain!! 

At the end of the coral walkway is the steps into the disco / lunch buffet. 
Walk thru, and you'll be on the beach :)

Thomas :)
 Suffering from some flu / cold grossness I had brought with me, likely caused from being too excited! I must have counted down sleeps per-trip for over 100 days or so, guess that has an affect!   I took advantage of this time for a little nap.  Before I could even close my eyes, I became witness to what Nicole had told us.  There were so many vendors, carrying so many things.  "Looky Looky for Free" "I've got Maracas" “Co-Co Nuts”. And as I lay there, this sweet girl approached me and before I could say "no gracias" she had a piece of my hair braided complete with beads. What the?!  I paid for the one braid and only the one braid (later cutting if off as a keepsake) and then drifted into la-la land while Quinn and Terri mingled and met the locals.  I woke up just as the rain had started.  Thomas was right.  4:01pm and the sky was eerily dark and the drops of rain went from one here, one there to torrential downpour within seconds.  It'll be sunny again tomorrow, we'll come back then!

Over the next few days it was a mix of the same really.  Eat, sleep, drink, relax, swim and meet people :) I could totally get use to vacation.  The vendors were so friendly and worked so hard.   They all wore boots, jeans and matching blue shirts (gosh it had to be hot). 

We made a few really great friends during our visits to the beach.  Louis, Jonni, "Hector the Protector", Marcial...they weren't stopping without trying to sell us stuff (of which we did buy a few things), but they'd stop often and weren't pushy (mostly chatty).  They had fabulous stories and I so enjoyed learning about their life, their families and the customs there.   

There was this one vendor in particular, Bronfi.  I met him as he walked by a nearly sleeping me (complete with towel over my head) and says "looky for free" ... I say "no gracias" ... "please"...I repeat "no gracias"...to which he says "please or I'll cry".  Ohh, darn broken heart strings. "What? lol Okay, show me what you have".  I open my eyes and at the end of my beach chair were a pair of the darkest brown eyes and the most beautiful smile beaming back at me.  He was lugging around a huge bag full of wooden products (it had to be heavy). A pair of mahogany vases caught my eye and we haggled from $125 to $25 to $30 for both.  Deal.  But that's not quite the full story... 

See before leaving on this trip, my Dad had said "have fun Heid" and "don't bring back any husbands" (this conversation stemmed from my recent split with my fiancé and my Dad not wanting to see his girl hurt).  So as Bronfi and I were making this barter exchange (for the vases), he said some price and followed it with a "and love you for free". Funny!!  To which I reply, "hmm, husband for 7 days, perfect". Bahahaha, the Girls and I had such a fun time on this beach let me tell you.  I decided then and there that my Dad's gift was going to be a picture frame from the place I was visiting.  Inside this frame would be a picture of me, with a new local friend, of whom I'd given the title 'future husband' heheh ... all part of the on-going joke between my father and I, and of course me, keeping my promise that I wouldn't bring home any husbands. I so love my Dad. heheeh.  He built a new set of shelves for his frame collection!! :)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
How are you liking the Dominican so far?  Don't pack your bags to leave yet, we've got a few more things to do before that.  I thought we should take a siesta first before we continue ...  

Puerto Plata:  beyond the gates of Playa Dorada (and so much more).  This is the title of the next blog post that will complete our 7 day all inclusive adventure. I want to take you off the resort and into the streets of Puerto Plata.  Oh, and there's the experience that Stephanie and I shared at the Mangue club (O.M.G).  Don't let me forget to recreate the insanity of the last few days of vacation: the party with the guys from Norway, the swim up bar and then having to say good-bye to so many new friends (which sucks).

Hola!  ¿Cómo estás?  .... Bien!!! 
Tres cervezas por favor!  (we'll order more for you ... how many?)

Results from the Weekly survey question:  Which do you prefer? 
Beach - 75%
Pool - 25%
I'm pretty certain that you would have LOVED this beach.  There was so much to do, catamaran, glass bottom boat, parasailing and the crazy banana boat ride!!  Plus, there was beach volleyball, the vendor shopping and definitely moments where all of you needed to be wearing your mirrored sunglasses. ;)

Share your comments, your stories, your travel advice etc. in the section below (comments or reaction section) and give your answer to the weekly survey (top right of the blog page).  No sign up necessary, just a simple click :)  A little shy?!  Why not send me an email instead: holidayheidi@hotmail.ca.

Get your dancing shoes on and your swimsuit handy...I think it's time we experienced a tropical night out before we get back in the water (hopefully next week).
~ Holiday Heidi


  1. BAHAHAHAHA!!! Oh Heid! I just about peed myself...AND I've already heard these stories in person! Priceless!

  2. OH MY Miss Heidi - You did it again :-) Getting right into it ------------ and gotta wait again :-P Thank you though for bringing me back to that wonderful holiday through your blog!!!!! With so many tourist coming and going - I was the luckiest girl in the resort to have found a new best friend!!!! Love you and can't wait to read the rest xoxo

    Stephanie Brace