Friday, September 30, 2016

DR 2016: Puerto Plata & Los 27 Charcos

DR 2016

Day 8: Drive to Puerto Plata

Somehow every day in this trip we managed to be up by 6am. Is no lie when they say that those that take vacation always need an extended amount of days off to relax after the vacation. Sort of like a vacation from the vacation. This day we had plans to drive to Puerto Plata. Another of my must do things. Honestly, I don't know why I wanted to go there but whenever I google "places to visit in DR" Puerto Plata was on the list so I added it to ours. 

That morning we walked over to the hidden gem on the beach for breakfast. We had talked to the owner after dinner the night before and she had agreed to meet us and cook for us. We showed up at 8am sharp and there she was waiting for us. As soon as we sat down she put coffee to brew and about 30 minutes later breakfast was done. This lady can throw it down in the kitchen. Everything was so good. I don't even have words to describe how her meals were. Just definitely worth it. 

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After breakfast we went back to the room to finish packing and check out. We had a long way to go and we didn't want to get on the road too late. I want to say that we got on the road at about 11am and we had estimated to reach our destination by 2:30pm possibly 3. Well friends, let's just say it took a lot longer. We ended up getting there at almost 6pm. Longest trip ever! Good thing we were comfortable in the rental car. Somehow we took a wrong turn and ended up on the "old road" that took us through the cities instead of the new and improve road that traveled along the coast with a beautiful view. For my 30 before 30 list, which I have yet to post here, I wrote down that I wanted to go on a road trip and let's me just say that that goal has been check off because that's exactly what we did while on this trip. We road trip from the southeast to  northeast to the very top of the north and back down south. Quite the adventure I tell you. No internet connection to use google maps so we had to use a map and the old fashion way of ask for directions hahaha. That lead us to take a "shortcut" through the mountains and we ended up on the new road that we were suppose to be on. It was a scary ride but we made it thank the heavens. 

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Once in puerta Plata we had to look for a hotel. A nice policeman ended up taking us to a hotel near by and I was not impressed at all. I mean it did serve its purpose but after being in a resort then a beautiful hotel in Samana I felt like we downgraded. But I guess that happens when you road trip without booking in advance. The kids ended up in the pool for a bit then we took showers and ended up in an oceanfront food place. It was alright. I was honestly disappointed and when I was looking up things to do in the area there was absolutely nothing to do. Bummer. We ended up walking the malecón and el Moro but it was not big deal. Nice but not worth the over 5 hour drive. The plan was to stay there for two nights and that was crossed off immediately. We had agreed to wake up early the next day and head to Santiago to visit an uncle which was only 2 hours away and on the way to the capital which is where we were headed to anyways. But then we remembered that we wanted to do the 27 Charcos which are waterfalls that you jump from into the water. And so that's what we did. 

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We got up really early in the morning checked out of the hotel. Since this place was on the road we would be taking to get back home we just decided to pack our belongings and say our good byes to Puerto Plata. We ended up getting there by 9ish am and by 10 we had started the adventure. 

This adventure consisted of a 45-60 minutes hike to reach the top of the mountain where the first waterfall was at. They have 3 different options. You can jump from waterfall 1-7, 1-14, or all 27. Since we were already there and it was only like $7 for the entire 27 falls we went with it. We also got the photo package which included a staff member to come along to take pictures and videos for us. Now this was a bit pricey, $50. And after getting home and having the videos not able to play on my Mac and some pictures being of very low quality I would recomen not to even bother getting that. If you're planning to do this adventure just be sure to take a water camera and a wristlet for it do that you don't lose it while you are jumping. 

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Since AJ and my aunt couldn't do the falls my stepdad decided to stay with them. My mom came with us and omg she was so much fun. She had to stop like every 10 minutes while we were hiking. I'm not going to lie, it was an intense hike. Take plenty of water. She kept saying "I can't do this. This is too much. I'm going to have a heart attack". Then we made it to the falls and she was about to go back because she didn't want to jump. The pictures does them no justice as you can't even tell how high they really are but they are high. Even I had second thoughts a few times for some of them. I felt my heart reach my knees every time I jump so I could only imagine what my mom was felling. However it was all so much fun. This is also something that I would like to do again on future trips. 

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The entire adventure took about 3.5 hours. Then we shower (they had showers and everything. Double win!) while we waited for our pictures. Then the rest of the day consisted of lire driving. We got on the road at about 2pm and we made it to La Romana at about 8pm. So much driving! We stopped for some food on the side of the road and that kept us good till we reach our destination which is back to where we had started on day 1. Plan was to go over to the capital and hang out with family but somewhere along the road those plans changed and we kept driving another 1.5hrs. 

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We ended up at the beach for dinner, another hidden gem but this one is well known. The lady was closing when we got there but she stayed later to feed us (she's also a friend of my mom and stepdad so she probably felt obligated). That night we drive to my stepdads house and plan was to shower and head out to dancing but I was so beat that I showered and went starlight for bed. Hubby did end up going out with my mom and her husband to his brothers house and I honestly don't even know what time they got back. All I know is that I needed to catch up on sleep and my body was feening for rest so I gave in. 

A lot of driving was done the last few days but it was all worth it. I'm so thankful I was able to write about this trip because this is one trip I don't ever want to forget. ;) 




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Thursday, September 29, 2016

DR 2016: Salto el Limón

DR 2016

Day 7: Salto el Limón

The night of our arrival at Samana I did some deep research on how to go about getting to this waterfall and found an awesome blog that talked about their experience during this adventure. I screenshot the main points and was ready to go! 


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That morning, after some coffee,  we got in the car and drove about 20 minutes into Samana to reach our destination. We made a quick stop to buy breakfast empanadas and drinks then we continued on to the waterfall. Once there we found a parking area with people who try to sweeten a deal for you. They rent you a parking space for the car, horses which each comes with a guide, and a very appetizing meal for after the tour. We went with the parking and horses but declined the food because we wanted to eat closer to the beach. 


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They helped us on the horse and started the tour around 10am. No one in our group had ridden a horse before but it seemed that that didn't bothered us. We got riding like nothing and all I could think about was "what on earth am I doing?" And that was nothing, I had yet to realize what I had gotten myself into. For 45 minutes we traveled through a mountain with very steep high and low pathways. I can still remember going down the first pathway. It was rocky on the sides with the middle being full of wet slippery dirt. I worried that my horse would lose its balance and that I would fall face first on a giant rock. Then it was over and I was happy. We crossed a river and it was beautiful! The cold clear water with a steady flow, my family each on a horse, the weather wasn't too hot (specially because it was still early in the morning), and everything around us was greenery and so calm and quiet. It was all so peaceful! There were several times that I would panic because we were too close to the edge with a huge dip that if one was to fall there was no coming back from it. I mean it guys, it was scary! Soon we reached a beautiful area that overlooked the mountains and even ocean. It was all breathtaking. Not in a million years did I imagined I would found myself "hiking" a mountain in a horse but boy was I glad it was not just a dream. We took some pictures and continued moving. Again I remember another steep hill. At this point all I could think about was having to come back on this same trail in order to make it back to the car. I won't even be surprised if my tour guide was getting a little annoyed with my freaking out every 5 minutes. 


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We came to a stop at about 10:50 where we parked our horses and took a quick rest before finishing the trail by going down some steps. If I remember correctly there was a little over 200 steps. That was not even near as bad as going down the steps of El Yunque in Puerto Rico. And it only took about 15 minutes each way without stopping. 


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Gosh it was beautiful when we finally reached our destination. The water had this beautiful clear green color and the waterfall itself was so high and breathtaking. It was everything I had envisioned and saw online. The water was super cold and everyone was enjoying themselves to the max. Especially the kids. This will be an unforgettable experience for them I am sure. AJ still talks about the horse ride till this day. Just a couple days ago during dinner he said "Come on Marcos, Lets go. Vamonos" which was what the tour guide would say to the horse that he was on with his daddy. 
If it was up to AJ he would have brought the horse home lol. 

Can I just add that the tour guides were amazing! They helped out so much and helped with AJ (putting him on his children as we went back up the steps) as well as carrying my huge beach bag that had our towels and other belongings. The one even stayed behind in the rest are with my aunt that decided not to go down to the waterfall because she was afraid she wasn't going to make it. She said that she was thankful for making it that far and that we should go on down without worries. I was a bit hesitant to leave her but there were other people there and she had drinks and snacks. Then her tour guide told us not to worry about her that his job was to keep her safe and that he was going to stay with her if she didn't want to go downbeat how nice was that. It definitely took me off guard. 


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We stood in there about an hour just talking, swimming, and enjoying everything around us. It wasn't extremely pack, it was just perfect. We even saw some people climb a certain height and jump off. I was able to catch this really awesome one from high up but never saved it to my phone after posting it to snapchat so now it is gone :( other people jump from a lower distance but I didn't have my camera with me. We left everything out if the waster with the tour guides. They said their job was to keep us safe, hold our belongings, take pictures of us, and make sure we had a great time. Now wasn't that nice! They sure work hard for their money and earned every bit of it. We weren't require to pay/tip them because they came with the horse fee (total of $12 American money) but they do depend on the tips as their pay so hubby tipped them $20 each. I read that some gave less and some gave more. Since Junny laid for 5 of us we did that much but would have probably done more if it was only 2 of us. So keep that in mind if you ever go on this adventure. 


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We made it back to our car around 1:15pm and carried on to the beach for dinner. We ended up finding this adorable little spot right on the beach whose food was out of this world. So delicious! So full of flavor and super cheap. For 7 of us we ended up paying less than $75 and everything was seafood. From shrimp, to fried fish, fish in a coconut sauce, a mix of shrimp octopus and kunt, served with rice, beans, avocado, salad, fresh natural juice, and coffee. Omg one of the best meal of this trip. This place was for sure a hidden gem. 


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We stayed about another hour after eating taking pictures and then we walked over to the hotel and chilled in the pool till about 10pm. This day was more than a success in my book. Usually my plans never turn out as I envision them but this one surpass it in more ways that I could have ever imagined. I would love to go back to Samana in future trips. The town alone was very appealing to me ;) 


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Thank you Samana for the wonderful experience!  








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Weekly pictures of my boys 33/52 (late)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

DR 2016: Isla Saona & Sanchez

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Day 5: Isla Saona 

It was a Monday and we were all excited to start the day. For years we've been trying to take the tour to Isla Saona. I've only seen pictures and paintings of it but I've heard that it is beautiful there so when I was organizing our to do list for this trip I made sure to include this adventure. We were planning on taking the tour directly from the resort but when you know people that know people and you pay a fraction of what it normally is, well you just go with it hahaha. My stepdad knows a lot of people in his town so he was always finding good deals for whatever we wanted to do. Best part was that it was the exact same tour as everyone else took so it wasn't like we got the bad end of the stick. 


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We rode a small motor boat to the catamaran that was farther out in the sea. From there the ride was 2 hours, we started the voyage around 10am and made it to the island right at 12pm. But those two hours flew by. The captain and his crew made it so much fun by playing music, giving drinks, shots, and dancing with the tourists. We were the firsts ones on the catamaran so it gave us some time to bond with the captain and his crew. I told him from the get go that I've never done this before nor was ever at sea for so long and that I was super nervous and worried I would get motion sickness but he told me "I got you! After we get moving you won't even give it a second thought" and what do you know, it was just like that. Of course that I had a couple of drinks so that may have had an effect on me. Either way I was not complaining or worried. Matter of fact as soon as we took off and they played the music I grabbed my man and started dancing. Boy was that fun! To dance a merengue with my life partner sang by Juan Luis Guerra (an old time favorite singer of mine) in the middle of the Caribbean Sea = bucket list check off! Two hours later and we were there. We reached the shore and headed straight for the very corner of the beach sitting area to be isolated from everyone else. We just wanted each other's company. We got in the water, ate some food, drank some more, and took lots of pictures! Everything was great but I was a bit disappointed on the water. It was very rocky and full of seaweed so we didn't enjoy our time there much aside from simply enjoying nature and it's natural beauty untouched by mankind. 


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After several hours we got back on a motor boat and made a quick stop a the natural pool. Now this was the highlight of the day. Guys, words can't never truly explain how beautiful and amazing this experience was. We jumped from the boat and the water was waist deep and clear as drinking water. There were tons of starfish just hanging around keeping us company. Hundreds of people scattered around having an amazing time. Couples celebrating love, kids living a dream, family enjoying the beauty that my beautiful island has to offer, friends living it up, and me feeling thankful and blessed for this marvelous opportunity and most importantly being with the people that I love most in this world. Everything was priceless! 


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About an hour later we were ready to take off and go back to La Romana but our boat battery died. Yup you heard right. We were stuck at sea for what felt an eternity. I was freaking out because I feared the worse but deep down I just knew that my life would not end like this (maybe I was being a bit dramatic). Thankfully the captain and his assistant were able to get the motors going and brought us back in to shore safe and sound. Unfortunately, that was enough for me not wanting to ever get on a motor boat again, the ocean is too much water for little ol' me. I would love to do this adventure again but I'm going to need a few years to get over it. 

That night we drove to the capital, Santo Domingo, and stayed the night over my aunts house which is located right above my grandmas house. May her soul Rest In Peace. It was so bittersweet being there and not seeing her :( but I loved bonding with my aunt and cousins. 


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Day 6: Sanchez

This day consisted of a lot of driving. We were on the road for a good five hours or so trying to make it to Samana with a quick stop in Sanchez to visit family. 

I have wonderful memories of this little town. I spent a nice chunk of time there when my dad passed away in 1998. I was young and my aunt wanted me to not fall into a depression so she took me with her for a while along with another cousin. There was a river behind her house and we would swim in it all day long. I don't remember much of my stay there except knowing that that time in my life was a happy one. I felt angry at the world and loved all at the same time. 

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While there my aunt greeted us with an amazing meal, which I did not take pictures of, and some lovely conversations. My uncle is into rooster fighting so he had tons of roosters in cages and a ton more chicken and hens just running around. Literally. They even had chickens up on trees. My boys got a kick out of that and AJ kept chasing the hens because he wanted to "pat it" Jajaja.  We ended up staying with them till about 7pm and then we decided to hit the road because we weren't sure where we were going or where the hotel was exactly. Originally we went traveling there with no idea of which hotel we would stay at but we figured if we got there early we can "shop around". Lucky for us my uncle has a taxi business where he picks up tourist at the airport and drops them off a different resorts so he hooked us up and we ended up booking right there from his house. 

The drive to Samana from Sanchez was a beautiful one and also a scary one. Sanchez is like a town on a mountain so getting to Samana, although it was only 30 minutes away it took forever because there were way too many dangerous curves and we had to drive carefully and slow. But the view! Omg the view was breathtaking! Oceanview all the way there on the left and country view on the right. We really enjoyed our time here, learn about why on the next post! ;) 

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p.s.
This was the song that hubby and I danced on the catamaran. Very fitting if you ask me :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

DR 2016: Arrival & Dreams Resort Stay

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It has been exactly a month since our vacation to the Dominican Republic and although I really wanted to write detailed posts on this amazing trip (because it was without doubt the best vacation we have taken thus far!) I can't and won't set myself up to fail. Nursing school has officially consumed my life and I don't know if I could ever catch up. I'm not even exaggerating. I honestly feel like I need to start over with blogging and the projects that I started early this year because well, I just don't have the time to write, let alone sit and think about the past several months. So before this too becomes a distant memory I decided to just write a semi long post (let's see how long it actually gets) and create a slide show with our hundreds of pictures to include in the end. 

So here we go! 

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We traveled via Jet Blue airlines and JFK Airport on August 10th. It was our first time traveling through JFK and that airline and we have no complains. We were actually surprise with our experience because it turned out to be nothing from what we expected. Overall we ended up with such a positive experience that we might just start using Jet Blue for future travels. 

Our flight did leave later than scheduled and instead of landing at 3am we landed at 5am. This was mostly due to a passenger that got super drunk before boarding and ended up vomiting all over the plane as we were getting ready to take off. Like we were literally next on line on the runway and they turned the plane around. It was bad. But it was an overnight flight so it really didn't bothered us. 

Once we landed in Santo Domingo, my mother and her husband were waiting for us at the airport and we packed the car and headed straight to La Romana were we would spend most of our vacation time at. This is also were the resort is located. We finished a few errands before we headed over to the resort so by the time we got there it was 11am. Exactly 12 hours since we left our home. Isn't it amazing how much can change in a short amount of hours :). Our phone was dead most of those 12 hours so not many pictures were taken and for some reason I didn't think about using my Nikon. Poor camera has been neglected for far too long. 

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We stayed at Dreams Resort La Romana, the same resort that we got married at 5 years earlier except on a different location. Our reservations was for 3 nights and 4 days. The main reason for this trip was because I was matron of honor at my cousin's wedding and we embraced the opportunity to make it a family vacation that lasted 12 days! I feel very lucky and blessed that we were able to stay that long. 

Our time at the resort was awesome. The grounds were beautiful, the people were short of amazing and super friendly, the food and drinks were always on point (like my hubby would say), and everything else was just perfect. The first day we did some pool lounging and later that night we had a welcome gathering for the wedding guests. The second day was another pool and beach day with a wedding rehearsal for the bridal party right after dinner and a few hours at the club in the resort. 

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Day three was THE day. My cousins and her beloved husband were married! Like I mentioned before I was her MOH as well as her photographer. Tough role I know. It was hectic but I am so glad that I was able to capture some amazing pictures for her. Now, I am not a photographer nor plan on changing careers but I would like to have that skill in my bag of many trades. I would love to be able to capture amazing photographs of my little ones and of our many vacations to come but for right now my focus is learning how to save/help a life not end one hahaha. The wedding was perfect. A few set backs but you have those in any wedding no matter the location. I was a bit bummed that we had to move the reception indoors instead of having it on the beach due to rain but everything turned out to be perfect at the end. 

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On day four the hubby and I decided to spend some quality time together and headed early morning for a couple massage oceanfront. It was the one of the greatest experience ever. Talk about peaceful!!! I honestly have no words on how amazing this was as well as the entire stay at the resort. Not to mention that the kids had a blast and that's more than we could have asked for. We checked out of the resort around 5pm that Sunday and drove over to the hotel that we were be staying for the night. 

That night my stepfather took us out to a club. I wasn't really in the mood to go, I was tired, it was late, and we had an early start the next day, plus my hair was wildin' out but I ended up going anyways. He meant well and just wanted us to have a good time and I couldn't say no to him so we went. It was a good time and the best part was that we got to go to a chimi spot. A chimi is a pork sandwhich called èl chimichurri, check out Aunt's Clara recipe if you are interested in trying it out. It's not the traditional chimi but you'll have to take a trip to DR for the real thing ;). They make it in the states too in places like NYC and even in the town we live but there's nothing like the real thing straight from the island. It was quite the experience and quite the start of our road trip around the Dominican Republic. 

I guess this is going to turn out to be quite a few posts after all. Check back tomorrow for more fun in the Dominican Republic. :) 

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Weekly pictures of my boys 32/52 (late)