Punta Cana. The worst vacation. Ever.

Let me start by saying…

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I will never, ever, ever again go to an all-inclusive resort. NEVER. So while I try to make my posts include recommendations this one, will not.

This was the worst vacation. Ever.

Upon landing in Punta Cana, we were welcomed with a $10 charge per person for entering the country. No mention of what this charge was for, they were simply not letting people enter customs before forking over some cash. Second, the workers were very short with us. Perhaps it was the language barrier, or maybe Alex’s man bun, but either way, it was an unpleasant first impression. We found our pre-booked transportation and wearily walked to the unmarked white van.   From the airport to the resort, it was a bit depressing. There was garbage everywhere, and people seemed to just be. There were people standing around, everywhere, and I swear I saw a man standing alone in a field with what looked like an M16 (or the like). We got to our resort and there was literally a fence around it: one side, “paradise” the other side, slums. I immediately felt guilty for being there.

Location: Punta Cana, Dominica Republic
Hotel: Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana “Golden Club”
Dates: 27 Nov – 1 Dec
Overall Ranking: D (for DON’T ever come here)

As part of the “Golden Club” we were promised welcome drinks, which must have drank themselves. The lady pointed us out to a man who would drive us to our room – and upon meeting him, he snidely said “go over there and wait”. We went, and after 10 minutes of nothing, we walked back and he said “I said go here”. By this point, my resting b*tch face had set in, as he wasn’t even attempting to be friendly. He drove us to our room (there’s constant shuttles going so this was not special treatment) and opened the door for us. We said thank you and waited for him to leave. Instead of leaving he lingered, took off his hat and waited for a tip. Having worked in the service industry for quite some time… I felt absolutely no obligation to tip if I don’t think it’s deserved. This man was rude and I didn’t feel the need to validate him.

It was around 6:15/6:30 so we decided to go to the buffet – as we were too late for any restaurant reservations. Friends, don’t take this lightly – the food was awful. They had about 30 – 40 options and they all were awful. Awful. Seriously, I just can’t believe how awful the food was.   After every meal I felt… weird… I progressively felt worse and worse after each meal.

The following 2 days included lying by the beach in overcast, rainy, windy and humid weather, eating as little as possible (did I mention the food was AWFUL) and drinking plenty of Miami Vices. While reaching for a beverage in my minibar, I was greeting by a flurry of cockroaches. I immediately called customer service, and an hour later they sent 5 people up. Upon overturning the dresser, they discovered all the cockroaches in all the land lived underneath my dresser.

We came to this resort for a friend’s wedding – which was actually quite nice. We had the morning and early afternoon before the wedding, and it was the first day of sun – so we went to the beach. Unfortunately, the beach and swimming area was inundated with ocean weeds making it quite miserable – and smelly.

They warn you not to drink the tap water (though they wash all the food in it…) and I am pretty sure they use reclaimed water to water the plants and the entire resort had a sewagey stank to it… like, bad. Walking home from the wedding reception, the stank was exceptionally bad. Once we got to the room, I sat down to upload some photos and got greeted by another cockroach. At this point… I’m on the verge of tears, but grateful to be leaving the following morning.

Following this event, into the morning we were supposed to head to Las Galeras, (“heaven” compared to here), my beau got extremely sick. Boo prides himself on never getting sick, so when he says he is sick… he’s sick. We went to the doctor on the resort, and he wanted $130 to answer the question “are these symptoms consistent with anything you have seen?” Seriously?? You’re charging people for a “consults”? Pathetic.

At this point, we decided it would be best to just head home. We had had such a terrible experience, had already checked out of the resort (though we couldn’t bear another day there anyway), and didn’t feel it was a good idea to travel 4+ hours by van and ferry to the next location – not knowing how sick boo really was.

After 22 hours, lots of money and refunds declined, we safely made it home. It has never, ever felt so good to be home.

12/3 – my birthday, still sick.

Woof.

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Touring London in 2 days!

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Believe it or not, it can be done!  I’d encourage my fellow travelers to allow an extra day or two if time allows, but if not, put on your running shoes 🙂   For me, traveling to Europe has to include multiple stops.  In planning an Ireland vacation, we decided to add an extra 2 days to stop off in London. I think we had a total of 40 hours or so in London … it was a whirlwind, but we hit a lot of the major destinations and had a blast!

Evening 1:

After landing in the afternoon, checking in and freshening up – we hit the town!  My partner had friends in London – so we met somewhere near the Westminster Tube, strolled around and grabbed a bite, and got to see River Thames, Big Ben & the House of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and the London Eye as evening set in.  We strolled around and stumbled upon the Sherlock Holmes Pub which was exactly what I pictured a London pub to be like – young drunks stumbling out, the interior smelling of sweet old beer, and a charming exterior!

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Silhouette of Big Ben & House of Parliament

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London Eye, Big Ben & River Thames

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Sherlock Holmes Pub

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Big Ben

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Day 2:

I too have a friend in England – about an hour and a half outside of London, whom I haven’t seen in 15 years.  When I told him I would be in London for 2 days, he insisted on spending some time with us.  I figured we would hang out for a few hours … but his agenda was a bit different.  We met around 8:30am and didn’t stop touring until 7:30ish… I was exhausted, but glad we got to see so many hotspots!

We started the day with the 8:00am Holy Communion Service at Westminster Abbey. It was really neat to sit in this amazing historical site and participate in such a special ceremony.  It was a quick service – and this is a free opportunity to get into the Abbey!

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The beautiful Westminster Abbey

After the service we strolled to Whitehall to watch the Horse Guards Parade, and then to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards.  Though both spots were packed with tourists – it was really neat to experience this tradition.  And yes, we took the obligatory photo with the guard.  Poor guy…

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Horse Guards Ceremony

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Changing of the Guards

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We then hit Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  We just peeked in so I could see an original Van Gogh – but I wish we would have spent more time there.  We grabbed a quick bite (fish & chips of course…) and were on our way.

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Trafalgar Square

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National Gallery

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Next we went to the Tate Modern museum – but just the inside’s outside…. We had to walk through the museum to get to this amazing outdoor space – with people picnicking, kids playing in the water and people sunbathing. (I’m going off memory but I think this is behind the Tate Modern…)

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Next we strolled along the River Thames, attempted to get a beverage at an overly packed bar – failed.  Enjoyed some seasoned street nuts… whatever they were, they’re delicious, and ended up at Tower Bridge.  Crossed over and saw the Tower of London (not much of a tower…), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and wrapped up our last evening with a delicious meal of Guinness stew and sausage with colcannon.  We walked over 7 miles and were completely exhausted!

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Tower Bridge

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Me and Boo – beyond exhausted at this point!

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The “Tower” of London (and my handsome beau)

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The last London Supper

The last London Supper

Final Day: 

For our final day we didn’t have to head out until noonish – so we decided to head back to Trafalgar Square, and to our joy, stumbled upon Covent Gardens.  You must go here!  We strolled through the little shops, and ended up getting some coffee & pastries and just hanging out.  Loved this spot!

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

It was a whirlwind but we had an incredible time in London!

Crater Laker & Bend, Oregon

I’ve always imagined I would end up in a small, mountain type town, with beautiful lakes and snow capped mountains, great restaurants with outdoor seating, and residents really making it feel like a community.  Though I have dreamed of this place, I have never actually been to said destination.  Then, I went to Bend.

On the cruise up we decided to swing by Crater Lake.  WOW!  This place is gorgeous! It almost looks fake – this volcano inside a volcano!  A must see if cruising through southern Oregon.  I would also recommend staying at the Green Springs Inn & Cabins outside of Ashland.  It was in the middle of the… forest?… and we loved it!  The rooms were amazing – and the restaurant was great!  The gift shop even had a box for PCT hikers like I read about in Wild!

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Ah yes, Bend.  Bend is… well, it’s perfect.  It’s technically high desert, but Mt. Bachelor sits just a stones throw away, snow capped even in mid summer.  The downtown is absolutely delightful, with the Deschutes Rivers meandering through – full of folks floatin’. You can stroll the darling shops, great restaurants, craft breweries and chat with all the NICE people!  We actually saw a sticker saying “Be nice, you’re in Bend“.  Ha!

We had the privilege to spend the 4th of the July weekend there – and boy oh boy do they do it big!  The parade was massive, and after the parade everyone heads down to the park by the river for a huge festival.  Tons of booths, drinks, food, games – you name it.

Accommodations:
We rented the cutest studio!  Just 2 blocks from downtown and perfect!IMG_8409 IMG_8410IMG_8412 IMG_8411

Exploration of the Cascade Lakes:

Devil’s Lake – The most clear, turquoise lake I have ever seen!  And freeeeezing!

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Loved this shot I got of some paddlers!

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Todd Lake – super peaceful and secluded with beautiful views from the parking lot!

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Mt. Bachelor in the background

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Elk Lake – not a great shot – but a perfect spot to rent a kayak or lounge on the beach.

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4th of July Madness!  This is where you want to celebrate ‘merica!

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Yes, that’s a dog up there 😦

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Pano of the post parade festivities!

Craft Breweries! 

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Side trip up to Sisters
must do!  

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The town of Sisters is absolutely darling – and not far from Bend. You MUST eat at Cottonwood Cafe!

First Fridays! SO happy we stumbled upon this!  I would actually encourage you to plan your trip to Bend during a First Friday.  All of the shops offer free beer/wine/cocktails and snacks and the whole town comes out!  There’s live music on just about every corner, and it really solidifies the sense of community.

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Beautiful Bend

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We had an incredible time, and can’t wait to return!  (I might be actively seeking career opportunities…)

Until next time… I’ll be dreaming of Bend.

God is good friends.  God is good.