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Backpages !! Holiday recap time του Sam Worthy

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Well after a week of sun and 24 hours of gruelling late night flights, early morning connections and more than enough hours’ worth of time spent lying on an empty airport floor, I finally made it back in one piece! Thank you so very much to Brittney, Nora and Floreta who helped keep everything going here – you ladies are too wonderful, and I’m so very excited to get back to my reader and to catch up with everybody!

So where to begin? We left on the 22nd at a rather unfamiliar waking hour, leaving behind cat instructions (complete with picture guide), TV for cat accompaniment, and a relatively mild (for Winnipeg standards) winter. After a day of running around in airports eating ice cream and racing each other down the “trottoir rapide” (which for some reason we both found way too hilarious), we arrived in Puerto Plata. The instant I stepped off the plane I immediately grew pretty much an afro, but it was late night, and the current temperature, our pilot had told us, was 33 degrees C. This was going to be awesome.

We took a night bus into the resort, about 20 minutes from the airport, and were greeted at our hotel room window with this beautiful view of one of the pools with a swim-up bar. Screw jetlag, we thought – we immediately got ourselves dolled up and went exploring! We found three pools, four bars and four restaurants, as well as nightly entertainment (whose novelty wore off after day three, and we moved to a slightly less noisy building!). We also found we were two minutes’ walk from the beach, and in the morning headed down to see what came up with the sun.

The water was the most incredibly clear, blue-turquoise I’d ever seen. I never imagined it would look just like an advert in a travel brochure, but this colour was real. The whole trip was full of blue skies, a hot sun, and just breathtakingly beautiful horizons.

Early in the week we decided to book a couple of tours. “Beware the Beach People!” our holiday rep had warned us on arrival. But we were instantly met by a Beach Person selling tours, and we figured what the heck – he was charging quite a bit less than she was, and I’m a sucker for a charmer. We booked a day trip to Paradise Island, the “only coral island of the Dominican Republic, a perfect circle-round reef in the middle of the ocean with amazing untouched coral reef – the best place in the Dominican for snorkelling.” We also booked a trip to Ocean World, which ended up being THE most amazing day out – infinitely superior to the former.

We hadn’t been told it would be a rickety old 3-hour bus ride with no air conditioning and singing jerks just to get to the beach. I’d had a bit of a dodgy tummy the first few days and wasn’t getting on great with the food, so bumping up and down for 6 hours out of the day wasn’t the most fun I’d ever had. But then we got to the beach. And we got on a speedboat. And we were sped over the bluest water yet over to an untouched island in the middle of the ocean. It literally was in the middle of nowhere, so this meant the water got deep, fast. I decided to try snorkelling – this of all places would be the place to do it! But my initial nerves got the better of me, and I spent most of it flapping about, gulping down saltwater and worrying something would fly down the tube and into my mouth. The moments I did manage to keep my head under the surface however were spectacular – I was swimming amongst what looked like hundreds of exotic fish, all within touching distance, over an incredible coral reef. I wish I could’ve held it together to enjoy it for a little longer, but my nerves got the better of me, and in a desperate attempt not to get lost at sea, I gave up and went back to shore. Several hours later we arrived exhausted back at the resort, and set our hopes a little higher for Ocean World.

We didn’t need to worry. It ended up being the most wonderful day out ever!! It was 20 minutes from the resort, and we arrived to the sunniest day yet, and a schedule for the day. First stop? DOLPHIN ENCOUNTER. That’s right, we got to be in the water with an amazingly clever, happy and fun little dolphin, and it was one of the best experiences of my entire LIFE! We got dolphin kisses, fed him, hugged him, watched tricks and even held onto his fins as he stood and danced with us. I lapped up every precious second of it, enormously impressed with their intelligence and the sheer joy of having held one in my arms.

We also saw bird shows, seal shows, sharks and tigers, and had a wonderful lunch by the sea. By far the most wonderful day of the trip, and of a very long time!

Other days we visited the hotel’s restaurants – they had a grill, an Italian restaurant and a seafood one, all of which were wonderful – but you could only visit each one once per week, and the rest of the nights (, mornings and afternoons) were spent at the Buffet. Which was fine – if you’re a fan of Mystery Meals. My stomach wasn’t, and unfortunately I spent a day laid up a little out of commission, but it did give me a chance to finish two wonderful books (Jen, we can finally discuss HFS now!! And Juliet, Naked was the perfect light read for beside the pool), and to catch some horribly compelling shows on MTV España.

Much amusement was provided by a couple of late 50-something gentlemen (I’m being incredibly generous with the word), who were so incredibly crass and bigoted it was almost beyond belief; the first day included a joint game of “Name Those Oafs” (with “Roy” and “Norm” becoming our favourites), but funnily enough they ultimately ended up getting us out of some unforeseen trouble… I think I’ll leave it at that, since they gave enough material for a blog post of their very own! Watch this space.

The last day was slightly traumatic, however – we ended up stuck next to a howling, kicking and screaming, writhing child sitting across from us for five hours up to Toronto, and stuck in an empty airport for a sleepless six hours before our early morning flight back to Winnipeg, where the captain informed us, it was a brisk minus 27 degrees. Saturday was a blur of daylight-induced insomnia in the face of exhaustion, and poor Sweet had to head straight from the airport to work to mark hundreds of exams before Monday.

It’s been a bit of a shove back into reality, but a week seemed just about the perfect time to get away, full of sun, laughter, and time together which was all the more precious after the whirlwind of a year we’ve had with more than enough job changes, house changes, and long hours. It almost felt like I was living in a dreamworld, where we had time together disconnected fully from day-to-day responsibilities, chores and interruptions – we had seven glorious days, finally, to share incredible experiences, laughs, and wonderful conversation. I felt carefree – no nagging in the back of my head about chores I had to finish, about dishes that needed doing, about putting on makeup or bothering straightening my hair. I felt entirely comfortable, just to abandon everything and cherish every second with which we were blessed.

It was our first trip away, just the two of us – and these are memories we’ll share for the rest of our lives. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to start 2010 – and, as they say, I’m going to start is as I mean to go on. And I cannot WAIT to catch up with every single one of you! :)

PS. For those who wanted even MORE pics – here you go :)
PPS. A massive thank you to everyone who commented on my last Weddingbells post in the contest. New one is going up this morning – it would mean the world if you could comment over there again! :)