Heading to Puerto Plata

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Howdy all! I guess it’s high time that I write a bit about my recent last-minute vacation down to the Caribbean, isn’t it? As I mentioned in my last post, as a result of changing jobs, I decided to take a week off between the two jobs to refresh myself. Incidentally, for those of you who are wondering what this new job is, well, let’s just say I opted to stay in the Government for now. I received a promotion in the CRTC, and as such moved up a few floors, got a coveted window cubicle, and have an entirely new workload. Whereas before I was a Senior Analyst, dealing with applications and tariff filings, I’ve now moved into a Network Evolution Policy role. This means that I’m much more self-directed, and will be researching and reporting on a range of interesting topics such as net neutrality, digital rights management, new media, and so on and so forth. As you may imagine, this is much more interesting to me than what I was doing before, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this new post 😉 Staying in the CRTC has also guaranteed that I can still go ahead with my plan to take a leave of absence and head to New Zealand. However, there have been a few high-level changes to it. First, I’m only going for 4 months instead of 6 months. Second, I’ll be leaving at the beginning of December, rather than the beginning of September. Regardless, it’ll still be an awesome trip no doubt, and will carry me through the cold Ottawa winter! Anyway, I’m rambling on about work, when I should be telling you about Puerto Plata. Read on!

So, when we last left our hero, he was just getting back from cross-country skiing in Gatineau park, in time to pack his stuff, and head to the airport. One of the packing challenges was the fact that I decided to take my old mountain bike with me, to get some biking in. You see, in the back of my mind, I decided that this trip wouldn’t just be a week of sun and booze, but would also be a training camp of sorts for me. I wanted to run, bike, swim, kayak, and work out all week as well, so that I could justify the undoubtedly copious amounts of rum I’d be ingesting! Plus, since I was going alone, I figured I’d need to fill up my days with something. I’m not the type of person that can just sit around all day on the beach reading or soaking up rays. I get far too easily bored with that stuff. Case in point, I brought 2 books to read while on vacation, and even though I was all alone, I only managed to read a few measely chapters of one book. See? I’d much rather be active when given the option.

Anyway, back to the trip. I only wanted to do a trip if I could get a very good rate, and was leaving on Saturday. I was hoping I’d only miss one of my Sunday training sessions (4 hours of running and spinning), but in the end I missed two. I scoured the inter-web for all sorts of last minute deals. There were some decent ones, but by the time you added in taxes and ‘single supplements’, the prices were still around $1500. Not a terrible deal, but I wanted to travel on the cheap. Well, in the end, I went back to good old Go Travel Direct, whom you may remember from last year’s Cuba fiasco. I had a voucher from them ($50 off for all our Cuba troubles) that was expiring, and they seemed to have the best rates going. I hemmed and hawed for a while on a few deals, and in a great bit of timing, happened to be online for the brief hour or two when they dropped the price of a 4-star ‘Wild Card’ trip to the Dominican (Puerto Plata) to $499 (+$270 taxes) for double occupancy. I snapped it up. In the end, with single supplement, and my voucher, the total all in was something ridiculous like $912! Flight, transfers, meals, drinks, 4+star resort, and even transporting my bike! Crazy. I’m assuming they still made a bit of money, but I’m sure it wasn’t much. Knowing it would be 4-star made it easier to decide. They only have 3 properties listed as 4-star and up in Puerto Plata, and they all looked nice (and had good reviews on Trip Advisor). The only one that listed availability at the last minute was actually called the Blue Bay Getaway, an ‘adults only’ resort. I made a mental note of that, but didn’t know where I’d end up.

“Oh my!”, the check-in lady’s response when she sees my bike box at the Ottawa airport. “What’s that?”, she asks suspiciously. “A bike.” I respond deadpan. “Oh.”. Luckily, I’d called earlier to confirm with both Go Travel and Zoom Airlines that there would be no issue taking my bike, or even getting it to the resort. The rest of the check-in was painless. Too bad I forgot to close the locks on my bag before it disappeared down the conveyor. Oh well, here’s hoping it arrives unscathed in the Dominican. After that, I wandered over to Swiss Chalet for a delicious 1/4 Chicken Dinner. Yum. I wasn’t sure if there’d be a meal on our budget flight. Turns out there was. Kudos to Zoom for including a meal AND wine on the flight, even though it was a red-eye. After my chicken, I went on a fruitless search to change a $20US bill into smaller change, for tipping in the Dominican. Couldn’t get it done anywhere. I was told that it was “Against the law” to make change. The reason I was given? Some line about money laundering. What!? As if I’m going to launder $20! He said I might be going around with $20 to all sorts of places to make change to launder a larger sum. WTF? What kind of moron would do that. You know it’s just because they don’t want to offer you a change service like that. Whatever. Went through security, and settled in to wait for flight. Ditched my fleece and jacket in anticipation of stepping off the plane to something much warmer. Flight got off only about 15 minutes late, which is fine by me. As long as if gets there. I had a reasonable (window) seat on the flight, and enjoyed the food and movie. On to Puerto Plata.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a few rain clouds, and even some rain! Uh-oh, I was hoping this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I picked up my duffle bag, then searched around for where my bike might arrive. Found a side door, and got a baggage handler to find it for me. Success! All arrived intact, as hoped. The box was wet, which is how I knew it had been raining. Off to find the shuttle bus. Outside, the Go Travel Rep told me where I was headed… Blue Bay Getaway! So my hunch was right. Went to the wrong bus at first, some guy pointed me where to go, and insisted on grabbing my cart, I said it wasn’t needed. He pushed on for a bit. I tried explaining I had no change for a tip (I really had none at all!). He didn’t believe me and kept pushing. Eventually, when he came to his senses, he rudely pushed my cart away, and stormed off. Hey, he can’t say I didn’t tell him 😉 Anyway, got to the mini-van (!) with the trailer, and chatted with the driver about how to get my bike onboard. We just heaved it onto the roof of the trailer. Into the van, and off to the resort.

Another great twist for Go Travel. On the mini-van (apparently there was also a big bus bound for the Blue Bay, but we got out first and fast since we were small), we were told we could do all our check-in before we arrived. Sweet. We just had to fill in a card, and they gave us our keys on the van. Nice touch. Upon arriving at the hotel, I could just wheel on over to my room, and turn in for the night. Well, rather than turn in, I opted to unpack all my things, and get my bearings, so that the next day I could take full advantage. By now it was about 2:30am on Sunday morning, but I didn’t plan on ‘wasting’ Sunday. The room was quite large, with a king bed and walk-in closet. Lots of room for all my gear, bike included. Once I was unpacked, I turned in and hoped for good weather. Next post I’ll get into the details of my week 😉

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