Sandy Traveller

Have a Fabulous trip!


Leave a comment

What I Pack: Work Trip + an Opportunity for You!

Well Hello!! I am so very sorry for the delay. All I can say is…Life Happens! The good news is I have some travel coming up I will be blogging about and reviewing!! Now, it’s technically not a beachy or tropical locale. It is in fact a large city, BUT, it does have beaches and an ocean and I will blog about it if I darn well please 🙂 Before I go, I thought I would show you what I pack when traveling for work. This trip is for a conference that I will be attending and presenting at, so what I pack has everything to do with putting my best foot and face forward and feeling my most confident, while networking, presenting and representing my organization. Enjoy 🙂

*Note: There will be an offer or shall I say….proposition…. for you all at the end of this post, so take a look if you dare 🙂

20140330-105738.jpg

20140330-105826.jpg
Couldn’t put a frame on this one because it cut off the awesome necklace

20140330-105957.jpg

What you see…
Top Picture: My entire skin care routine. Nothing can make a girl feel a little less confident then a big breakout before getting on stage to present to people. Flying can be tough on the skin so I make sure to bring everything I need to make my skin look and feel it’s best (also not pictured – MAKEUP!)

Deoderant…. need I say more?!?

Runners for the hotel gym! Work out some pre-presentation nerves!

Flats….it’s a big city and I intend on getting some serious shopping time aka walking time 🙂

Middle Picture:
A couple of outfits I know will make me look and feel great. I am obsessed with the grey t-shirt dress. It fits perfectly and is conservative yet sexy all at once.

Bottom Picture:
My electronic devices! (not pictured my iPhone because I took the less than stellar quality photos with it) I want to stay connected to everyone back home while I am away. Unlike a beach vacation where I love unplugging and taking space from these things.

Did I miss anything you guys think is important to looking and feeling your most confident while shmoozing?

Now… for that Proposition I promised. I have not been the most effective travel blogger as I haven’t been travelling!!! I do have a travel inspired recipe coming up for ya, plus the reviews of my work travel, but still! I need more! So, have you been somewhere that you are dying to let people know about but haven’t found a platform? Why don’t you send your review to me?!! I would love to post some peoples reviews of their recent travels.

REQUIREMENTS:
– Must have travelled there within the last 3 months
– Must not be based solely on opinion, please include facts, positive and negative and try not to tell people what they will like and not like.

Please note that I do reserve the right to not post your review if I don’t feel like it’s a good content fit for this blog. If you have a blog or website I will absolutely post the link and a bio so that people know where to find you.

Send reviews through my Contact page or send them to openheartsspace@gmail.com (yes, it’s from an old blog I tried and I haven’t updated the email for this yet….LIFE HAPPENS!)


Leave a comment

Macao Surf Camp Review

While I was planning the trip to Punta Cana I was trying to find something fun and a bit different to do while we were there. I had been once before and had done a snorkelling and catamaran excursion, and we had just done a lot of great snorkelling in Mexico, so I really wanted to do something different. I remembered that when I had been in Puerta Plata years ago, we had gone to Cabarete which had a big windsurfing community. I looked into it a bit more and found that there is a large surf community and culture in Dominican Republic and a surf camp with outstanding reviews near our resort in Punta Cana – Macao Surf Camp. I corresponded with them via email before we went down and set up private lessons one morning during our trip. They confirmed the reservation, let me know we would pay when we arrived and asked me to email them when we got to our resort to confirm.

The day of our lesson the van arrived to pick us up from our resort just a few minutes late, and we joined a group of people who had been picked up from different resorts on the way to the beach. There are four options for pick up times and they depend on where your resort is. Ours was close to the beach so we were picked up at 10:30am, but there was also an earlier pick up time and two afternoon times. The trip from our resort, the Iberostar Bavaro, was pretty quick; I would say 20-30 minutes max. The beach is an absolute gorgeous sight to pull up to. Beautiful water, clean sand, and waves! It is a local, public beach which was kind of neat, but a lot of tours stop there so it does have a touristy vibe as well. When we arrived to the surf school shack there were a lot of instructors and people sitting around, looking at us, and we really didn’t know what to do or where to go. Eventually it was figured out and we were given rash guards and a place to put our stuff. Just a note, we weren’t actually given lockers like it says in the Trip Advisor reviews, which wasn’t a big deal because if they stole my money they wouldn’t be getting paid for the lesson, but it may make some people feel uneasy. After a few minutes of standing around we were told to come to the sand for the first part of the lesson.

20140223-202150.jpg
Macao Beach

The beach lesson was taught by an older gentleman who spoke english well and was able to explain very clearly what we needed to do. He seemed to really know his stuff and I would bet he was a seasoned pro. After about 15 minutes of the sand instruction we were ready for the water and a group of instructors walked us down the beach to the spot we would be surfing. Note: for any avid surfers out there, this is a beach break so it is a nice sandy bottom, no reef to worry about crashing into. Now, the surf instructors did not really speak English, which made me think they were making fun of me because I couldn’t understand them… lol…I wish I spoke more Spanish!! Even though there was a language barrier, they had every single person in the water up on their boards, surfing the waves. If they wanted you to move back on your board they would just gently tug on your ankle or show you what your body should be doing (it’s like surfing charades!!) There were 5 of us in the group and probably 6-7 instructors in the water with us, plus the photographers….that’s right! Probably the best part of this was that they took professional photographs the entire time!! They took some of my boyfriend and I on the beach, posing with the surfboards and coconuts, and tons of us in the water. We bought the CD of about 400 photos for $50.00 which was awesome. Such a great keepsake!

20140223-202324.jpg
Sand Surfing

20140223-202406.jpg
This guy watched the whole time 🙂

Overall this was a great day. We were in the water for about 2 hours, with about a 15-20 minute coconut water break in the middle…which I desperately needed. I honestly headed in about 10 minutes before the others as my body was exhausted!! I caught lots of waves and also have photographic evidence of many wipe outs 🙂 While we walked back to the Surf Shack after the lesson the instructors broke their English out to ask us if we would be tipping them well, so we gave our instructors each $10.00. Total cost for the day was about $150.00 per person for transportation to and from the resort, surf lesson, rash guard and board rental, and photos. I would go back to this beach and surf again for sure, but since I’m so experienced now (ha!) I would probably just rent a board and skip the lesson 😉

20140223-202529.jpg

Have a fabulous trip! 🙂


3 Comments

What I Pack: Beach Vacation

Besides a wide variety of bikinis, tank tops, and sun dresses, here are a few of my “must have” items when I go on a beach vacation! Happy Packing 🙂

20140217-113642.jpg

1 – A beach bag that you can put your camera, money and sunblock in when heading to the pool or beach. I’ve definitely forgotten one before and lugged around my purse…not cool. Sometimes hotels will also provide you with a lightweight bag in your room so if you do forget one, check your closet!!

2 – Great disposable razors. I choose disposable ones to travel with because then I can leave it there and not worry about packing it back up to bring home. I love to come home with less than I brought…leaves room for whatever new purchases you have acquired!

3 – Shaving cream. When you are shaving everyday to be pool and beach ready, a little shaving cream goes a long way in preventing razor burn.

4 – Dove Soap. I generally hate the soaps that are provided in hotels as they always make my skin feel dry and filmy after, so I always bring my own.

5 – Chapstick with SPF to save your lips from sunburn!

6 – Yummy tropical smelling lotion. It moisturizes and leaves you smelling delicious! I never bring perfumes with me to beach vacations for some reason so this lotion doubles as perfume and body moisturizer.

7 – Tanning accelorator. This changed my life. As a pale person who loves her SPF 30, a tanning accelerator lotion (like this Maui Babe) gives me a lovely rich, dark, tan that lasts longer than usual.

8 – SPF 30. Duh 🙂

9 – Travel size hair spray. It takes up way less room and is often a necessity as the humidity frizzes your hair.

10 – Good Conditioner. The sun, salt water, and chlorine can really dry out your hair, so along with my shampoo, I make sure to bring a great conditioner for my hair.

11 – Extra (inexpensive) sunglasses. OK, all my sunglasses are inexpensive as I tend to lose them…. So I bring extra.

12 – Facial Wipes. I don’t bring my whole skin care regimen on a beach holiday as it takes up suitcase space and with the salt water, chlorine, sun, sunscreen and snorkel masks…my face is taking a beating anyways. I do like to bring facial wipes to quickly and easily take off any makeup before bed.

13 – Exfoliator for my face. To get off all the sunscreen etc.

14 – A lightweight facial moisturizer. I like to use this one (with some salicylic acid in it to prevent breakouts) under my sunscreen.

Those are my essentials! What do you need to take with you when you are heading to the beach for a vacation??

Be sure to check back next week for a review of my experience at Macao Surf Camp in Punta Cana!

Have a Fabulous Trip! 🙂 xo


Leave a comment

Iberostar Bavaro Review

I stayed at the Iberostar Bavaro, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in January 2014. I had travelled to Punta Cana once before in 2008 and remembered the amazing beach, crystal clear water, friendly people and beautiful weather, which was what made me interested in returning. There were a few reasons we decided on this 4.5 star resort in this location, including the beautiful beach, the fairly reasonable price (between $1500-$1700/person), and the reviews on Trip Advisor that rated it a 4.5 star.

Check In: We arrived to the resort around 9:00pm after about a 20 minute drive from the airport. There were 3 staff manning the front desk and check in went pretty fast. We didn’t receive any welcome cocktails or cool towels (or maybe they were warm towels? I didn’t get to feel them!), but we did observe others who arrived at different times in the week receive these things so it may have been because of our evening arrival. We had someone drive us and our bags to our room and carry up our luggage.

20140214-083318.jpg
There were Peacocks and Flamingos wandering the resort which was lovely

20140214-083440.jpg
Filtered Flamingo 😉

Room: This resort consists of 596 “junior suites”. The room we had was on the second floor, which I requested. It was spacious, with a King sized bed (also requested), and a small sitting area. It also had a balcony with a sitting area and a drying rack for bathing suits etc., which I had not seen in a resort before and found very useful. The bathroom was spacious and provided as much privacy as a frosted glass door can provide. It had a large glass shower and a small bathtub, but the bathtub looked stained and quite old, so we did not use it. There was a full sized hair dryer which was a nice surprise, not just one of those mini ones that always sucks your hair in through the back (does this happen to other people?!). There is a mini fridge that is stocked every other day with some water, pop, and beer. There is a flat screen TV that had about 10 English channels. The room was always very clean with plenty of clean towels. We received turndown service also so the room was basically cleaned twice daily, with fresh towels every time. The only exception to this was on our last night when they left our dirty dishes from room service, which isn’t a huge deal, except you don’t want ants etc.

Overall the room was comfortable, if not a little dated. The curtains and furniture could be more modern as could the bathtub. Apologies for lack of photos.

Food and Restaurants: For breakfast there is the large buffet by the lobby open until 10:00, which I only made it to once as I was on vacation…. 🙂 The one time I did make it the selection seemed wide, but I stuck to potatoes, fruit and bacon. Either way there is a lot of food so I don’t think you will go hungry. I’m not a super picky eater, but I found the food was lacking in the appetizing department at all meals. There is also a “continental” breakfast, which is just a smaller version of the main buffet, at the pool buffet and it had the same type of stuff. It was open until 11:00 or so.

For lunch we always ate at the pool buffet and pretty much ate the same foods every day, as we figured out what we liked, and stuck with it. They have a grill going there with steaks and pork chops and I tried the steaks a couple times. They were thin and contained a lot of fat, but had a nice flavour from the grill. I loved the roast chicken and ate it daily with no side effects.

20140214-083616.jpg
My lunch everyday

For dinner you can eat at the main lobby buffet, or reserve at the a la carte restaurants. Because guests at the Bavaro can use the restaurants and bars at the two adjacent Iberostar resorts (Dominicana and Punta Cana) there are lots of a la cartes to choose from including: Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, Cajun, Steakhouse, Gourmet, and “American style diner”. You can book as many reservations as you want (we had reservations every day), but only 3 at a time, which is probably so everyone has a chance to book. The food at these restaurants was better than at the buffet (OPINION ALERT!) with the best meals being at the Cajun Jambalaya restaurant.

There is also room service provided 24 hours with a small but different menu than you see at the restaurants. The chicken fingers were really good off this menu.

Overall I say the food is “hit and miss”. I definitely ate something that made me sick, as did my travel partner, so I feel like being cautious (or more cautious than I already was surviving only on French fries, pizza and bread the first couple days) is a must.

Drinks were easily accessible at the several bars and in restaurants, but we were only asked if we wanted anything by the pool twice the week we stayed. There is a beach bar with a full drink menu as well as snacks (hot dogs on a stick) but no service on the beach. The only note about the drinks themselves is you really don’t know what you’re getting. You can order the same thing several times and get a different tasting drink every time. Variety…?!

Pool and Beach: There is one large pool that is sort of sectioned into areas, as well as a great looking splash pad area for kids. In the large pool there was a shallow section with a gradual entry, and a deep end. There is also a swim up bar in another section. We never had a problem getting chairs at the pool. The animation team is often trying to get people who are sitting around the pool involved in things, so it does get loud.

20140214-083844.jpg

20140214-084109.jpg
Pool

The beach is beautiful, clean and large. You can walk for a long time and check out the other resorts and there are some shops with souvenirs that you can shop/barter in, but there aren’t a lot of people bugging you to buy things on the beach. Also, if you snorkel, there are some reefs in the swimming area in front of this resort and some great fish to look at! Nice to not have to pay to go somewhere to see some fish. We brought our own snorkel gear, but you can use some for free for one hour a day from the dive shop by the beach. The water can be pretty wavy here but there were lots of people in the water all the time. It’s crystal clear and very warm.

20140214-084324.jpg
Beach

20140214-084408.jpg
Filtered Beach 😉

Entertainment & Activities: Besides the awesome and hilarious people watching, there is a disco that’s kind of neat and decorated with a giant plane (the cockpit is the DJ booth and the wing the bar top), there is also a sports bar that does Karaoke after 10:00. The lobby bars and shows are always busy…but we didn’t watch the shows. Sorry! There is also a casino that has slot machines, blackjack, roulette, and poker.

During the day there is always a game or activity by the pool and beach, as well as archery, aerobics, beach volleyball nets and soccer nets.

The only excursion we did was an awesome day of Surfing…. more to come on that in another post 🙂

Service: I don’t know if I can keep my opinions out of this one… Maybe I should say that I don’t feel like they are wanting repeat customers at this resort. Often asking a question lead to being cut off by a staff person who didn’t seem to be having a good day. One waiter at the Mexican restaurant actually didn’t speak or smile, he just handed a menu then came back and pointed to said menu as to say “what do you want” (and yes I did hear him speak so he was able). We ordered room service one night and after an hour hadn’t received it so we called and were told they had come to our room and had called us a bunch of times (we were sitting there starving and anxiously awaiting…). When we suggested they may have gone to the wrong room we were dismissed. They said another ten minutes, which came and went. I called to cancel it and the man on the phone did not apologize for any of this. Then about 20 mins later it showed up and was clearly the food that would have been ready the hour and a half before, cold and not edible. That same night we had a reservation for the steakhouse but then arrived to a “welcome dinner” (farewell I suppose as it was our last night) and we were not allowed to order off the delicious looking a la carte menu as it was just a normal buffet for the dinner. I was hungry that night….

Our last impression was during check out when we asked if our bags could be locked up in the storage room since we didn’t leave until 4:00. We were told no, but others we saw later had been able to store theirs.

Overall these are a lot of little things that just left us feeling frustrated at the end of the week. I will say that I am aware others we spoke to told us in no uncertain terms they would be returning, so they obviously had a different impression/experience.

So.. Pros and Cons???

Pros: The beach, weather, pool and fact that you can get chairs at the pool (although the pool isn’t fancy), and being able to use the restaurants and bars in the other 2 resorts.

Cons: The food, service, and overall dated feeling of the resort.

I would not return to this resort in the future.

Have any questions? Let me know!!
Have a Fabulous Trip 🙂


Leave a comment

Wish I was on the beach in Mexico… Cilantro Lime Chicken Quesadilla

Hello!

I’m just finishing up my review of the Iberostar Bavaro resort in Punta Cana, DR, so I thought I would post a recipe in the meantime! As I mentioned in my review of the Azul Fives resort, I LOVED the food in Mexico. I just find that there are flavours in the food there that make it taste fresh! I’ve decided (in a very scientific, research based manner of course) that two of those flavours are cilantro and lime, so I made this super easy quesadilla for those days I’m really missing the beach.

20140209-110939.jpg

Cilantro Lime Chicken Quesadilla

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I use a rotisserie chicken from the store to make it quick and easy)
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Hot Sauce, to taste
Salt, to taste
Shredded cheese (I use the tex mex style, but any will work)
Flour tortillas

Combine shredded chicken, cilantro, lime juice, hot sauce and salt…..and then taste this delicious combination and try not to eat the whole bowl before you make a quesadilla 🙂

20140209-111431.jpg

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan, just so the tortilla doesn’t stick

Lay tortilla in pan and sprinkle a layer of cheese, covering the whole tortilla

Add a layer of chicken mixture

20140209-111635.jpg

Sprinkle additional cheese on top of chicken and place tortilla on top

To flip: place a plate over entitle tortilla and turn frying pan over (so you are then holding a plate with the cooked top if the quesadilla looking at you) the slide it back into the pan to cook bottom

20140209-111850.jpg

Cook until tortillas are golden and crispy and cheese is melted throughout

Serve with sour cream and enjoy!

20140209-111948.jpg