Hotels

The Love: Barbados, an Engagement Story

Barbados is another island that holds sentimental value for me. My then-future husband and I visited here in 2010 around the time of our birthdays. It was gorgeous; the weather was perfect and of course the island atmosphere makes everything great. At that time we had been dating about four years. We stayed at the Silver Point Hotel. BEAUTIFUL hotel and location. 

When we first arrived at the hotel, we were given a substandard room (dark, small, parking lot view). My love goes and has a nice chat with the front desk manager (I'm telling you again: Kindness goes a LONG way!). She tells us she will move us the next day to a better room with a better view. As promised, the next day we were moved a lovely bright suite with an ocean view. I couldn't be happier. 

The future husband then tells me to find a nice place for dinner. The day was August 29th; my birthday is August 28th and his is the 30th. At the time I was thinking that if he were going to propose that would be the day to do it (numbers are important to him, especially since our birthdays are so close. Remember: we met on August 31st!). We agreed on a romantic restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the ocean called Champers

I didn't bring anything elegant or regal enough to wear to a formal restaurant so I did the best with what I had (a fuschia tube dress - to this day I still say I wish I would've packed better clothing options but oh well). At the restaurant we were seated on the large balcony above the ocean, waves crashing below us. My "soon-to-be-fiance-now-husband" leaves the table to go to the bathroom after the waiter takes our orders. He takes a while to get back which now makes me thinks something is up. I was about 95% sure he was going to propose. At that moment, I thought about everything leading up to this moment: his determination to go to Barbados (his dad is from there and he also has family residing on the island), having me select the location for a "special dinner", and now him taking unusually long in the restroom. 

Sure enough he returns* and as he does, he gets down on one knee, takes my hand in his and spills his heart out to me (which I sadly can't remember because I was so blissfully overwhelmed). I just remember being impatient and wishing he would hurry up and finish so I could say "YES!". 

The night was beautiful and unforgettable (though I don't remember what I ordered, I just know the excitement prevented me from finishing it). Five years and one bambino later and we are still very much happy and in love. 

*He took so long in the bathroom because he had tied the ring to the drawstring on his pants and couldn't get it off! 

My Time: Cancun, Mexico

Around some time in 2006, my sister-friends and I (same group I traveled to Nassau with) planned a trip to Cancun. This trip was designed to be the ultimate girlfriend getaway. This getaway was very hard to plan because we needed to find a time when all seven females would be available to travel. When we finally were able to find the time, the next hurdle was in accommodating everyone’s budget. It’s really hard for us to get together now (many of us have since gotten engaged, married and/or gave birth) so I’m not sure what the problem was back then and why it took so long for us to get it together.

The countdown for this trip was serious. I was in the BEST shape ever; I had been hitting the gym pretty hard (and consistent) for about a year and watching my carb intake. The main reason: we had planned to do a professional photo shoot.

Fast forward to the day of our long awaited vacation. We arrive on time to JFK and board our flight. We were all so excited. Our flight was slightly delayed and we had a connecting flight in Miami. I remember us literally running through the Miami International Airport to get to our gate. It seemed like we had ran a few miles and when we got there the boarding agent was just about to close the gate. We had made it.

We get to Cancun safely. All of us are going through customs getting our passports stamped when we notice one of our girls is taking longer than usual to get through the system. She tells us they won’t allow her in the country using her Jamaican passport. They wanted to see her green card. She didn’t have her green card.

The situation had begun to get a little tense because my friend said she has always been able to travel using her passport. The Mexican authorities weren’t having it. I remember another one of my friends arguing with one of the agents and him threatening to have her arrested. Mind you, this was around the time Locked Up Abroad first started airing on the National Geographic channel. I remember thinking “this can’t be happening… We’re going to be a Locked Up Abroad story!”, we were able to get my angry friend away from the man to cool off.

Things were still tense though.

They took my friend to a small room. One of those secret hidden rooms that they take people accused of smuggling contraband. The customs agent asked if there was a way she could access her green card. She was able to call her then-boyfriend who had a key to her apartment. He was able to get the green card and fax it to the agents in Mexico. The agents were able to look up her status in the system, plus they now had a faxed copy of her green card. However, this still wasn’t acceptable. The big boss in charge said they needed the actual hard copy of the green card.

We landed around 10pm.

It was after midnight and we were still in the airport. No more flights were coming in and all of the workers had gone home.

Lights were off.

Except in that tiny room.

I’d never seen an empty airport in my life, but I did there in Cancun.

There was nothing left for us to do. The agent had advised us that our friend would be sent back to the states on the first flight out at 7am the next morning.

We felt horrible that we had to leave her alone with a guard in an airport in Mexico. We were able to keep tabs on her though and found that she was able to leave on an earlier 6am flight.

Our trip continued as planned but we weren’t able to truly enjoy ourselves after that incident. My friend has never went to back to Mexico and doesn’t plan to.

Quality in Travel

I've been traveling all my life. I was seven when I went on my first cruise to Bermuda. My aunt liked to take me along; we were either cruising the tropics or flying down south somewhere. I'm thankful for those experiences because they made me appreciate and want the finer things in life. I recently mentioned this in an IG post: I could care less about designer clothing, bags or shoes. Since becoming a mom in 2015 I can't even remember the last time I dressed up! And that's okay with me. I just need access to the Caribbean several times a year and all is well in my world.

This leads me to my next point: I want quality when I travel now. In the past, I constantly wanted "cheap"; trying to find the cheapest flight and settling on decent 3 star hotels were satisfactory to me (there are still many great 3 stars out there though). Cheap flights can be good but they aren't always great and can be quite draining. For example, I was able to find a "cheap" flight to Providenciales but I had THREE layovers. It was horrible. I told myself "never again". 

I can easily say that at the age of 36 I now don't mind paying for quality when traveling; especially if I'm given an option to pay over time. I've come to appreciate travel agents for this very reason. I'm also in the process of setting up my OWN agency to provide this exact service. 

Because everyone deserves to experience a little luxury from time to time. 

Stick with me!

Wes

 

My Time: Puerta Plata, Part 3

We stayed there on our perch for a while, just peeping the scene. We were naturally in awe; as we had never seen anything so bold yet seemingly normal. It was almost as if nothing taboo was taking place here. 

We finally head back to our resort with our "drivers", Marcos and friend. On the way back we stop at a cuchifritos truck on the side of the road. We all get out to see if we want to get any food. Pure authentic Dominican food. We didn't get anything to eat so we just chatted to ourselves while the guys devoured their fried delicacies, sitting in beach chairs on the side of the road at 3am.

We finally return to the resort. We pull up to the back entrance, near the gate we left from. I noticed the same security guard they were chatting up before is still there, still armed with rifle. As Marcos shuts off the engine to the car, the air feels different. Something has changed.

They want money. 

$32 each to be exact. 

So wait a minute. Hold up. Just a second. You mean to tell me the guys weren't just "showing us a good time"? Ha! How naive of me to think such a thing. I realized we had been taken out on the town by some "sanky-pankies", otherwise known as gigolos. I didn't realize this though until AFTER we had returned and I had done some research.

So here we are with 2 stone faced Dominican men and a security guard with an M16. Now, I don't think he was initially there to scare us per se, but it did add effect. We paid up and then ran through the flower canopy/tunnel back towards our rooms. I'm not really sure why we ran, I think one of the girls heard a rustle in the leaves or something.

After that evening we decided we didn't need Marcos for anything; we'd use the resort's tourist and cab services.  

The next day was pretty normal; we went sightseeing and went to a show and dinner at a resort/casino. However, later on that evening our eyes were hungry for more and we decided to take a cab back into the city of Cabarete.

As we made our way to the bar, a guy (black guy from the Bronx) made small talk with us and really gave us an earful. He said that everyone could tell we weren't prostitutes but he wanted to know why we were there and why we chose Puerta Plata. "There's only one thing going on here" is what he told us. 

We settled in at our same perch at the bar facing the street. We saw: 

- A lady walking down the street completely naked, after getting out of a car  

- Various women meeting and leaving with random men

- Young girls (about ages 15-17) approaching men

It was disheartening to see this happening right before my eyes. There were some girls that looked like they enjoyed doing what they were doing and then there were the others. Those who seemed dead behind the eyes. I remember one pretty young brown skin girl in particular who was with a friend. They were waiting around for some guys to decide what they were going to do. She really looked like she didn't want to go. My friend caught her eye and told her she was beautiful. She smiled and said "thank you", in the most sincerest, heartfelt manner. 

I prayed for her and the other girls that evening. 

On the plane ride home we saw so many men returning to the states. Some of them were familiar faces from the strip in Cabarete. One man was putting his wedding ring back on in the seat next to me. 

This was a hard trip for me. I feel when we, as human beings go on vacation we expect to see life through those fictional "rose colored glasses". We don't expect to come in contact with the ills of the world and what I saw in Puerta Plata was very real. Real life and real means of survival. This is what I like to think of as shade in the sun; just because something is beautiful doesn't mean it isn't flawed. 

I hold DR close to my heart. I'd like to go back and visit La Romana or Samana to remind me of the all the beauty and innocence still alive and thriving there on the lovely island of Hispaniola.