Sunday, November 7, 2010

Punta Cana Horseback Riding, Freshwater Lagoons & Paradisus Treats

It was my last full day in Punta Cana and there wasn’t an activity-less moment to spare as I savored every last drop of what the Dominican Republic could offer.

The weather here hasn’t exactly been ideal for sunbathing, but that hasn’t been on the schedule, so the on and off drizzle, low humidity and not that hot (high 70s, low 80s) temperatures have been welcome.  I waited out a bit of morning rain with a room service breakfast (the cheese plate was almost as good as what I had in France) and then Jaimee and I headed out on our Eco Tour at 8:30.  It was the first thing we had done in a group and it was interesting to see the vacationers from all over the world that come to this island.

The day began with horseback riding.  I used to ride regularly as a teenager, but I haven’t been a teen in a very long time.  It took a bit of time for me to get comfortable with the horse and I still wasn’t too happy when he took off on me through the tropical forest, but when I got to trot slowly along the beautiful Punta Cana beach, I was so glad I came (photos to come since I decided to bring a disposable camera on the excursion).  Jaimee and I rode for a total of about an hour with our two guides and a Canadian couple also experiencing it for the first time.

Back on the ranch, we had a snack before joining a family of five on the trip to Reserva Ecologica, a complex of 12 freshwater lagoons.  The trek through the jungle (ok, the deadliest creatures were termites and turtles) took us passed some small lagoons until we got to Azulfa’s favorite one.  I can’t say it was mine, as the flight of stairs into the lagoon was quite slippery, but I enjoyed standing back with a few other unwilling participants while I watched a few swimmers and a lot of fish in the water.  From there we took a quick trip to the very beautiful Playa Blanca (White Beach) for a short rest stop with some tropical drinks before we were heading back to Paradisus Palma Real.

Jaimee and I had a delicious lunch at Gabi Club. She enjoyed a fruity salad and onion soup au gratin and I chose a roasted vegetable dish that was like vegetarian lasagna without the noodles.  I then headed to the mall to pick up some souvenirs for an article I’m working on while Jaimee checked on the hurricane damage back in her Haitian home of Les Cayes, which wasn’t nearly as bad as we had feared.

Our final afternoon was spent at the YHI Spa at the Paradisus Palma Real's Reserve section where we were staying.  While there are YHI spas at all Paradisus resorts, the spa manager explained how they are all totally different in their design even though they share the same treatments (in addition to a few signature treatments at each one).  This particular spa was perhaps the nicest I’d ever seen, with relaxing Zen gardens and ponds. 

Beyond the treatment rooms there was also a large area to relax in with chairs, canopy beds, a hydrotherapy pool, a bare foot bath, Jacuzzis, tea, juices, snacks and more. There was also a sauna and a steam room in the locker area, making it a place you could linger all day before or after treatment.  I had a stress-relieving Lotus, Gold & Rice Massage, while Jaimee enjoyed the Bijao Massage. It was pouring rain when we got out, but we dried off quickly and got dressed for the evening’s festivities.

Isaias Henriquez met us by the bar at the Gabi Lounge to first tell us a bit about the history of the Tango, which originated in Argentina.  This is one of the Life Enriching Experiences Paradisus offers complimentary to their guests. We watched a demonstration by the very talented Maria Cecilia and Francisco de Luna and then it was time to get into action.  They broke the dance up for me into five movements, having me perform each one with and without music.  It was lots of fun and, though my brow was full of sweat, I had a blast.  Jaimee also got up for a few dances and we re-energized with Champagne between movements.

I switched from the straight stuff to the slurpee-like Passion Fruit Bellini pre-dinner and was cooled off quickly.  It was a shrimp and cantaloupe cocktail for Jaimee while I had the Cucumber Salad with Mango Sautéed Duck in soy, honey ginger sauce for an appetizer. It was followed by a perfect T-Bone of Lamb with Rosemary Sautéed Peaches in a Cold Mint Sauce.  I decided it was fitting to have Flan for the final dessert and then we went over to the Palma Real to listen to some music and play a few (very few) slots.

When we arrived back at our suite, we had the last of our “presents” waiting.  Each night, we had received a different souvenir and this time it was something really special – a mask made of chocolate. Unfortunately, we were too full to eat it, but Jaimee reminded me that we still had the morning.

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