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Lauren’s Take on the DR

12 Apr
My family recently came and visited me for my 26th birthday (how did i get sooo old??). We spent an amazing week at an all-inclusive resort on the north coast of the country in Puerto Plata. I asked my sister to be a guest blogger and give me her two cents on this magical country that I live in. Thanks, Laur! 
Fam in Puerto Plata
My take on the DR:
– A culture filled with kindness. We grew up in the South so I know a thing or two about Southern Hospitality, or I thought I did; Dominicans have us Southerners beat hands down when it comes to being gracious. When we arrived at the hotel, Grayson was there to meet us, and although she graciously offered us drinks from the {all inclusive} bar, she’s not the real ‘hero’ of this story. That title goes out to Jose. Our driver, bodyguard and friend for the week. I’m not sure Jose really knew what he was embarking on when he agreed to take Grayson from the bus stop to the hotel, but I do know that it was the Caldwells that were in for the real treat over the next few days. Jose was with us literally every minute that we didn’t spend at the hotel, including our not-so-brief trip to The Mermaid {Puerta Plata’s WalMart & the greatest grocery store I’ve ever seen}. Jose spoke no English and all of us {except Grayson} speak the lowest level of Spanish imaginable {Dad still thinks azul means yellow — it’s actual translation is blue} but it didn’t matter there were still hugs & double cheek kisses exchanged at every greeting & departure. By day 2, Jose was bringing us gifts — all were thoughtful in that we’d wondered about what they were — namely, Mama Juana, a Dominican speciality drink made from soaking bark in rum, honey, & wine. Jose brought us a bottle of bark with instructions on what to soak it in & for how long. The last day he brought of bottle of honey from in town, obviously meant for our Mama Juana.
Fam y Juan
Mama Juana
– Dominican people have more rhythm than I could dream of, ever. From a very young age. In fact, I think that Susan & I missed much of Carnivale because we were watching a 6 year old in a tutu teach her friends to dance – to every song that was played. I tried my hand at bachata & merengue while we were there; Grayson & I were even in a recital, or two. But there was no way my hips were ever going to move like a native Dominican, including the 6 year old we spotted.
Bachata Lessons
– Always bring bottled water to the 27 Waterfalls. And close-toed shoes. And a camera. You can leave your fear of heights at home. 27 Waterfalls was described to us as “very user friendly” by our tour guide extrodinaire Grayson, who had been several weeks prior. We heard the guy at the front desk tell us to buy water bottles, but were quickly shown the way to helmets & life jackets {both very necessary} and all thoughts of water beyond the falls were gone. Until we started hiking – STRENUOUSLY hiking. Up a MOUNTAIN. By the time we reached the first waterfall – 45 minutes to an hour later – we were dragging our lifejackets & helmets on the ground behind us, panting and so ready to jump into the crystal blue water. 27 Waterfalls was one of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve ever had – it was beyond beautiful, which is why you need a camera. It seems that the photos Dad snapped with his photographic memory are non-transferable. And for those of you with a fear of heights – there’s only 1 high jump, but you’re ready for it after the lazy river & amazing natural water slides.
Puerto Plata
 From the moment we arrived in the DR, it was easy to see why Grayson had fallen so in love with the country & its people. It’s beautiful – everything about it. I, for one, am already desperate to plan a trip back.