September 14, 2017

La Samana, Dominican Republic



I'm finally back after my summer long hiatus, I can't believe it's September already. This summer has gone by so fast, the weather wasn't the greatest in Canada but luckily I left for a Caribbean adventure in the Dominican Republic.

This vacation was by far the most memorable because of the locals we met and the friendships we made along the way; a Haitian merchant named Wilson, a Swiss villa owner named Michel and two mysterious Canadian ladies living in the DR. These interesting characters and their life stories made our trip unique, by the end of the week, we felt like locals ourselves.


For me, being in the Dominican Republic was really interesting as it was the closet I've ever been to my country of origin, Haiti. I am born in Ottawa, Canada however I have never traveled to Haiti which is on my bucket list. 

The history between the Haitians and Dominicans is not peaceful. There are many Haitians working hard labor in the DR and they are seen as lower caste, they are poorly treated and highly judged. 

Sadly, I had to overhear such comments that Haitians were ugly and smelly from Dominicans and other locals in which I interjected and told them I was Haitian, than came complete silence. It was unsettling to feel the negativity towards Haitians, funny enough most locals thought I was Dominican. 


On the very bright sight, we stayed at the Grand Paradise Samana hotel for 7 days, however for an extra escape we booked an airbnb villa for 3 days at the very top of a cliff with a private infinity pool during that same week.

June was the perfect time to travel to this destination as it was quiet and not packed with tourists. Because it was down season, not all merchants were open, however we didn't mind, it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. If you like peace and quiet, travel to the DR in June, there are great deals with Air Transat. 


La Samana is absolutely gorgeous and located in the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic, it is primarily known as a popular whale watching destination during the months of January-April.


The buffet at Grand Paradise Samana was actually not bad but there was a lot of fried foods, so thankfully we spent our next couple lunches/dinners at this gem of a hotel called Villa Serena. 

I am now obsessed with this place and can't wait to go back. It's a boutique style hotel that offers fresh healthy meal options. They also host yoga/detox retreats which is something I also want to try. After connecting with the manager via Instagram, I got to meet Maria and took some fabulous pictures of their landscape. I was so worried for them during Hurricane Irma, however they had minimal damage luckily! 



The best smoothie I've ever had, ordered it twice! 



We spent 3 days at this gorgeous airbnb villa admiring this view, day &  night! 


"That feeling when you made your own bikini!"


I got this swan floatie at Wal-Mart for 25$ and lugged it all the way to the DR.


At the villa, the owner also had a mini farm of animals and I got attached to this cute donkey. He was so  affectionate, it was sad to see him tied up all day but the owner said it was to prevent him from running off and getting hit by a car.



La Samana is home to many virtuous beaches that must be seen. We spent a day soaking in the beauty of the white sand beach, La Playita. Another beach to visit is Playa Rincon.




This trip was a birthday gift from my beau and it was surprise! In my next blog post, i'll share more of what I actually did on my birthday.  Follow me on instagram or twitter: @marciabcreative



April 21, 2017

Hanami in New York!


Hanami (花見, "flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers; flowers ("hana") are in this case almost always referring to those of the cherry ("sakura") or, less frequently, plum ("ume") trees.


There are so many places to see in the State of New York, so every time I visit I try to make it a point to discover a new neighborhood in the different boroughs. This time around, I decided to go to the Brighton Beach area in Brooklyn to experience this Russian neighborhood, also known as little Odessa. 

So, we had brunch at Volna which offers a nice view, it is right on the boardwalk facing the beach, we were well received by the staff who recommended traditional Russian dishes for my first Russian meal and also a strong shot of Beluga Vodka, which I could not finish! 




We spent the day on the boardwalk, checking out Brighton beach and the very busy Coney Island, it's a very scenic walk. A fusion of cultures, families, a movie being filmed, foodie lineups draped by a sunny beach view. If you are opting for a quieter experience at the beach, my recommendation is to stay on the Brighton beach side, it's more relaxing. 



It was much warmer than Montreal, of course. But, not hot enough for me to wear my bikini, so I wore a lingerie bodysuit from Winners with some light blue denim pants and a choker from my new spring collection available on etsy. Also, my lipstick color is "Love Me 13" from Essence Cosmetics.

I purchased some Russian dolls at the souvenir shop in Little Odessa, I've always wanted these.


By the way, yes my braids are midnight blue! I was feeling inspired by Spring so I thought to step out the box. It's cherry blossom season, so I was lucky to catch these trees at their peak in Central Park. I also spotted some at Washington Square Park near Greenwich Village. There is also a Cherry Blossom festival starting April 29th 2017 in New York, I wish I could be there.



On Easter Monday we spent the day shopping through Chinatown, going to Uniqlo in Soho and than retreating at Jack's Wife Freda for a late lunch. Little tip, go to the Carmine location instead of Lafayette, you will get seated much faster at the first address. 


For all this walking, I packed my comfy Jadde booties from Musse & Cloud USA , which fitted perfectly with the emerging spring weather in stylish NYC.


Next stop, Doob! We knew we had to check it out while in NYC, they basically take a 3D photo of you and than replicate into an actual statue, it's impressive. We had a little info session with one of the representatives, so we will definitely be "doobing" upon our next visit. 


Later on, we had a scheduled tour with Free Tours by Foot, we chose the Greenwich Village Dessert Tour. It was worth it, our guide Katherine was very informative and gave us a historical tour as a bonus, we went by the apartment where they shot the TV sitcom "Friends". My fave stops were the Donut Project and the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.


My Greenwich Village Recommendations for a quick break:

Caffe Reggio (Home of the 1st Cappuccino), Bluestone Lane Coffee, Joe & the Juice



Where will I travel next?  

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter: @marciabcreative!


March 16, 2017

Varadero, Cuba!



So, we booked a last minute trip to Varadero, Cuba, one day before our departure and in that small amount of prep time, I managed to sew 2 kaftans, throw my whole resort wear wardrobe in my luggage, did my mani and pedi and even got my hair done with some pink braid accents! Yes, all in that short amount of time.

This is the first time I was weary of travelling to a country, only because I heard so much negative feedback about the food in Cuba,  and let's face it, food is important!  However, I thought that this issue could pertain to the hotel selection perhaps? So we hoped for the best when we chose our hotel, however we were diligent and only booked 4 days...and I am glad we did that.


Nonetheless, I was super excited to leave the cold Canadian weather and land into beautiful Cuba. Upon arriving, we hopped a cab with another couple that we met at the airport and went off to our hotel, only to be greeted by a gorgeous crystal blue water beach.


IS THE FOOD SITUATION REALLY THAT BAD IN CUBA? 

 We arrived just in time for lunch, this was the moment of truth for me. Was the food really that bad? YES, it doesn't matter where you go...your hotel, the supermarket or the #1 restaurant in Varadero. There is not much variety in food selection.


WHY?

The food has no taste and there are very little fresh fruits or veggies. Most veggies are canned and there is no such thing as fresh milk. I stayed away from the meat after having a bad experience, so I only had seafood.

This is due to the fact that Cuba relies on its own resources which their food selection is scarce to none due to minimal trade affairs, hence poor economy. Yes, they do import certain foods however they have high restrictions posed upon them due to the US embargo. Fluctuations in the food supply caused by Cuba’s economic situation means that restaurants and hotels can sometimes run short on ingredients.


My personal recommendation is to eat at "paladars" which are restaurants that locals have opened in their own private residence, beforehand this was illegal and many kept running restaurants secretly in their homes, however now it is permitted.

 As mentioned, even if you go to the #1 Paladar in Varadero, do not expect it to be great, but it will be a better experience than most places in Cuba. We ate at the best paladars; Salsa Suarez and Varadero 60 which offered a more agreeable experience, but let's face it, Chef Gordon Ramsey would loose his mind in those restaurants.


Tips for Cuba: Luckily, I brought some spirulina powder with me for that energy boost as I was prepared for the scarcity of non-fresh produce. I also packed energy bars and kept very hydrated with lots of bottled water. Remember to use bottled water for brushing your teeth, do not drink the tap water.


We spent our time, tanning on the beach, swimming in the Atlantic ocean and enjoying Cuban rum, which taste so good. I packed about 12 swimsuits for my mini photo shoots right before sunset everyday. I picked up sea shells for future craft projects, got a massage on the beach and ordered many more "Cuba libre" cocktails at the open bar.



In the evenings, we checked out live shows. I was obsessed with all the classic taxis around and would only flag down the pink ones! We also went off to the Varadero market for a day of artsy shopping, as per my mother's suggestion and that was amazing. If you are into leather goods, it's a must. The amount of beautifully crafted leather hats and purses is insane, I got the cutest orange leather pouch for only 3 pesos.


We also did a 2 hour excursion on a catamaran, in the middle of the ocean, while I watched my boyfriend snorkel. I'm scared of sharks so I didn't dare go in, the instructor pleaded that the sharks were only in Holguin, but I wasn't believing that lol.


BRING GIFTS FOR LOCALS

Vy Nguyen, the designer behind Lolli Swim recently went to Cuba and mentioned on her Instagram that the locals really appreciated any type of gifts, so I packed a bunch of clothes to give away and gave it to the cleaning lady at the hotel and she was so happy. So, If you plan to go to Cuba, bring some type of gift that the locals can use such as clothing or toiletries.


The colorful backdrop of Cuba accented by the classic american cars from the 50's is so memorable, time definitely stood still after the revolution. As a tourist, you can't avoid being immersed into it's communist climate and asking yourself questions about this country's future. Imagine with the United Sates only 90 miles away, if relations were widened, it would make a world of difference for Cuba. I hope that this can happen.


Where to next? Follow me on Instagram: @marciabcreative