I guess you could say, I owe Giz big time. I've become practically a stranger on this blog over the past two weeks. In the meantime, Giz has more than held up the fort with the BloggerAid Roundup and the announcement of the BloggerAid Cookbook. If you haven't heard about these events, then you're behind the times - go check out the above links for more details.
In the meantime, I've been off working on my non-existent tan in the Dominican Republic (sorry to the people on the beach who had to endure the reflection of the sun off of our pasty-white bodies).
With both me and R finishing graduate school, we wanted to take a bit of a celebratory vacation. We left a couple of days before New Years. There's something so surreal about seeing this in December when you live in Canada:
For the most part, we sat at the beach trying to get a tan without burning (two goals that are somewhat incompatible). We did take one excursion. The day started with a visit to the rum factory there (which was mainly closed and, therefore, not impressive).
According to the tour guide at the Brugal Factory, Brugal rum is the third largest producer of rum worldwide, after Bacardi and Captain Morgan. The picture, above, is of their 151 rum that is 75.5% alcohol. The tour guide highly recommended that we not drink that rum the night before a flight. Apparently Brits are not allowed to take this rum home. I believe it's because the airline won't allow it because of its flammability.
After the rum factory, we went to a amber museum. The Dominican is where some of the scenes from the first Jurassic Park were filmed. Those scenes also feature the amber.
After these two stops, we stopped at a couple of stores, one selling jewellery
and the other cigars.
In each place, we learned a bit about the process of making those products. Here's a quick video I took at the cigar-making store.
But, this is a better video:
I'm sure both stores pay a heftly price to have tour buses stop there as there are a tonne of stores selling the same products, yet we were specifically led to these ones. My "big" splurge was on a bottle of vanilla extract for $2. If it is real vanilla extract (as advertised), it's a great purchase.
Afterward we stopped at a the San Felipe fortress, build to protect Puerto Plata from pirates and their War of Independence.
Most impressive was the cable car (I'm told the only one in the Carribean).
We had a beautiful, clear day, so the view was amazing. At the top of the mountain is a replica of the Jesus statue (Christ the Redeemer) in Brazil.
In the afternoon, we went to a nearby town called Sosua. They have a beautiful beach and flea market there. Only problem is that you are stopped constantly by people trying to sell you stuff. We wanted to peacefully walk along the beach there, but quickly learned that walking signals people to try to sell things to you (e.g., a beach chair to rent, drinks, fruit, other food, etc.).
The market area was even worse for this. You walk about 10 steps and have 2-3 people trying to lead you into their stalls. I wouldn't mind browsing, but I'm sure we would be strongly pressured into buying and didn't want to bother with all of that. If you can be easy-going about it, it's a pretty funny experience because everyone uses the same line, "Remember me? You promised you would come and visit me later. Now is later". Or...since there are a lot of Canadians that visit this area, the people working there would yell, "No GST! No PST!" (our federal and provincial sales taxes).
Perhaps the most exciting part of the trip came on New Years Eve. R and I got engaged! This information has sent Giz into planning orbit. I'll post more on our plans later.
Overall, a good trip. But, a week was enough for me. I was gettting ancy and ready to go home. Even this sight upon landing did not deter me:
Between friend visits and the Dominican, R and I spent 3 days in my mom's city. You can read about Hannukah dinner on Christmas here. While there, I managed to finish most advanced knitting challenge to date (I posted about these mitts originally here):