Friday, March 9, 2007

The Cape Cod Beach House

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Here it is, in all it's glory. We'll be living it up here for a week this summer with our closest friends.

When searching for a beach house on the Cape, you have to decide what ultimately is most important. In this case, we had to sacrifice proximity to the beach for a place that could accomodate our needs.

*Beach House Search Tips

Do Your Research! This is quickly becoming my mantra- drive down, scope out the towns- see what works for you.

Start Early! Start in February and don't hesitate. By mid-March, it's slim pickings...

Check out these sites for rentals by owner:

VRBO.com
Craigslist-Cape Cod/Islands
CyberRentals.com
WeNeedAVacation.com

Shell Out or Move Out: The oceanside beaches and dunes in the Outer Cape are amazing (see pic). Privacy, killer waves, beauty, beach sport, relaxation- it has it all. However, if you want to be close to the beach and have enough space to sleep 5-10 people, plan on spending $2500 to $3000 per week .

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSpent the last three weeks hunting like a crazy person to find a good spot...but remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

If not, nice places range from $1500-2000 and are about 2 miles out. You can pay $65 between everyone (in Wellfleet) and get a beach pass. Bring bikes...haul the gear in one car.

The nice thing about the farther places (like ours) is they offer more privacy...less neighbor interaction...see below...

Negotiate: Try for alternate days, Fri-Fri or Sun-Sun, to avoid traffic. Also, you can get significant discounts by going on the cusp of peak season-end of June, late August will save you about $500-$1000.

Feel out your landlord: The goal is to foster a relationship and become a return tenant. If you have doubts about the landlord (seems shifty, uptight, over-protective, LIVES NEXT DOOR), move on.

We've found Cape owners can be downright crazy about their property...avoid these ones at all costs!

Review the Lease closely: Don't kid yourself- this is a real estate deal. Look for anything that will be trouble down the road.

And, finally, have FUN! With this careful preparation, you're all set up for a killer vacation week.

(and when your down there, the beach bonfire is a must!)

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Riu Merengue, Dominican Republic

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingToday is the one-year anniversary since I've been to the Dominican Republic, so I thought I'd commemorate by sharing my experience.

We stayed at the Riu Merengue, an all-inclusive resort located in Puerto Plata. We chose this resort based on the pricing and the reviews on Expedia. It was one of the least expensive places, but had the best reviews by far.

Our research paid off, because everything about the place was great:

Amazing Staff:What they say about the Carribean lifestyle must be true, because every single one of the staff was the happiest and friendliest I've ever seen. It was so nice to be greeted with a smile and they also went above and beyond to meet our requests.

We weren't psyched with our room being on the perimeter, as it was next to a loud transformer, so they switched us out immediately, giving us our pick of rooms and even giving us a tour of each.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFun Activities...or not: At every hour of the day, there was some kind of activity going on, be it water aerobics or salsa lessons. Not to mention the complementary activities available: snorkeling, paddle boating, canoeing, etc. For a fee, you can take excursions out into the country or go horseback riding...definitely an adventure!

They have a full gym and also a street full of souvenier shops for shopaholics.

In the evening, the staff puts on live shows to entertain the guests and live music is played throughout.

If you're more into relaxation, there's plenty of room to lounge by the pool, lie on the beach or explore the extensive grounds (see pictures posted of the pool and the cove/1 mile beach all three resorts share). And don't forget the AMAZING massages right on the beach. An absolute MUST. Plus, the rooms are really nice and all come with spacious balconies.

Variety is the Spice of Life; The Merengue is one of three hotels that share the property and you are allowed to travel to each resort freely. This significantly ups the options when it comes to dining and entertainment.

...and did I mention it's ALL-INCLUSIVE: all the food and drink you imagine. Fan favorite:Dr. Funk.

*TIP: If you have a weak stomach, go easy on the foreign dishes. They use a different type of cooking oil and some react to it. By day 3, I had to go on the BRAT (bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast) diet because of the stomach cramps! Luckily, there is an abundance of bananas and rice, the DR's two main crops.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingExcursions: There are many opportunities to go see the Dominican countryside. We had such good time at the resort, we only went on one, but I'd highly recommend it. It was a trip to "Paradise Island" (pictured here). It was the best snorkeling and most beautiful water I've ever seen.

However, the real adventure is getting there. First, you go on a 2-3 hour journey through the mountains, where the roads are not paved. We had a few touch-and-go moment there. Then, upon arrival to the coast, you go on a 1/2 hour boat ride on fishing boats (pictured). It was exhilirating and terrifying at the same time; you're flying through the deep ocean at breakneck speed, jumping waves and getting soaked.

However....on a more serious note....

The Dominican is an impoverished country:

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAlthough the resort was beautiful and the country itself is breathtaking, the state of poverty it is in is heartbreaking. Even on our horseback ride, once we left the resort property, the beautiful beach was marred with garbage. The people live in shacks that are the size of my bedroom at home and the cities are delapitated and rundown. It is a real wake-up call, but it amazed me even more that the natives are so happy and friendly. It is definitely an emotional experience, but I think a necessary one because it opens your eyes to how good you really have it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I love New York...but not T New York

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWent to New York this weekend for a "girls weekend" Stayed at the Sherbourne Hotel on Lexington and 37th. 5 blocks from Grand Central. It was a great place; beautiful (and clean) rooms, great service and the beds were like sleeping on air. This photo of the Empire State's Building was actually taken from our hotel room window. I'd recommend it, although if you're a simple, Dunkin Donuts-raised person, plan on walking to a nearby deli for a breakfast sandwich. Guess bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel isn't classy enough for the Sherbourne! A very small flaw...all in all, a wonderful place to stay.



Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI wish I could say the same for the club we went to- T New York. The T has to stand for TERRIBLE.

No Organization: No one had any idea we reserved a VIP booth. resulting in a 25 minute wait in the freezing cold.

Bad Service: Once we were served, we were ignored until the bottle was empty...and we weren't allowed to keep the mixers for basic hydration needs.

RUDE Service: An hour after the bum-rush to clear our table, the bouncer kicked us out of our table!!! He has a whole line of people start filing in and pushed us out the other end. He didn't even give us time to collect our friends or even our things! He said we didn't order anything else, so they gave our table away. What? When were we given the opportunity??

We managed to make the best of it by using my friends' flirting skills and our complaining skills to get into the upstairs section, yet another "VIP" area, where we were ignored by the bartenders and basically shoved in to a corner.

DANGEROUS: The lousy VIP area didn't matter much because a short time later, a brawl broke out and my friend was knocked down and trampled. We promptly decided to head out.

Mis-Leading Advertisement: T-New York claims to be a "classy and decadent" place on their web-site. I think not, unless your definition of classy is rude service and rough clientele...They say that they have "multiple rooms with different types of music"...also not true. They also claim to be "uniquely designed"...please tell me what is unique about a square dancefloor with a balcony surrounding it....and finally, I should note that there is no ventilation and that city sewer smell permeates.

TRAVELERS TIP: If the bouncers have on bullet proof vests and everyone in the place is staring you down when you walk in, don't stick around to see if it's all in your head. The place is BAD NEWS!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Planning the Perfect Cruise














Yes, it is official. We're cruisin' this December.

When planning a cruise, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Read consumer reviews, talk to people who have been there already...and check my blog! ;)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting*Best site EVER for seeing what's out there: www.cruise.com

Cruise.com is great because it shows all cruiselines, ports, dates, itineraries and describes the ports of call. Also, I've found it to have great deals and special promotions. We paid about $100 less than other sites and also got a free excursion.

BUT....

*You never know who is having a special promotion...compare prices at all the usual travel sites, as well as the cruiseline's site: www.travelocity.com, www.orbitz.com, www.expedia.com


My personal preference is Expedia. Unlike most others, they include most taxes in their quotes, so the end price is usually cheaper. Saves a lot of hassle...

*Good websites for consumer reviews: www.cruisecritic.com, www.cruisereview.com"


*Final Tips




Photobucket - Video and Image HostingLook for a cruise with the longest possible time at ports of call. Note that you have to be back to the ship about 2 hours before the posted sailing time. A 10-3 port of call is really an 11-1....

Don't book a cruise with more than 1-2 days at sea. They play up how great the ship can be, but it does get boring to be at sea for days on end...

Look closely at the on-board activities and evening entertainment...if you're not interested, it may not be the cruise for you. (see my comment above)

If you can't go solo, choose dining arrangements with larger amounts of people (8-10). With a pairing arrangement, if you don't bond with the couple you're sharing with, it can be a long week of awkward conversation. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to make more friends.

BALCONY BALCONY BALCONY...I can't say it enough. If money is tight, whatever you do, don't take in inside stateroom. It's like being inside a cave.

Give yourself PLENTY of time to catch your flight. Disembarking can take up to four hours.

PACK LIGHT- a lot of times you have to carry your own luggage off the boat, crammed in with the other 1000's of passengers. This is not the time to pack your closet...trust me- speaking from personal experience...the "luggage incident" is still brought up to this day...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Boston Rocks

For this post, I wanted to keep it close to home- I'm still relatively new to the area, so in a lot of ways, I'm still learning the scene...


Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSo, here's my recommendation list for restaurants in my area (Brighton):

Best Romantic Restaurant: Dalia's Wine Bar and Bistro (Washington Square, Brookline)- friendly service, AMAZING food, great wine selection. What I love about this place is you feel right at home while getting top notch service and cuisine; it isn't austentatious at all. The servers know their wine, too, so don't be afraid to ask for suggestions.

(...but don't take my word for it: http://boston.citysearch.com/review/36069048)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBest Take-Out: Dragon Star (Washington Square, Brookline) I swear, I go into a food coma everytime I order from them...

Best Place to Meet for Drinks and a Chat: Audobon Cafe (St Mary's Stop C-line): it's never too crowded, the food is good, but not overpriced. I love the grilled apple and brie sandwich...

"Out-on-the-Town": Match- love the apps/mini-burgers, Clerys- ALWAYS have a great time there

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNorth End (Italian): Check out La Summa on Fleet Street; it's a small, family-owned place. Much cheaper than the spots on Hanover Street and the food is awesome.

WANTED:Good spots in Cambridge

Friday, February 2, 2007

Welcome!

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingHi all,

Welcome to my blog. What I hope to achieve here is a site where people that love to travel can come and share stories, get advice and/or give those "insider tips" that will make a vacation that much better.

I am a self-professed travel and vacation "addict" (and luckily my boyfriend is too!) Besides loving life in Boston, in the last 2 years, we've been to the following:

AZ/San Diego
Vegas
Miami
Ft Lauderdale
DisneyPhotobucket - Video and Image Hostingcruise to Grand Cayman/Jamaica
Dominican Republic
beach house in Cape Cod
camping in Maine
ski weekend in VT
NYC
Pittsburgh
NC- Charlotte/Raliegh
SC for Clemson games


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting...not to mention the 8 months I lived in Spain while in college and the other visits I made there to backpack around (more on this later)

I plan to use these experiences to share tips on where to stay, what to do etc., as well as post links to good sites and share photos of my many adventures and I invite you to do the same.

Happy Traveling!