Tag Archives: vacation

Punta Cana with nothing packed

My first trip of 2018 was one for the books… or one for my favorite book – my passport. I got a new stamp thanks to a huge storm in Philadelphia that was causing a declared “state of emergency” in the city.

I received a call at 8am and had two hours to get to the airport. I was supposed to head to Punta Cana & come right back… but after a long delay, a busy flight down, and a cancelled return, we got “stuck” spending the night at an all-inclusive resort. Because of the short notice (and the fact that I was not supposed to layover), I didn’t pack much. On my way out the door, I grabbed some joggers, my favorite Selena T-shirt, and my bikini “just in case.”

I had never seen the Dominican Republic, other than from an airplane window before. So, of course I had to make the most of my short time there.

I’ve mentioned my friend, K, in a previous post about fun times in San Juan, and as you remember, we love to defrost on a beach when winter comes. Between all the food, the perfect weather and clear water calling our names, we spent our layover thanking the Universe.

Sometimes storms work in your favor… and when they do, don’t worry about if you’re packed for it, just count your blessings & float away.

Thanks for stopping by… I’m going to go wash the sand off.

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Cuba – Day 3: Old Havana (Photoshoot)

Cat was the perfect partner in crime. She was ready to have a full day dedicated to a photo shoot. 

After primping, we treated ourselves to a mojito (and the spectacular view from the grand garden) at Hotel Nacional, where we paid for wifi and checked in for our flight the next day.  As I mentioned before, the wifi was very unreliable & it was easy to to “disconnect” after checking in.  Besides, living in the moment is preferred in Cuba.

 



Once again, we booked Narki for the day & we headed to La Habana Vieja for some glamour shots. 








Sweaty and all, we wobbled through the cobble stone streets of La Habana Vieja in our stiletto heels, dresses, and full hair & make up.  We took turns shooting each other & soon, Narki, himself, became our official photographer, directing us & shooting on our phones. 

Walking down the streets in our fancy outfits & making heads turn, made us feel like superstars! At one point, I remember Cat saying, “These people wish they were living our photoshoot… or nah?!” Lol it was cute. 


 Not cocky, but confidently, we walked through the streets, spinning, laughing, dancing, holding hands, & interacting with the locals by waiving, blowing kisses, talking, posing & stopping to buy gifts.  














Later, we asked Narki to take us to the best place to watch the Sun set… he did not disappoint! 

At El Morro, we got the best view of our entire visit! We caught the sunset & snapped some great shots… we told Narki, that of our entire trip, this was his winning suggestion. 



I hope you enjoyed these photos… & I hope to see you in Cuba… soon! 

*Here are a few tips for visiting Cuba: 

1. Don’t be afraid. After experiencing this beautiful country, I must say, they seem very happy, welcoming & well balanced. Tourism is alive & well there. U.S. citizens are the only newbies. 

2.  U.S. tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited. You must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury or your travel must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel listed here.

3.  Book your place through Airbnb. Hotels can be pricey in Cuba. Get the experience of living like a local, surrounded by locals! Click here to book where we stayed. 

4.  U.S. CARDS WILL NOT WORK THERE! Take enough cash to cover your entire stay. In fact, whatever you think you will spend, take $100-$200 “emergency cash” more than that. Trust me! *The Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over 5,000 USD. 

4.  The Government of Cuba charges a 10% fee for all U.S. dollar cash conversions.  This does not apply to electronic transactions or other currencies.  *We used Euros that we had from our travels to exchange there.  

5. Take lots of hand sanitizer! Other than the bar form, soap is hard to find.

6. Be ready to be “disconnected.” Finding wifi is like finding a unicorn in Cuba. Enjoy the people around you & live in the moment! 

7. Have fun!!! Enjoy every minute of it! 

*Contact Narki (our taxi driver & photographer) by email: nankis@nauta.cu

*Cover photo/ Feature photo edited by Gustavo Gonzalez

Cuba – Day 2: Varadero

After spending the day with our (now) trusted driver, Narki, we were ready for a beach day! It was Cat’s birthday & we wanted to chill on the sexy sands of Varadero, that people described as “divina” and  “incomparable.”  We started our 2 1/2 journey (1954 Chevys don’t speed down the highway) around 10:30am. Along the way, we stopped for breakfast & a few roadies (beers). We treated our driver to breakfast & beer too, of course.  

We thought we’d sleep the entire drive, after our night out, but the scenery was so captivating, that our feasting eyes would not rest. Between the little towns, the jungles, the canyons, the water, & the salsa music Narki was playing, we couldn’t dare sleep & miss out! 

When we finally got to Varadero… I mean, wow! It was the clearest, prettiest water I’ve ever seen in my entire life! 


We picked a spot on the (very open) beach & Naki posted up in the shade. We ordered a bucket of beer & dove into the warm, clear, tranquil water. I couldn’t believe that, even when I was up to my neck in water,  I could watch my toes wiggle! 


The water was perfect for floating and I did a lot of that until about 10 o’clock at night! Amazed by the clarity, I just couldn’t pull myself away… 

We met a group of crazy Canadian girls & a sexy latina who lives in Sweden. We drank, we danced, we sun-bathed, we lived in the moment! 



*Note: US cell phone carriers do not function in Cuba & finding wifi is like finding a unicorn. It’s the perfect place to disconnect from your phone & to connect with life as it comes & the people around you. 

**By the way, Happy birthday, Cat. Here are some shots I took of you that capture you in all your (natural) glory. 




Thank you for letting me spend your birthday with you! 

Chichén Itzá

When we decided to go to Playa del Carmen, one of our motivators was to stop by the Mayan pyramids in Chichén Itzá.  With little research on our part & a lot of help from the front desk staff at our hotel, we booked our tour. 

After three bus rides, we finally made it to the sacred grounds.  We took the tour in Spanish, to be with a smaller crowd & we enjoyed learning all the history.  




Our tour guide, Victor, told us how the Mayan calendar was created, theories on how ceremonies were held, details on the placement of the structures & how the sun would set, creating an image of a serpent climbing up the pyramids.  We were told tales of brutal ball games, where to this day, it’s not quite certain if the winner or the loser was the one to be sacrificed to the gods.  



It was warm and sunny out & not as hot as it usually gets in that area. We were pretty lucky to enjoy such a beautiful day.  We learned so much and made some great memories. 

Hotel 52 

This weekend, I took a mini vacation with one of my friends.  We decided that a few days in Playa del Carmen was just what the doctor ordered.  We made a great choice.  Hotel 52 was part of why it was so great.


Hotel 52 is a new hotel (like seriously new… it hasn’t even been open for two months) located on Calle 52, just off the famous “5 Avenida,” which is home to tons of clubs, shops, bars & restaurants.  The hotel’s location is in an area that is currently under development, but we absolutely loved staying there.  

Hotel 52 is bright and modern.  The staff is great – from Alexis & Humberto, at the front desk, to Sergio, who pretty much can help you with anything you need to make your stay more comfortable.  We felt so at home. 



The shower worked great, the beds were extremely comfortable & we had our own balcony.  We opted for their most economic version, a single room with two queen beds.  But, the hotel also offers junior & master suites. 

The price can’t be beat & I highly recommend that you book your next stay here.



*Note: Hotel 52 currently has a 3 star rating.  The hotel is still being fine-tuned. The restaurant is still building their menu & does not serve liquor. But, there’s an Oxxo (Mexican convenience store- think 711 or wawa) a couple blocks away and the staff will provide you with an ice chest to keep your beer cold, or they’ll make fresh-squeezed orange juice for you to enjoy your own champagne mimosas on the rooftop… and what a rooftop it is! 


Sisters in Paris 

As I mentioned in my Amsterdam post, I got to enjoy a little vacation with my sisters in Paris this time, last year.  It was their first time in the city and we had a long list of things to do. 

We started our trip with a train ride from Amsterdam.  After hopping on the wrong train & transferring, we accidentally ended up in first class.  It was amazing! 

Our hotel in Paris was right near the Eiffel Tower, & we could peak at it from our window.  My sister & I made sure to walk over to the tower as soon as we checked in.  We took lots of photos. 

   
    
   

The next two days were filled with activities.  We visited The Louver and checked out the Mona Lisa, we stopped by the Eiffel Tower more than once, we ate delicious food, drank lots of wine & wandered the romantic streets of the city. 

  
One of my favorite events was when we took the train to Versailles to see The Palace.  Here’s what the royal estate looked like…  

  
  
  

   

The bedrooms, the carpets, the lighting fixtures, the drapes… everything was so beautiful!

 
  
 

I stopped to touch up my makeup in one of the royal mirrors, as I imagined being a princess, just hanging out at home.


 

Speaking of mirrors… here’s a shot in the famous Hall of Mirrors. You might recognize it from Rihanna’s Dior commercial!

  
  

  
 

Once again, pretending to be a princess…

 
  
  

My blogger bestie and her husband also joined us on the trip.  You saw them in my Amsterdam post, as well.  We met for drinks & bites at the highest view point in Paris.  Here’s a shot of our gorgeous view, from HautePinkPretty.com.  

 

It was a magical moment to share with the girl I once worked with at a bank.  We always dreamed of traveling & talked about following our passions.  Now, here we were, toasting in France! 
I also had the pleasure of taking my sisters to the famous Ladurée, for macaroons and tea.  It was an early birthday present to my big sis.  It filled me with joy to celebrate with her in such a beautiful city. 

  

In a couple of days, my sisters and brother-in-law are joining me for my 2016 vacation… In Colombia! Stay tuned for the post.  I promise to not make you wait a whole year for it. 

Back Where It All Began

My first blog post was about my first trip to Amsterdam, which was a total dream come true. I wrote about my revelation of wanting to share my journey with the world, hence “Starting Starting At 30.” A year later, I found myself back where it all began…
No place (other than San Diego) has ever made me feel like Amsterdam. I’ll share it with you the same way I share it with everyone else:
After landing at Schipol Airport, my friends & I rode the train into the city. I’ll never forget that moment when I stepped out into the streets for the very first time. I looked around at all the bikes, the buildings & the people, and my soul whispered to me…
“Ceci.” It called.
“Yes, soul?” I asked.
“We’re home.” It said.
“I know.” I replied.
And just like that, I experienced love at first sight.
After that description, I guess it’s no wonder why my friends & family are all intrigued… since my initial encounter last year, I began planning this vacation with two of my sisters, Monica & Angie, my bestie, An (Haute Pink Pretty), my brother-in-law, Chris, & my bestie-in-law, also Chris (Superman Dyer). The five of them are very influential people in my life. Sharing my flight benefits is my way of finally doing something great for them!
The flight from Philadelphia was great. We bribed the gate agents with chocolates to be seated together and we bought an entire pizza for the crew. Feeding flight attendants will only result great service. Take notes, people! 😉
Once we got all our luggage together, we shared a taxi into the city. We parted ways for a bit to check in to our neighboring hotels to get ready for the day… I’ll spare you the details and jump into the fun stuff.
We started our first day walking around Leidseplein Square, popping into random spots for drinks & quick bites.

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IMG_9392Though I love the city, I must admit, the food in Amsterdam doesn’t really excite me. I prefer hitting grocery stores, like Marqt & snacking on local greens, cheeses & fresh bread.
We eventually made our way to the famous I Amsterdam letters, where we took turns posing & snapping shots.

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It was a beautiful (cold, but clear & sunny) day out, so, we spent time just walking around the city. We admired the adorable architecture, the beautiful bridges, the charismatic canals and, of course, the lovely locals.

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We attempted to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the land to make a game plan for the next day’s activities. We ended our night running for cover from the rain in the Red Light District. We were all exhausted & ready to turn in when the weather took a turn for the wet…

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Day two started with a hunt for a beautiful sunrise.

IMG_9273 An and Chris wanted to capture the beauty of this colorful act on film & I wanted to see them at work!

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My younger sister, Angie, joined us. We thought walking toward the I Amsterdam letters would be a great way to start. Because it was early, we figured it wouldn’t be so crowded. We stopped at the Rijks Museum for a few fun shots before taking full advantage of the lonely letters & capturing moments around the park.

Amsterdam Winter Street Style*Above photo by Chris Dyer, courtesy of HautePinkPretty.com

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Soon, it was time to meet with my sister, Monica & her boyfriend, Chris, to check out the Van Gogh Museum. Photos were not allowed inside the museum… So, if you’re ever in Amsterdam, please go see the amazing pieces for yourself.
We quickly made a plan for the rest of the day that included a canal tour by boat & the Heineken Experience. The boat ride was amazing. The weather cooperated & we got to take in the beauty of my favorite city.

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The Heineken tour was so much fun. We played games, learned about the entire beer-making process, took some fun pictures in front of green screens & of course, we drank lots of beer!

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We all split up for a few hours and regrouped in the Red Light District. We met at a favorite local lounge of mine, where learned about sugar water & local grape candies (inside joke). Then, we walked the trademark territory & took in the “scenery” before saying goodnight.
We knew we’d have to say “doei” to A’dam in the afternoon… We had a train to Paris to catch and we all wanted to take advantage of our morning, so we needed a good night’s sleep.
This visit was a wonderful reminder of why I love this city so much…

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I hope you enjoyed this post. Stay tuned for more posts about my vacation that include Paris, Dubai & Abu Dhabi!

*Special thanks to Angie Salcedo, Monica Salcedo, Christopher Thompson, Chris Dyer & An Dyer for assistance with photos.

Read more details about our trip here and here, on An’s fashion blog, HautePinkPretty.com.