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Now that the summer is coming to an end people will most likely start making plans for next winter’s holiday in the sun. I have the Caribbean very much at heart and one of my best sun and beach trips was in the Dominican Republic.
The island of Hispaniola is located between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Haiti forms the western part of the island, and the eastern part is the Dominican Republic with approximately 10 million inhabitants. It is a very beautiful country, mountainous with tropical forests, lots of palm trees, banana plants and sugar cane plantations. There are also some drier areas with cactuses. Apart from sugar and rice they grow fruit, vegetables and coffee. The average temperature is 28 °C (82.4 °F). In the 15th century Columbus landed on the island. The Spaniards made the whole island a Spanish colony and in just a couple of decades the original Taino Indian population had been exterminated. In the early 18th century the island had been divided between France (western part, now Haiti) and Spain (eastern part). In 1865 the former Santo Domingo colony was finally liberated and formed a republic of its own.
The Dominican Republic attracts travellers of all kinds. Paradise beaches and lots of adventure to experience. Columbus depicted the island of Hispaniola by crumpling up a piece of paper, tropical mountains, spectacular rivers and miles of beautiful beaches. If you are deep sea fishing off the “Silver Harbour”, Puerto Plata at sunset you fully understand Columbus’s enthusiasm with the glittering water and the mountains of the island in the background. You could easily spend the whole of your vacation on the wonderful beaches holding a Pina Colada but I advise you to explore the country, for there are many adventures to experience, at sea as well as in the “jungle” where scenes for the Jurassic Park movie were shot.
Fresh fruit taste best on the beach.
The small village of Caberete is world-famous for its fine windsurfing. In the afternoons the sea is filled with windsurfers and kitesurfers whose sails make up a magnificent colour palette combined with the turquoise water and the dark blue sky. At night the beach bars and the discos are crammed with visitors from all over the world and there is a laid-back atmosphere. I spent many hours on the long beach and the memory card of my camera was filled with pictures of surfers, palm trees and colourful umbrella drinks.
There were a lot of kite surfers in Cabarete.
The Sosúa beach is in a bay and the palm trees lean over the sandy beach, paradise pictures are guaranteed. There you can enjoy your holiday while at the same time watching aircraft with home-bound tourists taking off from the airport. Along the promenade there is a great number of small restaurants and souvenir stalls selling colourful paintings, T-shirts and other traditional keepsakes. There is also the possibility of diving, and I took the chance of adding some entries in my dive log book recording a couple of underwater visits. The sensation was not as great as in Thailand or Mexico, but still it was worth the money, diving is always fun.
During my two weeks in the country I joined several excursions. A truck safari in the countryside gave us a glimpse of everyday life, and I learnt that if a resident’s house is painted red or pink this shows that the woman in the house is in command, but if it is painted blue it’s for the man of the family to decide … The tour took us trough jungle and high mountains with marvellous views, the country offers many visual impressions. A tour that made impressions of another kind was an action-packed day riding beach buggies. We kept up high speed through plantations along muddy roads. We had a really nice stop on a paradise beach where we could wash off all mud from the ride.
Excursion with beach buggies.
In the harbour of Puerto Plata I found a boat offering deep sea fishing which gave me a fine opportunity of improving my tan and at the same time getting activated. Sad to say we caught no fish but we experienced a magical sunset as the last rays of sunshine were glittering upon the water.
Deep sea fishing outside Puerto Plata.
In the middle of the country, in the “Dominican Alps”, is Jarabacoa, a veritable adventure center. In the area you can for example ride mountain bikes, ride on horseback, climb mountains, practise various river sports or explore fine waterfalls. In one place you can climb up seven small waterfalls and then get down again, at times jumping and at times sliding down on your back. At the last waterfall you jump seven metres (23 ft) down into the frothy water, a wonderful sensation. Take a running jump at yourself, Indiana Jones! River rafting makes you feel giddy when going through roaring rapids with the guide screaming: – Right forward, left backwards, down, up, down, listen up!! The muscles of your arms cry out with exhaustion after a few hours of paddling. I’ll never forget one of the guides taking a blade of grass and passing it along my girlfriend’s arm while yelling: Spider! Then he pulled her down into the river with her shouting for dear life, hahaha, well it was actually great fun ;) The river rafting was recorded by the guides who took photos and filmed, and afterwards you could buy a DVD, an entertaining memory to watch at home after the trip.
River rafting in Jarabacoa.
I like snorkelling and one day we joined an excursion to Paradise Island. The bus ride took a long time and the road was miserable so we were immensely relieved as we finally reached the small village of Punta Rusia. From there we went by speedboat to the small sandbank in the Atlantic Ocean called Paradise Island. The sandbank is surrounded by a coral reef and the water was crystal clear so we just put on fins, diving masks, snorkels and brought the underwater camera. I also brought some biscuits and shredded coconut for the fish, and it worked well! There were heaps of fish of every colour and shape and I got some good pictures feeding the fish in front of the camera. We went on snorkelling for two hours including a few short breaks to drink and eat all the fruit that the guides provided. When we returned in the boats the waves were high and a number of people really looked scared, they felt relief as we we reached the mangrove swamp. The great roots of the plants formed a cool scenery where we glided on our way back to the harbour.
The best excursion we made was to Samaná. The Samaná Peninsula is a mountain ridge with many palm trees extending out into the Atlantic Ocean. Where pirates used to hide in the olden days you can now find magical beaches, as if taken directly from the type of picture postcards you think are made up, too good to be true. Due to the fact that houses are not allowed to be built taller than the nearest palm tree they are naturally integrated in the landscape. From Samaná we went by boat to the island of Cayo, also known as “Bacardi Island”. There we sat sifting sands between our toes at lunch while the local band was entertaining us with Merengue. The food in this country consists mostly of hot seasoned stews or meat with rice and beans, and I had quite a lot of chicken during my visit ….
After lunch we went by boat on a Whale Safari. If you are on site at the right time of the year you can watch a great number of humpback whales performing mating rituals. We followed a few whales and it was an imposing experience to watch the big animals. After the whale safari we relaxed on the beach of the “Bacardi Island” in the afternoon. I had really entered Paradise with the sugar white sand, beautiful palm trees and turquoise water.
Whale watching in Samaná.
We also had time for a visit in the city of Santo Domingo, and something that struck us was the fact that all car drivers kept hooting unceasingly, in the end it was quite comical. Bring earplugs ;)
Some beach suggestions: Playa Rincón, La Playita, Cabarete, Sosúa, Cayo Leventado and Dominicus. I will also take the opportunity of busting the myth that if you stay at a hotel with All Inclusive you will see nothing of the country’s culture or sights ….. The trip will be what you make it and there are no guards in the hotel reception stopping you from leaving the hotel … We had All Inclusive, but joined many excursions and indeed experienced what the island could offer. Then we fully enjoyed the choices of All Inclusive the days we spent on the beach ;)
If you haven’t booked next winter’s holiday yet, I really recommend the Dominican Republic, sun, beach and adventures :)
You’ll hear from me,
Our most popular hotels in Dominican Republic:
In Santo Domingo:
Hilton Santo Domingo*****
In La Romana:
Catalonia Gran Dominicus****
Casa Marina Reef***
The capital of the state of Massachusetts is located along the United States’ East Coast and its inhabitants, the “Bostonians” , give me a warm welcome in the summer heat. Boston presents many options for tourists who come here, there is a great number of restaurants, bars, museums and top-notch sports. If you come to the city by air you arrive at the centrally situated Logan International Airport and from there the most smooth and easy way is to go by bus to South Station, it will just take a few minutes. At South Station there is a Bus Terminal and Subway so from there you have easy access to many parts of the city. As soon as you have checked in at your accommodation you are ready to start your sightseeing :)
In Harvard University you can join a guided tour and in Downtown Boston there are many other walking tours to pick and choose. The most famous one is called Freedom Trail and this is a 2.5 mile walk through the city along a red stripe marking the trail. The walk includes 16 national historic sites where you’ll learn more about the city. You can either walk on your own or with a guide.
In 1773 American Patriots threw more than 300 chests of tea, belonging to the British East Indian Company, into the sea, an incident called the Boston Tea Party. This was to protest British Parliament’s tax on tea, and nowadays there is a museum in the harbour where you can try your hand at dumping chests of tea into the sea from a ship.
The ships and the museum where you can recreate the “Boston Tea Party”.
There are plenty of sports to watch if you are interested. The New England Patriots play American football, the Boston Celtics play basketball, the Boston Red Socks play baseball, the New England Revolution play soccer and the Boston Bruins play ice hockey in the NHL. Take the opportunity of watching one of these teams when you are visiting the city.
Do you know what I regularly do in most cities that I visit? Well of course I go sightseeing by bus – a Hop-On Hop-Off tour :) Boston, too, has its buses so I bought a tour ticket and hopped on at South Station. The tour went along the waterfront and I hopped off at the New England Aquarium.
Hop on hop off, a classic!
In the harbour there were various boat tours offered, including one where you go out to watch whales, but I chose the ferry cruising the harbour of Boston for 45 minutes. From the ferry you have a fine view of Boston’s skyscrapers and the beautiful Harborwalk along the waterfront. I hopped off at the USS Constitution museum ship, a frigate launched in 1797 and nowadays moored in Boston harbour. Near the ship there is a museum to visit, the admission fee is an optional donation.
Ferry cruising in Boston harbour.
USS constitution museum ship.
The bus tour then continued through central Boston and I hopped off at 84, Beacon Street. There used to be a pub there, called the Bull & Finch. It was a source of inspiration for the TV show Cheers and the pub later changed its name to the same as the TV show. Inside the pub there are lots and lots of pictures from the TV show and also great range of souvenirs marketing anything imaginable with a Cheers print.
The Pub Cheers, from the Tv-series with the same name.
I went on by bus and then I stopped at the Fenway Park baseball arena. From there I headed for the famous shopping in Newbury Street, Boston’s answer to Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. I entered a couple of the trendy boutiques but without shopping, my excuse is the fact that I didn’t want to carry all the shopping bags in the heat …. Then I continued my bus tour with a ride in the Cambridge neighbourhood on the opposite side of the Charles River and finally the tour came to an end in Beacon Hill and the big Boston Common Park. An excellent sightseeing tour that told me something of the history of the city and made it easier for me to make myself familiar with the area.
Fenway park, the city baseball arena.
Berklee College of music has educated many stars.
A friend of mine from my native district is at the present time a scientist at Harvard so I took the chance of seeing her during my visit in in city, and we went up the Prudential Tower skyscraper where a rooftop bar is to be found on the 52nd floor. It is called the Top of the Hub. There we had a corner table with a magnificent view of the city. I sat sipping a Mojito while looking down at the Fenway Park arena. Visiting “The Hub” is a must if you come to Boston. Another “must” is walking along the waterfront of Cambridge at night watching the illuminated skyscrapers of Boston, an impressive sight reminding you of Manhattan’s skyline.
The roof bar, Top of the Hub.
Boston skyline, visible from the pier in Cambridge.
As usual I combined my visit to a city with an event, and the highlight of this journey was a concert with Taylor Swift. She is one of the world’s best-selling artists at present and I was looking forward to watching her show held at the Gillette Stadium located some 20 miles outside Boston. Outside the arena there was a big pre-party in the parking lot with people sitting beside their cars among barbecues and laid tables. The atmosphere was magnificent, but as for me, I went on to a pub where my buddy Yogi was waiting. We met in Dublin when we were there to watch U2 and from then on we have kept in touch on Facebook. He lives just outside Boston, and now we took the opportunity of meeting again. When it was time to go to the concert I said goodbye to Yogi and entered the impressive arena normally used by the New England Patriots in the National Football League. Now 60,000 fans were waiting for the concert and it felt like sitting in a glittering sky of stars. Everybody had a digitally controlled wristband twinkling in different colours and moreover lots of fans had signs fitted with lamps so indeed there was a spectacular sight opening before our eyes in the arena and its lofty terraces.
At length it was time for Taylor Swift and when the arena was darkened and the first notes of the song “Welcome to New York” were heard in the loudspeakers the music was drowned by ear-splitting cheering, just guess if I had goose-flesh all over my body. Exactly those seconds make all work, planning and travelling worth while, when you experience such atmosphere, no matter if it is a sports event or a concert. The wristbands given to all of us started twinkling white light in step with the music and then transformed into red, blue and green thus creating a marvellous visual experience. Taylor often invites special guests on stage during her concerts. Previously in her tour for instance, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team entered the stage with the World Champion Cup they had won in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She started the presentation of tonight’s guest artist in the Gillette Stadium by telling us about a song she had heard this summer, one that she just had to learn by heart: Welcome on stage, Walk the Moon and “Shut Up and Dance with Me!” Oh my God, what cheering from the audience! One of the summer’s top radio hits was now performed live and the stands were swaying as all fans were jumping on beat with the chorus. The wristbands were glistening in all colours and the result was one big party, a memory for life! Taylor performed some songs acoustically displaying her skills in guitar playing. The party continued and after two hours the show was concluded with “Shake It Off”. Confetti and fireworks provided proper setting for the incredible finish and the audience joined in a final ovation, unforgettable! I can do nothing but giving the concert grade 10 out of 10! Good entertainment should be just like this :)
Taylor Swift performed for 60 000 fans.
Boston is a beautiful city, well worth visiting. And don’t forget having a tasty drink up there in “The Hub”!
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in Boston:
Marriott Copley Place
Well-known hotel in a great location in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay, where there are several restaurants and great shopping facilities next to the hotel.
Boston Park Plaza
This is a culturally protected hotel in a nice location next to Boston’s Public Garden and within walking distance from the lively Copley Place.
Copley Square Hotel
First class hotel set in historic heart of Boston, within short walking distance from Trinity Church, Newbury Street with its cafes, restaurants and world-class shops.
Boston Sheraton Hotel
Located in the historic Back Bay area and adjacent to the Hynes Convention Center.
Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill
The Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill is located at the base of Boston’s most historic neighborhood, Beacon Hill.
- Oh Madre Mia! I could understand things were not all right when the woman at the check in desk of Barcelona Airport gazed at me with that look in her eyes …
- You’re not going home today, you’re booked on the 25th of July! There I was, on Easter Monday, the 25th of April!!
She went on: – It’s crazy today, end of holiday, everyone is going home and the flight is overbooked, we have put you on stand by now, Good Luck!
Curtain! Evidently I had managed to misdate my flight home by three months … I was on the verge of crying, tired, broke and alone. How would I gain strength to go back to town to find accommodation in case I wouldn’t be able to go home that night? I texted messages to some friends back home in Sweden, but they just laughed sending answers like: “You are such an experienced traveller, how could you? Hahahahaha” No compassion at all from my friends, well, I would have to stand them to a treat …
Two long hours of waiting elapsed in the departure hall. Five minutes before the check in desk was to be closed the woman told me that there was only one seat vacant on the last flight home, agony! As time had gone by the woman called me and said I could go home, there was still one seat!
Even though this happened during my first visit to Barcelona it has not discouraged me from revisiting the city several times. With its varied range of attractions Barcelona has become one of my favourite cities. The beach is within walking distance of the vibrant street of La Rambla and after an exciting football game in Camp Nou there are plenty of night clubs where to celebrate the victory.
At the beach the wifi is free! Good if you want to send home some selfies…
Cava and the best beach bag, a perfect combination…
Las Ramblas mingle.
I made my first visit to Barcelona together with my buddy, Tompa. We were conscientious tourists and started our trip by taking a “Hop-on Hop-off” sightseeing bus tour. This always gives you a general view of the city and of course you can hop off at the sights you would like to explore. We got out of the bus at the Sagrada Familia, the renowned basilica whose construction started in the late 19th century and even today it is not totally completed. This is an imposing structure which will obviously attract a large number of tourists so I haven’t taken the time to stand in a queue to see the building from inside. But one day I will enter it ….
A visit to La Sagrada Familia, is a must!
Me and Tompa continued our sightseeing tour to the Montjuïc hill where we enjoyed the views of the port and beaches of Barcelona. The Olympic Museum is located here and of course we paid a visit to the room of state of sports. For the main part the museum dealt with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but other Olympic Games were also exhibited. Well worth a visit if you are interested in Olympics. A stone’s throw away from the museum is the Olympic Stadium which was used, for instance, during the 1992 Olympic Games and the 2010 European Athletics Championships.
Views from Montjuïc.
But the greatest moment of that arena must after all have been a couple of May nights in 2012 when Bruce Springsteen’s World Tour visited Barcelona. The first night I was there in the company of a bunch of friends and we experienced a stunning concert in the summer heat. A couple of hours before the performance we entered the arena and tested the selection of drinks in the bar, their Mojitos were quite all right. Time passed 9:30 PM and around 50,000 fans welcomed The E Street Band & Bruce Springsteen on stage. The blockbuster ‘Badlands’ opened the show and Bruce had the audience in the palm of his hand right from the beginning! Many people were worried about what would happen without Clarence Clemons who had passed away two years earlier, but Bruce had the stroke of genius to add a whole horn section and it was an immediate success. The saxophone was played by Jake Clemons, the nephew of Clarence, and he managed it perfectly. Springsteen was in excellent spirits and during the last five songs I was standing with tears in my eyes, and I was not the only one. The concluding ‘Born in the USA’, ‘Born to Run’, ‘Bobby Jean’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ gave me goose pimples down to my ankles ….. What a surpassing show, also including ‘The River’, ‘Thunder Road’ plus a version of ‘Prove It All Night’ that had not been played since 1980.
We were very close to the stage when Springsteen performed at the Olympia Stadium.
The second night was my birthday and only Tompa and myself went to the concert. We arrived there in good time before the show, and standing in the queue we got to know Mats and Jocke from Sweden. Jocke was an ice hockey player in Barcelona so we got some good tip-offs but best of all we got a pair of new friends for a lifetime. One year later me, Mats and Jocke would be sitting in a hotel bar in Stockholm chatting with Springsteen, but that is a different story … That story likewise includes Jocke and myself getting Bruce Springsteen’s autograph on our arms and then seeing a tattoo artist to have the autograph eternalized ….
My birthday couldn’t have had a better celebration. Springsteen and the band went full steam and my 19th concert with Bruce was fantastic!
If, contrary to expectation, it’s raining during your visit to Barcelona there are plenty of museums to explore, or you can do like Tompa and myself, spend an afternoon in the Aquarium of Barcelona. There are 450 species of animals and an 80 metre long glass tunnel where you have fish swimming all around your head. Take my tip and buy tickets in advance, then you can avoid the long queues at the entrance.
At the Barcelona aquarium there is a long tunnel under water.
One more highly esteemed attraction during Tompa’s and my first visit was the guided tour in the legendary Camp Nou arena. There, too, we passed the long queue as we had bought tickets in advance downtown, which felt fine in the heat. To begin with, we looked round in the Club Museum with its long rows of trophies and then we could enter the changing rooms and the cabins where the reporters sit commentating on the matches. The visit came to an end with our entering the field at the centre line. What a feeling to stand down there gazing up at the big stands, a dream come true!
We have watched a couple of league matches with FC Barcelona at Camp Nou. During our first visit we watched Barcelona – Osasuna. As the teams entered the arena the home team anthem, ‘El Cant del Barça’, was played and indeed, we got goose pimples all over us when all Camp Nou hollered Barca, Barca Baaarca!! The game itself was a bit long-winded at first but we didn’t matter, we were there on site. 73,000 people cheered when David Villa scored 1-0 in the first half. In the second half Messi made history when scoring 2-0. He was the first player in Spanish league history scoring 50 goals in one season. The Spanish man beside me was much relieved and gave me high five :)
He told me that after every game he went home to watch the replay of the game on TV ..
To see a game at Camp Nou is a must if you are a fan!
Our second match on site was Barcelona defeating Malaga 4-1, that was the last game of the season and Barça could celebrate their winning one more League Title. We have celebrated wins with joyful nights at the Hard Rock Café, My Bar, the Temple Bar and our favourite venue CDLC.
Speaking of wins and prizes, one of my trips to Barcelona was a prize in a photography competition :) That trip was a great success where once again I made friends for a lifetime. We were 22 people in the party and had guided tours of the city’s sights at 30 degrees above zero. The most remarkable place was Gaudi’s “Park Güell”, where we walked round among lizards adorned with mosaic, stairs and sloping columns … As early as in 1984 the park was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Park Güell offers different experiences.
Me and Tompa had visited Barcelona a month earlier, so while the others were running about the city shopping, we enjoyed ourselves in the pool area of the nice Catalonia Hotel. We were sitting in our sun loungers drinking sangria when our friends returned wet through with perspiration after a couple of hours in the shops of the city.
The best hotel swimming pool we experienced was the one of the Andante Hotel. This hotel is in close vicinity of La Rambla and the port, a perfect location to my mind, and the rooftop terrace offers magnificent views of the city and a swimming pool where you can cool yourself down after all sightseeing …
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, my buddy didn’t and the result was a pretty bad burn …
Hotel Andante has a fantastic roof top pool.
If you go to Barcelona you mustn’t forget visiting La Boqueria Market, mingling in the beautiful Placa Reial Square, watching a Flamenco Show or keeping an eye on your wallet in the Placa de Catalunya. But most important of all, don’t miss visiting the small Can Paixano Bar in 7, Carrer de la Reina Cristina. A metal roller shutter door hides the venue when it’s closed, and as it is raised a cosy bar and shop comes into sight that offers fabulous food and cava. This is THE place we visit first of all when we arrive in Barcelona :) Thanks for tipping us off, Mats and Jocke!
La Boqueria market.
The small bar, Can Paixano, has very good cava.
Why not cool down at the harbour of Barcelona?
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in Barcelona:
H10 Marina Barcelona
Hotel located between Plaza Ciudadella and the Olympic Port with a rooftop swimming pool on the 8th floor, overlooking the city and the coast, and with SPA.
The Rialto hotel is centrally located in the Gothic quarter.
Located in the historical, commercial and tourist centre of Barcelona, on the famous Rambla, close to the cathedral and the harbour.
Catalonia Park Guell
Located in a quiet area near Park Güell and surrounded by a variety sport clubs and recreational areas.
Catalonia Sagrada Familia
Hotel with outdoor pool, open summertime.
Situated in the former Duques de Medinaceli Palace, in the historic centre of Barcelona, close to Las Ramblas.
Petit Palace Opera Garden
Hotel located by Las Ramblas and 700 meters from Placa Catalunya.
Centrally located 500 meters from La Rambla.