Family Friday (vol. 132): Gratefulness and Getaways

Hi! Happy belated Thanksgiving to you and yours! As always, I am grateful for my nook of the Internet that has been a creative outlet for me since 2009. I am so grateful for loyal readership and the friends I’ve made both near and far on account of Prevention RD. Similarly, I’m grateful for my podcast co-host, Gina, and our efforts over the past 3 years to produce a podcast others will love and that we thoroughly enjoy creating. Very grateful for all the various paths dietetics has led me.

That said, creative content takes time and when I logged in from Punta Cana last week, I was shredded to find out that the killer butter chicken recipe I’d made before we departed had nearly all of the pictures missing from my SD card. Poof, gone. I literally have no idea where they went. Yes, I’m annoyed but firstly, when in Punta Cana…life is just a little sweeter (!) and second, I had every intention of making the recipe again and it’ll give me a great excuse to make it sooner rather than later. Perspective. So rather than posting something else, I closed my laptop and didn’t touch it for the duration of our trip. And at the direction of my team, I had left my work laptop behind in the US and so it really was a disconnection for me.

Our time in Punta Cana flew by. We arrived late last Friday and departed late morning on Wednesday, so just about 5 days. We stayed at Excellence Punta Cana after several wonderful experiences at Excellence Playa Mujeres in Cancun, Mexico. While we are creatures of habit, we did want to try a new tropical location and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic did not disappoint. I’ve heard of several cases of food/drink-related tummy issues in DR, so we wanted to be cautious in that way and certainly looked for reviews that had no trace of anything of the like. We had no issues whatsoever.

We did upgrade our room to a suite which happened to be MASSIVE. The extra touches that came with the Imperial Suite at Excellence Punta Cana were nice touches, for sure. Firstly, that view from the room (above) is lovely and can be enjoyed from chairs, a lounge couch, or a hot tub. 😉 The room also came with a “bartender lesson/party” and a romantic breakfast in the room, however we didn’t take advantage of either of those. We did, however, enjoy the included massage and hydrotherapy at the spa, dinner on the beach, and the Excellence Club restaurant, Magna. We had THE BEST service and a wonderful meal with endless (and I do mean endless!) wine. Mark’s steak and lobster were out of this world and were, by far, the best bites we had on resort. The brunch at Magna was also amazing, as were the cranberry martinis at the martini bar.

We didn’t even make it to 4 of the restaurants – the Grille, Agave, Oregano, or Chez Isabelle. Spice, the Asian restaurant was solid (sushi less so) and we enjoyed the sports bar while watching the Illini basketball game one night. So much to do, so little time! Overall the food was less impressive than in Cancun, HOWEVER, it was still quite good. I think I just missed the tacos, guacamole, and really, really good margaritas that I typically get when at an all-inclusive resort. I loved that coconuts were readily available and the coco loco drinks were absolutely divine! Mark always makes fun of my coconut obsession, but there’s nothing that makes me feel like I’m on vacation more than an adult beverage consumed from a fresh coconut…and there is no shortage of that in Punta Cana!

The Excellence Punta Cana nightlife was happening, however. The live music, shows, and other activities were all there should you want them and all easily avoided should you not. The resort of 461 rooms left plenty of space and lots of steps to be had. I clocked our suite at nearly ½ mile from the tennis courts and gym! Speaking of which, both were very nice – the morning tennis clinic was really fun (and HOT!) the one morning I attended and the gym was very nice with ample equipment and a multi-purpose room for stretching, etc.

The beaches were stunning and the staff did an amazing job of daily beach clean-up (seaweed wash up) and combing. There was always a beach chair and shade hut available as well as chairs along one of the 4 pools – one of which stretches nearly the length of the resort. And while not HOT, the hot tubs were relaxing and offered beautiful views (above).

In November, the sunset was right around 6pm and the sun seemed most intense around 9am whereas we generally expect the late afternoon hours to be the most toasty. As a morning person, I loved this! The pools offered tons of space and 2 Excellence Club only pools that were a bit more serene.

Our COVID tests required for our return to the US were at the resort and completed 2 days before departure day with daily testing for several morning and afternoon hours.

We did leave the resort once for a snorkeling and catamaran excursions with Hispanola. They provided transportation to and from the resort along with a 4 hour trip that included a seafood (lobster!) lunch prepared in a floating kitchen. There were 3 couples (!) on a catamaran that had a capacity for over 100. We had open bar (with coconut drinks, of course!) and snorkel included. It was really nicely done and the food was our second favorite meal, second only to our dinner at Magna. Getting served 6-7 small lobster tails alongside a coconut-rum drink in crystal clear blue-green waters is a pinch-me moment, no doubt. We would highly recommend that excursion.

And in comparing Punta Cana and Cancun, I can simply say that Punta Cana is very GREEN. Flying in, everything is lush and jungle-y, versus Cancun that tends to be very dry and brown. Otherwise, the experience and resorts are comparable enough with Punta Cana being a slightly longer flight for us from Chicago. We were glad to have seen the Dominican Republic and would certainly love to go back!

Meanwhile back at home, Mark’s parents toggled the girls back and forth from Michigan and central Illinois to be at school and optimize time with Mark’s sister who was in from Atlanta. Thank you!! We returned to O’Hare right at rush hour on Wednesday but made great time in getting to central Illinois…but not in time to see the girls. Or both girls, anyway. Shea, our light sleeper, did wake-up with my kiss to the forehead but Piper, per usual, was down for the count. They busted into our room Thanksgiving morning, loving us up big time! I could tell when we talked to the girls a few times during our vacation that they were genuinely missing us. It’s nice to be missed!

Thanksgiving Day was spent at Mark’s aunt’s house in Bloomington, Illinois (thankfully my car made is a bit further past “0 miles until empty” and the gas station was open – life is never dull with my husband) and today is in Chicago with my family. We’ll be anxious to sleep in our own beds tonight and start to get unpacked, laundry done, and start holiday preparations! I have no doubt that the next few weeks will go by in a blink and Christmas will be here in no time.

Happy Black Friday to you, enjoy! Back to reality we go!

Be well,

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