I’ve visited the Caribbean before having children; Barbados was my first Caribbean island, then St Lucia and finally Antigua – they are all beautiful in their own way with crystal clear water, swaying palms, vast splashes of colour from the coral, the fluffy white clouds in the bright blue sky and the locals beaming smiles when you come to town. Beard, in an intensely jealous manner, didn’t come to these Caribbean Islands with me as we weren’t together at the time, but we did venture to Cuba a couple of months before I fell pregnant with Josh – now that was an adventure and one we would love to do with the kids one day!
Dominican Republic many years ago was deemed as “The Upset Stomach Of The Caribbean” or “The Caribbean On The Cheap”. In 2002 the Food Regulation Agency claimed that 1 in 3 people visiting the Dominican Republic would have stomach trouble while away and for 85% of these people the issue would be bacteria related due to poor kitchen hygiene and/or preparation and storage shortfalls.
While I do not doubt these statistics, I’d be intrigued to know what persons make up these stats? I mean let’s look at it this way, you’re on an all inclusive holiday – you’re British – don’t lie to yourself, you’re going to eat everything in sight and drink like a fish – ‘get your money’s worth’ is what goes through our small British brains.
I think if I had the fish soup, Chilli Con Carne, beef fajita’s, a little bit of steak, some of that chicken plus three bowls of fresh fruit, I’d be stuck on the bog for a few days too. And what are the three drinks associated to the Caribbean? RUM, PINEAPPLE and COCONUT – 7 piña colada’s later in the first hour of your arrival and you’ll be Peena Copooping through the eye of a needle for a few days.
I think we need to put things into perspective a little bit when it comes to “deli-belly” abroad.
But back to the Grand Bahia Principe, Dominican Republic, in the province of Punta Cana which is nestled in the far right of the island closest to Puerto Rico. We chose Dominican Republic because 1. I’d never been before and 2. My Mum wanted to treat us all for a two week holiday so we didn’t want to double, if not triple the cost by gallivanting to Jamaica for instance.
We booked the Grand Bahia Principe after giving Josh the option of where he liked the look of, he opened the page and just said: “that one” then walked off, 6 months later after a 9-hour flight from Gatwick we landed in dreamy heaven.
Of course, the first thing the kids wanted to do is peel off their sweaty socks and dunk themselves in the pool – on this occasion I think they are right – sod the unpacking, get in that VERY inviting pool! We literally shoved our cases on the side and practically dived in fully clothed following possibly the sweatiest slowest transfer known to man. Our advice would be to Book direct with the hotel. Unfortunately, we got some shanty ‘goodness-knows-what’ that required us to all get out and walk up a hill at one point because the clapped out old banger couldn’t make the incline… One poor chap lost his suitcase on route as it wasn’t strapped to the roof properly, another mortified lady had the total embarrassment of getting herself locked in the special bus “toilet” with other passengers urine in the shallow tank which splashed all over her whilst we were hitting pothole after pothole and clattering over rocks and through boggy pits… luckily Beard heard her screams and released her from the pit of doom. Poor Mum was even feeling it, hanging her head out of the window like a labrador as she tried to prevent another dreaded hot flush from heating her up like a splattered egg on the pavement.
Alas, despite the comedy value, we won’t be booking any dodgy transfers next time… Others who had booked with the hotel sauntered in looking like Naomi Campbell, I looked like a tin of Campbell’s soup.
Arriving in the hotel lobby, after dunking ourselves, we were welcomed by air conditioning and friendly staff, not to mention the complimentary drink. Lovely. We were shown to our rooms which were nicely furnished, if not a tad dated, but functional with a clean bathroom as well as an adjoining room for the kids. Both rooms were spacious with ample space for clothing and a big plus, lots of clothes hangers so myself and Beard didn’t need to argue.
The first night was going to be dinner, early bedtime and up fresh in the morning but Beard got a bit excited and did the bit I mentioned earlier where Brits who go to all-inclusive hotels in the Caribbean drink 7 piña colada’s in hour one of arriving. Hence when I said ‘can you all get ready for dinner while I suss out where everything is on the complex… I’ll be back in half-hour’ resulted in me coming back in the room, and he was dressed like this with the boys exclaiming “we’re ready…!”
Needless to say, they did get changed and we thoroughly enjoyed the buffet restaurant – there was plenty to choose from and tons of staff around should you have any queries or require anything. They were most accommodating to us when needing a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle due to Josh’s Autistic anxieties. After a couple of days, they even reserved the same table at the same time every day for us – our waiter was very polite and we always experienced service with a smile 🙂 he even booked our STUNNING SUPER TASTY AND MARVELLOUSLY WONDERFUL a la carte dining experience. It literally was heavenly food and exceptional wine but even after experiencing fine dining, going back to the buffet was perfectly fine as the food was really very good.
The beach was our happy place, just sitting there and listening to the tranquil whispers of water lapping on the white sand, the gentle rustle of the palm tree’s above or the call of the exotic bird in the distance. Literally heavenly.
Some days the kids would spend all day with us playing in the sand, enjoying the nature around them and other days we wouldn’t see them all day as they were off in the kids club having the time of their lives! They rarely EVER go to kids clubs but this one, they absolutely loved – at times it was a struggle to get them to stay with us as a family!
When you have the family feeling super happy as well as the most wonderful staff I have ever encountered in all of the Caribbean islands I have been to, it makes for something magical and something that Josh has treasured for many, many years because you see, two months after this holiday he stopped being happy.
These are the last moments we captured of him where he was truly happy, with a sparkle in his eye and a spring in his step. If you ask him what his favourite holiday was he will tell you Grand Bahia Principe. This particular holiday was the last time he really smiled because he genuinely felt content, happy and comfortable in his surroundings, and we don’t know if we will ever get that back again after Autism grabbed hold of him well and truly.
Whether we do or whether we don’t, we can always look back on this and remember what a truly magical, stunning holiday we had. It was incredible and you should go – don’t hesitate, it was the best family holiday we have EVER had… made all the better by one particular lady the boys met whilst here x Miss you, wherever you are x