Thursday, June 25, 2009

O'Learyunion 2009: Dominican Republic June 13-20

We just got back from an incredible week in the Dominican Republic. For the past 33 years my family has had amazing reunions. I think we have had 13 gatherings so far and it seems to get even better every time; this year was no exception. We now have 35 in our family! We stayed in the Balaji Palace, named for an Indian doctor that practices in Rochester, NY, that had it built for his family. I took over 700 pictures during the week, but none of them do the Palace justice.

(You can go on to see better shots, or on my Facebook page to see more of my photos.)

It was quite a trek getting there, since we were using Frequent Flyer points for our tickets. We had to split up and had crazy routing with Dave and Andy going to New York on the way and me taking Alaina, Becca, and Ryan through Chicago, spending the night in the Montreal, Cananda airport, then arriving in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic about 25 hours later. But, well worth it! The Balaji Palace is located on the North Coast, near Rio San Juan, about 75 minutes from the Puerto Plata Airport and about 30 minutes from Cabarete. We spent the first few days wandering around the Palace and reconnecting with our far-flung family. Then about 20 of us went horseback riding on the beach and got to gallop along the ocean after riding through a lush, green jungle. It was so gorgeous and the kids loved it. The girls have been begging for a horse forever, which is not going to happen, so this was perfect. We didn't have to ride in line and really got to spread out. The lead cowboy, Alfonso, was the tallest Dominican I'd seen. All of the staff were so nice. The boys and Dave decided to stay back and hang out at the palace with some of the other people. I have to admit, it's a good thing Dave didn't go because of his neck...I am still sore one week later!

There were four beautiful but very loud peacocks on the property...kind of like a snooze alarm that keeps going off.

All 35 of us went on an awesome 7-hour snorkel and sail trip on the Freestyle Catamaran. On the sail out to the perfect snorkeling spot, the kids "surfed" by jumping the waves.


Alaina, Becca, and Ryan all braved the water with me and we saw the coolest marine life. I'd never seen live squid before...they were bizarre. The fish were beautiful and the water was perfect.

The crew were so much fun and played steel drums for us. They led the younger cousins and kids in wild dancing with fun wigs and great music. We had a blast. I would so highly recommend this outfit if you go to the Dominican Republic!

We spent one morning shopping for souvenirs in Cabarete. The girls found these darling chihuaha puppies with the parking lot attendant and fell in love.

At the reunions we always have Grandad call a square dance. He called at the Worlds Fair in Brussels (in the 1940's, I think) and is so great. It has been a fun thing for all of the grand kids and great grand kids to experience, except Ryan and Andy didn't get into it this year.
We also always have my cousin David play his guitar and lead us in old family songs. When we have exhausted that repertoire, we move on to more current music. It is fun to do old fashioned sing-alongs like I imagine Grandad doing as a young boy in the 1920's. We don't take the time to slow down and do stuff like that much anymore.It was nice to have a few days to just hang out at the beach and pool and relax. It was a real vacation for all because of the amazing chef, laundress, maids, bartenders (virgin daiquiris and pina coladas all day!), and drivers. Ryan loved playing pool and got in on the flag football game.

We celebrated Grandads 90th birthday and the chef made him a great cake. All week long we had been writing things that we love about Grandad until we came up with 90 things. During his birthday celebration, we read the list and people explained some of the things. He has always been an amazing joke and story teller and entertainer. Some of the newer members of the family hadn't heard some of his more famous jokes, so he told one that we all love. No one can tell a joke like Grandad. He has such an incredible memory!Right as dinner was ending, we had a fabulous display of lightening. The sky was lit up like I've never was so beautiful. We didn't even end up having rain on our end of the island.

On our last day at the Balaji Palace, the chef did a spit roasted pig and the staff carried 35 chairs and all of the tables down about 100 spiral steps to the beach. We ate right next to the water and had an incredible sunset. Every night we ate at a different location on the Palace grounds. The staff were so accomodating and we were able to visit with different family members each night because of the great settings.
After the beach dinner, we had a pyrotechnic specialist eat fire and light a huge bonfire. He did a real fireworks display like the the 4th of July. It was a great ending to a fantastic week.
What a fabulous family reunion. I am grateful that I can look forward to the next one in 2011 when we can all reconnect again.


Amy said...

Amazing! Great photos! Looks like a fun time was had by ALL.

Amelia said...

I can't believe how big Becca and all the kids are! It's so nice to see how you all are since it's been five years since living in Walnut Creek! The Dominican looks like an amazing place to travel, Dennis and I will have to put it on our travel and dive tour! :)

Fenima said...

Soooooooo much fun Dayna, what an amazing reunion/ vacation/ adventure/ grandad b-day.

Shelley said...

All I can say is "wow!"

jhoopes said...

WOW! What an amazing trip!! Something you and the kids will always remember!! How FUN!!

HMichaelsen said...

What a fantastic & memorable trip!

The United Statements of Merica said...

That is incredible. I am putting in a request to be adopted into your family.
It was fun to see you at the fireside by the way.