Docastaway Experience, Part One

Sorry to have kept you waiting for so long! Apparently, real life is much more hectic than normal after a relaxing 2-week vacation. I am so ready to relive those moments and also to share them with you! So, without further ado…

Our journey was beginning! It was too early for our local bus to be running, so D’s parents picked us up on Saturday morning (May 18) and drove us to Yverdon-les-Bains so we could catch the train to the airport. After a short flight from Geneva to Amsterdam, a long-haul from there to Guangzhou (11+ hours), and another short flight to Manila, our adventure could “finally” begin. Up until this point, I had been the one reserving the legs of the journey. The rest of the way had been prepared by the travel company Docastaway. It truly was a leap of faith as we had only had email contact with them up to that point. The overall feeling was excitement, mixed with a bit of caution and a spirit of adventure.

We changed terminals (surprisingly easy considering horror stories I’d read about the Manila airport) and caught a flight to “Local Town.” (Out of respect for Docastaway and their services, I will not be revealing exact locations.) We had to wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes before taking off, no explanation offered. At least I got a great nap in while we waited! Upon arrival at “Local Town” later in the afternoon than we were expecting, we learned why there had been a delay: a thunderstorm had just passed through. We collected our suitcase, and went to look for the person picking us up. At such a small airport, the meeting was made quickly. We drove in an air-conditioned van/bus over pot-holed and not-always-paved roads to the actual town. At this point, the bus driver called someone on his cell phone and dropped us off alone at the port. Although things had been going smoothly, D and I exchanged wary glances. But, lo and behold, 5 minutes later, one of the hotel workers arrived on a small (very small) speedboat. We got in and were whisked away to… we didn’t know where, and we couldn’t really see where either, because the sky kept getting darker and darker with night.

"Marooning" Island. This was not taken at our time of arrival (because it was too dark to see anything).

“Marooning” Island. This was not taken at our time of arrival (because it was too dark to see anything).

Instead of dropping us off directly at our private beach + bungalow, they decided to put us up at the actual hotel for the first night. This was complete with a coconut welcome drink, a dinner buffet, the beach-front cabin for the night (the starry sky was incredible!), and a breakfast buffet. Could have gotten used to the great service, but we were here on more of an isolated adventure this time around!

Welcome drink at the beach-front cabin.

Welcome drink at the beach-front cabin.

After breakfast, we were transported by boat to our own private beach! They dropped us off with a cell phone and promised to return later in the day with our kayaks and to replenish the water supply. That meant we had time to get installed in the bungalow, explore the beach, make and eat lunch, and go snorkeling. When we were in the water, we felt like we were getting stung by small, invisible creatures. The stinging went away after a few minutes. When the hotel workers returned in the afternoon, one of them confirmed that this was jellyfish season so the stinging was probably by baby jellyfish that were too small to notice. So, from day one, we knew we’d have to be on the lookout!

Did we find more jellyfish? Sorry folks, out of time for the moment… Check back soon for the next installment!

Advertisements

“Marooning” in the Philippines

I am now the biggest fan of the unique travel agency Docastaway. Founded by Alvaro Cerezo, this company specializes in desert island vacations (mostly in Indonesia and the Philippines).

We signed up for their Marooning experience and were on their glorious island from May 18 to June 1. A vacation that will be hard to forget. 🙂 Here are a few pictures for you while I work on more posts about the trip:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If this type of experience is something that interests you, contact Docastaway! They have great customer service. It being something I found online, I was wary at first. But I was blown away by their amazing service. My assigned agent always answered my questions within a day (usually just a few hours) and made sure I felt as comfortable and as informed as I needed to be.

Absolutely zero regrets. In fact, we’ve already started thinking about where we’d like to go next time!

Violin Virtuoso

My soul is musical. Going to orchestra concerts is such a joy, especially when there is an amazing talent featured in the program, like a concert we went to recently in our village.

Alexandre Dubach is a Paganini genius. I was floored as soon as he started the Violin Concerto No. 1. The more he played (from memory), the more in awe I was at his brilliance (and at Paganini’s). Frequent double-stop thirds (lots of chromatic and harmonic ones, no less!!) made my jaw drop, not to mention his bow work, flying fingers, and vigor.

As an encore, he played a version of Happy Birthday (similar to this one) for a friend in the orchestra:

And of course, he just happened to be playing his Strad the night we went. Sigh. Way to melt my heart in an instant!

Guédelon

They’re building a castle using middle-aged techniques!

In rural France, the Guédelon project has been underway since 1997 and is projected to be completed in the 2020s. Part tourist attraction, part 13th century construction lab, Guédelon is definitely a sight to behold.

To build the castle, workers use only local materials, split and carve stone themselves, build wooden support structures and horse-drawn carts and hamster wheels. They also make ropes and forge every nail and tool that is used on the site. They even mix their own mortar with sand and limestone.

Visiting GuĂ©delon (I’ve done so twice now) is an incredible learning experience not only for researchers and workers but also the visiting public!

Gianadda Statue Garden

Before the A-Z Challenge, I had posted about a temporary exhibit at Gianadda and promised a follow-up about their outdoor statue garden! 🙂

What is unique about the Gianadda Foundation is that they welcome all forms of art for temporary exhibits. This is evident in their statue garden as well, which is an eclectic mix of… well, look and see:

Definitely worth a visit!

Marisa V Photography

If you want a photographer in the Neuchâtel area, look no further! Marisa V is your girl. We took a family photo session with her recently and had a great time. Marisa is creative, easy to work with, and such a gem!

Plus, she finished the photos quickly and provided us with multiple copies of jacketed DVDs and prints! A great service provided by a great lady!

Swan Lake Reloaded

Words cannot describe how amazing this show was.

I recently made the trek to Geneva with Carmela to see “Swan Lake Reloaded”. As she puts it, the show “far exceeded” our expectations.

Fredrik Rydman’s modern, “street” version of this ballet classic was thrilling. The dancers were brilliant, the choreography was thoughtful, and the remixed music was geniusly modern.

The director’s choices made the story very easy to follow. Attending the show was such a magical moment that I was disappointed when the curtains closed.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Swan Lake Reloaded, DO IT! I would see it again in a heartbeat.

Sticking Out My Thumb

There’s a first time for everything! Yesterday, for example, was my first time hitchhiking.

I was on my way to work. My mode of transportation was my (usually very reliable) scooter. All of a sudden, said scooter didn’t want to be going 50 km/hr to go through town. Instead, it gradually got slower and slower… until it stopped altogether.

Awesome.

I tried to restart it. Nope.

My first thought was to call my boss. No answer. Boss’ spouse. No answer. Boss again. No answer.

Ok, so I needed a new plan. “Maybe I can take the bus,” I thought to myself… as the hourly bus whizzed by. So that was a no-go.

I needed a new plan again. “My husband has some family in the neighboring village, maybe they can drive me!” I called them. No answer. And still no answer from my boss.

At this point, I reevaluated my options:

  • Take the scooter. 
  • Have my boss pick me up.
  • Take the bus.
  • Have D’s family drive me.
  • Call TCS (Swiss version of AAA). I didn’t want to wait for them to come. So: Call TCS.
  • Walk. This would have made me about 2 hours late to work, and my boss still had no idea I was running late. So: Walk.
  • Stick out my thumb.

This really had become my only choice. FORTUNATELY, hitchhiking is common in Switzerland and is still considered safe (more on Swiss honesty in a future post). The person who picked me up was very friendly, and I made it to work, almost on time!

A good experience, but I’ll try not to make it a habit. 🙂