Saltwater, Sea Air and Sassy Prose

About Cassidy Springfield

Cassidy Springfield writes travel reviews, New Adult Romance and Coming of Age novels. Dog-lover, adventurer, dreamer, and stargazer. Life is too short to waste on anything that doesn't ignite a fire in your soul.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Traveling the Dominican Republic as a Single Mom with Young Kids #Travel #FamilyTravel

My son conquering a piece of driftwood in the D.R.!

Before I was widowed, we traveled frequently as a family. When the kids were only 2, we had them snorkeling with stingrays in Grand Cayman and whale watching off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. When my husband died, I worried that our lifestyle would change dramatically--because it felt scary thinking of traveling the world solo with two elementary-aged children. Right or wrong, that's how I felt.

But, traveling has always cured what ailed me so I determined to go. When I picked the Dominican Republic, I admit I didn't know much about the country other than it had great beaches and good rum. We chose Punta Cana and stayed at the Barcelo Palace.

The confusion at the airport threw my confidence a bit. It was very hectic and no one seemed to know what bus we were supposed to get on to get to the resort. Men kept asking me where my husband was, too, and that made me feel vulnerable at the time. There I was with a sleepy eight and nine-year-old in a foreign country being asked repeatedly where my husband was in a chaotic airport. To say that I started having doubts would be an understatement.

Once at the resort, my doubts intensified when a group of displaced Spaniards yelled and pushed in the lobby. To check-in, I needed to ask the kids to sit on our luggage while I forced my way through the group to the desk. Thoughts of them being abducted slammed through my mind--normally, this is where I would have hung out with them while my husband handled this chaos, but that was no long an option in our lives. While trying to keep one eye on them and another on the pushy Spaniards, I managed to check-in.

That's where the chaos ended.

Our room was amazing--a junior suite located directly on the beach was a welcome reprieve. Only feet away from the Caribbean and the amazing pool area, we had definitely arrived in paradise!

The Barcelo Palace is part of the Barcelo complex with a golf-cart train that takes you to any one of the other resorts you'd like to visit while staying there. We were staying in the "best" resort so had full access to any of the amenities at the other hotels. This was great fun for us during our stay. At night, we'd head out to try the restaurants at the other properties. I think the kids just liked riding in the golf cart train, but, hey, if they're happy, then I'm happy. This is an all-inclusive property so we seriously didn't need to worry about anything--after the hectic arrival.

During our ten day stay in the Dominican Republic, we went on a few excursions. We visited the Stone City near La Romana, took a duck boat down the river beneath the stone city (so much fun!), traveled from La Romana to Isla Catalina--all part of one excursion! On the island, we snorkeled and were served a fabulous barbecue while people salsa danced on a make-shift stage in the sand. This was a perfect excursion for the kids, very family friendly, and fun. The bus for the excursion picked us up and dropped us off directly from the resort. Easy!
The duck boat loading up--yes, I was a bit nervous. Ha.

My son on the boat-- a very happy boy. 
Looking down at the river from the Stone City
An amphitheater in the Stone City

Church in the Stone City

Finding some shade on Isla Catalina after snorkeling

Salsa dancing on Isla Catalina--no, that's not me.
Why travel solo with kids? Why go through the hassle and worry of being a single woman traveling alone with two young children? Aside from travel being part of our lives before my husband's death and my determination not to have it all go to hell afterward, I have always believed that it's important to raise children who are citizens of the world, who interact easily with other cultures, and who are open-minded to trying new things. At our hotel, we were the only Americans for the first week. We had people from South America and France who would yell out to us at the end of the day inviting us to eat with them and being worried about where we had "disappeared to" after going on an excursion. The kids played with other children who did not share the same language, but were able to communicate joy and friendship with laughter and swimming in the pool. Travel, to me, was a vital part of raising them.

The Dominican Republic had many family-friendly excursions to choose from as well--we spent a day traveling to Santo Domingo, visiting the aquarium, shopping in the city, touring a tobacco company, and exploring a huge sink hole. Again, all of this was organized by the hotel, making exploring more than the resort easy and stress-free.

Church where Christopher Columbas's brother was married. Did you know the Santa Maria sank off the coast of Santo Domingo?

The kids at the aquarium in Santo Domingo
Hiking inside the sink hole (HUGE) outside of Santo Domingo.
We talk about this trip a lot with shared laughter. We would definitely return to Punta Canta in the Dominican Republic again. The people were extremely nice, we loved our hotel and enjoyed being "seen" and "missed" by people there when we were absent for awhile, and were sad to leave. The kids were welcomed everywhere we went and made some friends from other countries who taught them the value of travel and new experiences.

As a single woman with kids, being asked repeatedly where my husband was did get tiring, but it also wasn't unique to the Dominican Republic. The pros of the trip far outweighed that one irritant.

Follow me on Twitter at @CassidySpringf2

Monday, April 18, 2016

Road Trips to Fuel the Creative Muse #Travel #AmWriting

Being a writer is more than creating stories, working the craft, editing for pace and revising for clarity.  For me, being a writer is about living life, meeting people, developing relationships and breaking free of my comfort zone--which, to be honest, is what I call "my cave" located in the downstairs of my house. I won't develop much as a person if I stay hidden away in my cave chained to the computer--more than that, eventually, my stories will fall flat.

I make it a point to get out of the house despite the deadline looming on the horizon.  I recognized my out-of-balance lifestyle about six months ago when I realized that all I did was write, edit, parent, sleep, repeat every day. All work and no play not only make Jack a dull boy, they make me a boring writer.

To avoid the rut, I take road trips, with or without the kids, to places I've never been before. The latest adventure led me to Santa Fe, NM and SW Colorado for five days.  I said no to the computer, loaded up a cooler, grabbed a map (yep, the old-fashioned kind because I wasn't sure about GPS down there), some snacks, the kids and off we went into the unknown. Boy...not only did I open my mind as a person, I ended up with a notebook full of story ideas.

I've also started attending cultural functions in Denver that cost a bit more ticket-wise, but have repaid me with food for the mind and soul.

I go for walks, let my mind relax from social media chatter, and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other while enjoying the neighborhood.

I force myself--yes, I said 'force'--to exercise to reconnect with my body instead of constantly dwelling in my head.

As a writer, I need to look up from the keyboard and immerse myself in the life going on around me.  I write about multi-dimentional characters leading lives in a vivid world.  To do that successfully...I's imperative to live a full life myself.

Working from home is a blessing, I know.  I'm grateful that I make my living as a writer with freedom from a daily commute and a boss breathing down my neck.  It's easy, though, to get trapped in a routine of pajama pants, tweets, edits, writing projects, diet soda, and hours that pass without notice.  I simply need to give myself permission to hit "save" and "shut down" in order to embrace what's happening beyond my "cave" so that I'm a better, more well-rounded writer...and person.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Off-The-Beaten-Path is a Slice of the Old West in Pine, Colorado #Travel

 Find Both Tranquility and Adventure in Pine, Colorado

Need a break from life's fast pace but don't want to be surrounded by tourists on your weekend away? Escape to Pine, Colorado (aka Pine Grove)—a town rich in history tucked away in a valley cut by the South Platte River located only 45 minutes Southwest of Denver.

World-renowned amidst the rock climbing set, Pine is tucked off the beaten path from most typical Colorado tourist destination. With easy access to Staunton State Park, Pine Valley Lake and Open Space, the climbing rocks of Sphinx Park, and the serenity of the South Platte River, Pine is surrounded by tranquility. Bed and breakfasts take the place of name brand hotels and only a handful of locals walk the historic streets. The rustic charm and ease of the town make it seem much further removed from Denver and the ski resorts than it truly is.

Pine offers an endless array of hiking opportunities for both the beginner and more adventurous. Lose yourself on trails that wind along rivers steeped with boulders or ascend along mountains where falcons and eagles nest.

Sleek rocks line a dirt road leading to the historic Bucksnort Saloon where it's not uncommon to see a horse tied up out front waiting for its owner to finish off a few beers—perhaps its signature Antler Ale. The building is original from the 1800's as are most of the homes around it that hang precariously from cliffs. The inside of the bar is graffiti covered and has preserved the rough-hewn charm one would expect of a carry over from the Wild West.

Want a more 'civilized' dinner? Head to Zoka's restaurant, created from an abandoned train station in the heart of Pine. In the late 1800s, the South Park Railroad used to run from Denver's Union Station to Pine and beyond to Buena Vista. The train may not run anymore, but the buildings left behind have been reinvented and serve as reminder of the rich pioneering history that founded the town.

Trade fancy and fast for rustic and relaxing. Whether you prefer a bed and breakfast or would rather rent a cottage near the river, you are guaranteed to feel as if you've truly escaped the noise of the world while visiting Pine (aka Pine Grove), Colorado.

For more details about planning your escape, check out the following links:

 **none of the above are paid sponsorships, the author recommends them based on personal experience alone***

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Road Trip'n down to Rocky Point, Mexico #travel

When I was first asked about taking a road trip across the US border into Mexico, I thought, "Don't people get beheaded or kidnapped there all the time?" Yes, I've seen a lot of movies. I wasn't sure it was my thang. I like my head. But my friend from Tuscon assured me that people do this all the time and I was being silly by being concerned. Where was my adventurous spirit? not question my sense of adventure! The dare had been uttered and I frantically searched for flights to Tuscon.

Once there, we packed up a SUV, two women on a mission of fun and exploration. I shoved my cash in my bra, though, just in case, and kept my passport within sight. I may be adventurous, but I'm cautious, too. Like I said, I've seen a lot of movies and I really like my head attached to my body.

Off we went! Although I've travelled around the world and have visited Mexico too many times to count, this was my first experience driving there. I'd never seen the Sonoran Desert, and, quite frankly, it blew me away with its beauty. It was much more colorful than I'd anticipated. Cacti towered along side the road, some with blooming roses. Yes, we could see Border Patrol cruising in jeeps in the desert and there were several security checks along the highway, but none of this subtracted from the absolute beauty surrounding us.

Crossing the border into Mexico was much easier than anticipated. The only "bandits" assaulting us were people selling tortillas and blankets. So far, so good. Onward we drove toward the Sea of Cortez.

Border Crossing

Rocky Point, Mexico, is like no other place in Mexico that I've visited. It was serene. Miles and miles of white sand beaches with little to no people in sight stretched wide on low-tide and, in high tide, were shallow enough to wade out while clutching a cold beer. The sea itself was alive with stingrays and so many different kinds of birds sweeping across the waves that I became captivated with how diverse they were. I could walk for miles in the morning without seeing more than a handful of people. All I heard was the surf and the occasional screech of a bird.

We stayed at the Grand Mayan Hotel, which is a twenty-minute drive from the town. Personally, I loved this hotel. The food was great, the staff is nice, and the beach is phenomenal. My only issue would be the insistence of the time-share people when you first check-in. We had already booked an ocean view room--that is their carrot they hang in front of you to go on the tour--and needed to be rather firm about our room confirmation. Other than that, it is an exceptional property and I would go there again in a heartbeat.

Surrounding the hotel are shells of buildings that appear to be stopped in mid-construction, which is odd to see. There is an estuary behind the hotel where we could kayak and see even more creatures like dolphins feeding on fish in the early morning or--more birds.

The town of Rocky Point is filled with people who have been deported from the United States. All of them have a story to tell so be prepared to listen. They were nice, though, but it is a very poor town compared to resort areas like Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, or Puerto Vallarta. There is no airport there so people need to drive across the border. There were a lot of license plates from Arizona, Texas, and California as if those three states have a well-kept secret in this beautiful town south of the border.

If you don't want to drive your personal vehicle, there are tour companies that run people directly from the Phoenix airport to Rocky Point and back. One of the companies is called Head Out to Rocky Point. I mention them because we met up with their van driver at Why Not, Arizona, and followed them down to our hotel so we wouldn't get lost. Very nice people and, no, I'm not getting paid to endorse them.

If you do decide to drive, be aware that American car insurance does not apply to Mexico. You need to purchase special Mexican car insurance prior to going that could cover an accident or theft. Don't think you can rent a car and go---most rental companies won't allow that.

I highly recommend this trip if you're looking for a beach vacation that is a bit different from the norm. I still think about how serene that beach was--wide, full of shells, with miles of sand stretching out for miles.

Follow Cassidy at @CassidySpringf2

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