A Work Trip, Dominican Republic

Although I was in the Dominican Republic for more than a week, I don’t have many photos to share. That’s because a) I was there for a work trip and b) we weren’t staying in a particularly inspiring area. Yes, Punta Cana is geographically beautiful, but also very sterile. The resorts we went to felt staged to reflect a glossed over fantasy of what the Dominican Republic should be, rather than having any real regional flavor or flare.I missed mingling with locals, music, and life – the resorts we went to were predominantly catered to tourists, designed for comfort, relaxation, and little else. This isn’t how I like to travel, and so unless I am craving a lazy poolside vacation, I wont be back. That said, I really can’t complain about spending a week in the heat and sunshine in mid-January. Or staying in a beautiful suite with a hot tub on the balcony, overlooking the sea (view from my balcony in the photo above! I did love looking out over the ocean ever morning :)We chose Punta Cana for our work trip because we had to film several vacation scenes for our TV commercials, and warm surf shacks, beach-side villas, and pool parties were hard to come by elsewhere in the world that time of year.As a kid, we vacationed in Florida almost every year, but I’ve never once visited the Caribbean. Honestly, I’ve been dying to go to Cuba, but in recent years the public health alerts surrounding the Zika Virus have put those travel plans on hold. I was even slightly dubious to go to the DR, however after consulting with my doctor, I was assured that the tourist areas of Santo Domingo and Punta were not affected and would be perfectly safe to travel to. So off we went for a week in the sun! Which actually started out with rain and a couple of huge thunder storms rolling through . . . which were cool to watch from my balcony!We’d all booked rooms at AlSol Tiara in Cap Cana, which had some beautiful beachfront panoramas but was quite soulless and the food really, really sucked (we ordered nachos on our first day and it was basically fragments of tortilla chips squirted with a small string of fake cheese!) But my room was huge, and the neighboring resort had fantastic fare. And there were lots of stylized poolside areas.Due to the food sitch, for most dinners we walked over to La Yola (below) where the food was outstanding and the ambiance was always fun! . . . mainly due to the company and the live music! You haven’t lived until you’ve heard these guys rock out to Despacito!Although it was evident that La Yola was not immune to the occasional rain storm ;)While the sun was shinning, I snapped a few photos of my room. For a resort, it felt quite corporate, which I guess was fitting for a work trip ;)The tub on the balcony was however a great way to kick off each morning!Who wants to shower when you have your very own tub with jets?!Day two was spent scouting out locations – driving around and pin pointing where we wanted to shoot in the coming days. I also managed to go on a sunset walk before dinner, so below are some shots I got around the harbor in Cap Cana. Beautiful, but perhaps lacking some locals to give it that real DR vibe.  The next day, we had a 5am start as we wanted to capture some surf shots as the sun was coming up. For this part of our shoot, we drove to Sanctuary Cap Cana, another Booking.com property, where we staged a surf shack for our commercial.
I actually preferred this resort to our own, as it incorporated lots of elements from nature into the design – ample greenery along the water, wooden beach huts on the sand.
Watching the sun rise over the water was a definite perk of our early start.After we got our surf shots, the crew packed up and we moved to our second location of the day – a huge wave rider at another resort. I left my camera in the car for this portion of the shoot, as we had quite a lot of walking to do and the day was HOT.

On day two shoot day, we shot at a private villa on the water. It was a huge, beautiful mansion, with a pool where we captured a couple scene by the water and then a pool party shot later in the evening.Funny story – a lot of the cast was hired locally, and when the director saw everyone together, he felt the crowd looked too Dominican. As I’d brought my bathing suit with me, he asked if I would mind getting into the celebratory pool party scene. I said sure, and got to get glammed up by hair and makeup, and appear in the commercial – ha! So I took the below selfie, because it’s not every day you get your makeup done by the pros ;)While these photos don’t look all that stressful, by the end of our shoot, I’d worked for 18 days straight. After Kai and I left Salzburg (post here) I flew to New York for a week where I worked out of the office there, prepping with the local teams for the shoot. We then shot all of our cold winter scenes in upstate New York and Manhattan over the weekend. THEN, we traveled to the Dominican on a Tuesday, prepped all week, and shot our beach and pool scenes over that weekend. So by the time we were done shooting in the DR, I really needed a down day. So instead of flying straight back the following morning, I put my flight off until the evening, and was able to squeeze in one brilliant beach day of sun before heading back to Amsterdam.If you’re going to sell something, it really helps if you  believe in the product yourself. And after a lazy day reading and sipping cocktails on the beach, I can tell you that a trip to the tropics is just the medicine you need during the peak months of winter!
So cheers to a successful shoot, working with a great team, and some extra vitamin C in January :)

x Ali

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