Staying in the paradise imagined by fashion design legend can only mean there are going to be some glamorous fashion moments which we found at the resort’s Oscar de la Renta boutique and opened a whole new world of destination luxury shopping. Here it’s resort wear 365 days a year from darling garden dresses to a floating sea of chiffon caftans, perfect beaded mules that are effortless and comfortable for a resort but still put together and chic. They carried every color earring you need to make a true entrance for dinner, which we would call our “Elizabeth Taylor moments”. It’s funny, I’m typically very minimal with my jewelry but here in this explosion of Caribbean color it felt right to wear a big bold colored jewels, obviously, Oscar knows how to dress a woman for resort life. At dinner Kelly was wearing a beautiful pair of coral ODLR earrings so glamorous when sparkling off the evening night light and when she took them off I had a horrible reaction at how sad she looked just “normal”. From that moment on we were dripped in Oscar’s crystals and jewels. Usually when I think of the brand I think strictly about fashion, about the iconic women he dressed, our version of American Royalty, that I forget about the home wares! Candles and picture frames, beautiful ocean fish dishes he created from his inspiration of Punta Cana and all the beautiful objects that make a home feel truly special that ladylike way only Oscar de la Renta can do.
We had a few excursions up our sleeve on our visit to Punta Cana first being a dip in one of the 12 fresh water lagoons at the Ecological Reserve. It was the most crystal clear water I have ever seen, the perfect way to swim with little turtles and lazy fish.
Something I was very interested in learning about was Punta Cana’s Ecological Foundation and their Zero Waste movement. Here, they work on the island’s sustainability making programs to help protect and preserve the natural environment and resources and properly prepare the development of the Dominican Republic so things like the impact of tourism are managed and allowed to aid to keeping the environment and culture beautiful if not better. Here at the Ecological Reserve they keep iguanas, riding horses, work animals, farm animals, gardens, an earth worm farm (which eats the organic waste from restaurants and makes compost for the garden) and bee hives. When they wanted to start a bee colony they spoke to Mr. de la Renta about it and the first hive came from the porch of Oscar’s private home. When he visited the reserve this past year he saw how the program was going which not only pollinates the local fruits and vegetables but also creates honey which makes jobs for locals to harvest, package and sell and at the spa we visited they even use it for their facials which I loved! Anyway, it went on and on with amazing projects I found completely fascinating and something I hope can be an international example of how to start dealing with the human impact on our environment.
We bounced over the to Playa Blanca Beach Club where we did stand up paddle boarding and dined on local fare at the beach side restaurant there and tried to remember just which day of the week it was exactly…
The last time I had the joy of going on an all girls trip was right before I got married a couple of years ago. We found ourselves hypnotized in the rose scented air of Morocco and the rugs I brought from the souk lay at the studio as a constant reminder of that meaningful trip with friends. Now I have a new treasure to put away in the box of unforgettable memories, a journey to paradise.
Tortuga Bay, the luxury boutique hotel on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic in an area called Puntacana, is known for many things- powdery white sand beaches that feel like you are walking on flour, beautiful warm aquamarine Caribbean water, ceviche that is out of this world fresh, but most notably, having the 13 luxurious beachfront villas in the private enclave designed by the elegant fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. I loved being there, in Mr. de la Renta’s home country, and discovering his essence in everything, in the white lattice work chairs, chic wicker canopy beds, embroidered pillows, all the ODLR bathroom amenities, charming hotel staff. You were living in the lifestyle of Oscar de la Renta which can only mean one thing: total beauty.
You walk off the plane on the runway, that warm sticky air licks you immediately and in what could only be ten minutes you are standing on your private balcony looking out at that perfect ocean forgetting where you even came from before. Our canary yellow villa, with your personal golf cart parked out front for “getting around”, was a beautiful compliment to green of the palms, blue of the sky and turquoise of the ocean. With an small and intimate number of villas comprising the property you can easily find yourself alone on the three mile stretch of white sand beaches which is what my soul needs sometimes living in a city where we all literally are on top of each other.
So what did we do with ourselves sans men?… We started the day paddle boarding at playa blanco. We took our golf carts to the Six Senses Spa for facials and massages. We laid in lounge chairs sipping coconut cocktails and marveled at the most stunning panoramic view of the setting sun’s sky, a wash of colors only comparable to a Monet painting. There was five course dinner on the beach, a tapas parade for lunch, a dinner at the dock accompanied by three Dominican musicians serenading us. Most of the food we ate was sourced locally, caught that day or grown in the resort’s garden which is all about their focus on sustainability. In the evenings after dinner we would all go for a midnight swim watching thunderstorms light up the sky in the distant horizon. Mostly though, we talked and laughed and stared in awe at a place too beautiful to explain, it can only be experienced.
I’m writing this on our flight back to New York where I will pivot into full autumn mode, layering, apple cider and watching the days get shorter and shorter. But, if I find myself cold one night I’ll think back on that golden sun sliding up on the horizon, flooding my suite in honey colored light and warming my soul with natural beauty.
The beauty of Punta Cana was not limited to the just the resorts, but I found the island people of the Dominican Republic mirrored what nature had created. From their charming personality to beautiful warm skin color I found them intoxicating. A strange hybrid of latin culture mixing with European elegance, most of the people we met spoke multiple languages, lived abroad in Europe for a time and had a history of world experience. Being a photographer left alone on a island with her best friend (a stylist) and all these beautiful locals, we decided to focus our lens on Ana Nicole, another one of the Dominican Republic’s beautiful island girls, before she sets out to university in Holland… but for now, she’s just hanging out in Elle Sasson, letting the sun warm her skin, getting guys to open coconuts for us.
For Valentine’s Day Kevin surprised me with a romantic weekend getaway down to Virgin Gorda in the B.V.I. One of the challenges when you are a working couple is to maintain personal time together outside work, which is a fun challenge. This getaway was not about a shot list or the pressures of delivering that perfect image for a client but all about being on island time. Sipping rum cocktails, boat hopping, exploring caves, eating the catch of the day, and forgetting time on our own private beach.
Thrilling adventure! I have come to learn that flying small planes means the pilot can angle the plane for you for better photographs! Also, my new go to flying shoes that feel like pillows on your feet are by Charles Philip.
It was only a moment ago I was alone with the sunrise on a white sand beach watching sting rays swim by and wishing that time could stand still forever in paradise…
While on location for a shoot in St. John I took some personal photos to remember this slice of heaven on gray days in New York much like today. If I try really hard I can still taste the fruity rum drinks and feel the damp warm air on my skin.
St. John, From Me To You: