Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aruba! It Must Be Tuesday?

 I think it's Tuesday. Who cares what day it is when you're on vacation, right?

Aruba = beautiful beaches
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Yesterday, I was swimming about in the clear, clean, deliciously salty, and perfectly refreshing – yet warm – water off the sparkling – no, dazzling – palm-lined, white-sand beach, watching the aqua waves rolling gently onto the shore. And I had an epiphany, my friends. Yes, I know...another one:  That is why people come back to Aruba year after year, never going on vacation anywhere else. The beach and the water and the weather (hot and muggy, but the breeze makes it all okay, and you get used to it really fast). That's it. You want to fall in love with Aruba? Get in the water.

I actually spoke with some folks at the Ocean View (the beach-side watering hole) who have come to Aruba for 2 weeks a year for 17 consecutive years. They have not been to any other vacation spots in all that time. They are from Boston. [We met lots of nice people from Boston, as it happens.]

At dinner, we decided to try the Pirate's Nest restaurant. Surprisingly, the service was terrible, and the food was worse. My husband sent his meal back to the kitchen for the first time EVER. To their credit, they comped us both entrees and threw in dessert. It's a gorgeous setting, right on the beach, palm trees, open air – but we will not go back. We had been sitting at our table for two hours before we got our food. We would have just left, but it was late. We were hungry. Up until that experience, it was a perfect day. [This restaurant was highly recommended and has good reviews. Maybe it was just one of those things. But when you're on vacation, you don't give a place a second chance if the first time was a disaster. If you've eaten there and had a wonderful experience, please leave a comment. I don't want to be unfair to the place.]

Natural Bridge
See the tiny person on top?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Today, I went to the beach for a while as my husband ordered up a little Suzuki 4WD rental car from a cut-rate, independent place. More on that later. And off we went to explore the island! We drove up to California Lighthouse, and then we went 4-wheeling down the wild, eastern side of the island in hopes of finding the natural bridge and other sights.

Stacked rocks...
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
There were stacked rocks everywhere. Someone said it has something to do with prayer, but to whom and for what, who knows? Nobody could enlighten us. Or they chose not to, whichever.

The Wild Side
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
The “other side” of the island reminds me of the Northern California coast, with waves crashing and foaming on the rocky shore. Except that the Northern California coast is relatively lush, whereas this one is absolute desert, with tall cactus and no trees. Perhaps when California falls into the ocean, that's what the coast will look like. Not that I believe that's going to happen.

The exhaust pipe came loose on the car, so, after some initial hesitation and blame casting, the agency came and replaced it (the car) when we got back to home base. My husband enjoyed the 4-wheeling. He generally has a hard time “slowing down” on vacation due to the high-stress nature of his work. He might get to a place of relaxation by the end of the week.

Look closely...
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
He's very taken with the lizards, though, and is taking pictures of them. They're everywhere here at the Village, along with cooing doves and colorful finches. The tree branches are decorated with them.

Tonight, we went to Oranjestad for dinner at El Gaucho, another highly recommended eatery. It's an Argentinian steakhouse. As bad as the food and service were last night, that's how opposite tonight was. The service was very attentive, and the food was plentiful and delicious. The gigantic steak was like butter. The salad, the baked potato, the ears of corn...everything was supersized. When I say the food was plentiful, I mean we (both of us!) could only eat about half of our portions, and we took the considerable leftovers back to our place for future reference. So far, I wouldn't say anything here is a great bargain, but it would have cost as much or more back home.

There was a mariachi band going from table to table, and they sang for us. My husband asked if they knew Eric Clapton's “Wonderful Tonight,” and they played and sang it so beautifully. Oh, my. I couldn't help myself. The emotion was overwhelming, and I cried happy tears. It was so romantic! I was wearing a flounced skirt and a dressy tanktop and strappy heels and big earrings (all black and red), and I felt like a princess.

As we walked hand-in-hand down the sidewalk in the cool of the evening after that wonderful meal, I couldn't imagine a more magical “date.” Thank you, Harry.

Downtown. Cute, eh?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Town had a very Caribbean feel to it, and it reminded me so much of Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. Not in specifics, but in ambiance. You can definitely see the Dutch influence, too, which makes it “it's own” place.

The island depends on tourism for its livelihood, and the people work very hard. We drove through some neighborhoods today to see the houses, which are, for the most part (at least from what we saw today), neat and tidy, with wild colors. Some are fenced and gated, others are not. I was reminded very much of our neighborhood in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, many years ago. It was the same type of construction, but with a Dutch flavor.

An excellent day!

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