Saturday, October 20, 2012

Aruba! Conch, Coconut Shrimp, and Barracuda


This morning, after sleeping in until an unusual and decadently late hour, we decided to explore the more famous beaches on the island, Eagle Beach and Palm Beach. This is where the multi-storied resorts and fancy hotels are, kind of like Waikiki in Hawaii, but not. This is a much smaller island than Oahu!

This is living.
Photo by Harry. All rights reserved.

We wanted to see what Divi Phoenix was like. It had been our first choice, but was unavailable. That's why we're at Divi Village. And we're happy to be at the Village. There's nothing wrong with the larger, taller resorts. They're on beautiful beachfront and have all the amenities you could possibly want. It's just that we're happy to be enjoying a quieter vacation, relaxing under a palapa on the sand by the water. Without a bunch of other people vying for the lounge chairs. The Phoenix (and the Hyatt and the Wyndham and the Radisson and the other resorts) is really nice, but I prefer “our” beach. But that might have been because it was an especially windy day, and my legs were getting sandblasted. In a good way, of course.

I think we've officially been on every part of the island now...tip to toe, side to side, up and down. But we still haven't hiked up the hill (Mt. Jamanota, 617' – or 188 meters or 188 meters – elevation...) in the middle.

Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We went to Oranjestad to have a bite to eat and to look for souvenirs to take home for the peeps. For lunch, we went to Iguana Joe's by the harbor and were seated on the upstairs deck. (Speaking of iguanas, I'm sure I've mentioned the large number of iguanas here. There are even signs that say, “Please don't feed the iguanas.”) What an excellent view and relaxing place! We had conch as an appetizer. Oh, my. It is just so delicious. I could eat conch every day. And then we had some coconut shrimp, and it was scrumptious, too. We might have indulged in a Balashi beer to go with that. Maybe. It's really hot out, and a light pilsner is just the thing. Refreshing.
Please don't feed them.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.

The souvenir shopping was less successful. Something unusual would have been good, but all we saw was the standard stuff you find in all touristy places – ball caps, t-shirts, beach bags, super-thin beach towels, and baubles made in China that you can order from Oriental Trading. But they do have some Delft, also probably made in China. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but on a Dutch island, it should be the real deal. This might be a good place to admit that I have a weak spot for Delft, so I really do want to bring some home. Not big, beautiful, heavy things that'll break in the suitcase, but something small to remember the island by. Some local music would be nice to take home, too. There's a souvenir shop at the Alhambra Casino, and I think I'll go there tomorrow. I noticed some things I liked there, but I assumed the prices would be higher because of the location. We'll see.

Tonight at dinner, we decided to try The Driftwood Restaurant (and Fishing Charters). It came highly recommended, and we were told that the fish that's served is whatever was caught that day by the owner. The fish soup was flavorful and delicious. The coconut shrimp appetizer (okay, we like coconut shrimp, too!) was perhaps the best I've ever had. Light, crunchy batter. Tangy and sweet dipping sauce. Rich, succulent, fresh shrimp. You bite into it, and there's a flavor explosion in your mouth. Well, my friends! We were impressed, and we hadn't even had our main courses yet. Harry had blackened mahi-mahi, and I had Aruban-style (pan-fried with creole sauce) barracuda. It was my first time tasting barracuda, and it was outstanding. Neither dinner disappointed. We were stuffed. But who could resist flan for dessert? Or key lime pie? Everything was superb. And the service was absolutely outstanding. Perhaps that is because the standard 15% service charge was not automatic at The Driftwood. I hope they are still open if I ever return to Aruba.

Cute, no?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
In our explorations today, we drove through some pretty diverse neighborhoods, all the way from opulent, movie-star mansions to banana republic rusted hulks. In your wildest dreams construction right next to seemingly abandoned, windowless shells. We only noticed one wood house, as most construction seemed to be cinder block. I wonder if it's reinforced? Makes one wonder, in case of earthquake. But I guess they don't have those here. Or hurricanes either, as a rule. earthquakes, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, beautiful beaches, refreshing ocean waters, friendly people, excellent food. Sounds pretty perfect to me.

We did have one low note, though. Our hotel beach towels were stolen from the rental car today while we were downtown. The car is a convertible with no trunk, so we just rolled them up and placed them pretty much out of sight behind the seats. I can't imagine why anyone would want them. They are generic sea-foam green and well used. I guess I should have just left them draped over the seat backs so the thief could see they weren't much! We weren't supposed to take them with us from the resort, though, so...uh, oh. [We fessed up at the front desk upon returning and asked them to please put two towels on our tab, but they said not to worry about it. They were irritated at the thief rather than at us, which just goes to show how nice the people are here, and how generous.]

Ah, well. Other than that, we've found it pretty amazing how safe Aruba is. You can go anywhere without having to be concerned at all. At least, that's been our experience so far on this adventure. The people are warm and friendly and helpful, and a man actually came over to the car to tell us he had noticed the thief and tried to stop him when he saw what the guy was up to, but the thief had outrun him. He seemed very disgusted with the whole thing and apologized over and over. I got the impression there's some concern on the part of the locals as to the backgrounds of folks who are being allowed to come here from other places to find employment or just to live. They feel Aruba's reputation is in danger. [This was just a couple of weeks before Natalee Holloway disappeared.]
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Aruba. I can hardly believe it. A week is just not long enough. Would two weeks be too long, I wonder?

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