Traveling Part II–Aruba Vacation (Day II)

Aruba from the air

This morning we woke up from our ridiculously expensive three star hotel room in Philly to catch our early morning flight to paradise…..Aruba. The airport wasn’t too busy, though the security screening took FOREVER!!! Who only has two lanes open for international flights??? And then they ran out of those little bin things and we had to wait FOREVER for them to bring more….come on now, at least be prepared airport peeps!!

 

So after we check in and do our thing, we realize we aren’t sitting together….again. But we did get the exit row right by the door so we were first to get off and had a ton of leg room which was nice. The flight wasn’t full so I had the window and the guy next to me took the isle so I had some space. It seems like a lot of people who go to Aruba are from the east coast….mainly New Yorkers and the like. Everyone on our flight were from some east coast-ish town/city and they were all retirement age or there abouts. So the guy next to me was a chatter from Poughkeepsie NY and even though I tried to ignore……he just kept talking. There must be something about my over all person that says ‘hi please talk to me’. I feel like I am the most stand off-ish person in the world and yet people flock to me like they have to win me over or something….don’t ask me why!!!

Aruba from the air again

The flight to Aruba from Philly is about another four hours and I passed the time reading (and trying to ignore my neighbor) while Sammy watched a movie and slept (lucky!!). About 12:00 we touched down in Aruba. While making the decent, the island seemed to appear out of no where….miles and miles of teal water and then all of a sudden this small spit of land starts to appear…..it was absolutely breathtaking to see from the air. We landed and as soon as the flight attendant opened the door (I was one of the first out for once in my life) I was greeted with a rush of hot, humid, salty sea air. In that moment I knew one thing….I was going to FRY! It was so humid in the exit ramp I literally thought I would never breath again and I was instantly sweating like a rabid beast!

 

There were four or five local porters at the ramp that were there to pick up the old people needing wheelchairs and other handicap passengers. I was totally taken back by their appearance and language. All of them were dark skinned (like Sammy) but had light blue or light hazel eyes and lighter hair. Ethnically they obviously hand some African decent mixed with Hispanic blood as well…..all very attractive and the opposite light eyes with dark skin was very exotic looking.

Sammy and I at the airpot

Their language is a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese with a Jamaican/Africa lit (Papiamento)…..very island sounding. The official language spoken here is Dutch (since Aruba is part of the Netherlands and the Lesser Antilles Islands) but the main language spoken is Papiamento though most of the locals all speak at least five languages fluently (Dutch, English, Spanish, Papiamento, and another choice language which is usually French, Portuguese, or German). Some also speak various African dialects depending if they are African immigrants (Aruba is home to lots of immigrants from Africa such as the Ivory Coast and Gahanna).

 

After clearing Aruban Customs we caught our bus from the airport to the hotel. We bought our ticket with De Palms bus transport when we bought the trip but it was not necessary as there were lots of taxis and other transport available which would have cost about the same (we paid $40.00, $20.00 each, for round trip drop off and pick up in Aruba).

Thank God we decided to only travel with a carry on……it was so hot and the airport terminal was so small I am so glad we each had the one suitcase. BTW, Aruba…..has the SMALLEST bathroom on earth!!! There was ONE, yes only ONE bathroom in the airport terminal. The ladies bathroom had 3 stalls and it was narrow and hard to maneuver so I am glad I only had the one suitcase. Sam said the guys bathroom was the same way!!

Anyway, I digress….back to the bus ride. The bus was a little iffy….it was a five speed (I didn’t even know they made buses as a five speed!!!) and with the heat and humidity….it was a little nauseating to ride from the airport to the hotel but convenient which sometimes you just can’t put a price on!! It’s about a 15 min drive from the airport to Palm Beach (the main high rise hotel part of the island) the area where we stayed and as we drove through the capital city (Oranjestad) I couldn’t help but notice how run down the town area is.

Many of the side streets and neighborhoods that we drove through were like driving through some Mexican back alleys. Lots of small stucco, adobe style houses painted bright yellow or orange. There wasn’t piles of trash or anything but the neighborhoods did have trash in their yards which was surprising for me but then again…..most tourist based countries and towns keep the tourist areas pristine.

We arrived at our hotel about 1:30 and dropped off our bags, we couldn’t check in till 3:30 so we decided to walk around a bit and sit on the beach to relax until we could get into our room. I am SO glad we had the wherewithal to wear cool clothing and sandals when we left Philly! I wore a nice linen shirt and roll up cargo pants/capris….it was so ungodly hot and humid….I can’t say it enough…..I just was NOT prepared to sweat like that!! Ironically enough since my hair is naturally curly I thought with the humidity it would look AMAZING…..so you can imagine my surprise when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized my hair was flat and greasy with NO curls!! WTF!!

We stayed at Brickell Bay Beach Club (BB for short) which is right across from the Occidental Hotel (a big high rise right on the beach). BB is not on the beach but it is close enough and budget-wise….worth the money. It is about $100 a night and though you aren’t right on the beach it is close enough to the beach to walk, and right by all the ‘action’…..the Occidental was like $180 a night so unless you care about being right on the beach, BB was perfect.

We walked over to the beach and honestly….it was just like it looks in the post cards. White sandy beaches, tiki huts with lounge chairs, cool fruity drinks, clear warm water, palm trees, and a soft warm trade wind keep you cool. Like I said when I got off the airplane….I knew I was toast….burnt toast!!! First order of the day….MUST HAVE SUNSCREEN which I neglected to pack—-I did this on purpose since I knew I needed more than the 3 oz. that the TSA would allow me to carry on, I thought I would buy some when I got to Aruba. I did buy some Aruba Aloe sunscreen at our hotel which was on the spendy side ($19 USD) but it was worth every cent because it worked well and was not greasy.

Sam and I found a nice little spot under a tiki hut and ordered some drinks….Malibu and pineapple for me and an Aruban Relaxor for Sammy (some rum drink with pineapple, coconut, passion fruit and guava juice??? Not sure all the ingredients but it was good!!).

For the next hour we just sat there and people watched sipping our drinks :). We saw lots of interesting people…..no Lil John but still interesting!! One thing which surprised me was I found myself thinking more often than not…..just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it!! When I think tropical location, I think tanned, toned bodies….not necessarily the case here. Clearly ‘body image’ is not a problem for some. There were of course some REALLY in shape people and good looking peeps in bikinis and trunks but more or less, it was older out of shape (or just ‘average’) peeps in too small bikinis and speedos.

I couldn’t believe how many Brazilian style bikinis we saw….and in some cases, thongs!  I mean really???? Why even bother?? I guess I understand the women and their ity-bity tiney-winey bikinis but the men and their speedos??? I didn’t see ANY at the stores I looked at in Oregon….but then again it’s Oregon. Apparently they are a hot item for men, particularly the older men. And the choice color…..you guessed it…..WHITE. Let me just tell you…..white when it is wet….there are no secrets!!!!

After people watching, we cooled off our feet in the ocean and then made our way back toward our hotel. We still had an hour and decided to grab something to eat while we waited. Since our hotel was right next to Hooters and since none of the other restaurants were open (besides the Burger King) we went there.

On our way to Hooters we stopped at an ATM to get cash. Normally I recommend exchanging cash via ATM’s because you only get hit with the exchange rate fee the one time and if you take out the max amount of cash for the day you usually get the better exchange rate automatically. I hate going to those little exchange places at the airport because they hit you with the exchange rate, your bank fee, and then their fee. So $200 USD might only be $130 Euros when it’s all said and done (those are random numbers NOT actual exchange rates etc). Anyway well in Aruba their currency is the Florin, $1.00 USD equals $1.75 Florin roughly. The ATM gave us the option of USD or Florin,  so since we are in Aruba we thought we should get the Florin. BIG MISTAKE….all the prices EVERYWHERE (except the gas station) are in USD. So we took out $200 in Florin money…..ya that took FOREVER to spend…..and headed to Hooters.

One would think Hooters would be more or less the same as in the USA but….not really. The hamburgers were more or less the same (though Sam didn’t think so) but they are served with a side of either baked beans or coleslaw???? WEIRD, we had to order fries separate and at an extra charge LOL. We paid in Florins which was a challenge for not only the waitress but for us as well trying to figure out the conversion etc. and then we went to our hotel to check in.

Our room was more or less like any other hotel room…..nothing to write home about but still had the standards and amenities……they did give us two free drinks at the hotel swim bar through which was sweet!! So we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the beach to watch our first sunset and do some swimming.

Now while the white, powdery beaches look all nice and inviting…..the sand sticks to you like maple syrup!!! I suppose it’s the salt water…..my body was covered in sand (even after I washed off at the outdoor shower station) and my hair was a nasty, greasy nightmare. We swam in the ocean for a while to cool off and just before sunset we got out to watch from a tiki hut. The ocean, while clear and warm does have a lot of coral, shells, and rocks which was a bit rough on my feet……not overly painful but still uncomfortable.

At Palm Beach and some of the other beaches around the island, there was a lot of seaweed in the surf so that was a little annoying….there’s nothing like swimming and having slimy seaweed stuck to your legs or worse yet, getting it in your mouth!! The waves break in a soothing manor and are enough to rock you to sleep if you aren’t careful, but when the ‘tide’ comes in (I never did feel like we had a high/low tide but surely there is one) the swells/breaks are a little higher than usual and can catch up unaware.

We got out of the water just as the sun was setting. The catamarans carrying tourists by the boat were sailing off into the sunset on their cruises while the beachside bars were closing up shop for another day. The sunbathers and speedo wearers were all but gone….replaced by wedding ceremonies and couples looking for romance lined the beach to watch the sunset together (us being one of them). That’s when it hit us…..we are truly in paradise and incredibly lucky. There just aren’t words to describe the sunsets in Aruba…..breathtaking is the only one that comes to mind. Over all, a perfect end to a perfect day in paradise…..one day down (well one/two-ish if you include travel) and another four to go!!! Until next time Dear Reader, I will drink a Malibu and pineapple for you all!! Cheers to vacations!!

 

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