We just returned from a trip to Aruba. It was shorter than we planned because Continental/United completely screwed up. Forgive me for venting before I share the fun stuff. First our flight from Buffalo was delayed because the flight crew got in late. Then there was a problem they were fixing. We finally got on the plane 2 hours or so late. It took off, flew for 15 minutes and turned around and came back to Buffalo with another mechanical problem. They could not get us to Newark in time for our connection. So they flew us there later in the day and stuck us in a hotel overnight and we were to fly out the next morning (to console ourselves, we took the train into NYC and ate at Basta Pasta, where they make a pasta dish that they mix up inside a wheel of Parmesan cheese). Late at night, the toilet in our room broke and we had to change rooms. The next morning we went to the airport and somehow they had canceled our tickets! They were able to get us on the flight, but not sitting together. We finally arrived in Aruba about 26 hours later than planned, losing an entire day.
My vent is over. Aruba is beautiful. It’s a desert island with palm trees, cacti and the famous divi divi tree (which always bends west due to the wind). It’s windy there but the wind felt good in the heat and kept the bugs away. The island is very Americanized, disappointingly so we thought. There are American chain restaurants everywhere. All the signs are in English. You can pay in American dollars everywhere. The high rise hotel area was tacky and crowded (fortunately our hotel was just past this nonsense).
We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris in a gorgeous oceanfront room. It was huge with a huge bathroom. One of the most comfortable rooms we’ve ever been in. The resort was beautiful with a huge pool and wonderful beach. The sand is soft, there are no shells and only a few pieces of coral. The water is an amazing turquoise and was saltier than any ocean water I’d been in before. It was about 87 during the day and 77 at night.
We visited the donkey sanctuary, saw the natural bridge, and drove north to the lighthouse. We walked the beach, swam, slept on the beach, and had a good time. The shopping was horrendous. There are lots of cruises so there are lots of designer stores and jewelry stores. There were NO artisan shops or galleries. The only nice shop was the mopa mopa store. Mopa mopa is a special technique. Boxes or figures are carved out of wood. Resin from the mopa mopa tree is boiled and stretched by hand and then hand applied to the boxes. It is colorful and amazing. We did track down one art exhibit at an art school where nothing was for sale other than little painted plates, so I bought one of those. I also bought soap at the donkey santuary (made from donkey milk) and a nice
The streets have no signs. NONE. There are no street numbers. And GPS is unreliable, going in and out all the time. Even though the island is only 20 miles long, we got lost several times. It was very frustrating. Even the concierge desk gave bad directions.
The people were friendly and the food was quite good. We enjoyed two dinnersat restaurants that have their tables right in the sand at the water’s edge. You kick off your shoes and eat with your toes in the sand. One illuminated the water (Flying Fishbone) which was pretty and the other(Passions) had tiki torches. We had lots of fish–Caribbean lobster, wahoo, grouper, shrimp, and crab. We also went to the The Old Cunucu Housefor lunch. A cunucu is a country house made of thick adobe type walls. This one was 150 years old. This restaurant serves tradtional Aruban food and we were anxious to try it. Bitterballen were deep fried meatballs. Pastechi were like empanadas filled with cheese. We also sampled deep fried chicken leg and the national dish keeshi yeni, described as stuffed cheese. It wasn’t really though – just shredded chicken in a sauce covered with cheese. There are lots of types of cornmeal sides – deep fried, pan fried, etc. We enjoyed this
taste of real Aruba, except we think my son had some bad shrimp (he had a shrimp cocktail) which meant we weren’t able to go out to
dinner our last night because he was ill.
The last day we were there was Aruba’s national flag and anthem day (think 4th of July). To celebrate, the hotel had a special brunch with native dishes, so we went to that. They had a deep fried cornmeal and cheese side called funchi that was fantastic. They also served oxtail stew (Mr. MarthaAndMe grew up on oxtail soup) and several other traditional dishes. It was fun, but a bit heavy for 8 in the morning, we thought!
When we travel to other countries, we always go to a grocery store and this one was very interesting. There are different types of grocery stores – many with Asian names and others that have English names. We went to one called Super Food. It was filled with Dutch people (Aruba is part of the Dutch Commonwealth, although it is now an independent country – similar to the relationship between Canada and the UK). People were speaking Dutch and many, many food items had Dutch packaging. Gouda is practically the national
cheese of Aruba (any dish you order with cheese has Gouda in it) and I was surprised to see they sell it sliced and packaged like we sell American cheese. We bought some Dutch cookies and chocolates. My son was excited by the potato chip flavors – it was Lay’s but they had Cheese and Onion, Paprika, Ham and Cheese and others we have never seen.
Overall, we had a nice time, but it was too short due to the airline screw up. I
wish we had had more time to explore or get out on the water.