Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Aruba Part IV (Miami, actually)

Sunday morning was our last day in Aruba.  :o( 

We woke up early and enjoyed a nice breakfast before hitting the hotel's souvenir shop.  Normally I would not be interested in getting souvenirs from a hotel, but an odd thing happened on Saturday: the hotel's water shut off!!  Apparently a water pipe burst and the WHOLE HOTEL WAS OUT OF WATER, can you believe that??????  That is about the worst thing that can happen to a hotel (barring tragedy of course).  It didn't affect us since we were out all morning sightseeing.  But they struck a deal with Marcus' company and gave everyone a $200 hotel credit.  Since we still had enough food credit for breakfast, we used the whole bonus on hats, bags, and other gifts.  It was fun to have a shopping spree.

one last poolside session
a nice breakfast (buffet, just what I wanted!)
Driving to the airport: one of the cruise ships docked for
the day (it was massive!)
Bye bye Aruba!
Looking down on our corner of the island
We left Aruba at about 4 or 5pm in the afternoon, with the plan to stay the night in Miami and leave very early the next morning for Portland via Dallas/Fort Worth.  Marcus chose this arrangement because other itineraries had us flying through the east coast or midwest…not smart in February!

But…when we woke up early Monday morning (3am) Marcus found out that our flight to Dallas was cancelled.  Do you remember the big snow/ice storm Texas had in mid February?  (Patty, I'm sure you do!!!)  Well, that was it.  I was completely devastated.  The trip to Aruba was fun but I wanted to be home with my kids and my parents.  I had planned a full day on Tuesday of just putzing around outside with my dad and spending time with my mom as well, before they had to leave Wednesday morning.  Now, Marcus and I wouldn't leave for home until Tuesday mid-morning, and we would arrive in Portland in the evening.  This delay was NOT in my plans!

After being a miserable depressed wreck for a few hours (ok, half a day) we decided that since we were stuck in Miami for the whole day, we might as well do something.  My kind husband (probably scared of me at this point) said, "Whatever you want to do, sweetie."  I wanted to walk around a garden, and we found this fabulous place called Vizcaya just 15 minutes from our hotel.  Check out the link if you can--my pictures do NOT do it justice.

Viscaya was built in 1914 by James Deering of International Harvester (tractors) fame.  He wanted a summer home that was reminiscent of old Europe, especially 17th century Italy.  He and his designer took many trips to Europe to buy antiques, from furniture to paintings to whole walls (!).  Marcus and I took an audio tour and we were very glad we did.  Photos were not allowed in the house so all these are from the gardens:

Deering had this fake ship/pier built for parties.  Guests had
to take a gondola across the small stretch of water.
Looking out from one side of the house
Looking back at the house
A lot of local limestone was used, but it looked
like it was very old cobblestone.
A very popular spot for photographers.
We saw shoots for quinceaneras and weddings.

It wasn't all play--Marcus had to work a bit.

I'm really glad we took this little trip to Viscaya.  It lifted my spirits!  If you ever find yourself in Miami, consider a half-day trip to this wonderful museum and gardens.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Aruba Part III

Saturday was our last full day in Aruba.  We had decided to rent a car for the day and see what this little country had to offer.

Breakfast at a regular deli.  It was recommended by the guide
book, and even though the food wasn't Aruban (it was French)
it was a very good choice.  I love bagels!!
The common languages in Aruba are English (whew!), Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento.  The latter is a hybrid language that started in the 17th century when Sepharidic Jews migrated with their African slaves from Brazil.  The slaves spoke a little Portuguese, some Dutch, and Arawakan.  There are some Spanish and English words thrown it.  The result is an amazing language that is so interesting to try to read!  Apparently there's no uniform spelling or grammar and has just been handed down through the generations.

About 4 or 5 miles from our hotel (which is at the end of the
tourist road) is the downtown area.

We walked in the "downtown" area for a bit but quickly found that it wasn't for us.  A lot of little tchotchky shops and a lot of very high-end shops.  I found out later that Aruba has good prices on jewelry (for US tourists) and clothing (for South American tourists…in the US we can find any high-end clothing brand for less money, apparently).  We didn't find any interesting museums or exhibits, and it seemed everything was set up for the cruise ship travelers (which makes sense, since during the daytime there can be ~thousands~ of tourists from the ships!).

One of the highlights was this pretty building.
Aruba is a Dutch island--actually, an independent entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  I thought it was very interesting that the first Dutch colonial governor was Peter Stuyvesant, who was also the LAST Dutch Director-General of New Amsterdam…before the English took over and renamed it New York.

I liked this little channel as well.
The guide book did have some options for lunch, but we were still full from breakfast so we just planned on an early dinner.  We decided to leave town and spend the rest of the afternoon at the resort.

On the main road in the tourist area.
We stopped by a grocery store on the way back.
 For dinner we wanted authentic Aruban food.  We had a couple of choices in our area, so we chose the one that opened earliest since we needed to be at Mass by 7pm.  The Old Cunucu House ("cunucu" means little house in Papiamento) was wonderful:

A painting of the restaurant.
We first had some funchi, a classic Aruban cornmeal "pancake."  For our main dish Marcus ordered the keshi yena (a meat-and cheese-heavy casserole) and I had a type of stew with beef (typically goat but Marcus didn't want to try that).  Everything was fantastic!

We had just enough time to make a visit to the Alto Vista chapel.  This was the first church on the island and it's located in the northwest corner.
Stations of the Cross on the way up.
 The scenery was amazing.  It was like being on the moon (if the moon had huge cacti).  Totally rocky, windy, dry, stark.  We could see--and hear--the other side of the island (see it in the photos) where the sea is very rough.  So different from the protected south side where all the resorts are.

This windblown tree is a "divi divi" tree.  No matter where
you are on the little island, you can always get back to the
nice beaches if you follow the tree.  (This one had a huge
cactus growing in the same place as well).

We made it down the hill and to Mass just in time.  St. Ann's was a beautiful church; I really enjoyed all the wood carvings at the altar:

To our great surprise and pleasure, we found out that Mass was being said in the native Papiamento language!  This was such a special experience, just to think about how it was the very same Mass that I knew, but yet it was so different.  What I thought was a simple Sunday obligation became a memory I will always treasure.  Funny how that works!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Aruba Part II

Our next day in Aruba was a Friday, and it was pretty low-key.  One of the perks of these trips is that the guests can choose an activity.  This time, our options were a national park tour, 4-wheeling across the countryside, golf, or spa massage.  Guess what one I chose???  ;o)  Actually, if I didn't have Celeste, I probably would've toured the park.  Instead, Marcus and I traded off and we each had a massage.  Mine was 9am and his was 2pm.  In between, we lounged on the beach:

Check out the guy wearing these cool
water jet-shoes!
We had lunch delivered to our umbrella.
(Notice anything wrong with this picture?)
Marcus took Celeste in the water for a bit (she was not happy).
Now she's happy!!!
Lots of little blue-green lizards like this one.
In the afternoon, I moved to the pool while Marcus had his spa appointment then hung out with coworkers.  Celeste took a nap…for, like, three hours!!!!  It was great just to lay around and read my new-to-me book from the Shopaholic series (found at the lending book basket at the towel/sunscreen counter by the pool).
getting to be evening--pool cleared out
Marcus had an evening event to attend, and he was told "no kids" so I sent him up to get ready.  When he came down, Celeste was still napping!  The plan was for me to take her back to the room when she woke up, and then just order room service for myself.

Marcus, ready for his beach party dinner thing.
When he got to the party, everyone asked where Celeste and I were!  Apparently "no kids" meant no big kids; infants were OK.  So I ran upstairs and got changed (no shower, ick) and came back down to join him:

Lots of the ladies (and some of the guys)
wanted to spend time with Celeste.  :o)
Of course, it's not all play--here is Marcus conducting some
business (toes in the sand).

I forgot to mention, each night in our room we were treated with a special surprise.  Wednesday night was a bottle of Aruban rum, Thursday night was a box of candies, and this night was cookies and milk.  How cute!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Aruba Part I

About time!  I'm finally chronicling a little of our trip to Aruba.  (In case anyone is wondering why I am posting the story over a month late…it's because I like to have these posts to look back on.  I didn't end up creating posts for the Italy trip 2.5 years ago, or Erica's wedding 1.5 years ago, and I really wish I did so I could reminisce at the click of a button.  So I'm trying really hard to get things thrown on here, at least.)  :o)

So, Aruba….  Marcus is in sales for a mid-size American software company, and part of an incentive to do well is a "reward" trip each year.  Marcus had already been on 4 trips in the last 5 years, and I've joined him on 3 of them (he took his BIL Shane on one trip, when I had a 1-year-old that I couldn't leave at home).  We have been to Costa Rica and Hawaii--Lanai and Kona.  The past four trips were with Marcus as an individual salesperson, but this time he qualified as a manager (VP).  He runs a group of about 40-50 directors and salespeople, and this group was responsible for over half the company's sales--over $140 million!  

Anyway, here we are on this most recent trip:

In Seattle, waiting for our redeye to Miami.
We made it!  Celeste was fantastic on all 3 flights.
There was a bus waiting to take us to the resort.
Notice Celeste is in the same outfit--no blowouts, thank goodness!
Relaxing in our room after a small reception by the pool.
(no pics, I didn't take my camera)
The next morning: view from our room.  The hotel
(Ritz-Carlton Aruba) is U-shaped with most rooms facing the
beach and the pools.  We were on one of the wings.  The view
wasn't as "good" but we quickly realized we preferred this more
private arrangement.  It was very peaceful, and we didn't have
hotel guests looking at us from below.  :o)
The first morning was a casual breakfast
and a "business meeting" for Marcus.  They
have to talk a little business to count this as
a true "business trip."  The meeting lasted
about 30 minutes.  ;o)
Meanwhile, I took a walk around the property.
When Marcus was done, we walked up the road (that you can
see from our balcony).  The left-most building is our hotel.

These party boats looked like a lot of fun.

view from our room
artistic filter

Marcus sitting by the pool talking to some
work people (he is in orange).

light lunch in the lobby bar  (mid-afternoon)
The company gave everyone a hotel credit to cover meals, since we only had a few group events that we had to go to.  The rest was on our own.  This is the first trip with this company…the other companies had more group meals.  I kinda like this new set-up!  We got to go on mini-dates all week (with a tag-along, of course):

Sunset dinner at one of the hotel restaurants
We were very lucky that our "third wheel" took a nice long nap in her carseat for our WHOLE dinner!
Steak, and truffle ravioli