Return to Aruba 2019

Normally, I write a day-by-day version of our trips, mostly for my own memory. That generally works, especially when each day presents different experiences.

And then there’s our recent trip to Aruba. We went with the full intention of doing the same thing every day:

  • Wake up to sunlight
  • Eat breakfast outside
  • Get two lounge chairs on the beach with a view of the ocean
  • Read and people-watch
  • Go in the ocean from time to time
  • Eat lunch outside
  • Return to the lounge chairs
  • Go inside to freshen up
  • Have dinner somewhere
Our daily plan, well executed.

For the four full days we were there, we followed the above itinerary. It was extremely relaxing.

Wednesday

I left very early for the airport so I could work from the lounge for a couple of hours. Virginia met me there. Our flight to Miami was the usual vacation flight: full with lots of families taking the trip. I snoozed after using my headphones to drown out the din.

We arrive at our hotel around midnight. The hotel we stayed at (St. Regis Bal Harbour) was ridiculous — thank goodness for points! We were in a standard room, which was about 600 sq. ft. We ordered room service as the restaurant kitchen had already closed for the evening. After dinner and dessert, we went to sleep.

Thursday

We woke up and enjoyed an excellent breakfast. We both took advantage of the buffet, knowing we wouldn’t have much chance for an enjoyable lunch.

The trip to the airport was marred by a taxi driver who wouldn’t stop ranting about Uber and other taxi drivers. But we got to the airport on time and hurried to the gate for our flight to Aruba.

Another vacation flight, another jet packed with families. The one in front of us was unusually inconsiderate, especially as the child kept using his tablet without headphones. Again, our headphones went on and we did our best to ignore the crowd.

We got off the plane as quickly as we could and raced to passport control. The machines worked perfectly and we were through in moments to meet our pre-arranged driver, Alex. He got us to Bucuti + Tara, our resort for the next several days, without problem, despite the traffic in Oranjestad.

The check-in process was lovely, with Madeline showing us all the way to our room where our bags already were. A glass of champagne at check-in doesn’t hurt, either. We changed into lighter clothes and went to have dinner outside at the beach bar. Fortunately, the full restaurant menu is available there, and we took advantage, having different fish dishes (grouper for me, mahi mahi for Virginia) and a bottle of Australian Viognier. And then back to the room for the evening.

Friday

We woke up late and stumbled down to breakfast around 9:30am. We had to wait a few minutes to get a table outside, but did so and proceeded to enjoy eggs, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and meat while looking out at the ocean.

After breakfast, we grabbed towels and found a spot on the beach for the day. I went into the water once, and we broke to have lunch at the restaurant, but otherwise stayed put for the day. Lots of reading and people-watching.

Around 3:45pm, we went to the gym for about 45 minutes before heading upstairs to shower and change for dinner. I got a little work done while we relaxed.

We walked up to dinner at Screaming Eagle, a restaurant unaffiliated with the winery (though they have a few bottles at outrageous prices). We had reserved the bed seating, which is fairly surreal. You relax in a king-sized bed with a tray table, and everything is served from the foot of the bed. We opted for duck breast and picanha steak (Virginia), and beef carpaccio and pan-seared reindeer (me) with a 2011 Freemark Abbey cabernet sauvignon. This was followed by chocolate mousse with 1994 Dow’s port (Virginia) and flan with Angels Envy bourbon (me). Completely satisfied, we walked back to the resort and bed.

Saturday

We started earlier in the day, but otherwise repeated yesterday: breakfast outside, followed by many hours of beach time. I swam more, going twice to the edge of the swim area and back, instead of exercising inside.

We had dinner at Senses restaurant within our resort, going for their romantic 6-course dinner on the beach. It was unfortunately windy but the view couldn’t be beat. The food and service were excellent. We also got to watch a marriage proposal in real time, which was sweet.

Sunday

Breakfast, beach, lunch, beach. I burned the previous day so I kept my shirt on much of the day. I also went into the ocean only once.

We ventured off the resort to Ike’s Bistro for dinner. We went with their chef’s choice tasting menu. The meal was good overall, though marred by a couple of missteps (the fish was overcooked; they got Virginia’s after-dinner drink wrong). After dinner, we went back to our room for a while.

My pixelated shot of the moon in full eclipse.

Around 11:30pm, we went outside to witness the lunar eclipse. We talked to several people heading back from the resort bar about it as the moon started entering Earth’s shadow. We stayed outside until almost 1am to get several minutes of the full eclipse before finally going to bed.

Monday

We started the day as usual, and it was excellent as usual. Around noon, we packed up and walked north along the coast to the high-rise resort area. Our first stop was lunch at Gilligan’s Seafood Shack at the Hilton resort. It was surprisingly good — we had fish tacos and a lobster roll, and the food came fairly quickly. The quick service meant we could walk more leisurely to our primary destination: a shoreline cruise on the Black Pearl catamaran.

We did the same cruise on our first visit to Aruba and I loved it so much I insisted we repeat the experience. The Black Pearl holds only twenty passengers, in contrast to the larger party boats that roam up and down the coast. We settled into our lounge chairs and were served our first rum punches (always order the house special) of the afternoon. For the next three hours, we relaxed, I snorkeled (they have prescription masks!), and then we enjoyed their famous grilled cheese sandwiches with more rum punch as the sun set off our shoulder. A perfect end to a wonderful day.

Tuesday

We work up very early because we were told to be at the airport three hours before our flight. We arrived at the airport around 7:20am, only to find that the area for flights to the US didn’t open until 8am. Once it did, we raced through passport control and into the lounge to get coffee and do a little work (just me – Virginia could more fully relax).

Our flight to Miami was easy enough. However, weather back home was causing flight cancellations throughout the afternoon. We anxiously watched our flight and those before it while debating whether to change to an alternate flight and then drive several hours home. We ended up sticking to our flight, which was delayed multiple times but ultimately took off. The captain was awesome and managed to land the plane on a snowy runway with no drift or skid whatsoever. We all profusely thanked him and the crew for getting us home safely.

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