As some of you know, traveling has recently become a bigger part of my job. As things like this go, an opportunity for a site review came up with very little notice, and at a crappy time for bringing the rest of the family.
My client, also a very busy professional and a mom, sensed a little guilt.
“You go,” she told me. “Just you. It’ll be good for your soul.”
I don’t know. My soul is actually doing just fine. Winter doesn’t depress me. I love not sweating. And all my favorite clothes are best worn in layers. Besides which, with me being my normal, procrastinating self, I have yet to start in on the holiday prep.
I’m serious. And here we are at T-minus two weeks to Christmas or something crazy like that.
But I’m not stupid. Someone says “we need you in Aruba,” and I’m halfway to the airport before you can blink.
I’m just a giver like that.
So, in a teensy nutshell, that’s how things like this happen.
Which is why I’m suddenly posting obnoxious photos of sunsets and crap on Facebook while everyone at home is battening down the hatches for a fairly good winter storm and thinking not so charitable thoughts about their good friend, Beth.
For someone who is not in desperate need of sunshine in the middle of December, I’ve had the good fortune to get more than my share in places like Hawaii and Cancun, neither of which suck, even the tiniest bit.
I have to say, though, even compared with those destinations, I’m digging Aruba a little bit more than I thought I would. Even when it involves getting a little inappropriately personal with the fauna.
This trip has been coordinated by the Aruba Convention Bureau. We’re hosted by, among others, the Hyatt Regency on the world-renowned Palm Beach, just outside Oranjestad.
Aruba is a Caribbean island 14 miles off the coast of Venezuela, about 6 miles wide and just under 20 miles long, and surrounded by that crazy Caribbean blue water you think can’t be real when you see it in photos. The temperature hovers in the mid 80s to low 90s most of the time, but I’m not sweating like I normally would because there is a constant wind blowing across the island. This wind makes the North side of the island virtually uninhabitable, but it’s less fierce by the time it reaches the resort area on the south side. The Island is arid and dry, unlike other Caribbean islands. It also has the distinct advantage of being located outside the hurricane zone.
Aruba has been under Dutch control since the mid 1600s, and is today an autonomous state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its citizens travel under a Dutch passport and it’s not uncommon for students to study in Holland for a time. Many of the population are of mixed African, Caquetio Indian and European ancestry. The primary languages are Dutch, Spanish, English (required in schools), and the local language, Papiamento, along with some Portuguese and French. I’m not sure, but it sounds to me like locals are prone to switching back and forth between multiple languages in a single conversation.
Unfortunately, and as per usual, my fluency not only in Pig Latin but also Sarcasm as well as English has failed to impress anyone here.
Much of my time has been spent with a group touring resort hotels up and down Palm Beach, most of which include shops and casinos as well as fantastic restaurants, and I’m likely to return home with a few extra pounds around my midsection.
Last night, our group was hosted on a sunset sail, and I was lucky to get a few photos while balancing my drink and avoiding getting blown off the boat.
Today, we took a jeep tour of Arikok National Park on the North side of the island. The park is about a 15-minute drive from our hotel. In an open-sided van in that kind of wind, conversation is only possible if you don’t mind yelling while strings of spit fly out of your mouth.
Before the tour, we stopped for breakfast and sampled some traditional Aruban-style tamales (wrapped in banana leaves), croquetas, breads and cheeses. The food was fantastic, of course, but the stars of the show were the landscape and this fantastic table setting. I’d call it a centerpiece, but that doesn’t do it justice.
Afterward, we toured the coast on the windward side of the island, saw some ruins of the island’s gold rush history, and later hung onto the sides of the jeep for dear life for some off-roading. Seriously, if you’re going to tour the park, I can highly recommend hiring one of the destination management services. We were hosted by De Palm Tours, and they know how to navigate the terrain while keeping us entertained.
Tonight we’re touring the Ritz Carlton and sampling a little more Aruba night life (I’ve just gotten rid of my headache from last night’s rum punch, thank you). Tomorrow we have a couple more tours and an afternoon of snorkeling before our trip comes to an end.
I’ve been too busy to blog daily about this trip, as is my habit when I travel, but I’ll give at least one more update before we’re done, complete with some more detail about the island and tips for travel here.
Whether or not your soul needs it, and with or without family.
Apologies for any errors or typos in this entry. It truly takes a good few hours to get one of these out there in cyberspace. I’ll review and correct later for all of you who want to point out stupid crap I missed because I’m in a hurry (you people know who I’m talking about).
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