Bon Bini! – Arubian for Welcome!
If the hustle of daily life is wearing on your relationship, I suggest a romantic vacation with your boo in Aruba. The desert island welcomes waves of couples every year and some have been coming consecutively for over 50 years. The secret is the island’s relaxed resort culture that also offers quaint timeshares through hotels like the Aruba Marriott. In fact, that’s where I had my first non-stop resort experience earlier this month and while I couldn’t bring my boo, I had plenty of good times by myself.
Aruba is a great little island with grand views and kind people. The Dutch colony’s native language is Papiamento, a mixture of Spanish, English and Portugese, but most also speak Dutch and English and thirteen percent speak Spanish. I wasn’t sure what Arubians look like — though now through Facebook, it turns out I have Arubian buddies — but through my personal survey of asking each chocolate person I saw where they were from, I discovered that most were from Curaçao. Meanwhile Arubians look a bit like Dominicans or Puerto Ricans with slightly more Native Indian roots. They even have a food called pastiche, which is basically an empanada with cheese. The capital is Oranjestad and the island’s population of 125,000 people is seventy-five percent Catholic, but pretty superstitious, so much so that my guide said that when some locals go into their homes after 12 p.m., they enter backwards to keep the spirits out. However my three-day stay at the Aruba Marriott wasn’t nearly so ominous.
Paddle Board Yoga
I don’t fancy myself an adventure traveller. I’m never signed up for a silent retreat or flown to New Zealand just to climb some mountains but I did take a paddle board yoga class during my trip. Baby steps. This activity might sound trite, but it’s not easy balancing on the ocean while doing a downward dog. I did well in the beginning. I stood up on my board and paddled my way to a rope in the near the shore where our instructor, Rachel Brathen, a thin blonde Swede, calmly and patiently walked us through the poses. Funny thing is, everything was great until I fell off my board. Once I was wet, each position was more difficult, because the board’s slippery, I was drenched and I really had to engage my core muscles. But once I regained my bearings, the class was fantastic. The sun warmed my body as myself and four others reached our arms and legs into wild positions. I surprised myself with my agility. But the best part was the class’s final moment, when our instructor asked us to thank our bodies for their work as we laid on our backs on the boards, and as I looked up at the cloudless blue sky, I thanked God for the very opportunity to be in that water like a fool.
Screaming Eagle and Aloe Vera Rum Punch
As a true Parlour lady, I appreciate a good drink and the Arubian twist on rum punch adds a local kick, aloe vera juice, which is plentiful on the island. I enjoyed the recipe below at the Marriott’s shoreline restaurant, dotted with private tables just waiting for a romantic dinner:
Aloe Rum Punch
¾ oz. Bacardi Rum
2 oz Aloe Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice
2 oz Orange Juice
1 dash Grenadine Red
On another night, we left the resort for a French fusion restaurant called the Screaming Eagle. I’m a cheese lover and as soon as I walked in there was a cheese board packed with different selections. So when our group was seated in white beds with plush headboards that served as our tables, I immediately asked for everything I’d seen. The chef was kind enough to make a special assortment of appetizers, including melon soup, fried blue cheese with jam, creme brulee pate with brioche and tuna tartar. Every morsel was delicious, but the sweet and salty flavor of the crème brûlée pâté was the evening’s star, that and the fact that I could take a nap on my table.
Mandara Spa and the Adult Pool
I’m a single woman with no children, so my idea of travelling never includes kiddies. However in Aruba, there were entire families at the Marriott but knowing there are people like me who just wanted to quietly lay out with a drink in hand, those geniuses built the grown-up friendly H2Oasis. The adult-only pool area, opened with a room key, is replete with cabanas, spacious beds dressed in modern decor and a fully stocked bar. It was perfect for my nap after beach tennis taught by a sunburnt Frenchman named Bertrand and my relaxing appointment at the resort’s Mandara Spa.
I swear by two things when I travel, taking a bath in the hotel room because I don’t have to clean it up and enjoying a massage followed by a long nap. In Aruba, I arrived early for my Mandara Spa appointment and was asked to choose from a collection of fragrances to perfume my massage. I choose something with lavender and was shown to a shower with three spouts, one for my head and two pointed at each of my thighs. It sounds aggressive but I loved it. Then, dressed in a robe, I was shown to another seating area, given a cold aromatic towel for my face and a hot cup of mint tea. After a few moments my massuesse called my name and gave my a fantastic full body rub down, including my scalp, and sent me off to the Oasis for a nap.
Aruba might be an island, but it’s one of the driest places I’ve ever visited. I was thirsty the entire trip but this made sense once my group took a De Palm open-top jeep tour, all we saw were mountains covered in cactus, dirt and rocks, interspersed with traditional houses called cunucus. Tackling the island, which is 19 miles long and 6.4 miles across at its widest point, we bumped along fine seeing the sights until we crossed into the Arikak Natural Park, and that’s when I had to hide. I was seated at the front of the jeep as our driver careened down a steep mountain toward the Natural Pool, and I just couldn’t stop imagining myself flying off out of the vehicle and tumbling down the hill … so I bent down and closed my eyes. Once we finally reached the opening for the pool, which is a small circle in the ocean surrounded by large rocks and populated by fish that look like Nemo, I hopped into water without fear. I mean, I’d made it through the wilderness, right? Just make sure you bring water shoes for the trip or you’ll be hopping across the rocks like you’re crossing fire, like I did.
Ultimately, I’d return to Aruba but probably with a love interest. It’s not really an island for parties like perhaps Jamaica but the slow pace and easy atmosphere does make you want to cuddle up so I can see why I was surrounded by couples at the Oranjestad airport. “Get a timeshare,” one of my airplane seat-mates suggested. “We come every year and I love it.” I have to say, I see her point.