Aruba – Part 1April 29, 2006 at 3:41 am | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment
Here I sit in the lobby of the Costa Linda Beach Resort in Aruba, sweating. It is around 90 degrees here with a good breeze but it is muggy and feels like 95+.
Why Aruba? I requested a timeshare exchange for a handful of resorts in the Caribbean which have decent SCUBA diving. The Costa Linda on Aruba was one of them although I would have preferred to get an exchange to the much smaller Turks & Caicos Islands but the resorts are very limited there. Belize was another option. Can't remember the others.
Along with neighboring islands Bonaire and Curacao, known as the ABC islands, we sit 19 miles north of the coast of Venezuela and 750 miles north of the equator, and boy does it feel like it.
Future itinerary planning reminder: Avoid flying through Miami at all costs if you have to change airlines in Miami. You have to go back through security in Miami just to get to another concourse. How lame. The airport is a zoo and you feel like you are in South America. I found the Jewish Sugar Daddys and their young blonde girlfriends and wives to be quite amusing. Actually, in Chicago, on the way to Miami, I was singled out along with an Amish guy to get the full security screening. I didn't realize Amish were allowed to fly. Boy did he have bad BO. I suspect I was singled out because I was traveling alone and was not wearing business attire in addition to fulfilling a random quota. The Miami airport also has lots of South American and Carribean families going home and checking some of the largest suitcases I've ever seen in my life. I started to wonder if they had stashed a family member in one of them.
The Costa Linda is a decent resort nothing super fancy, but clean and nice. Beautiful grounds and a nice pool with lots of different kinds of lizards running around in the bushes. (Place is a little nicer than the Sheraton Vistana units in Orlando.) The beach is spectacular, much wider and nicer than those in Grand Cayman. The sand isn't quite as fine and sugar like as the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John) but whiter and finer than Hawaii. The water is a beautiful tourqouis like the three or four other islands I visited in the Caribbean and it is warm – very warm – 81 degrees.
The tiny downtown area though, called Oranjestad, is nothing special. It is probably the one of the least notable towns of any tropical island I've ever seen. There is no consistency to the architecture style. One building looks like an Arab Mosk on top, the next building looks like it belongs in Matzatlan, then the next building says 'Little Switzerland'. It's a Cruise Ship port so there are all the vendor booths by the bay. I don't know why a cruise ship would stop here except for the beaches. Walk a few blocks in and you feel like you are in Haiti or something with a vacant lots, torn down buildings, and construction everywhere (I'll try to get some pictures later.) The town has a grungy feeling. But when you go to the beautiful beaches, or posh resorts, the memory of the town quickly fades. Coincidentally development of the big, posh resorts is taking place at the opposite end of the island far away from the town center.
The island is only 9 miles by 16 miles. Four languages are spoken here. A few establishments speak (and have menus) in Dutch since it is a Dutch Colony. Others are speaking something that sounds like a cross between Italian and Spanish called Pompiamento – the local language, similar to Spanish. Everyone who works here must know English and Spanish also since tourists come from the North and South America (mostly the US.) I don't really have a flavor for the people yet and their attitudes toward Americans.
The strangest thing happened last night. There were huge lines of cars at the gas station and they were only for 4 of the 16 pumps, the 4 FULL service pumps. The station is empty today. The bartender has no explanation why no one was using the self service pumps. The gas prices here are 1.71 per litre – that's local currency which is .55 US dollars = $0.94 per litre and they ONLY SELL Premium. That's $3.55 per gallon. And 19 miles away in Venezuela the gas prices are around $0.25 per gallon or less.
The resort is nice but the restaurant is pretty bad and very expensive. Can't remember in recent memory where I've paid so much for such lousy food. Won't be going back there but we had to as we were starved and tired when we arrived at 8:30 PM last night.
Went SCUBA diving today. About 6 of us diving. Decent diving. Saw a boat wreck, and lots of sea life. Not as good as Grand Caymen though (expected). Scott and I re-inacted the movie 'Open Water' on the second dive. The divemaster said to go down as soon as we jumped in, Scott and I were first, at which point we were caught in a light current (2-3 MPH) and the visibility was only about 30 feet so by the time the other divers got in the water and went down, we couldn't see them, so we looked for everyone for about 10 minutes then spent the rest of the dive floating up on top keeping an eye on the boat until it picked us up 30 minutes later. We didn't want to drift off to South America and get eaten by sharks. The divemaster didn't get a very good tip today.
When we went to go eat lunch today, almost nothing was open! They are celebrating the Queen's Birthday (Queen of the Netherlands). My friend Alex would ask them if she was 'hot' if he was here. Her real birthday is tomorrow but since it is a Sunday, they celebrate it today. Monday is Labor Day in the Netherlands so essentially nothing is open except the night clubs and the hotel restaurants for the next three days (grocery store is open 9A-1P). Everything is expensive as it is in all Island resorts I've been to including Hawaii.
They have a local beer, award winning, called Balashi. Light bodied. Good stuff.
Had a great dinner at the Driftwood tonight. The interior is all covered in actual driftwood. Owner himself catches the fresh fish of the day. Not a cheap place as it appears nothing is cheap here. We will probably eat at Taco Bell for lunch tomorrow.
Drinking water is superb – rated as some of the best water in the world made from desalinization on the island.
Looking forward to the rest of our stay has to bring…