Travels in Aruba 2016 – part three

Spence and I decided to check out some new spots while in Aruba on this trip which led us to the Hilton Inn.  We visited their casino, small, quiet but with good drink service and suprisingly, generous slots!

After the casino, we strolled through the hotel and decided to visit their pool bar, Gilligan’s Beach Bar and Grill.  I had a delicious Pina Colada, Spence – Aruba’s own beer, Balashi.

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We perused their menu and decided on an early dinner. I ordered the Foccacia with Prosciutto Flatbread and Spence opted for the Gourmet Bacon Cheeseburger, both were delicious. This was a fun spot with both servers and guests engaged in a rousing soccer game between Manchester and Real Madrid that was being televised on screens over the bar. Good times.

As we left, we investigated sounds from exotic birds near the pool bar and found these beauties.

Follow along with this series, Travels in Aruba 2016 – there’s more to come.  Also, check out my October 2015 series Travels in Aruba!

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part two

Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort is our home away from home in Aruba.  An adults-only resort, they truly cater towards couples and a romantic, care-free experience.  This year we were ready to experience something unique – a movie under the starlit sky.  Each Sunday and Wednesday, they select a movie and this time was An Officer and a Gentleman, a movie I hadn’t seen in years and Spence had never seen.  With front row seats, we lounged on the beach on a balmy night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Very romantic!

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Projected on a large white wall, a very young Debra Winger and Richard Gere, wonderful performances. So enjoyable.

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Lou Gossett Jr is wonderful in his role

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part one

Spence and I got home a week ago from a return trip to our beloved Aruba.  Last October we travelled there and had so much fun that four days later, we booked two weeks in May to coincide with my 60th birthday.

Those who’ve followed this blog may recall my 15 part series, Travels in Aruba from 2015.  Hands down, it collectively brought the most activity to Spence’s Girl since it’s launch. I’m hopeful that you’ll enjoy this series as well.

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Starting the trip with an airport mimosa as we traveled Flint to Atlanta to Aruba.
We awoke well before the crack of dawn to arrive at the airport to check our bags by 4:00 a.m. and took off shortly after 6:00.

Arriving at our final destination around 2:30, we picked up our rental car and headed a short distance to Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort.  Having stayed there last trip, there was no question that we’d return there, we’d even requested and got the same room.

Upon our arrival, we were offered cool, lavender scented cloths to wipe away the travel grime – and a glass of ice cold champagne.  Nicole, who we’d met last year at check-in, took care of the formalities this year and got us settled in.  As always, they’d provided lovely welcome gifts.

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Chilled wine, gouda, crackers, cookies & Aruba Aloe lotion!
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Knowing that the first of two daily cocktail hours commences at 4:00, we scooted down to the Sand Bar for drinks and our first sunset of the trip.  Life is good!

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A little Prosecco

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Exhausted but we made it! 
We opted for night one to have dinner at Elements, the restaurant at Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, which we think is the best on Aruba.  The menu is creative, food delicious, presented beautifully and excellent service guaranteed.

For our first night, we opted for a light meal and the selection of appetizers was very appealing…..what to choose???

Stay tuned for more in this new series……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

59 Candles, 59 Things – part forty nine

Fifty seventh thing:  Today I celebrate my 60th birthday and that makes me happy.

There are still two posts remaining in this series started one year ago on my 59th birthday.  I’m enjoying my second week in Aruba with Spence, back at our beloved Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort.  This is my view this morning.

And these two visitors stopped by to sing Happy Birthday!

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We’re off to enjoy a fabulous breakfast, a walk on the beach and a lazy day lounging and reading as they bring us cold adult beverages.

And while I don’t feel any older as I start this new decade, I do feel lucky to have made it and am very happy indeed.

Travels in Aruba – part fifteen or Top Ten Things I Love about Aruba

Here are my Top Ten Things I love about Aruba:

  1. US Currency is accepted in addition to the Aruba Florin.  Prices are posted in both currencies, even slot machines and bill breakers in casinos use US Currency.  It’s easy!
  2. They drive on the proper side of the road – this is great if you’re renting a car as we did.  And for once, I did all the driving (usually Spence drives) and it was very easy to get around.  Even with the round-abouts.
  3. The people are friendly! Known as One Happy Island, Aruba has the most delightful people. We didn’t encounter one person who wasn’t smiling. I suppose if you live in paradise there’s a reason to be happy every day.
  4. The sunsets are stunning. (as are the sunrises) Don’t take my word for it, here’s proof:

5. The water is safe to drink  – and tastes good.  Considering that Aruba is a small island, surrounded by salt water, that’s an accomplishment. It’s great not to worry about safety and the resulting dysentery that can come from visiting places where the water is questionable.

6. The beaches are pristine – white sugar sand and at least where we stayed, that sand extended into the water which was easy on the feet!

7. The color of the water is beyond description. Dependent upon the time of day, depth and cloud cover, it spans every shade of teal, turquoise, cobalt and everything in between.

8. Upon leaving Aruba, Customs and Immigration for both Aruba and the US are handled at their airport.  Though it’s slightly confusing, we got through it with time to spare.

9. There’s so much to do. Whether you are into water sports, beach time, casinos, tours, hiking or dining, Aruba has it. And speaking of dining, fresh seafood is plentiful.

10. The weather. With an average rainfall of less than 20 inches a year, an average daytime temperature of 82° Fahrenheit (27° Celsius), a location completely outside the hurricane belt, and the constant cooling influence of the trade winds, Aruba is one of the most temperate islands in the Caribbean. The difference between median day and night temperatures, and between summer and winter temperatures, is just 3.6°. The rainfall occurs mainly in short showers during November and December.

Travels in Aruba – part fourteen or “Top 10 Things I Love About Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort”

In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Things I Love about Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort:

  1. The Staff – Spence and I, as well as other guests we spoke to, all concurred that we’ve never received the level of service and sincere caring about our stay that we experienced here. Each staffer’s name tag included the languages that they speak, making this great for travellers from all over the world.
  2. Beach and Poolside Service – as simple as raising a flag on your sunbed and one of several charming servers arrive with drinks. While Spence’s choice was buckets of Balashi (Aruba’s own beer) I favored Banana Dacquiris, Pina Coladas and on our final day, an ice cream based drink called Sand in the Pants.  As we relaxed, they would stop by with cups of fresh melon and cool cloths to refresh with – lovely!

3. Adults-Only – We loved the Adults-Only aspect of this resort, it assured a tranquil and quiet environment that met our needs. There were always ample shaded sunbeds available on the beach and around the pool.  Both the pool and beach were serene and never crowded. Breakfast and dinners were peaceful and romantic.  Just couples enjoying time together…..

The pool is pristine and
The pool is pristine and the perfect temperature
Immaculate Beach
Immaculate Beach

4. Designated Smoking Areas – Though I’m not a smoker, Spence is and he found that the three designated smoking areas were comfortable and didn’t make him feel any less welcome. In fact, he met a number of other guests there, striking up friendships as he always does and one was right on the beach, just far enough away so that the non-smokers weren’t disturbed.

5. Elements Restaurant – Executive Chef, Kurt sets a standard of excellence with the quality and preparation of the food at the resort.  We were wowed every morning by the selection of choices at the breakfast and the menu variety for evening dining (they also serve great lunches – we were just too full from breakfast).  The food here is so delicious and beautifully presented that we really never needed to go elsewhere.  Dining outside, a footstep away from the beach, trade-winds blowing and soft lighting, you feel as though you are truly in paradise.  Service, as mentioned before is exceptional both at dinner but also at breakfast.  Spence, who is very non-techy even learned how to operate the iPad menu which was very cool.

6. The Property – Set in the Low-Rise Hotel area, the grounds are landscaped with care and precision, with small signs posted that tell what type of tree, cactus or shrub you’re looking at.  For a gardening buff like myself, this was so interesting.  The white sugar sand of the beach was always clean – no littering, seaweed or anything other than an occasional shell or piece of coral.  And speaking of the beach – on 14 acres, there is so much to explore along the shore.  When you reach the ocean, you step into water which is clear turquoise with sand under your feet. The hotel itself is a beautiful boutique style property.

7. Two Daily Happy Hours – We loved Happy Hour at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts.  After day one, the bartenders and servers knew our drink preferences and again, service was prompt and always friendly.  We enjoyed talking with them as well as other couples we met while seated at the Sand Bar or on any number of attractive seating enclaves that were comfortable and afforded views of the sunsets. Each night, there was a complimentary snack for the guests as well as music – steel drums, one night a violinist who was terrific and several exotic birds in cages which added to the tropical ambiance.

8. Breakfast included –  This is not your typical “breakfast included” experience. The value cannot be fully realized until you see it for yourself.  The choices each day were extensive and we loved that you could choose one of two places at the resort to enjoy it (same selection), our favorite was the one that served until 11 a.m.  There were a number of items not limited to omelets and belgian waffles that are made to order as well as 5 chafing dishes containing hot items and two full buffets of cheeses, meats, breads and countless baked goods, cereals, fresh fruits, juices and yogurts.  If I listed everything I remember, you’d probably think I was exaggerating.  Suffice it to say, it was impressive and a fabulous start to each day! What made this a terrific value for us is that by finishing our huge brunch by 11:00, we never needed lunch.

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Fresh papaya, eggs benedict, potatoes and bacon!
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Bagel with lox, cream cheese, capers and red onion with pineapple and melon.

9. Location – We loved the convenience of this location.  It was close to the Alhambra Casino, a short, easy walk away, with nice shops and a market, several neighboring hotels – one of which, Manchebo Beach, has two great restaurants – The French Steakhouse and Ike’s Bistro. The low-rise hotel area is quieter and more laid back than the high-rise hotel area.

10. The rooms, amenities and eco-friendly policies – We opted for a “green stay” which meant twice weekly full maid-service and a daily discount for each day here. The engraved aluminum water bottles (to save on plastic and take when we go) were easily refillable at numerous water coolers on the property.  The bath products, liquid hand soap, lotion, shampoo/conditioner and body wash were provided in dispensers and were Aruba Aloe products – excellent and high quality. As a blogger, one thing I loved was the use of an iPad, courtesy of the hotel, during our stay. The rooms were designed with comfort in mind – robes, fridge and microwave, air purifier, humidifier, mini-bar snacks, wines etc, lots of closet space.  The beds and bedding were comfortable and the decor was beautiful. We loved the quality furnishings, especially dressers which afforded lots of drawer space. The hotel had provided a chilled bottle of chardonnay, gouda, crackers and Dutch chocolate for our arrival gift as well as a chilled bottle of pink champagne and champagne flutes as their gifts to us.  And it was quiet – again, adults-only equaled no noise.  We slept well here.

Travels in Aruba – part thirteen

As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, Travels in Aruba, we were given the most thoughtful gifts by our hotel, the amazing Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts. Here are some photos of little pre-Happy Hour parties with the lovely wine, pink champagne, gouda, crackers and dutch chocolate (not pictured). We used the wine glasses they provided, saving our gift of engraved champagne flutes for after our return home.

Travels in Aruba – part twelve

Our next stop in the exploration of Aruba’s beauty is the Natural Bridge, which I recall seeing some 30 years ago on my first visit here.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction in Aruba that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. It collapsed on September 2, 2005. The natural arch, measuring approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) high and 100 feet (30 m) long, was the remnant of an ancient cave. (source Google Search)

Having read this little blurb via Google explains alot as I recall it being different. In fact I’m quite sure we were able to walk onto a beach below it and across the top when I was last here.  The island of Aruba, while small, has such diverse terrain and after a long and desolate, bumpy ride in our rental car, we arrived to this rather wild part of the coastline.  Waves crash against the shore with force and it is quite beautiful to witness, if not a bit scary.  There were people there who climbed way out onto areas where the waves were coming in hard and nearly swept them away.  All in the interest of a great photo I suppose.  I was happy that Spence didn’t feel the need to climb down there.  But we did get great pics both at the Natural Bridge and at spots on the way out.

Here’s proof:

Travels in Aruba – part eleven

Even though I’d been to Aruba 30 years prior, I had not seen the Casibari Rock Formation which was recommended by our hotel, the fabulous Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts.  We were inquiring about how to best reach the Natural Bridge, which I wanted Spence to see. The Casibari Rock Formation was on our way so why not, right? (benefits of our rental car….)

Off we went to see more of this small but diverse island of Aruba. Spence ever more the adventurous one of us immediately said he would scale the somewhat scary climb to the top (no handrails that I could see) in spite of the warning signs about “climbing at your own risk”.  Spence is a highly decorated Captain from his Army days and survived Viet Nam – you can’t present him with a challenge in spite of being 72 and a bit unsteady. Here’s the photographic proof – pictures from the top are credited to Spence as I was sure I would plunge to my death of these rocks.  Instead, I walked about the gardens and rocks that were impressive from my vantage point.

But before the pictures, here’s a bit about the Casibari Rock Formation, via a Google Search:

This rock formation is clusters of huge tonalite rocks which sit together in an area just north of Hooiberg. This rock formation, unique to the more typical features of the area, inexplicably rises up from the desert soil to create an unusual setting. Some of the rocks weigh several tons and feature peculiar forms. The Government of Aruba has created walking trails and steps through the rocks, allowing hikers to reach the top to obtain breathtaking views of the island.

Travels in Aruba – part ten

At our hotel, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts, Happy Hour is twice a day – 4:00-6:00 and again from 9:00-10:00. Just another thing we enjoyed at this wonderful place in Aruba.

Snacks – chicken tenders with dip, chips and salsa, jalapeno poppers were among the choices featured during the 4:00-6:00 Happy Hour.  Add the sun, moving ever lower in the sky and setting right around 6:30 each evening, gave us the most spectacular sunsets as the trade winds swirled around us.  Add to that, our favorite bartenders and servers – Jessica, Geraldine, Greg to name a few, who knew Spence likes the Aruba-brewed, Balashi and I either the Prosecco or when they ran out one evening, that same pink champagne that we enjoyed at check in.  Here’s a few of our Happy Hour and sunset photos over our nine days in paradise.