Travels in Aruba 2016 – part fourteen

IMG_0224

At Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, there is a very special, fine dining restaurant called Carte Blanche.  Seating only 14 guests per evening, the reservations must be made well in advance and re-confirmed 24 hours prior to dining.  We were celebrating my 60th birthday on this trip and I’m such a foodie that when I was able to secure reservations, I did so.

Promptly at 7:00 p.m., the doors open and the guests are ushered in.

IMG_0229 2
Hector puts the finishing touches in place as rose petals added to the romantic ambiance

Just a coincidence, when we sat down at the semi-circle, granite topped dining area, I’d chosen seats where the chef would be prepping and cooking right in front of us. Once we were seated Dennis and Glen, our chef, introduced themselves. Dennis would handle the adult beverages, offering a wine pairing with each of the chef’s special courses to come though diners could have anything they preferred. If you’ve visited this blog before, you may have guessed that we chose the wine pairing. Since we’d all be together for the next few hours they asked that we introduce ourselves, where we were from and if we were celebrating anything special.  Not surprisingly, we had anniversaries, newlyweds and birthdays.

IMG_0238
While Glen took drink orders, everyone had a glass of Prosecco (my favorite)  while we got a chance to talk with other guests, anticipating Glen’s first creation.

The Amuse Bouche was Grouper Ceviche, one of my favorite things in the world.  Dennis paired the Ceviche with a Reisling from Germany, Spence’s favorite wine.

IMG_0240 2
Absolutely delicious and such a refreshing start to the evening.

Glen prepared the appetizer next and to my delight it was a Seared Sea Scallop, wrapped in bacon and served over a Dutch-style potato salad with basil, capers, micro-greens, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde and baby spinach.  Dennis paired this with a lovely Vin D’Alsace, French Pinot Gris.

IMG_0243
Presentation was perfection and the flavors were heavenly.

The next course featured white aspargus, finely chopped hard-boiled egg with ham and a white wine hollandaise with minced parsley and chives served with a Gruner Veltliner Terrassen, an Austrian white wine – perfect!

FullSizeRender 485
Too pretty to eat (but I did)

Glen’s next creation was Red Snapper, Shrimp and Fennel with Carrot and Micro Mustard Greens plated over a Lobster Bisque cream sauce; Dennis paired this with Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.

FullSizeRender 489
Seriously delicious!

Next up I saw the most succulent lollipop lamb chops that Glen was prepping.

The lamb chops were served with eggplant and basil roasted with tomatoes and spinach and paired with Malbec.

FullSizeRender 492
What can I say?  Wow!

Around this time, Spence was nodding off a bit and I glanced at my watch – it was 10:30 and Glen was telling us that dessert was either a cheesecake or a chocolate choice, recommending we each try one and share.  As delicious as we knew they’d be, we were so stuffed, we opted to skip dessert and that last glass of wine.

All in all, a fabulous evening and a meal I won’t soon forget.

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part thirteen

While it isn’t necessary to have a rental car in Aruba, we decided to get one again on this trip.  Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort is in the “Low-Rise Hotels” area.  We love that because there are numerous nice properties – hotels, all-inclusives, restaurants, wine bars, shops, spas, a market and Alhambra Casino, all in walking distance. There are lots of sites to see in Aruba that don’t require tours or a guide. It’s fun to visit the High-Rise Hotel area (much busier and built up) with big hotels, restaurants and clubs, shopping – from kiosk to high-end retail and jewelers as well as numerous casinos and every type of water sport, if that’s your thing. We found it convenient to hop in our car and head out to explore.

One day as we were heading back, suddenly traffic was at a standstill. There must have been several dozen adult and 8-10 baby goats running across the road.  I couldn’t believe my eyes (not something I see in Michigan). I immediatlely pulled over to take photos.  Since my lifelong BFF and I have a running bit about our wanting to have baby goats as pets, I was excited to see them while also worried about them being in harm’s way.  No need to fear, it was apparently a common occurrence and everyone simply stopped to let them cross.

So that was fun!  Another day we drove out to the California Lighthouse which is a fun place for a cold adult beverage and photo opportunities as you are at a higher altitude, overlooking the oceans and High-Rise Hotels. (see my 2015 post for more about the California Lighthouse by following this link)

FullSizeRender 442.jpg
From the beach, looking up at the bar/restaurant, La Trattoria El Faro Blanco and the California Lighthouse.

The views from the California Lighthouse

As we drove back, there were little cut-offs where the locals enjoy small beaches.  We pulled off and took a few more pictures.

Stay tuned, more to come on “Travels in Aruba 2016”

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part ten

As mentioned, this visit to Aruba was planned in large part to celebrate my 60th birthday.  Heading down that morning for breakfast, I told Spence I’d like to start my day with a mimosa.  Martin, who greeted and seated us each day said he’d take care of that request.

We proceeded to fill our plates from the phenomenal buffet (see part six of this series for more about our daily breakfasts at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort).  I’d just finished my first plate of goodies when I saw Martin approaching with my mimosa, followed by Oriana and Sali, singing “Happy Birthday” and bringing me this delicious surprise:

I learned from Sali that Nakarid, who we saw most mornings, had the day off but had asked Sali to prepare this for me in her absence. It was so thoughtful and I got a number of heartfelt hugs as well.

Later that day…

We think Bucuti’s own Elements Restaurant is the best in Aruba so when Spence asked where I’d like to have my birthday dinner, it was my first choice!

Yolanda, our server, was so accomodating and our meals were perfection. She took the picture of us below.

FullSizeRender 335
OMG – I can’t even describe this soup. I’d wanted to try it since our last trip here. Amazing!

On to the entrees:

FullSizeRender 333
My choice, the duck!
FullSizeRender 344
Cooked to perfection.
FullSizeRender 338
Spence had Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables – yum!

As we toasted and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, the sunset was spectacular.

What a way to celebrate my birthday, from beginning to end.

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part four

When in Aruba, you are surrounded by the sugar sand beaches and the ocean which varies between shades of teal, turquoise and indigo depending on sun, clouds and the depth of the water that can’t help but captivate your attention. On land, there is equal beauty in the flowering trees and shrubs at every turn. With my love of gardening and photography, I was compelled to take these pictures and share them.

.

 

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.

FullSizeRender 211.jpg

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!

FullSizeRender 201
Projected on a large white wall, a very young Debra Winger and Richard Gere, wonderful performances. So enjoyable.

IMG_9828
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.

FullSizeRender 192.jpg
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.

FullSizeRender 193
Chilled wine, gouda, crackers, cookies & Aruba Aloe lotion!
IMG_9806

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!

FullSizeRender 194
A little Prosecco

IMG_9793
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……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.