Aruba is vibrant and filled with fun in the evenings with balmy temps, trade winds, great restaurants and happy people.
And yes, one night after a large glass of Pinot Noir (liquid courage) I sang karaoke, belting out my standby – I Love Rock and Roll (thank you Joan Jett). I don’t think a recording contract is in my future but it was a blast!
Immediately after losing Spence I remember thinking of those beloved places we’d vacationed and that I’d never go back; it would be too sad.
It’s been almost two years and the many happy memories have helped me remember our enjoyment of traveling together. I know for sure, he’d be sad if I wasn’t traveling.
Late last August my friends, Jeanne, Frank and I discussed a trip to Aruba. Soon we’d settled on a date, found a gorgeous condo on the northern part of the island and plans were finalized.
Leaving Michigan the day before the polar vortex (a brilliant stroke of luck) we arrived for a week in Aruba, a place that held special memories for me, with new ones to be made. Today as I await my return flight, I feel a sense of calm, a renewed love of this amazing place and a certainty that Spence would applaud my return.
Here is the first post of several to follow.
After our October 2015 trip to Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba, I wrote the series “Travels in Aruba” including the post Top 10 Things I Love about Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort if you’d like to check it out!
As Spence and I were enjoying our recent trip in May, we compiled a list of ten additional things we love about this exceptional resort. The list was easy for us and exceeded ten things but for consistency, I’ve whittled it to ten, in no particular order:
- Purun Spa Tucked away in the Tara building is the peaceful, zen-like atmosphere of Purun Spa. Soft music, subdued lighting, fruit-infused water or ginger tea is available as you await your spa service. With an extensive menu of services and expert staff (I had Margarita for a massage and facial), I emerged relaxed and refreshed.
- Movie under the Stars – Twice a week at 8 p.m.,they feature a movie as you recline on comfortable lounges on the beach. The tradewinds and starlit sky as we watched “An Officer and A Gentleman” made for a unique and romantic experience.
- Making my birthday special – We celebrated my 60th birthday on this trip and on the big day, the staff at Elements brought me a Mimosa and this beautiful presentation of fresh fruit. What a way to start my first day of being 60!
4. Sunday Happy Hour – During the Sunday Happy Hour, there are a select group of artists who display their work as well as a chef featuring an Amuse Bouche. Spence bought me a lovely pair of earrings (last year I bought a bracelet here that remains a favorite). The art is lovely and the prices are reasonable. Plus it’s combined with Happy Hour – you can’t beat that!
5. Driftwood Workshop – This year the resort was featuring a painting class on driftwood. I met the instructor during our first Sunday Happy Hour. I was intrigued with her talent and signed up for the next class. It was fun to create art and hang out with Maria Onni, our instructor and Nicole, from Guest Services/Concierge who took the class as well. It happened to fall on a rare overcast day that even sported a couple of quick rain showers but even if it had been a sunny beach day, it was completely enjoyable and I’d take it again!
6. Carte Blanche – Located within the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, Carte Blanche is open to the public but only if you’ve planned ahead to secure a coveted reservation to this limited seating, chef’s selected, multi-course gourmet meal. I was lucky to get us a spot and the meal as well as the experience of watching a skilled chef create and plate the most exceptional food was a foodie’s dream come true.
7. Fresh Orchids – It’s the little touches and attention to detail, like fresh orchids in our room and even in the hallways. The orchid in our room was down to two blooms toward the end of our stay and was replaced with a new one, simply because housekeeping was paying attention. And that’s typical of the attention to every detail that we’ve come to expect from everyone here.
8. Aruba Aloe Bath & Body Products – In keeping with their eco-friendly policies, rooms feature dispensers of liquid hand soap, body lotion, conditioning shampoo and body wash from the Aruba Aloe company. I’ve since ordered the products online as I loved the high quality – light scented, gentle and most importantly, I love the way my skin and hair feel after using the products for two weeks.
9. Complimentary iPad – This is particularly nice for any guest but in particular, as a blogger it was great to stay connected. Though we somehow missed noticing this last trip, the alarm clock has both an iPod docking station and a sound machine with crickets, ocean waves and other sounds to help us relax fall into a deep sleep.
10. The Sand Bar – During the day, Bucuti’s Sand Bar is “the place” for cold adult beverages (a Prosecco or Pina Colada for me – Balashi for Spence), as you relax in the open-air, shaded round bar while gazing at the beach and brilliant turquoise ocean beyond. But there’s more…. as we discovered this trip – the lunch menu. Over the course of our two week stay we tried the Element’s Ceviche, Tuscany Panini and Garlic Roasted Quesadillas. With lots of delicious menu items to choose from, two daily happy hours, a pair of love birds and Paco, the talking parrot, what’s not to love about the Sand Bar?
This ends “Travels in Aruba 2016”. I hope you’ve enjoyed it – it’s been fun to share it with you and read your comments. Many thanks!
On our October 2015 trip to Aruba, the spa at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts was undergoing renovation. As we prepared for our trip in May, I perused the menu of services offered by their new Purun Spa.
At check-in, we were given a welcome packet including a discount on spa service. I reached out to Nicole in Guest Services/Concierge and set an appointment for a Purun Happy Island Massage.
Purun Happy Island Massage (Swedish w/ Hot stone):
A gentle stream of warm oil escapes the marble of Purun and reaches the center of energy of the body, followed by a hand and feet massage ending up in neck and face. This truly unique experience calms the nervous system by uniting mind and body.
I was ready for some pampering after a long day dragging around our carry-on luggage and being crammed into always-too-small seats on the plane.
After my arrival and check-in I was offered fruit-infused water or ginger tea; I opted for ginger tea – my personal favorite.
My massage therapist was Margarita who was just lovely and her Purun Happy Island Massage left me completely relaxed.
As I was checking out, I was given another discount on services if used before the end of our trip. Not that I needed any incentive but I booked a facial for the following week on my birthday!
Purun Sensation Facial:
Experience a pleasant feeling with our facial of essences that will give you a fresh face that is smooth and toxin-free. This treatment helps to protect the skin from the elements of the environment such as stress and dehydration giving you purification, softness, and anti-aging hydration.
Once again, I had Margarita who gave me a relaxing and amazing facial. My skin was so soft and hydrated that I think I left looking a few years younger than when I went in.
Needless to say, I would highly recommend the services at Purun Spa and plan to go back on our next trip (God willing) to Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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”
Using Trip Advisor as a resource led Spence and I to the highly-rated restaurant, Madam Janette. Having made reservations as suggested, we hopped in our rental car and drove a few miles to find this gem of a place, tucked into a residential area. With lots of cars in the parking lot and tantalizing aromas emanating, we knew we’d chosen well.
With indoor and outdoor (covered) seating, Madam Janette can seat many diners. As we were led to our table (we chose outside) there are many little enclaves of seating which make Madam Janette’s feel intimate and romantic.
We had a team of servers who were on top of everything. The menu is extensive and the food coming out of the kitchen looked and smelled delicious. We both chose the Almond Grouper, topped with a creamy spinach bernaise type sauce and served with Madam Janette’s Potato Gratin. It’s considered their house specialty and rightfully so. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had, so flavorful and expertly prepared. I’ve dreamt of it every since!
I hope you’re enjoying “Travels in Aruba 2016” – there’s more to come. If Aruba is in your travel plans or on your bucket list, check out my October 2015 series, “Travel in Aruba” as well.
This visit to Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, I noticed something new was being offered to guests, a Driftwood Workshop. Each Sunday during happy hour at the Sand Bar, they feature local artisans which is always fun. It’s where I met Maria Onni, who teaches the driftwood painting class. One look at her work, you are enchanted and want to try your hand….I signed up the following day for the next class.
Maria is one of those artists who has natural talent and loves to repurpose driftwood, sea glass and other found items. Check out some of her creations:
I arrived for the class, set up in the Tara Lounge and learned it would be just one of the Bucuti and Tara Resort staff and myself for this class. To my delight, it was Nicole (who I’ve enjoyed getting to know on both of our visits), who was the other student. I loved the one on one attention Maria was able to give us as we learned how to work with molding clay (making eyes, noses and mouths) and mixing the acrylic paints as we fashioned our driftwood creations. We each made two works of art and it was such a fun way to spend an afternoon. Both Maria and Nicole are interesting and lovely, young women who I was fortunate to get to know over the two hours we spent together. I would take this class again if offered on my next trip and would recommend it to anyone visiting Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort. A truly fun day to be sure and special memories of this vacation!
Maria Onni sells her works of art in a kiosk in the highrise hotel area (across from Playa Linda) as well as teaching these classes. She is so talented, if you are in Aruba, check her out!
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.
On to the entrees:
As we toasted and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, the sunset was spectacular.
What a way to celebrate my birthday, from beginning to end.