Monday, October 12, 2009

The good, the bad, and the fantabulous of Aruba

By TravelGirl:

After six days in Aruba, we've experienced some likes, dislikes, and some loves -- a few of which we want to share at this point in the journey.

First, one of our loves -- The Dutch Pancakehouse (yes, they spell it as one long word). TravelGuy and I stopped by this place in the Renassiance Marketplace a couple of days ago searching for a quick bite and not knowing what was in store. These little silver-dollar sized pancakes taste like they were fried in a ton of butter (and probably were) and practically melt in your mouth like cotton candy. With so many choices of pancake toppings/dippings, we agreed on chocolate, egg nog, and ice cream to satisfy our palettes. Ok, can you say, "Gimme some more!"? If it weren't for the fact that we had spent the day on the beach drinking cruise juice/vacation tang, sampling local brews, and indulging in amaretto/coffee drinks we may have splurged and put ourselves in sugar comas by ordering more. Instead, we opted to save ourselves for future visits, and I'm happy to say we returned today with Ryan (our traveling companion, partner in crime, and sun-loving "beachie"). This time around we chowed on more of the baby pancakes along with sweet crepes, and will likely make another return visit in the next day to round out our craving with some savory Dutch eats. We are challenging ourselves to find a breakfast/lunch/dinner/dessert place that can compete with The Dutch Pancakehouse in Aruba, so if you know of one please holler!

Ok, now our primary dislike -- Mamba Jamba. Admittedly, we were drawn here because of a coupon for a free Mamba Rita. This cantina-style Mexican joint is located in the Royal Plaza Mall in downtown Oranjestad, up on the second level overlooking the passersby (great for people watching) and the cruise port. Sounds nice, eh? Fast forward to the moment we placed our order. We ordered our free Mambo Rita and were told that there does not exist a Mambo Rita, but we could have a pina colada instead. Never one to pass up a drink with a plastic monkey (I'm referring to the bejeweled plastic placed in my glass, and not referring to Alex), it sounded like a fair trade. Interesting thing is that the pina colada ended up being one of those flavorless frozen drinks that come out of a machine (yeah, just like the $1 frozen drinks you get in downtown Las Vegas on Fremont). We then decided to split the shrimp wrap but were told they were out of shrimp. Really? Hmm...ok. Well, we needed something to go along with the fake pina colada so decided to split some nachos. See image. Yep, those are round tortilla chips purchased at the Super Foods store down the street, a can of cheese sauce, and picante sauce. Disgusting. Gross. Waste of money. 30 minutes and $16 later (yep, $16 for chips, picante sauce, cheese sauce, and one cocktail), we left, and vowed to blog about it and later provide a thorough review on TripAdvisor along with the likes/loves of Aruba. Thinking of Mamba Jamba? Skip the free cocktail and head back to The Dutch Pancakehouse.

Finally, one of our likes after just 6 days -- Pelican Adventures' snorkeling tour. Ever heard of the Antilla? It's a German ship that wrecked off the coast of Aruba in the 1940s during WWII. To make a long story short, the ship's captain created an explosion (rather than surrender to the Dutch Marines) in order to destroy the ship. He was successful, it exploded, split in half, and sank in eight minutes (though the crew was safe as long as they swam to shore before the sharks got them!). Today we got to see that 410 foot ship up close and personal as part of a two-site snorkel trip -- to Boca Catalina where we saw a plethora of fish and eel, and to the Antilla shipwreck where your imagination could place you inside the hull over 60 years ago. If you get a chance to snorkel in Aruba, a visit to the Antilla is a must!

With six days left on our Aruban journey, we plan to create memories at Arashi Beach, Malmok Beach, Surfside Beach, San Nicolas, and various other natural sites around the island via bus, jeep, and car. We might even find time for a few more visits to The Dutch Pancakehouse. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Journey to the paradise called Aruba

By TravelGirl:

It's been a month since we've posted a blog update but I think we'll be making up for it as we blog daily (or close to it) while on our trip to, in, and from Aruba.

The journey to paradise was a long one, albeit worth the hassles of 4 flight segments, waiting for resolution on a maintenance issue on one plane, jetway personnel who were "off" when we needed them to be "on", and enduring some of the most smelly, unhygenic, H1N1-spreading, and interesting people the world has to offer. Ah, travel. Don'tcha love it?

We arrived very late into Aruba last night due to a delay, but the bottom line is that we made it to this breezy, warm paradise. By the time we arrived to the Hyatt Regency on Palm Beach -- one of three lodgings we'll be enjoying -- it was 11 p.m. We learned that Aruba restaurants close very, very early, with no kitchens open beyond that time along Palm Beach, and our bellies were only full of cheese sticks, granola bars, and pretzels/carbs distributed by various flight attendants during our 24 hours of crazy travel. We opted for cocktails at the open-air bar in the middle of our resort. I enjoyed an Arashi, a tropical refreshment to soothe my aching and dry tummy, while Alex opted for his signature drink -- a Coke with no ice. The stroll through the Hyatt grounds presented us with black swans, tropical fish, gardens, small bridges, various pools, hot tubs, lounge chairs, and finally the palapas on the beach. Imagine Bo Derek running in slow motion along the Mexican beach in the movie, "10". That was Alex and I last night, though less endowed, and neither of us sporting corn rolls.

As I type this, Alex is playing with an iguana that has climbed his way up to our balcony. Iguanas are such beautiful creatures, with various shades of green along their long bodies. It's got to be good Feng Shui to have THAT much green on your skin, eh? Luckily, I saved some leftover salad from our in-room dining service last night, enabling Alex to feed our guy (we've named him Iggy) some greens. We've video-taped this little escapade, but how cool is it to practically hand-feed an iguana that knocked on your door?

I'll make this a short update, as we're anxious to get out to enjoy some local eats, frolic in the sand, and capture some Aruban culture. More later...