Aruba Part 2!

Anddddd we’re back!  Now where did we leave off?  By day 5 I was pretty much recovered from being sick.  My sore throat finally went away and I was able to eat again.

Day 5…Wedding Day!  We had to be at the pier by 5:15.  What pier do you ask?  Why Y&F had rented out Marriot’s private island to hold their wedding!  AMAZING!  We had to take a little shuttle boat over to the island.

Since we had to start getting ready by 3pm, we decided to stay local and just hang out at the pool.  Lunch was at the hotel’s outdoor restaurant again.  Why?  Because during lunch the day before, I saw that the guy at the table next to us had this GIANT hot dog so I decided that I NEEDED to have one too!  It was only ehh…I did like the fries though!  :)

After some more lounging and sun by the pool, we got ready and headed to the pier downtown to catch our boat!  Since we were early again I picked up a few more souvenirs before heading over to the boat as I was not planning on returning downtown during the remainder of our stay.

The wedding was so nice!  Once off the boat we were shuffled to the right side of the island where the ceremony was being held.  There were tables set up with servers handing out rum punch.  And a flock of flamingos greeted all of the guests!  The ceremony was gorgeous and the officiant was great!  The Mariott timed the ceremony perfectly with the sunset.

After the ceremony and some group shots we were scooted over to the left side of the island for the reception.  YuChing’s details were amazing!  Invitations were sent as boarding passes…and escort cards were luggage tags!  Her monogram tied everything in nicely as well.

Dinner was delish!  Probably some of the best food we had in Aruba!  It was set up buffet style and we were able to pick and choose as we please.  After dinner we were off to the bar for the first of many rounds of shots and drinks!   It was a good time for all! :)

The boat ride back to the pier was way scarier than going there…because 1. it was pitch black 2. I was a little drunk!  But that didn’t stop me from stopping at the hotel bar for a nightcap when we got back!  Vodka on the rocks for me.  Water for him.

Day 5 Expenses:
Lunch $51 (including tip)
Cab to downtown $15 (including tip)
Souvenirs $10
Starbucks $10
Bar $12
Cab to hotel $15 (including tip)

Day 6…

We are drawing close to the end…:*(

This was our first day where we really had NOTHING planned.  No dinners, no weddings, nothing!  We were a little tired of the hotel food so we decided to venture out for lunch.  We walked back to the main strip and found NOTHING open!  I was getting cranky so we finally settled on Wendys.  Yup.  Wendys.  End of story.

Most of the afternoon was spent lounging by the pool and then in the later we took a walk on the beach to see what the other hotels looked like.  It was so nice because there are NO annoying vendors on the beach harassing you to buy this..or to go on this excursion..etc.  And the beaches are really clean!

A few happy hour drinks later and we decided we should research a place for dinner.  I had a bunch of brochures that I had collected from here and there and a place called Gasparito caught our eye.  The place touted itself as an “art gallery and restaurant” in one.  So we decided to give it a shot.  It was local Aruban food too so we were kind of excited to try that.  The menu looked decent.  The concierge told us that we couldn’t walk to the restaurant from the hotel…and I’m glad we didn’t try!  It was so dark and scary!!!  There were no street lights or sidewalks!   Dinner was pretty decent.  I wasn’t too crazy about my soup that I got for appetizer…but the rest was good!  It was a dead night at the restaurant – there was only one other table dining in there!  and they were eating outside!  So we had the whole interior to ourselves!  The staff was so nice…but that is a common trait that we found of people all over the island!  Since this restaurant was a little far out of the way, there were no cabs waiting to be hailed so the restaurant had to call for a cab to come pick us up.

1. self explanatory
2. appetizer – ravioli stuffed with Kerry Kerry, a local delicacy…I think it was fish?
3. art gallery
4. the boy’s entree – he got a combo dish of some of the Aruban specialties so we could try a little bit of everything
5. the bill arrived in a little wooden box with some candy inside
6. french onion soup – delish!
7. more gallery shots
8. my entree – I was not as adventurous as the boy…so I just got shrimp cooked with a cream sauce :)

Day 6 Expenses:
Lunch $15 (what a steal!)
HH drinks $18
Cab to dinner $11 (including tip)
Dinner $95 (including tip, 2 soups, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees)
Cab to hotel $11 (including tip)

Day 7…

Our LAST full day  ::sadface::

Breakfast at the buffet downstairs again and then we headed to the pool.  The boy was tired of laying out so we decided to take a walk on the beach again.  Our newest vacation habbit is to bring home a container of sand and some seashells that we find.  We spent about 3 hours walking up and down the beach looking for shells!  It was a great way to work on tanning my back because I hate lying on my stomach on the lounge chairs!   Back to the pool bar for our last round of happy hour drinks and back upstairs we went.

We decided to stay in the hotel to try out the Italian restaurant onsite.  It was surprisingly good and a great way to end our vacation! :)

Day 7 Expenses:
Breakfast $50 (including tip)
HH Drinks $17 (including tip)
Dinner $95 (including tip, 2 appetizers, 2 sodas, 2 entrees, 2 desserts)

Day 8…

This shouldn’t even count as a real day!  We got a late 2pm checkout because our flight wasn’t until 5pm.

After we woke up, we went downstairs to the outdoor restaurant to have lunch.  It just wasn’t the same.  We were both pouting the entire time!

The cab ride to the airport was uneventful.  The driver was very nice as all of the cab drivers in Aruba were.

Overall we loved Aruba!  Despite being sick, we both had a great time!  This is an island where we can see ourselves returning to.  And as always, the Westin did not disappoint!  Things in Aruba are very expensive.  All restaurants charge a service charge and you are supposed to tip on top of that.  Dinners averaged around $100 for the two of us.  This was our first time staying at a non all inclusive place in the Caribbean.  The Westin did offer an all inclusive option, but we felt that because we had so many plans outside of hotel, it wasn’t really worth it.  The AI option would have raised our rate to almost $500/night!  We also find that when we are on AI, we feel the need to be little piggies and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday!  Normally, I only eat lunch/dinner…I know its not good to skip breakfast blah blah…but breakfast for me is never a real meal…it usually consists of a fruit or a slice of toast, etc.

One plus we found was that the cab fares are all regulated from zone to zone.  So if you are traveling from one place to another, you will be charged the same flat fee as the next person.

Now where to go next?…I guess I’ll think about that as I go out and chip off the ice from my car! :(

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Aruba Part 1!

Full Album pictures available here: www.misstsien.com/banana/aruba2010

As I sit here in the midst of an ice storm, I reminisce about the awesome week I had in Aruba just a short 5 months ago.

The boy and I were off to YuChing and Francis’s (Y&F) wedding in Aruba!  They had blocked off a number of rooms at the Renaissance Marriot for their guests, but being the point whores we are, we decided to stay at the Westin about 15 minutes away.

As luck has it, I caught a terrible cold (in August!) a few days before we left…I guess it was karma for taking a vacation when normally that week is blacked out for everyone from taking off!  But it was a wedding!  And it was a good friend of mine!  And I had everything (almost) under control at work!  So I HAD to go, right??   Yeah, like I said – karma!  The cold lasted a good 3 days into vacation with a fever making an appearance as well!  But being sick on vacation is still better than being sick at work/home!

Day 1…

We had an 11:30am flight on JetBlue out of JFK airport…so our paranoid asses got there at 8:30 (thanks dad!)  One thing led to another and our flight didn’t take off until 2:30pm!  It was almost 8pm by the time we checked into the hotel.  The hotel wasn’t the cheapest around…but we <3 Starwood brands! The rate we got gave us the 5th night free and $150 credit towards food and beverage.  I guess it sort of makes up for the $30 “resort fee” they charge.  We were both starving and tired…too tired to go out exploring for a restaurant…so we just went upstairs, changed into some presentable clothes and headed down to one of the hotel restaurants – Pago Pago (steak and seafood).

Before I continue…let me mention…Aruba is EXPENSIVE!  I thought Hawaii was expensive…but Aruba far exceeds it!

Day 1 Expenses:
Cab to hotel $30 (including tip)
Dinner $130 (including tip, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 sodas)

Day 2…

I’m not a big one for excursions…I don’t like being tied to a tight schedule when I’m on vacation.  So I usually just schedule one or two.  After reading up on this ‘submarine tour’ I knew that was the one excursion that we were going to go on!  Everything was booked online prior to arrival, so I printed out all my confirmations and off we went.  We had to check in at 12:30 so I asked the front desk how long it would take a cab to get downtown so I could budget enough time to go exploring.  When we got downtown, we walked around a little bit and found ourselves to be MELTING!  We found a good old Starbucks and decided to just grab a drink and sandwich from there.

Now off to the submarine!  It was amazing!  The company that operates this tour also has excursions in Hawaii and Mexico…I would def go again!  You board a ferry that takes about 15-20 minutes to get to the submarine location…then you file off the boat and down the hatch!  I was wearing a dress that day so the boy had to go down before me so I wouldn’t flash anyone else.  They took us down about 140 feet and the view was just awesome!  So many fish!  So much coral!  they even took us to two different ship wrecks!

1. The submarine that was waiting for us
2. A guide showing what types of fish we could possibly encounter
3. Everyone gets their own little port hole to look through
4. The pier from where the ferry departed.  The Adventure Center is the main building where you check in.
5. It was a tight fit in there!
6. Our tour guide
7. One of the shipwrecks that we saw
8. Goofing off in the downtown area  :)

Since it was hot that day we decided to go back to the hotel and relax in the pool for a bit.  It was already pretty late in the day…3ish by the time we got changed and went downstairs so we missed most of the sun!  The bar by the pool had a daily happy hour from 4-7 so we grabbed some drinks…and then a few more to take up to the room while we got ready for dinner.  We decided to go exploring and check out the main strip of restaurants/businesses by our hotel.  After a short 5 minute walk, we were right in the middle of all of it!  Going by Lili’s super helpful restaurant list, we narrowed it down to a few places and walked over to check out their menus.  We settled on a seafood restaurant called Aqua Grill.  The interior reminded me of a seafood restaurant you might find here on the north east coast…very nautical…but tastefully done!  If I was feeling better, I’m pretty sure it would have been awesome, but I was still sick and my throat was killing me so I picked at most of my food.

Before going to Aruba, everyone warned me of the trade winds and how windy it was and to make sure I brought enough rubber bands/clips for my hair etc.  Well…apparently this applies if you are on the BEACH side of the hotel!  While walking at 10pm on the strip, we were dripping by the time we got back to the hotel!  Enough so to warrant another shower!  My only guess would be that all of the high rise hotels blocked the nice breeze!

Day 2 Expenses:
Taxi to excursion $15 (including tip)
Lunch $13 (Starbucks – what a steal!)
Excursion $178
Picture that we got suckered into buying after excursion $10
Souvenirs $18
Misc $15 (candy, cough drops, ponchos in case of a downpour – had to protect our cameras!)
Dinner $120 (including tip for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 sodas)

Day 3…

I was taking nyquil before bed every night, so between that and heat exhaustion from the daytime, I never really had a problem falling asleep.  When I woke up I remembered that I NEEDED to make an appointment at the spa for a pedicure!  Because….the night before, after we got back to the hotel, we decided to go walk on the beach for a little bit and the nail salon I went to at home must have used a cheap ass primer because the polish on one of my toes completely came off!  The whole thing!  O.O I know right?! I didn’t notice it until I got back upstairs, so the first thing I did when I woke up was made an appointment at the spa!

After we showered, we decided to try out breakfast downstairs – it was a buffet style breakfast complete with an omelet and waffle station and some hot and cold foods.  Again, since I was still sick, I didn’t eat much.  My appointment was for 1pm so we went to lay out for a bit by the pool.  Before I headed inside, I reminded the boy to reapply sunblock…more on this later.

The spa sucked…$35 for a pedicure + 17% service charge + 3% island tax + tip left me $60 in the hole!  But I suppose it was worth it because I wasn’t about to walk around with polish missing from ONE toe!

A round of happy hour drinks later and we scooted back to the room to start getting ready for the sunset cruise that Y&F set up for the wedding guests.  While we were getting ready, I noticed that the boy had begun to develop a bright shade of lobster red.  Apparently he had fallen asleep and forgot to reapply!  The pier where the cruise was taking off from was right next to the pier where the submarine tour took off so it was easy to find!  The cruise was great!  Two hours up and down the coast of Aruba. The first hour we watched the sunset and enjoyed the nice ocean breeze.  As soon as the sun was gone, the deck lights came on and the music was turned up!  Sunset cruise transformed into BOOZE cruise!  Being the seasick fool I am, I had to pass on the alcohol since I was feeling quite queasy already.

After the boat docked, we all split up.  Since it was getting late, the boy and I decided we should try to find a place for dinner.  Iguana Joe’s it was!

Day 3 Expenses:
Breakfast $50 (including tip…yeah thats right $50 for BREAKFAST!)
Spa $60 (including tip, service charge and tax)
HH Drinks $10 (including tip)
Cab to downtown $15 (including tip)
Dinner $60 (including tip)
Cab to hotel $15 (including tip)

Day 4…

Plans for today was just a scheduled dinner with Janie and some friends at El Gaucho.  Apparently everyone that has been to Aruba raves about this place so we had to go to see what all the fuss is about.  Its a steak house.  I don’t eat steak.

Since our reservations weren’t until 8pm, we had plenty of time to do a whole lot of relaxing!  After sleeping in, we decided to try the hotel’s outdoor restaurant for lunch.  This was my first encounter with the island’s lizards! YUCK!  They’re completely harmless and non aggressive and probably more afraid of me than I am of them…but apparently i despised them enough to not take ANY pictures of them!

After lunch, the boy decided to go back up to the room and hang out in there because his sunburn was getting pretty bad.  I hung out by the pool some more…I wish they had lounge chairs in the pool because after about 5 minutes in the sun I felt like I was burning up and had to go dip in the water to prevent myself from frying to a crisp!  Eventually I just hung out in the shallow end of the pool by the steps with a drink and my gossip magazine…ahhh vacation…how I love thee! :)  After the harsh sun went away, the boy came back out and we hung outside for a little while longer.  The hotel had a little ice cream shop on the lower level so we got some ice cream and went back to the room to get ready for dinner.

El Gaucho is an Argentinean style steak house.  The food was overall pretty good there.  We all ordered a bunch of appetizers to share and the boy made me order a steak since we were at a steakhouse.  It was ok.  Over seasoned and salty, but edible.  Others thought it was good…I’m just not a fan of the moo.

Day 4 Expenses:
Lunch $45 (including tip – cheaper than the previous day’s breakfast!)
Misc from hotel store $15 (water, snacks, etc)
Ice Cream $8
Cab to dinner $25 (we paid going there and Janie paid on the way home)
Dinner $102 (including tip)

Stay tuned for part 2!

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