Good morning everyone,
Yes, it has been a little over 30 years (July 1980) since my first visit to Aruba. I thought I'd share with you how this all started.
Back in January 1976, I went on a solo trip to Bermuda. It was a nice place but very expensive.
While I was there I met a British businessman, a sales rep for a large British pharmaceutical company. One eveing we were having drinks in the bar at the old Bermudiana Hotel, and he told me about this Dutch island in the southern Caribbean. He got his company to schedule his trip so that Aruba, I think that's what he called it, was his last stop before flying home to London. He said that unlike many of the other places he had to visit, Aruba was clean, safe, well-run and that the people were friendly.
I was an articling accounting student back then so I didn't have a lot of money. Another trip would be some time yet. Still, the name, Aruba, kind of stuck with me. Maybe it was the name itself; it has a sing-song sound to it. Maybe it was because it was unknown. Anytime I mentioned it to anyone here I got a polite but decidely blank stare.
Fast forward to 1979. I've managed to save up some money and I decided that I would in fact go to Aruba in 1980.
In 1979 the Internet was in its infancy, and certainly wasn't available as it is today. Reseach had to be done by mail. I eventually found the Aruba Tourist Authority's address in Toronto. I wrote to them requesting some information and six weeks later a large envelope full of brochures arrived. During the fall and winter of 1979-1980, I read those brochures cover to cover. They almost fell apart from my handling them.
Finally in the Febraury of 1980, I went to my travel agent to book my trip. He was polite but nervous. He had no idea where I was asking him to send me. He made the airline reservations; Winnipeg to Chicago on Northwest, then connecting to another Northwest flight to Miami; an overnight stay in Miami, then the next day, Eastern Airlines to Aruba. At that time, Eastern was the only American carrier into Aruba.
I chose to stay at Manchebo Beach Hotel because it was a Best Western, and therefore linked to a reservation system. Even still, my ravel agent had to confirm the reservation by mail.
Finally July 1980 arrived. My accounting exams were over and it was time to see if what the drug salesman had said 4 years ago was true.
In a word, yes. Manchebo was great. The people, both Aruba and visitors, were friendly. I'd never seen a beach as large as at Manchebo.
In those days, Manchebo and Talk of the Town were owned by the same people. The restaurant at TOTT was regarded as one of the best on the island. People living in Aruba used it as their "special occassion" restaurant.
Indonesian restaurants were popular then. Bali's floating restaurant in the harbour downtown was a favourite, but there were others too.
Nightlife? There were casinos and cubs. Does anyone remember Scaramouche? The notorious disco downtown with the lipstick print lips as their logo?
The highrise district consisted of the Holiday Inn, the Americana, the Concord and another one whose name I forget. The Mill was just being built. The largest building in the area was the hospital.
Anyway, I had a wonderful week. A week that started a love affair with Aruba which continues to this day. There were a few years where I didn't go to Aruba, but now we go pretty much every January.
I've seen lots of changes on the island over these past 30 years. Still, all the things which make Aruba so wonderful; the people, the weather, the beaches, the ocean, and the restaurants, bars, shops, casinos and clubs are still there.
I'd like to think there's a reason why Aruba is the first place mentioned in the Beach Boys song "Kokomo". And yes, sometimes you can believe someone who sells drugs.
Thanks for letting me share this with you.