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Thread: Home Rental - 16 October - 23 October

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    Home Rental - 16 October - 23 October

    My Aruba Story
    Aruba: Oct 16 – Oct 23
    This report is for my DW and I, she of the 52 years and me of the 48 years. We are DINKS, and proud of it and like to travel 2-3 times a year. We hadn’t visited Aruba in quite some time and we needed a week of rest, beaches, Balashi and good food. Instead of the motel route, we rented a house, with its own pool in the Noord area, near the Racquet Ball club. Not on the beach exactly, but darn near close enough.

    Saturday - What, is it 3:30AM already? We travel out Chicago, and, believe it or not, there is no direct flight to Aruba from O’Hare, so we are on US Air from Chicago to Charlotte at 6AM and then Charlotte to Aruba 2.5 hours later. It will be a long day, but, to temper the flights, I had found that non-refundable first class was only $100 more than coach (after you add up all the extra fees). So, at least we would be comfortable. However, this isn’t first class the way I remember it from 10 years ago (I used to travel extensively), but still, the seat was bigger and it was roomier and we had a light meal on the way to Aruba. But, the flight attendant had the annoying habit of making 10-15 minute announcements selling crap (duty free stuff that was cheaper in Aruba and whatever credit card they want you to get) that made napping impossible. We can do without the constant plus selling. It was funny to watch everyone around us just mouth “shut up, please just shut up” whenever that darn mic was turned on.

    Both flights were on time and pretty smooth. The advantage of first class is that we were first off the plane in Aruba and first to a very busy custom area. Oh, yes, I read somewhere (probably here) to stay to the right. So we did, and ended up with only 2 or 3 parties in front of us. All the other lines were very full, saving us probably 20-30 minutes. Thanks forum users! I think before the plane was totally empty, we were through customs and onto baggage claim. Our two bags were early off the line and 30 minutes after landing we were in the hot sun. Yeah!

    Okay, so I used Dollar rental located at the airport. I am a frequent user of theirs and I get points. It took only 10 minutes to get the car and paperwork finished and by 4:15 we were on 1A going to Oranjestand. No complaints. We had some sort of 4 door Hyundai, but it moved, started, got good gas mileage and the air worked. Very satisfied with the service here.

    Like others have said, I couldn’t believe how green everything was. The island is currently lush with flowering plants, bushes and cacti. Very pretty and unusual. This is our 5th time in Aruba and I don’t recall it being this green. However, I wonder what will happen in 6-9 months time, when the rains stop and all this stuff dries out. Aruba needs to be looking ahead at a potentially dangerous brush fire season sometime next year. I hope they are ready. California goes through this every year. Aruba may not be ready as there is a ton of new foliage and it will dry out. Maybe the humidity will save them here. I’m no expert, but after seeing fires in CA and FL, I hope Aruba prepares themselves.

    Again, thanks forum users, we stopped at Ling and Sons to stock up. I never would have found this on my own. Great store, we loaded up on everything we needed to start our trip. Have you tried Gouda cheese? I mean, really, like WOW, great stuff. I advise you to do so.

    So, by 5PM we were at the house and unloading. By 5:15 PM I had had my first swim (and Balashi). All I can say is renting the house was nothing short of awesome. I have used Homeaway.com 3 times now, Orlando, Hawaii and now Aruba, and couldn’t be happier. This house is called “The Parrot’s Nest” (it has its own web site too, just Google the name. Oh heck, here is the link: http://www.arubahouserental.com/). Although it was just DW and me, the house supports a lot more. There are 4 bedrooms, one with a kitchenette, 3 bathrooms, a full kitchen and living room. Each room is individually air conditioned and boy, do they crank out. We only cooled the rooms we used. The back deck is covered by the sun deck. So, you can have shade or sun. The pool is good sized and taken care of by a pool guy. The back faces the edge of the salt pond and you can see the ocean and the Marriott sub-division. The ocean and beaches was a 5 minute walk away, but you did have to negotiate a lot of standing water from the September rains, but it was doable. Ting Wei supermarket is a 2 minute walk away. It was only $1300 for the week. Yes, you do need a car, but since we like to go to Baby Beach anyway, we would have had to have a car regardless of where we stayed. I loved the house, I loved the quiet (except for the soft thwack of the tennis balls, but really, not noisy at all, it was just nice to hear people and kids play), I loved the neighborhood, I loved swimming at midnight under the full moon, I loved swimming at sunrise, feeling the breeze on the sun deck, having breakfast on the patio and then jumping in the pool, watching the setting sun from the sun deck, watching the cacti wave in the breeze, waving at the horseback riders as they passed by, watching the sky divers, the kite riders, the parasailors, the birds, the iguanas, the sailboats and the clouds passing overhead. Toasting it all with my cold Balashi at my side. Or, as I am soda-holic, drinking down something called Inca Kola, a soda from Peru that is bright yellow and tastes a bit like a cream soda with a bit of banana thrown in. I found it to be very yummy. It was our kind of place and I truly cannot wait to go back.

    I won’t break this down into days, but I’ll break it down into the activities we did:
    Baby Beach – still my favorite beach; this was the first time I saw it with the new shade huts. The beach is still shallow, warm and a great place to play catch or swim. However, when we visited it on Friday, there must have been some sort of surge, maybe created by Tropical Storm Richard that was partially flooding the beach and making the water much deeper than normal. Didn’t matter, still had a great time. This beach is still in dire need of decent (and free) restrooms, though. Go before you go is our motto when planning a trip here.

    Arashi Beach – Wow, what a change. Last time we were by this way, there was no parking lot, no huts, no nothing. Now it is still a beautiful beach, but with places to park and find shade. The water is a bit rougher than Baby Beach, but still a great spot, with soft sand, and shallow water for swimming and having fun. It was a lot closer to us than Baby Beach, and not nearly as crowded as Palm Beach. Finally, under the full moon, the beach was beautiful; so wonderful that I can’t really describe it.

    Palm Beach – Too crowded, too many vendors, no room for anyone unless you are staying at one of the resorts. We walked through here, but reserved our true beach time for Arashi and Baby Beach. Oh yes, the home provided portal chairs we could take to a beach, so finding seats at a beach for us was never a problem.

    Balashi Brewery – The tour is daily, not on weekends, only at 10:30 AM. So, if you want to tour the place, be there by 10. There is a limit to the number on the tour, but, on this day there were only six of us, well underneath the limit. Don’t eat before you go because their little lunch area serves up a great lunch. The beer is great too. When we were there, most of the lines were down for maintenance, but that didn’t dissuade us from having a wonderful time.

    Texas Hold’Em at Holiday Inn – Not a true hold’em sort of event, IMHO. For $10 you get $600 in chips. Blinds start at $50/$25, but your chip stack is so low, that it quickly erodes into an “all-in” tournament, hand after hand. There is no strategy in that. If you go out anytime during the first 5 rounds, you can buy-back in for $26 and get another $1000 in chips. After the first five rounds, there is a break and you can do an add-in for $32 to get another $3200 in chips. Since the blinds are $800/$400 by this point, it remains an “all-in” tournament after the break since so many get short-stacked so quickly. On the night I played, there were 20 players. It started at 6:30 and was over by 9. Not worth it. It became just a game of luck, if you weren’t ready to go all in, you just folded the hand. No chances to bluff anyone either, because if they called, they were going all-in and your bluff was called.

    A quick side note about the Holiday Inn Casino (Excelsior Casino), boy is it old and run down. It is not very attractive at all. Also, they don’t even know how to play their own games. A player (not me), hit Q-K-A of diamonds on three card poker. It took 7 people and over 30 minutes to figure out how to pay off the player. Really, you would think a Casino would know its own games and payouts.

    Caribbean Stud Poker at the Radisson – This is my preferred game in the casino. Radisson is a much nicer place than the Holiday Inn. This is also the only casino offering players the option to buy a card in Caribbean Stud. Normally, you get the 5 cards and that’s that. But, at the Radisson, you can buy a card (for the ante amount) to try and get a straight, make two-pair into a full house or make trips into quads. Mind you, the payouts are a bit less if you hit, but it still can be a good play. I did hit a full house using this feature. Caribbean Stud poker is a game of patience. I used this patience to win an over $200 during the course of the week. It is so funny, back home, when I play 5 card draw poker I never get squat, but playing at the Casino, I tend to do pretty well. I get hammered at blackjack, three card poker, and let it ride, but I’ve had good success with Caribbean Stud.

    Weather and Insects – We had sun every day. A couple of days there were just a few clouds in the sky. This also allowed us to see the moon every night too. A couple of mornings there were a few showers out over the ocean. On Thursday, it was kind’ve funny. There were these big dark clouds, but they stretched in a straight line from east to west. It was totally blue on either side of the line. Around noon time, we had a brief shower and two peals of thunder from them. It looked like it was going to be a cloudy and rainy afternoon, but by 3PM, the clouds had all dissipated. Not moved away, but dissipated. We also really didn’t have much wind until Friday. There was some, but it was on the gentle side. Friday there was enough of a breeze to feel like Aruba, but again, not strong enough to bother anything. Although the kite boarders were out in force on Friday. It did rain early Saturday morning (our last day) and pretty hard too, based on the standing water that was around. As we drove to the airport and then waited for our plane, Saturday became the only really cloudy day we saw. Didn’t bother us too much because we were leaving, but we felt bad for those arriving. However, it looks like the sun was back out by Sunday, so I think it remains nice down there.

    We did bring Off but we never used it. Baby Beach, Arashi, and Palm beaches did not require any bug spray, at least not for us. Perhaps the breeze was just strong enough. However, when eating outside (Smokey Joes, Le Petite Café, A Taste of Belgium), the flies could be really annoying, especially at Smokey Joes. Evenings at the house were not totally bug free, but between DW and myself, we had less than 10 bites from the whole week.

    Shopping - Didn’t really do any. But, at the high rise area, is there really a need to for two new shopping malls? The newer one (I think called Palm Beach) with the Bowling center is quite empty. The movie theaters are not done yet, but with the mall next door having 6 movie theaters, are 8 more needed? This new one still has many boarded up storefronts and I didn’t see hardly anyone here all week. What I couldn’t figure out was why they blocked off half their parking after 6PM? It wasn’t like they offered Valet parking and there were tons of spots available, you just couldn’t get to them (easily). The malls are okay, but, like I said, we weren’t there to shop.

    One last note, when you have to return, allow for plenty of time (espcially on Saturday). You have to:
    Return your rental car (if needed) - quick side note, we saw two rentals do a bang bang less than 100 yards from the check in point. Hell of a way to end your week, with rental car damage!!! Glad I missed that little fender bender.
    Check in wtih the airline - long lines had formed at Jet Blue and AA, US Air had very short lines, both for coach and First Class.
    Go through Aruba customs (don't throw out that little card you get when you arrived)
    Go through a security line
    Go through your final duty free area
    Claim your baggage
    Go through US Customs (this was the longest line)
    Go through yet another security line
    Find your gate
    Get on the plane, you have to leave, you just have to , no matter how much you want to stay!

    Eats
    Yes, we did eat in Aruba. Not a single bad meal. I’ll break it down for you (everything is in the high rise district)

    Buster’s Garage – Coldest and largest Balashi in the area. The Philly Cheese Steak sandwich is very good, served on a fresh French Baguette with cheddar cheese (I prefer that over provolone), peppers and hot, delicious fries. Many TV’s, all with sports, make this the place to watch your game. We met the owner Rusty on our second visit (I had to have that sandwich again) and he is really cool and runs a great bar/restaurant.

    Taste of Belgium (Paseo Herencia Shopping Mall) – One of our favorite meals of the week. While downing more Balashi, I had deep fried, beer batter dipped grouper with a luscious garlic cream sauce. It was on the specials for the day and had a Dutch name, but I forget what it was, other than really, really good. DW had porkloin Belgian style, with mozzarella and spinach. The onion soup and lobster bisque were top notch as well. We also enjoyed the Dame Blanche (ice cream with Belgium chocolate) for dessert. Other than fighting off some flies, the outdoor café had good service and great atmosphere. We wanted to come back for lunch one day to try the waffle, but never found the right day. Will eat here again on our next trip. They have a $25 3 course dinner special between 5-7.

    Smokey Joes – Read a lot about this place and as we are from Chicago and like good ribs and bbq, we had to try it. Now, it wasn’t bad, or not even not good, just not quite up to Chicago standards. We ordered the ultimate combo for two, ribs, chicken, pulled port and shrimp. I would say that it was pretty good, but not the best bbq we’ve had. However, if you are very hungry, it was plentiful. What made the meal here so good was being seated around other interesting and friendly people, so the conversation was lively. Lastly, the flies here were really very pesty and numerous. When our food came, we had at least 15-20 flies all around us. They only dissipated when others got their good and darkness arrived. So, perhaps later is a better time for Smokey Joes. Oh yes, do try the Shark Bites!

    Le Petite Café – This wasn’t a place we planned to try, but the couple we toured the Brewery with told us not to miss it. So, being open minded and all, we gave it a try. Now, here is a concept that would never work in the US. The Lawyers would never even let it open, much less actually serve anyone. If we as a culture allow lawsuits over a lousy cup of coffee or hot chocolate, imagine the leer in the lawyer’s eyes knowing that a 600 degree F stone was to be placed in front of a diner? Yet, that is exactly what this place does. First of all, however, their French onion soup is not to be missed. One of the best we have had anywhere, and there are a few places around here that serve a great FOS. It is served correctly in the crock with the melted cheese and bread. We gladly slurped this down. Then, the hot stone is placed in front of you. DW had salmon and I had the filet. Careful, that is HOT! The meat is sizzling and you slice off a small piece and then use the hot stone to cook it. The quality of the ingredients is top notch. You cook it yourself, so you have no one else to blame if you over cook it. We split what we had and enjoyed the experience. Thankfully, we aren’t dumb eaters and did not burn ourselves. Our food was great though. They also have a $25 dinner special between 5-7. It was not only fun, but a wonderful dinner.

    Azzurro’s – Playa Linda – Italian – WOW oh WOW oh WOW. We were just walking through the Playa Linda area and walked passed this place. It is right on the beach. It had a picture of Spagheiit di formaggio parmigiano. This is pasta prepared in a hollowed out bowl within a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. And I mean the real stuff, from Parma. I saw this on the food network once and vowed to try it someday. This was the day. They wheel the wheel of cheese over to your table (that was fun to say). They then bring out a flaming ladle of whiskey and other flavors and pour this flaming liquid into the bowl in the cheese. The aromas are intoxicating. Then they bring out the already cooked pasta and toss it into the cheese bowl. The liquid has melted the cheese and the server mixes that wonderful cheese with the pasta. Heaven on earth. You have to order it for two and you will enough for lunch the next day. And it will still be delicious. The cost for this heaven is $42 for two. Well worth the price as that wheel of cheese has a retail value of $1200.

    Dushi Bagels – Playa Linda – Had breakfast and lunch here in separate visits. The bagels are fresh and have the right amount of chewiness and flavor. However, the best is lunch when they bring out the burgers. A truly wonderful burger especially when matched with the Gouda cheese. It is beefy and served on a fresh bun. The burger had great flavor and when DW added bacon to hers, the bacon was crisp and a perfect accompanying item on the burger. Fires were fresh and hot too. Finally, they have Balashi on tap, so burger and beer here is the best we had.

    Boy, this is long huh. Well, I’m done now. Aruba remains one of my favorite places to visit and we can’t wait to return.

    Dave K from Lisle, IL

  2. #2
    Senior Member Arubalisa's Avatar
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    Thank you so much for sharing such a thorough review.

    Was there any trouble finding shade at Arashi? We haven't been there in a few years.

  3. #3
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    THANKS.

    Glad you gave a review.

  4. #4
    Senior Member sunworshipperII's Avatar
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    Sounds like you had a terrific time.. I can't wait.








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    Senior Member DANNYO's Avatar
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    Another great Aruba vacation

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    To answer Arubalisa's question (I love your picture btw), we didn't have trouble finding any shade at Arashi, although we were there earlier in the morning when most of the huts were pretty empty. Once the afternoon hit, most of the shady spots were taken, but it appeared that people were willing to share.

    Dave

  7. #7
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    the willingness to share runs very hot and cold at least at Lacabana pool and that section of Eagle Beach.

    There really is ample room at some of the shade huts for sharing and sharing is really a nice thing to do if you have room under your shade hut.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolby1000 View Post
    To answer Arubalisa's question (I love your picture btw), we didn't have trouble finding any shade at Arashi, although we were there earlier in the morning when most of the huts were pretty empty. Once the afternoon hit, most of the shady spots were taken, but it appeared that people were willing to share.

    Dave

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    I, also, thoroughly enjoyed your concise review. It simply says, what we all know, "There really is no other place to vacation; and enjoy everything!"

    I don't know about the other forum members, but I had the pleasure of dining at the "Le Petite Cafe," and you could not have described how enjoyable it was; how delicious the meal was; and, though you did not mention it...or am I getting old?...the excellent service.

    Thank you so much for the trip report. I am sure others enjoyed as much as I.

    Ed

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