Sad to be home, but here's our happy story 6/6/14 - 6/15/14
I had intended to post daily, if not every other day, trip reports while at the Holiday Inn last week. However, I did not realize that even though they provide wifi, only one person per room can access the wifi at a time. The kids and DH were wifi hogs and I let them have at it. Not only that, the one time I did try to post via my tablet, I found I cannot type fast enough on it to post before my log-in times-out (and I haven't been able to master the copy and paste on it yet). I can type 80 wpm on a keyboard, but for the life of me I cannot type efficiently on a phone or tablet. Anyhow, here's the story, which I'll break up over a few posts (I am at work and should be doing work, hee hee.)
Leaving on Friday, June 5, 2014 at the awful time of 3:00 a.m., we made it to the Pittsburgh airport early enough for our 6:15 flight. Check-in with Airtran was a breeze, however, security was about a 1/2 hour process.
SECURITY TIP: I was stopped at the bag scanner as when they were running my carry-on through the scanner they thought I had a bottle of water. I know better than that, had no bottle of water, but they scanned the bag 3 times and emptied the contents. It ended up that the small game I grabbed from home at the last minute included cylindrical chip-like cards that when stacked, look like a tube, which they look at as a bottle of liquid. Sheesh. Moral, don't take ANYTHING that can be construed as a bottle of liquid!
The flights were uneventful. The plane landed, we were through immigration, claimed our checked bag and in a taxi in a little over 1/2 hour!! The feel of the sun, air and breeze when exiting the airport is like no other. This may be silly, but DH pointed out a water fountain at the baggage carousel and I almost ran to it to get a drink of that awesome Aruba water!
Check in at the Holiday Inn was simple. Wonderful DH had an Amstel Bright in my hand within 5 minutes of getting to the hotel and waiting at check-in. The Holiday Inn has touted a remodel, and with experiences of a "remodel" in years past, we were pleasantly surprised. A fresh coat of paint is what they previously called a remodel, but this time the lobby has been reconfigured and updated. The courtyard area has been updated as has the lobby bar. The tower we were in has new carpeting in the halls and in the rooms. The beds were comfy, even the roll-away they brought for our son (although it took 3 calls and 1 visit to the desk to get it to our room).
NOTE ABOUT HOLIDAY INN: When we say Holiday Inn, many people say "ewwww". Yes, it may not have that new, fancy, luxurious feel, but being one of the oldest properties on the island, it is a great place for us. Holiday Inn's points program is the best we have found and accumulate the quickest. DH travels for work once or twice a month for a night or two. Last year he accumulated enough points that we paid for only 1 of the 9 nights we were there this year. John, one of the bellmen, is one of the friendliest people there and greeted us every time he saw us walking through the lobby. On this trip I asked many of the workers how long they have been with the hotel and many have been there 20+ years.
I didn't unpack (well, eventually). I was on the soft powder sand beach almost immediately in our "pre-assigned" palapa for the day. We were told that one of the Platinum IHG perks is a guaranteed palapa each day. Unfortunately, that pre-assigned palapa happened to be in the area in front of the pool in a wind tunnel. There is no large building to block some of the wind at that spot.
Our traditional first night dinner consisted of burgers and quesadillas from the bar (which has been remodeled and the cooking area moved away from the actual bar).
I watched the brilliant sunset and was asleep early from such a long day.
Sorry, for only day 1, that was a little long winded. More to come...
On to full day #1. I'll just say once so I don't have to repeat, I wake up before everyone. Everyday. The morning routine for me is about the same each day:
-Quietly get dressed in the dark (hopefully I remembered to have everything gathered the night before);
-Set up beach camp site for the day under our reserved palapa, chickee, hut, umbrella or whatever your preferred name for the mandatory shade provider may be;
-Walk south on the beach past the 3 piers and on the return walk stop at Scott's Brats for breakfast sandwiches for everyone. Leslie nicely bagged up my order every time and the sandwiches were eaten by DH, DS and DD as they paraded one by one to our beach camp site each day. 17 y.o. son was always the last to arrive. Why do teenage boys need so much sleep??
We were able to reserve the large rectangular palapa for today. We have 4 adult sized people in our family and a small umbrella sized palapa does not provide enough shade. We have always envied those families under the big-top, and the Holiday Inn beach palapa king told us we need to have at least 6 people in order to reserve that particular palapa each day. Sooooooo, all week we had "friends flying in that day that would be joining us". Those imaginary friends never showed up, but we were never questioned about having only 4 of us under our palapa. By the amount of beach paraphernalia we had with us, it looked as if we were having a party.
Our jeep rental didn't start until the next day, and with the plethera of restaurants nearby we were able to walk to dinner. Of course, we got across the street to Paseo Herencia and began to walk and couldn't decide. It's nice to sometimes "go with the flow" and not have designated reservations or times, but we all knows how difficult it can be for four people to wander about and agree on where to eat. We ended up at Iguana Cantina. The restaurant is upstairs, we were seated at a table overlooking the central mall area with the fountain. Now, we aren't much of the "hoopla" type of people and we don't much seek out the type of show put on each evening at that fountain, but we had a birds-eye view. There were nice girls in frilly dresses performing native dances to local music. There were many people gathered around to watch, which was nice for the girls.
After dinner, we donated to the Excelsior Casino at the Holiday Inn. They still had our favorite machines, so we played the slots. There weren't many people there at the tables, and I'm not comfortable playing at a table alone.
Same morning routine, although I forgot Scott's Brats is closed on Sundays, so I had to opt for Dunkin Donuts.
We had reserved a jeep rental through More-For-Less for a week, returning it on our departure day. I guess I misunderstood when they said "pick-up and drop-off at hotel". In previous years, the rental company brought the vehicle to the hotel and we signed the paperwork there in the lobby, which is what I thought would happen this time. However, the More-For-Less van showed up and told us to get in. They took us to their rental office near the airport. Within 10 minutes we were on our way. The 4-door jeep did not have the windows in and he asked us if we wanted them. We are accustomed to the wind on the island, so we opted out of the windows thinking no big deal. Anyone laughing at us?
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Super Foods. Our room was a simple hotel room with a mini-fridge and no way to cook anything, so we basically bought snacks, sandwich makings, Malibu Rum and beer. Prices are a bit higher than were used to in northeast Ohio, but we expected it. I didn't understand the parking lot until the 2nd visit. Odd how they make you go all the way around the front of the building and back to the side to get out. And people need to learn how to enter a building through a revolving door. It's not that difficult, but it kept stopping while I was in it.
We got back to the beach, now with cooler in hand, and spent the day sunning, swimming, eating and drinking.
DD asked to eat at Azzurro at the Playa Lind, as it was one of her favorite meals during our last trip. She ordered her fave, 4 cheese gnocchi and devoured a huge plate of it, sharing only one gnocchi for each of the rest of us for a taste, and it was delicious. DS and DH ordered seafood dishes and they were both very good. I wanted something simple and only saw fettuccini alfredo. I asked them to substitute the alfredo for vodka sauce, and it was AWESOME. I'm pretty certain the pasta wash freshly made. We watched the wait staff prepare the pasta prepared in a cheese wheel hollowed out and lit on fire to provide melted cheese for the pasta. On the menu it is for 2, and no one in my family wanted to share it with me, so I did not order. Maybe next time L
We walked to the Hyatt, DH took DD, who is now old enough to gamble and drink on the island, to the casino for her first go at it. She walked away 20 bucks ahead. I told her to keep walking. While they gambled, DS and I wandered the Hyatt grounds and watched the black swans. One seemed to be sitting on a nest. I read someplace online that there were 3 eggs which they have determined are not fertile, one egg is left. I felt bad for the mom, ever so diligently sitting on her nest not knowing the fate of the egg.
I've never liked to write stories, but boy I can go on and on about Aruba….