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Thread: Trip Report 11/8-14/08

  1. #1
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    Aug 2008

    Trip Report 11/8-14/08

    Sorry it's so long, I'll post a shorter one for those of you that don't have the weekend free

    Royal met us at the airport and shuttled us to their shop to pick up the rental car. From there we drove to Ling's with a quick stop at Certified (right around the corner) to look for pool floats and bug spray. Got a little lost on the way to Ling's as it was our first time on the island and I was trying to go by memory from what I had seen on Wikimapia. (If you haven't checked out Wikimapia yet you really should, it's awesome.)
    We broke out the Borch map, decided where we were and where we needed to go, and then proceeded to try to find our way through the backroads anyway and ended up finding our way. It seemed very hard to know where to go at first but we soon realized we were just being overcautious as it was actually really easy to get to everything on the island. (Except the natural pool more on that later)
    At Ling's we bought everything we needed for breakfast including all the stuff we are used to in America, and even all the same brands for anyone who is worried about that. Then we got some Balashi, some Amstel Bright, a few of those little wines (Arbor something I think) and a bottle of Jack Daniels
    From there we drove to the Divi Pheonix where we checked in very quickly and got up to the room to change for dinner.
    The Staff at the Pheonix was excellent, very polite, helpful, and friendly the entire time we were there.
    We quickly did the checklist in the room to make sure we had everything, and as we were doing so Lillian, the head of the service team came by and replaced all the little missing stuff personally, then gave us directions to Savaneta for dinner. Again I was under the impression that FFB and OMATS would be hard to find, but that was a mistake.
    We left at 5:10 ish for a 5:30 reservation and made it right on time. We wanted to leave at 5, but we were informed that the beach hut where we needed to go to get our beach towels would be closing at 5:30 so we went by there first so we would have towels in the morning in case there was a line. Another mistake. At no time was there ever a line for anything while we were there including drinks at the bar, dinner, adventure golf, or anything else.

    As we arrived at The Old Man and the Sea, the seater asked if we had a reservation and I said yes, so she told us to wait in the lounge while they prepared our table, so I said "I don't know if it makes a difference, but we've reserved the Gazebo for the evening."
    She literally stopped in her tracks and turned around and said "Oh well yes it does!" and took us out across a little foot bridge, sat us in big fluffy pillowed chairs right on the water, and brought us some Balashis. We felt like movie stars! It was incredible and the location was perfect. As we sipped (She sipped I had 3 or 4) our beers, the waitress (Rachel, I highly recommend her) came out and greeted us and told us about the specials.
    I asked her to take a picture when the sunset and just before it got all the way down, right when all the reds and oranges were at the horizon, she came out and took a few great pictures of my proposal and the ensuing reaction. It really couldn't have been any better and now we have some great pictures that we probably wouldn't have been able to get otherwise. Thanks Rachel!
    Now for the best part of the evening [IMG]file:///C:/DOCUME%7E1/Rich/LOCALS%7E1/Temp/msohtml1/01/clip_image002.gif[/IMG]JK
    Rachel brought us out through the gazebo to a table for two on the tip of the private island with a panoramic view. The sun was still slowly dropping off the horizon as we settled in and settled down after the proposal.
    I had the tostones con pollo which was shredded chicken in a red sauce on a fried plantain disc. They were delicious, the plantain really made them perfect. Keri had a shrimp app, which she said was incredible, but I don't do seafood so I didn't try it.
    Then I had a cesar salad, she had a pear and walnut salad. Both were very good. I had a ribeye that was served with a pineapple rice. There was some kind of gravy or sauce on the steak that complimented it beautifully, I mean I almost had tears in my eyes. It was literally the best steak I have ever had, and I'm a steak guy. I've been to Morton's and Ruth's Chris and Peter Luger's and a hundred other steakhouses and they're all great, but this was untouchable. Keri had a macadamia encrusted Red Snapper that she was also extremely pleased with. We finished with desert, I had cookies and cream iced cream and Keri had Kahlua Cheesecake. Overall I have to give Old Man and the Sea a 10 out of 10. There was nothing I would change or that could have made our experience better. We are already saying if we only do 1 nice dinner on future trips it will be there.
    We drove home, even at night it was very simple just one turn to get out of the driveway and another 2 quick ones by Black Hog Saloon to get to the stretch that goes to the high rises, and we were there. The pool was closed, so we went for a dip in the ocean and then sat in the hot tub for a few minutes before heading up to the room.

    Our first full day, and we still had the rental car until 11am so we went back to the grocery stores. Ling's was closed for family day so we went to Hong King and got a whole bunch of stuff for sandwiches and hot dogs and all the other breakfast stuff we needed but didn't want to buy the night before since we hadn't been to the room yet and didn't know what we would need and what was provided.
    Then we tried again to find floats but didn't see any at all, so we picked up a can of OFF (We had heard that not everyplace had bug spray so we thought it would be a good idea, but we threw out almost the whole thing when we left because they all had their own, and not only that but ours smelled like bug spray and all the restaurants had some really good smelling island mist scented stuff)
    From there we went into the T-SHIRT SUPERSTORE which consisted of one shop with every size of about 12 different designs. From the sign, I was expecting a lot more. I picked up 3 shirts and Keri got a little foot-shaped bottle opener because it was her favorite color and she has one just like it at home so now she'd have a set! Whatever throw it in, we're on vacation.
    We headed back and I got gas on the way, 20 bucks for about 15 Liters. Keri was very impressed that they knew how to do the conversion in their head. We got back to the resort just minutes past 11 and the guys from Royal were waiting to take the car back. I was able to setup a 1 day rental of a Jeep right there for wednesday, those guys were great, I would definitely recommend them.
    Up to the room and since we didn't have any scissors, Keri used a steak knife to make cuts in the sleeves of my new shirts so I could tear them off. The first and second one were fine but the last one, my favorite of course, tore straight down the entire side to the bottom of the shirt. So I bought two shirts and one car waxing rag at the T-Shirt place.
    We put on lots of sunscreen and headed down to the pool. We stopped at the pool bar and got a couple of Hurricanes from George who would be our poolbar-tender all week long. We decided to rent floats from the resort for 5 bucks but unfortunately we had to go to the activities director by the front desk for that, and since we were on our way to swim and sunbathe, I didn't have my wallet with me. He told me I couldn't put it on the room either, I had to use a credit card. I had $10 on me and I offered to pay cash and he said oh sure but it has to be exact change, and with tax its 10.38 - no kidding he made me go up to the room (which was not right around the corner, but across the courtyard and up the tower) and get a credit card for 38 cents. then I had to go back up to the room again to put my credit card and wallet back in the safe and come back down to go to the beach. Not cool.
    We spent the rest of the day floating on beautiful sunny palm beach outside the resort. The current and wind pulled us gently from the right breaker to left one about every half hour which I deemed a good time period between flips from front to back so we wouldn't get burned. As we approached the rocks each time, Keri would hold on to my feet and I would pull us back across to the right side and begin the float again. It was fun and relaxing and many times we would comment to each other how great it was.
    At 5:30 we returned the floats and exchanged our towels for dry ones and headed up to the room for sandwiches chips and soda.
    Then we took a cab downtown and saw a movie at the cinema ("Choke", it was not a good as the book which was not great anyway) we wanted to see Rock'N'Rolla but it hadn't made its way to the Caribbean yet. We loved the $6 tickets and $6 combo for a huge popcorn and a huge coke though which is half of the New York prices we're used to.
    We left the theater and had Haagen Daas as we walked to the casino to use some of the $5 cards the cab driver had given us. He was supposed to give one to each rider but gave us 10 each and told us not to cash them all at once! We played some slots and I stood at the craps table for quite a while, I gave Keri the first 20 that I won to cover my initial bet and then played with winnings until I ran out so I didn't get rich, but I didn't lose any money either.
    As we left the casino I thought to ask the guy by the door to call a cab but I didn't and we walked to Burger King so we could get some Ketchup packets to put on our hot dogs. We couldn't see buying a whole bottle of ketchup and mustard while at the grocery stores.
    We started walking back towards the high rise area but it was near midnight and Keri was afraid to walk on the main road without a sidewalk so we were walking by the storefronts where there really wasn't much chance of getting a cab. After a long time walking we were offered a ride by a local which we gratefully took. I offered him gas money as we pulled into the Pheonix but he refused.
    In the room we were able to catch the last quarter of the Giants game which made me very happy since I didn't think I would get to watch it at all. We had some drinks and turned in for the night.

    I worked out at the Pheonix gym which had everything I needed even though the equipment has not been updated in quite some time. The treadmills and bikes all looked pretty new and had their own tv's but I didn't bother doing cardio - I was on vacation after all.
    Keri scheduled a massage while I was down there, and when I got back up to the room we made breakfast and then headed down to the beach for a while.
    Around noon the resort had an orientation party sort of thing and when it was over they had burgers and potato salad for $6 per person which we brought up to the room and ate on the balcony.
    Keri had her massage and then we headed down to the pool bar for 2 for 1 happy hour. I got Balashis and Keri got Pina Coladas, then we went down to the beach and she tried out her snorkel gear. This was her first time and unfortunately the water outside the pheonix while calm and beautiful is constantly clouded with the fine silt from the bottom, so we went in the pool so she could see something.
    We made a reservation at the Black Hog Saloon as we passed the front desk and a cab to get there, but when we arrived there was no-one else there. The girl at the bar said they didn't have the bbq that night, but upon hearing we had made a reservation she pointed us to the restaurant "Alfredo's" next door. It was also empty. When we walked in I told the hostess we had a reservation and she said oh itís a small island you don't need reservations. Keri and I sat but wondered if we were in the wrong place, and if so where I had made a reservation.
    We ordered, I had Chicken Parm and Keri had Frutta di Mar, which she said was great. It was pretty cool that they served the meals in the same pan that they were cooked in. Then we played mini golf since it was at the same location. They called us a cab back to the pheonix and we were in for the night after some planning for the next day.

    I worked out at the pheonix gym again and Keri met me and did some yoga while I finished up, then we made pancakes, eggs and sausage with coffee and orange juice in the room - it was like a cereal box picture breakfast, something we never get at home.
    We called a cab and went out to Boca Catalina for some snorkeling that I'd been looking forward to for months. The camera battery died in the first 10 minutes and the spare was back in the room so only a few pictures. My mask didn't fit very well and my mustache kept the silicon from sealing well under my nose so I had a pretty rough day (That'll teach me to buy new gear for a trip when I have perfectly good gear in the garage)
    The snorkeling was great and there were tons of fish of all kinds. The water was crystal clear. As we were taking a break at one point a guy who was leaving gave us a tube of fish food (shrimp and spirulina blend) which was awesome, the fish were so into it that they followed us around the rest of the day and even waited for us while we took a break on the beach for some sun.
    We started walking back towards the high-rises hoping for a cab to pass, but unfortunately they were pretty scarce up there. Eventually one picked us up and took us back to the Pheonix. We had hot dogs in the room (with ketchup from Burger King).
    Then got a cab to take us downtown for some shopping at the Renaissance Mall. We spent a few hours walking around and then went to the jewelry stores to have Keri's ring sized (I got it way too big) but she said she'd rather do it at home so we had one of the jewelers put a bar on it so that she could wear it without worrying about losing it.
    We headed back to the Pheonix and went for a walk on the beach until about 9pm then went by the Sunset Beach Bistro for dinner, which was great. I got Chicken Parm again, and Keri had coconut popcorn shrimp that she raved about for days. She also discovered her new favorite drink, a banana pina colada with baileyís they call a "shipwreck" which she would be back for each time we passed by. There were LOTS of bugs and I was bitten up by the time they brought us bug spray.

    While Keri slept in I worked out at Pheonix Gym again Ė no reason to let months of work go to waste just because Iím on vacation right?
    We made breakfast in the room again, Omelettes, Sausage, Pancakes, and OJ. Then we went down to the beach for a little while since Royal was coming at 11 with the Jeep I had rented for the day.
    They showed up right on time and in minutes we were packing up for a day of sightseeing, snorkeling, and off-roading.
    We headed north along the coastline to the California Lighthouse, took some pictures. From that point you can see the entire high rise area from a distance its really great. The water looks amazing and is almost all the way around if you do a 360 (which I did on camera and it doesnít look as cool as I thought it would on video.)
    From the lighthouse, we took a dirt path and followed it down to the coast. There was a huge golf course that we could see people playing on and some really nice houses. The Jeep did well on the sharp rocky ground, although I was worried that I would slice the sidewall of a tire or two. I took it very slow and for the most part stayed on the path until we were past the open expanse of shoreline that bordered the golf course.
    From there we followed sparse ATV and Jeep paths, sometimes they were smooth and easy to follow and sometimes I had to get a little creative. We went through what appeared to be a graveyard, a huge stretch of shore with hand-piled rocks of all sizes-some with crosses, some had writing on them, and lot of shoes (even quite a few baby shoes). On the other side there were grassy hills with huge rock formations, we took lots of pictures of both sides. After a while we drove by a few sparse dwellings, which we assumed to be fishing huts. One of them had a pile of junk outside that had a McCain í08 campaign poster on it, which struck us as a little funny.
    As we drove on there were some sweet trails and even a few water crossings which I hit pretty hard (rented Jeep, right?) and eventually we found a dog running along that looked lost. It had a collar on so we knew it wasnít a stray and we noticed a woman way up the road with another and figured it must have belonged to her.
    We found our way to the Alto Vista chapel and took a little break to take some pictures but it was actually pretty crowded, there were two tour buses, a Harley tour group, and a bunch of other people just hanging around, which made it hard to get a good picture without some random person in it. While we were doing that the lady with the dogs came up to us and we started talking. I told her we were going to the natural bridge and the natural pool and she told us which trails to take as the one that tourists usually take was washed out and the water was far too deep to drive across. She said she walked it yesterday and the dogs had to swim because it was too deep.
    We thanked her and set off and she was definitely right, because as I tend to do, I went the way she told me not to go just to see if I could make it. It was very interesting but we made it. I have to mention, I had a Wrangler a few years ago that I did quite a bit of off-roading in (until I flipped it) and I still had a lot of fun on (and off) the trails along the north coast. There was some challenging stuff - more than I expected actually, but really nothing that anyone should be afraid of. I would recommend renting a Jeep and making this trip to anyone, the North side of the island is really great.
    Anyway, we found our way to the ruins of the Bushiribani Gold Mill. It was really pretty amazing to see the architecture and imagine how it had been built by hand. From there we headed to the Natural Bridge and stopped there at the ďThirst Aid StationĒ to take some pictures and check out the gift shop. I bought Keri a really cute dress that she loves and we headed back out. There was another off-road trail that went around the bay to the other natural bridge and looked pretty rocky. We decided to go back towards the ruins and take the road to make sure we didnít get lost. (Thatís not a cop-out, I was already below a half tank and we were nowhere near a gas station so I couldnít rationalize driving around in 4wd without knowing where I was.)
    We decided to skip the Donkey Sanctuary and just head to the Natural Pool, but that proved easier said than doneÖ.
    We used the map to get close enough to see signs, so then we just followed the signs (1st mistake) The signs got smaller and smaller until they were just chalk arrows on rocks and then even those got so few and far between that they were impossible to follow. It was kind of just like you went in the general direction of the arrow and drove around until you saw another arrow. By the beginning of the trail we saw a guy on an ATV so we followed him, but then we were sure he went the wrong way so we continued on only to meet up with him again a little farther up. It continued like this until we got to the point where we saw the very last arrow, which pointed us straight up a mountain of loose rocks. Up until this point I really didnít even need 4 wheel drive but I decided to turn it on now because it was pretty steep and it looked like there really wasnít a trail at all, so I just pointed it up and started slow. It was about 15-20 minutes of awesome bouncy bumpy fun until we reached the top where we found a trail that took us about a hundred feet to an airplane beacon. As far as we could tell we were at the top of Seroe Ayo, but there was no Natural Pool to be seen or found. A few seconds later the guy on the ATV popped up and we asked if he knew where it was, but it was pretty obvious that he was just as lost as us. Then 2 more Jeeps came up the trail and we quickly realized we were all in the same boat. We followed the trail back down and past where we had entered and found that it came around in another direction, which looked promising. We headed in the direction which we all agreed was towards the natural pool only to find that the road was blocked and a sign that read No Trespassing had been put up.
    After a quick conference we elected the ATV guy to go through and try to find a way through while we waited for him to come back. I went back to the top of the mountain and waited to see him pop out on the only road that I could see, which he did some time later. After a while I got tired of waiting so I went through a small passage between the road block and some small trees and made my way towards what I thought was the way to the pool. We went by a construction site where they were building something massive that looked like a Hollywood Estate, and after that the road turned into a manicured winding gravel trail, which appeared to be in the final stages of paving just before the asphalt is laid down. About every 2-300 yards was an abrupt concrete lined ditch running across the road, probably a drainage system for the obviously high price neighborhood that was soon to be built there. After about 2 miles we came to a stop since there were 3 huge boulders across the road. As I got out to see if there was a way around a Jeep started coming up the road the other way and after talking to them my fears were confirmed. They were also looking for the natural pool and obviously it wasnít the way we were headed. Boooo. They did tell us however that they had spent the morning at Baby Beach, and since that was where we planned to end up we decided to call off the search for the pool. I improvised a ramp out of some loose stones and put two wheels over the curb which was nearly a foot high and made or sharp rocks stacked next to each other vertically like the top of a picket fence. I had Keri spot me around the boulder closest to the curb and made it past on the first try. So with a bit of sadness we were off to Baby Beach!
    I donít know what they were talking about since the road headed in the direction, but certainly not to Baby Beach. We ended up in San Nicolas and used the Borch Map to make our way around the refinery and down to the beach. We had some sandwiches and water in the nice grassy area by the auxiliary parking lot then decided to check out where everybody else was, but it was way too crowded and we were happy that we went back over to the side of the beach away from everybody, and parked on the sand just 50 feet or so from the water. We got our snorkeling gear and headed into the water, which was very clear and must have been high 70ís or low 80ís.
    As we swam out towards the reef there were a few fish here and there, but once we got to the reef area I couldnít believe how much there was to see. With the beach at our back there was a huge 20-30ft wall made of concrete and reef that all sorts of fish were teeming around. We swam over a deep trench made on one side by that wall and on the other by reef and rocks. There were easily 15 species of fish here and the visibility was great. As I wandered around and took pictures and videos, I made my way around the point and Keri decided to go back in because the water was much choppier on the other side. Iím very glad I kept going though, because on the other side was reef and rock bottom in maybe 6ft of water as far as I could see. There were so many fish here I must have spent 2-3 hours making videos and taking pictures. Then I swam in and met Keri on the shore for some relaxing and sunbathing.
    From there we headed to the Flying Fishbone for dinner. As some of you may know this was where I had originally planned to propose and once I changed my mind, I thought I should just keep the reservation since Iíd heard so much about the restaurant. Now I can say I know I made the right decision, as I was all but completely disappointed with the Fishbone.
    First of all, we arrived at 5:30pm, but unfortunately the reservation was for 5pm. My mistake, I had made the reservation 3 months before and I really did think it was for 5:30. So they informed me that my table had been given away but offered as a compromise the opportunity to move to a waterfront table for desert if someone else left. I politely declined as I didnít think we would want to move just for desert, and we settled for a second row table which was still very nice, except for the fact that I had to watch the people eating at what I knew could have been my table. Oh well, you snooze, you lose. Our waiter Jose was excellent, although we almost never saw him. We were there for nearly 4 hours!! Our drinks were only re-filled once over that entire time and only after asking twice. As I looked at the menu I realized I didnít like anything on it except the rib-eye(obviously not their fault since I can be very picky, but usually most places have something) and the entire appetizer menu was seafood. I know Ė What did I expect from a restaurant IN the water, but come on give me something I can work with. I talked myself into a salad even though I picked almost everything off it so I paid 15 bucks for some lettuce and croutons Ė awesome. I was really looking forward to the rib-eye though, so I didnít really care. Since the steak at OMATS had been soooooo good I was really excited to chow down. Keri ordered the Savaneta Seafood History which she thought was really good except the scallops werenít great - but she said the calamari were perfect and not the least bit rubbery.
    After quite a while the food arrived and I could not contain my excitement (or my hunger) I couldnít wait to dig into the rib-eye and I would haveÖ.if I had a knife. Thatís ok it happens, and a few minutes later a food runner brought me a steak knife. Ok here it comes! That first delicious bite! Oh hang on I had to cut a half inch of fat off to get to the steak, Ok this time! Get ready taste buds!.........crap - If I could write the sound it makes when your heart sinks, I would do it right here. This was not the best steak I have ever had. It was not even a good steak. Once in Mexico I was sad to see a grey piece of meat before me when I ordered a steakÖ. that was better than this. And to top it off, this had cost me 50 bucks. The price of an entire dinner for both of us back home. By the time I was finished, there was enough scrap, tendon, and fat to cover more than half of the plate and I spread it out to show Jose just that when he came over to ask if everything was ok. I told him, without being rude, that it was not great. He asked why and I said that it was certainly not the best cut that I have ever had. Then he left us and we did not see him for more than half an hour. When he did come back we ordered desert, which also took a very long time to come out and wasnít anything special, despite the special price tag. I was able however to get a very nice glass of Bushmill and a very fresh cigar to enjoy which certainly put a favorable end to the FFB experience. We left (after 9!) and headed home, glad that we had come for the experience, but agreeing that we really couldnít see ourselves coming back. I will say that they have an incredibly beautiful atmosphere and when the sun sets thereís no way you can sit there and be upset that your steak was junk. (But if youíre a stubborn Sicilian like me, even in the presence of all that beauty you can still manage to be upset that you have to witness the sunset behind another row of people)
    As we walked out I noticed that it felt like I had scraped the inside of my legs, possibly while snorkeling and each step I could feel the scrapes rubbing against my swimsuit (which I had elected not to change out of as it resembled khaki cargo shorts that I deemed dressy enough for dinner) When we got back to the hotel and started getting ready for a shower I decided to take a closer look and to my amazement, I found that I had taken a little bit of Baby Beach with me! There was a collection of bits of shells, little rocks, and sand in the net part of my suit, which I guess I hadnít noticed when we got out of the water, and they had managed over the course of the ride to FFB and 4 hours of dinner to plaster themselves to the inside of my legs, resulting in a very painful shower. Obviously this was not my favorite night.

    No workout since I could barely walk without a lot of baby powder and my best John Wayne impression.
    Royal came to pick up the Jeep out front and Keri and I had decided to rent another car for the day since we were leaving the next morning, so I asked if they could rent us a small car. He said yeah, no problem Iíll call you in about a half hour once I get back to the office. Great, that was easy, so I went back up to the room and woke up Keri and since we didnít have enough left to make a whole breakfast we decided to go down to the Sunset Beach Bistro. We waited about 20 minutes for Royal but they didnít call so we headed down and I told the front desk we were expecting a call and where we would be.
    The breakfast was excellent, both mine and Keriís as well. We ate under the awning so we were outside but not in the sun and fed the lizards and birds while looking out on the beach. It was great I would definitely go there again and the room charge makes it super easy.
    I never got a call from Royal so the front desk recommended Value Car Rental and I gave them a call. They didnít have any economy cars so they offered me a full sized sedan for ten dollars more, and I took that. They came to pick me up, but had to drive back to the shop for me to do all the paperwork so I had to drive back to the hotel and unfortunately told me that I had to return the car back to them and it had to be back by 6pm (only about 7 hours.) Since I was already there and it was our last day I agreed and went to pick Keri up at the Pheonix.
    As we headed out I had the front desk confirm our reservation at Madame Janetteís just in case and Iím very glad I did, since they didnít have the reservation. Luckily Sharie at the desk was the one who had made the reservation and she was able to break into Papiamento and argue for a few minutes until they agreed to ďsqueezeĒ us in. Thank you Sharie!
    So we headed back to Boca Catalina since we had enjoyed it so much and I took 2 fully charged batteries for my camera. We spent most of the day there, even talking about the idea of renting a villa in the area on future trips. We loved the tiny beach there, which didnít lend itself to crowding and the sharp rocky/coral coastline which kept most people away. I found a very nice smooth-sided pit in the coral that looked like a bassinette and to my amazement, my hiney fit in perfectly! It was like a recliner made in the shoreline just for me, and I stayed there for a while, sunning until I got hot and then just plopped right into the water. We had claimed one of the few palapas when we arrived and Keri set up shop there with our cooler and snorkel gear. After putting on some waterproof sunscreen we headed out to snorkel and it was great. There were tons so fish of all kinds and they LOVED the snorkel snack stuff we had to feed them. They followed us around everywhere and even waited for us once when we got out for a sun break. As we floated with the current and looked at everything under the water we didnít realize we had floated past the start of a private beach and soon found ourselves joined by two topless girls who didnít seem to realize or car that I was making underwater videosÖÖof fish of course. As I tried (and unfortunately succeeded) to be mature and film only stuff I could show the family when I got home, a really interesting fish made its way into my view and I left to follow it. That led me to a part of the reef that was apparently like catnip for fish, as there were literally hundreds chipping away at it. Then as I panned around to capture all of them I realized I was in the middle of a huge school of little silver/blue fish about 2 inches long or less. There were thousands of them all around and I could see the circular shape of the school formed around me, it was unlike anything Iíve ever seen.
    After a few hours of snorkeling we headed in, did some sunbathing on the beach and then headed to the car so we could return our towels and get back out room cards to refund our $50 deposit and then went downtown to do some more shopping.
    We went back to the T-SHIRT EMPORIUM which despite the small selection, really had the market cornered and Keri got the same shirts I had bought earlier in small so we can wear them together and look like dorks.
    We made it back to Value at exactly 6pm and when I asked them to call me a cab to Madame Janetteís they offered to take us if we paid them 10 bucks. I was a little surprised they didnít just offer to take us free of charge, but whatever we were going to pay for a cab anyway and a rideís a ride.
    They dropped us off and we were taken right to our table at Madame Janetteís. I was very thirsty and I kept the water girl busy, but to her credit she filled my glass every single time I finished it, which was honestly about 25-30 times over the course of the night. They served us a wonderful foccaccia bread with a garlic herb butter on the side but the best part was the onions soaking in vinegar in a heaping bowl which when put on top of the bread was delicious. We both ordered salads, and they were huge. I had a chicken cesar and it was really good, and Keri said hers was really good also.
    As I looked at the menu I remembered so many posts about Madame Janetteís having the best steak on the Island and I grew cautiously optimistic as I searched for what I thought would make a fitting last meal for the vacation. And there it was! The Old Butcher Steak. The description made my mouth water, something about lard and bacon and Austrian farmers, almond mashed potatoes and oxtail glaze. I was sold after lard and bacon. As I sat in a highly excited state time seemed to slow down and I couldnít concentrate on anything Keri was saying.
    Now, I donít know what it was about the menu description that led me to believe that this would be a big steak, but I was sure it was going to be the size of the entire plate - 3lbs of delicious meat, bleeding off onto the tablecloth, sizzling a little and smelling like heaven. I had heard so many people tell me to go to Madame Janetteís and just order one entrťe and share it will be plenty, so I was really expecting a huge mama-jamma steak. It was not. Instantly I thought of how disappointed I had been the night before and thought it would be more of the same. It was just bigger than a filet. A round disc about a half inch thick and maybe 5 inches from tip to tip. After I scraped the potatoes off (I hate potatoes) I surveyed the scene and found an excellent cut of steak, small, but cooked very rare like I asked and with lots of marbling but no tendons. Fat around the steak = inedible waste, Fat IN the steak = deliciousness! It was not as great as I had hoped but it was certainly a good steak.
    We didnít have to wait at all for a cab as there was a line of them waiting outside, and our driver gave us a little history as he took us back to the Pheonix.
    At the front desk we arranged for a cab to the airport at 6:30am and went up to the room to pack. We took only carry-ons and they were pretty packed on the way so it was interesting to try and get everything back in plus stuff we bought while there.
    When we were done packing we went for a very long walk on the beach to the north until we got to a section that was not very nice for walking. We headed back towards the Pheonix and walked backÖ.reeeeeally slowly.

    Up at 5:30 (Boooooo)
    Keri had coffee, we cleaned up the room, the sink, the bathroom, threw out a lot of stuff, did our last minute packing and headed down to the desk for checkout.
    On the way to the airport our driver made a few obviously bad decisions and we were stuck behind slow driver after slow driver and then a huge commercial truck, but we didnít really mind since it meant a few more minutes before we had to go home.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DANNYO's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Marriott Surf Club
    sounds like you had a great vacation...
    Great report made me feel like i was there...

  3. #3
    Senior Member cindyo's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Reniassance Island & Surf Club Lazy River
    Autofx, thank you for your detailed report on the island. It was a great read..
    It sounds you had a wonderful and most memorable vacation. Congrats again on your engagement. cindyo

  4. #4
    Senior Member Arubalisa's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Any Aruba beach...
    WOW! Thank you so much for sharing the details of your trip.

  5. #5
    abj is offline
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    renting a jeep is definatley th way to go. we had the same problem findingt eh natural pool. kept seeing signs but they seemed to lead you in a circle. we finally saw the tail end of a jeep tour and jumped in behind them. i can not believe something that is such an attraction is so darn hard to get to.

  6. #6
    Member hawaiianmoonlight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Great report! Sounds like you really relaxed.
    Next Aruba trip in

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