We've been back for almost a week but I'm only getting my head on straight now. There was the epic unpacking/laundry, catching up on life obligations and book stuff (some awesome new blurbs and press clips here), and everything related to the engagement -- seeing friends/family, insuring the ring. It doesn't help that we're in the lazy days of late August -- not exactly the most productive time for anyone.
But I've loved spending spare moments processing our vacation pics and designing an album for ourselves and our families (I've used Blurb for years and love it). Here are some pics from -- apologies for being sappy -- the best vacation ever.
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, so come on, what's not to like? The hotel is the farthest north on the hotel strip, so it's quieter and cleaner. There are no passers-through, no annoying pop music, just the sound of the water and birds. (If you look carefully at that photo, you'll see I have a huge bruise on my left shin. We went windsurfing and apparently I have an aggressive way of mounting the board).
When D and I go on vacation, we try to find a place that has a blend of relaxation, nature, and athleticism. There was plenty of pampering at the hotel, on the beach, and at beachside restaurants where we ODed on seafood. But we also paddleboarded, windsurfed for three hours, hiked in Arikok National Park, and went snorkeling. Next time we have to do landsailing and mountain biking.
We snorkeled with Aruba Bob, who has the most impressive Trip Advisor profile I've ever seen.
Our hike was spectacular, but in the moment it was a bit harrowing. We embarked on a 45-minute trail to the Natural Pool, and three people stopped and warned us. It was 95 degrees, with no shade, nearly all uphill. But we wanted to do it (we had enough water and we had done something similar in the Everglades in August -- we could handle it). But we got lost and that 45-minute hike turned into a 2 hour one. See the jeeps in the top left corner of that pic? That's where we wanted to go. Once we realized we were lost, we just went to the water and walked along the coast. It was exhilarating beside that wildness, waves of immense force crashing over a moon-like terrain. But once we got to the Natural Pool... we hitched a ride on a Jeep.
You might think of a Caribbean island is lush, but Aruba is semi-tropical, with many deserts. There were far more cacti than palm trees.
We also saw a fair amount of wildlife. Here's what the locals call "a free pedicure".
Here are bats in Quadirikiri Cave in Arikok. Legend has it that the tribe leader locked his beautiful daughter in here when she fell in love with a foreigner. Her spirit escaped through the holes in the ceiling so she could return to her lover.
We went to the spectacular Butterfly Farm where we saw hundreds of butterflies and moths. This mini-documentary gives a great tour of the space + poses some thought-provoking questions about life and consciousness (a chrysalis is basically a vessel of genetic goo that forms into a totally different being).
We also saw ton of blue lizards, land crabs, pelicans, and hawks. We spotted two hummingbirds but alas they are impossible to photograph.
Mountain goats roam the streets (we even saw a goat skeleton while hiking... at least we think it was a goat?). Those are some tough goats because they forage inside prickly cactus patches.
I shamelessly drank numerous blue drinks because Curacao is just next door to Aruba. This was Breaking Bad inspired.
Towards the end of vacation, we kept saying, we wished we could stay just a little bit longer. And we did!
We arrived at the airport only to be told that all flights in and out had been canceled because of a software malfunction. We booked another night and went back to the beach. Can you tell I'm really happy??
And, finally, let's talk FOOD. The first couple days, we stayed around the hotels while also thinking how we'd be able to manage eating at restaurants where the main courses started at $38 (seriously... that's for the chicken breast or pasta). But once we ventured out a bit, the food was not only more affordable, but also much tastier. Some recs:
Flying Fishbone - For dinner on/in the beach. The closest row is in the water -- so far in that it'll reach your upper-mid calf. We sat in row 2.5... close enough to see the flying fish in the water, far enough that the sand under our feet was dry. Had a delicious unicorn fish and Baked Alaska here.
Pelican Nest Seafood Grill - Straight-forward, deliciously prepared seafood. The entrance is in the thick of the touristy hotel area, but the actual restaurant feels more low-key because its out on a pier. Like Flying Fishbone, the name of the restaurant is literal. Expect pelican sightings.
Madame Janette - A spot for locals and tourists alike. This restaurant is inland, away from the hotels and water sport kiosks. It also showcases the diversity of Aruban cuisine: local seafood, Dutch classics, Argentinean steak, and of course, blue drinks.
And for more casual spots:
Garden Fresh Cafe - Sometimes during vacation eating, you just want a SALAD. This hit the spot more than any 4-star meals could. We also went for breakfast, where I had my first (!) acai bowl.
Gari & Wasabi - "Japanese Caribbean fusion." But I think their most interesting menu item was DEEP-FRIED sushi! I know this sounds terribly déclassé (and it is), but it was quite interesting and delicious. Mine had salmon, crab scallions, eel, avocado, and nori.
And so ends Summer Vacation 2015. Ready to get down to business (in two weeks).