This was our third stay at the
Radisson since their renovation and great as always. Found out during our stay that their employees average 15 years of service with the hotel. That alone has to tell you something. The island is extremely dry and the gardeners were very busy trimming and watering, but it was never too much for them to take the time to say hello or wish us bondia though. Michael the doorman, Esther from the Laguna and Gilligan’s are just two folks who stick out in our minds as 2 dedicated employees.
Radisson has added two terminals for Internet access in the lobby. Jerry was a happy camper! Also a cart in the main lobby for a quick cup of coffee or Danish. Having been open now officially for about a year, the hotel landscaping is really maturing nicely and makes the resort even more beautiful now than it had been in the past, if that is possible?
This was our first stay in the Aruba Tower. Very very nice. Our fourth floor room had an ocean/islandview, which was terrific. Overlooked a rooftop but beyond that were blue skies and turquoise waters which more than made up for the roof! Beautiful sight to wake up to each morning. No trouble getting a palapa no matter what time of the day. Overall because of the time of year, the Radisson and rest of the hotels on the island were quiet. On Sunday the hotel had 142 rooms check in and on Monday you would have never known it. There were plenty of open palapas and the swimming pool area was pretty vacant. Where they all went I have no idea, but they were not at the hotel during the day.
I have had more than one person email me recently thinking that the Radisson was catering to a young 20 something crowd of party goers. This is far from the truth. The only thing I can think of is that it is being confused with the Allegro because they are right next door to one another. The Radisson had a real mix of folks- 30's, 40's, 50's, a few older couples, honeymooners and a few families. Only saw 2 kids at the resort last week and then there were some that checked in on Sunday. No problem though, you could just tell they were around. We watched the Kids Club activity leader playing water horseshoes with her lone charge. We don't have kids, but if you were looking to get out to snorkel or shop and did not want to drag the kids, the Kids Club sounds like a fantastic program. Nice play area and interesting activities with certified childcare. Even us adults cannot get a tour of the kitchen.
One big problem in Aruba- driving. You would not believe the number of road fatalities on the island roads so far this year. There were 2 accidents this weekend resulting in 3 unfortunate deaths. One of these gentlemen was a single father who worked at the English language paper THE NEWS. His co-workers were devastated by his death at the hands of a drunken driver. The other accident involved two young people on a motorcycle. From what we heard, the island does now finally have a breathalyzer, but I would be a good move on the part of the Aruban government to begin placing some additional safe guards on drivers.
Queen Beatrix International Airport Tuesday afternoon, the taxi driver went right through a red light. I will give people the benefit of the doubt, but she surely saw it was red. At dinner Saturday night we were introduced to the reservations manager of the
Radisson and she says she has a self-imposed curfew of 12 midnight because of all of the drunk drivers on weekends. Very sad. Otherwise, the island felt safe as always.
Jerry and I toured some of the resorts that we had never stayed at before. So that took up all of Thursday and Friday. I think we were most impressed with the
Westin . And what about their poolside services? Complimentary poolside- concierge, water sprits, fresh fruit, mobile laptop computer & roving cart with books. Great oceanviews with nice balconies from just about every single hotel room and beautiful, relatively affordable
oceanfront suites. Jerry and I think we might like to try it on our next visit. Not to say that we don’t think the Radisson is still terrific, just a change of scenery perhaps.
Wednesday night we had made plans to meet ArubaRed and ArubaJoe at the
Radisson. We walked across the street to Salt and Pepper. Then Sunday we spent the day driving around the island. We gave them our best version of the "guided tour". It was nice and they got to see everything, including the Natural pool- Conchi, which they enjoyed. I guess you know you have been to Aruba one too many times when you cannot get lost trying to find the Natural pool AND you have other jeeps following you to get there.
Through the years and our trips to the island, we are really impressed by the government's plans and improvements to Arikok National Park. Encompassing one-fifth of the island, it is definitely something to be explored at least once. If anything it gives you an alternative look at the “other side” of the island. There has been a great deal of work done on signing, roads, hiking trails, parking and other amenities throughout the park. We all sometimes joke about how slowly things go on the island, but we are always pleasantly surprised by the new improvements to Arikok National Park each time that we visit.
On our circuit around the island, while in Arikok National Park, we were able to stop at Fontein for the first time and that was REALLY cool. There is a museum, Fontein (fountain) and a cave. This is the only fresh water spring on the island. There were Chinese farmers who used this water to grow vegetables in the arid area surrounding Fontein. You enter through a museum, which houses some older Aruba photos, artifacts, furniture and native creatures. We even got "rattled" by an Aruban rattlesnake! There are folks there who will show you around. The four of us ended up with our own private guided tour, don't know why he picked us...but it was terrific.
The gentleman took us through the small museum, out to Fontein. Here he fed the turtles and explained the history of the Tilapia which are found in the pond. The Chinese raised them for food. The water then drains off of the pond and flows down a small stream or channel. As the months go along, the Park plans on clearing more of vegetation to the path of the stream can be followed...to the sea?
Along the way our guide spoke of some of the local customs, culture, flora and fauna. We then reached the cave. Here you can see original Indian drawings. The Indians retreated into the caves to hide from the Spanish. No bats, except first thing in the morning :-) As the day goes along the bats retreat into the cave. Ask to be shown the special spot on the right hand side of the cave...also look for the face from the planet Mars while you are leaving the cave. You are able to take photos inside the cave, but make sure your batteries and flash are up to par.
It was great to know that there were also restrooms here. Didn't use them so don't know if there was a charge to use them. A short ride around the bend from here is a small open air bar and snack shop. It was extremely refreshing to guzzle down a bottle of water, while sitting in the shade relishing those northeasterly tradewinds. There was also a nice clean "free of charge" restroom here. A great place to stop before we headed onto Boca Prins, which was right across the way.
I have to say that we also met some true Arubans during our drive Sunday. First there were the kind gentlemen at the "weekend hangouts" up the coast north of Boca Grande. They invited us to enjoy the scenery and hangout as long as we liked. Funny, we were first approached by one man from one of the hangouts and then another appeared from the one on the other side. If you think the worst you would think that maybe one was trying to distract us while the other went through our vehicle to see what was for the taking. No such thing, this was pure friendly Aruban conversation and hospitality at its finest. Later on we would see a family barbequing at the Casibari rock formations and they went out of their way to say hello. No we did not climb the rocks, it was TOO hot!
Of course took ArubaRed and ArubaJoe to the
Natural Pool. There was a nice Mitsubishi CAR blocking the dirt path. Huge signs are posted at this entrance to the park regarding the requirement of 4 x 4 vehicles to reach the Natural Pool. This person had tried and made it about 3/4 of the way before busting the oil pan on the car. I can only imagine how horrible this guy’s wallet was feeling. How do you even get the car out of there? 4 x 4 tow truck?
Thursday night we attended the dinner show at the
Westin . One of those things you would probably only want to sit through once in a lifetime, but a very ice show with beautiful gals and wonderful costumes.
Some of our dinners included the
Sunset Grille at the Radisson and Gasparitos. Both excellent as always! As hot as it was during the day, with the tradewinds. Dining outdoors at night was quite pleasant.
Jerry and I also had the pleasure of lunching with Rona Coster, the writer of Bati Bleki on Monday. What a nice cheerful lady. Typical Aruban for sure! It is very easy to see why she is the most popular journalist on the island.
Of course the days flew by much too quickly. In comparing the things we saw on the island from September, March and now, there are not many changes. We did not see any crime, nor heard of any. A few well known restaurants have closed. Always optimistic Arubans hope that these businesses will be able to resolve their difficulties. A couple of new places have opened recently. A Tex Mex restaurant next to Wendy’s right there near the high rise hotels, also around the corner it appears that a Chinese restaurant is going to replace the spot that had stood unoccupied for such a long time following the closure of Houlihans.