Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aruba

Don't we look better now? Vacation helped! :)


Aruba was a wonderful vacation. It was so nice to get away without our kids. We missed them, of course, but it really helped to know that they were having so much fun at home with Ingrid!

I suppose to start at the beginning, I should say that Sam and I celebrated our ten year anniversary back in July. Last year we decided that we would do something big this year. Sam has done a lot of traveling with work over the last three years and has accumulated a HUGE amount of frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. So Sam told me we could take a trip ANYWHERE in the world--we had enough miles to cover round trip tickets wherever I chose.

The pressure was on...this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I looked into a number of different locations...high on my list were Australia/New Zealand, Italy (and the rest of Europe!), and Zambia. I finally settled on Fiji, as it seemed like a beautiful and relaxing sort of place. Then I found out that not only does American Airlines not fly there, we could not afford the hotel prices there! A lot of the locations I looked into were going to be fairly expensive once we arrived. So we prayed about it a bit more and just decided to wait until the right thing came along.

Earlier this year Sam and I were at the mall together. This was unique in itself, since we very rarely go to the mall at all and even more rarely do we go together. A man running a booth stopped us and asked if we'd like to earn some free waterpark tickets. Sam kept walking, but I stopped to listen. I had been wanting to take the kids to this fun new indoor waterpark, but the tickets are $19.95 each--WAY out of my price range! It turned out to be a time-share presentation. They offered us a $40 american express card, six free waterpark tickets, and I don't even remember what else, so I signed us up.

The next week we sat through the (tortuously loooooong) time-share presentation and had no problem saying 'no' at the end. When we went in to receive our prizes, the woman handed over the things we knew we were getting and also a scratch-off game card. We weren't instant winners, but we still were given a certificate for a free hotel stay in our choice of locations (Aruba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or Jamaica).
So that is how the trip to Aruba started in the first place. I had to look it up on a map since I didn't really know where it was (to save you the trouble, it's in the Caribbean just off the coast of Venezuela!) but it sounded great...a mostly free vacation! Of course we still had to pay for food and some other travel expenses, but overall it was a very inexpensive trip.
In some ways Aruba is a really beautiful island (the beaches are amazing!) and in some ways it isn't very pretty at all. When you get away from the beach it is a really barren, desert landscape (cactus and lizards everywhere!).

We did a lot of different things while we were there. We spent time at the beach and the pool, just reading books and soaking up the sunshine. I had the genious idea to wear a two-piece swimsuit after a few years hiatus. Also forgot sunscreen one day. That resulted in my tummy looking like this: (and it is STILL peeling!)

One day we rented a jeep to go and discover the treasures on the uninhabited side of the island. We found the rocky shore and the natural bridge, which was very beautiful but full of trash. On the other side of the bridge water pools up and there is a little canyon dug out of the rocks. It was completely full of garbage that washes up out of the ocean. Kind of strange in such a pretty place.

The driving was rocky and bumpy but not really too bad until we got to the trailhead for the natural pool. At that point there is a sign that says 4 x 4 is REQUIRED and not to venture on without it. We soon found out why! The roads were steep and full of huge rocks that Sam had to manuver over or around. There were also cactus everywhere and we ended up with a flat tire before we were done. :)

It was so worth it to make the drive though. The natural pool was our favorite place on the island. It is right on the shore and there are great big rocks that form a circle. Waves crash up over them and then the water trickles down into the pool. The pool itself is perfectly calm and about 50-60 feet deep. We snorkled around and saw some beautiful fish in there and then climbed up on the big rocks and did some cliff diving. We had the pool to ourselves a while and then there were other groups there with us. Everyone was incredibly friendly. There were even two Aruban men 'working' there to make sure nobody gets hurt in that area. One of them told me that they sometimes have to call in helicopters to air-lift out people who get stupid on those rocks!

We took the bus into town a few times and walked around. The downtown area is very touristy and set up mainly for the cruise ships which port there. Lots of jewelry stores and souvenir shops. One night we went on a sunset cruise and got to see Aruba from the water. It was beautiful and we enjoyed being out on the ocean. We saw FOUR weddings taking place on different spots along the shore! The sunset wasn't spectacular as it was fairly cloudy that night, but it was still very pretty.

Our last full day on the island we took a trip to de Palm island. It's owned by one of the tourism companies on the island and it's just a tiny little island five minutes off the coast of Aruba. (The picture below was taken from the dock looking out toward de Palm.) Once you are on the island, everything is included. They have a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, a 'snack bar' that serves hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken nuggets and fries whenever you want 'em, an open bar, snorkeling equipment, a waterpark that our kids would have loved (and we made sure to use, just for them!), beach volleyball, soccer and all sorts of empty white-sand beaches. That was a pretty fun day. Very relaxing and fun. The snorkeling off the island was beautiful. We saw these huge blue parrot fish and lots of others. It was an amazing vacation. We haven't had any time away from our kids (besides date nights) in over three years, so it gave us a chance to talk and just enjoy each other's company. My favorite part may have been the airplane rides. I have flown quite a bit with my kids, but haven't flown without them in over six years. It was pretty fun to just nap when I felt like it, read my own books, and not have to carry anyone. :)

Now that I'm all refreshed and relaxed, it's back to reality! Sam was home from Aruba for just a few days before he had to leave to help with a retreat at work. He was gone from Wednesday to Sunday, so it's been just me and the kids getting back into a routine around here.

It's good to be home! :)

6 comments:

Just Mom said...

Sounds heavenly (well, except for the sunburn). What a wonderful way to celebrate ten years of marriage.

By the way, we once won a free two-night stay in a time-share on Lake Okoboji, with the cath being we sit through a painfully long presentation. We had no problem saying "no" at the end because they made the serious mistake of putting us in a circa 1970s decorated room complete with circa 1970s TV, bathroom with cracked and mildewed tiles and bed that creaked terribly. If they had put us in one of their recently updated rooms, we may have said yes.

~Ginger said...

We went to Aruba 9 years ago with my parent and my siblings. I hated leaving the girls as I had never left them for more than a weekend. It turned out to be amazing! We spent the entire week at our resort and didn't get to the other side of the island. We had fun snorkeling, parasailing, and just enjoying the pool and ocean. I would go back in a heartbeat. Our resort was top notch thanks to my parents!

So glad you guys got to go and enjoy. We didn't get another vacation like that until this past year for our 30th anniversary. Hope it doesn't take you that long!

Journey said...

Lisa- Thanks for sharing, it was fun reading about your trip- you guys did alot! I pray God continues to provide these times of refreshment for you and Sam, as well as just for you, along the journey- they are sweet :) Blessings--- Beth

michelle said...

Sounds amazing! What a great way to spend your 10th and what a nifty price. :)

Andrea said...

Looks like you guys had a blast!
except for that sunburn of yours :(

Our 10th is this Fri....I haven't planned anything yet!

I'm glad you guys had a great time...I'm sure you needed it :)

Michelle said...

Sounds like SUCH an amazing trip!