Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Aruba at night

Next we got to experience Aruba at night. We've never been at port after sunset, so that was exciting. Our ship advised us not to eat anything at this particular port and only to drink bottled drinks there, so we went back to the ship to get food and change out of our beach clothes before exploring the city.  We did some souvenirs shopping, walked through the shopping district to the local vendor market, then we walked to their historic downtown where there was a street festival going on with music and drums being played in the streets and women with colorful dresses and headpieces dancing together in the street. It was like we had stepped right into carnival. We continued walked a little further to a modern shopping center and row of restaurants before calling it a night and heading back to the ship. Things that I noticed that amazed me: there were no stoplights just stop signs and round abouts, things were incredibly cheap especially from the local people that lived there handmade things that cost $20 at other ports only cost $1 there, they love cigars they had several stores just for them and all of the restaurants displayed them in the desert cases, they have free healthcare there and their one hospital was the smallest most run down building that I saw on he island (which makes Obamacare even more terrifying) and the culture was an amazing mix of Caribbean, Spanish, and Dutch the people were pleasant there were vibrant colors everywhere and it seemed rather modern almost gaughty yet mildly dirty. It was an amazing first stop because it was so different from any place we'd ever been.

Rif Fort

Our second stop was Curaçao, and it was by far our favorite place we've ever been. Each part of Curaçao was so distinct that I'm going to have to break it up into several posts. We booked a last minute excursion (again) (we were really going with the flow which isn't my usually style. I make plans and before that I make plans about making plans but sometimes a little spontaneity can be fun)  so after a long debarkation process we found our tour line only to find out we were going to have to wait and go in the afternoon so we decided to spend a few hours exploring the vibrant city before meeting back up for our excursion. We headed down the coast to a shopping center called Rif Fort. It was originally built in 1828 to protect the port. The outer walls remained and the inside had been revamped into shops and restaurants. We found some beautiful Dutch trinkets, listened to music, and enjoyed the smell of the fondue restaurants. It had a very European vibe which is so different from any other place we've visited. 

Aruba day time

Our first stop was Aruba. It was completely different than I imagined. While eating breakfast on the ship, I caught a glimpse of the island out of the window and was amazed at how different it was from any other island we've been to before. It was flat except for a few small mountains in the distance, very arid and dessert like, and much more urban than any island we've visited before with tall buildings and parking lots and tons of visible streets. We were so excited to get out and explore. They announced a flash-sale on a beach excursion and we already had our swim suits on thinking we'd just walk to the beach and relax but since we couldn't see any beaches within walking distance, we booked the beach excursion....on the party bus last minute. Yep, that's right, the party bus. The party bus part wasn't mentioned on our tickets. It just said beach excursion but there were maracas, loud music, and no windows on our colorful reformed school bus. Sean and I looked at each other with that 'oh my what have we gotten ourselves into' kind of look, laughed a little, and hopped on board. The bus took us through the city, explained a little about their climate, their language, how they get their water, and that their trees only grow sideways because of the intense, constant wind that they have. Once we got to the beach, it looked gorgeous but very touristy. Not exactly the kind of place we like to hang out. The waves were so calm and there were so many people in the water that the oily sunscreen and hair (eeewww!) from our fellow beach goers just kind of sat there in the water with us. Drew and I got an umbrella and enjoyed the beach while Sean and Maddi got tan in the ocean. On the way back to the bus we passed a huge black man with dread locks and a pack of dogs selling drugs to tourists so this definitely wasn't the most family friendly place to be, but it sure was beautiful. We headed back toward the ship with music blaring, maracas rattling, and huge smiles on our faces.