Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One Happy Honeymoon Island

Mr. S and I have dropped back into real life after a wonderful wedding and honeymoon! Leaving for the honeymoon the day after the wedding was the best idea ever - while we were exhausted, it was so great to just escape for some fantastic relaxing in ARUBA!

Check out Mr. S at the airport while we had a quick bite before our flight:

And, yep - Mr. S is sportin' his ring!

I'm also excited about the honeymoon, although this picture doesn't show it!

Aruba welcomed us with hot, hot weather, sunny skies and fabulous beaches. We stayed at the Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club, which we were able to stay at by taking a week of my parents timeshare that they gifted us and trading it for this location. The bonus of staying here (beyond a free week of lodging!) was staying in a "villa" which is a 1-bedroom unit with a living room, small kitchen, bathroom and balcony.

While it wasn't fancy-shmancy, having the kitchen meant we could make some meals in! Aruba is incredibly expensive, but the local groceries stores were very reasonable. We didn't rent a car while we were there, but the Aruban bus was only $1.30 each way. So, an hour and a half and two bus rides later, we had $80 worth of groceries - Cheerios, bread, peanutbutter, beer, bananas, spaghetti and sauce, etc. We were able to eat almost every breakfast and lunch as well as some dinners just from these groceries.

When we finally made it down to the beach on our first full day (Monday), we saw where we'd be spending the bulk of our time - the palapas huts. Since it was the off season, our beach was always pretty empty and it was easy to get a hut in a good location, which we could have for the entire day. Score!

We spent money on two special activities - one was parasailing. In retrospect, I think we were overcharged a bit ($120 for the both of us), but it was something that Mr. S really wanted to do. Let me just put it out there and say that it wasn't something high on my list. I get incredibly motion sick, hate roller coasters...I mean, I can't even ride in a convertible without getting sick! But, I told myself I could handle this whole parasailing thing.

They were going to let us go up together, but after being harnesses up, I completely freaked out and said that I was absolutely not going up. So Mr. S went solo. Look how excited he is!

They told him that if you put one arm out, it means you want to come down. If you put both arms out, it means you're having a great time. Mr. S was having a great time up there.

In the meantime, I was sitting on the boat with a huge knot in my stomach, debating if it was worth having Mr. S be annoyed with me for the rest of the day if I didn't go up. Sigh. Once he came down, I knew the guys would require me to make a decision immediately, and before I knew it my harness was hooked in and I was being given instructions on how to sit as the wind lifted me off the boat.

You can't see the fear on my face in this picture, or hear the screams.

Fortunately, once I got up in the air, it was fairly smooth and tolerable for me unless we hit an air pocket. They kept me as close as they could, though, which I greatly appreciated. It was a bit peaceful up there, but after a little while (what felt like an hour but was probably 5 minutes), I stuck out my arm so they could reel me in.

Fortunately, there was always happy hour to make things right. Our hotel did two happy hour drinks for $11.34 from 2:30-4:30 every day. The only catch is that it had to be one of the three drinks they were offering that day, and both drinks had to be the same. This led Mr. S to have to agree and take turns choosing. But, since those drinks would normally be $9 or $10 each, the compromise was worth it for the savings!

I believe this day was the Banana Daiquiri:

Mr. S chose this drink, but I ended up liking it more than him, yum!

One of the other special activities we chose was a snorkeling trip. We booked through De Palm tours (since we book this in our hotel lobby), and we chose to do a 4-hour snorkel trip on a Catamaran boat. They advertise it for $75/person, but as we were talking to the person she knocked off $10 a person. So, our $65/person covered transportation to/from the boat, snorkelling gear, 3 snorkel locations, lunch and open bar for the entire trip. There were a couple of different options, but we chose the Catamaran because we figured it wouldn't rock back and forth very much since I don't handle boats very well.

So, to prepare for our big snorkelling adventure we made sure to have plenty of Balashi, the local beer. They had these great mini cans so you could easily drink them in between snorkelling (probably not the safest idea!).

Look, we're all geared up!

We had a really great time! The guys in charge weren't exactly into teaching people (although I'm sure they would have helped if someone had asked) - they just let us loose at each spot. But we both got the hang of it quickly and had a really good time. The first two spots were clear, calm and we saw tons of fish! Unfortunately, the third spot was further out and unusually choppy, so I didn't get to see the Antilla shipwreck - I kept on get knocked back! All-in-all, it was a great day-trip and it was so fun paddling around the ocean with Mr. S.

Don't worry, amidst all the fun, I checked into Weddingbee from time to time!

We decided to stay close to our hotel for dinners just because restaurants were so expensive. Our "nice dinner out" was at Simply Fish, on the Marriott Hotel property. They were doing a 3-course dinner for 2 for $89, but you had to eat at 8:30 or later. Since we're poor newlyweds (and the prices are a bit inflated at all restaurants across the boar), we went for it. While it was quite romantic seated on the beach with our feet in the sand, the infamous Aruban wind made dinner a bit of a struggle - at one point Mr. S's champagne glass flew away!

While the food we had was great, I don't know that I would have been happy if I had paid full price if they hadn't been doing the fixed price menu. Regardless, it was great having a romantic dinner on the beach.

On one of our last nights, we ate at the Pelican's Nest, a little place on a pier further up the beach from where we were staying. It was touristy food that wasn't done very well (sadly), but the ambience made it all worth it! If you get there a little bit before sunset and it's just the two of you, you can be seated on the outer edge of the pier. The sub-par food was forgotten through a view like this at sunset:

One thing that we had been warned about before the trip was all of the lizards! They are everywhere...and, to be honest, if you're eating lunch outside they will stalk you at the table. I sat through a whole lunch shooing them away with my purse, fearful they would crawl up my leg. Ewww. Just look how big and creepy this guy's toes are!

There are also, of course, these big guys - the iguanas. We didn't see them as much - we think they slept and layed low during the hotest parts of the day (as did we!). But one day we caught this guy and one of his friends chasing each other around the pool. Hilarious! But, made me glad we didn't hang out at the pool at all because these guys would just crouch under the chairs. Fortunately, they never visited the beach.

After a week of fun in the sun, it was time to go. If you're ever planning a trip to Aruba, he's a look at what you can expect to find at the airport:

At the beginning of the mural above, you can't see the big Sbarro advertisement - there were tons of Sbarro's down there! So, our last Aruban meal was Sbarro as it was either that or airport sushi.

We didn't get into Chicago until about 9:30 on Sunday evening...we grabbed our bags and cab back to our condo then hopped in our car and drove 3 hours down to my parents house to pick up our baby:

Driving back up to Chicago Monday morning, we were exhausted, tan and relaxed! The last couple of weeks before the wedding were tense, crazy and overwhelming that taking the time to disappear, nap, have some cocktails and sit in the sun was exactly what we needed! Aruba was the perfect place for us to spend that week.

I'm chomping at the bit to get pictures from our photographer...can't wait to share!


wed in the white city October 4, 2009 at 8:28 AM  

thats so funny - I LOVE parasailing but I am totally petrified of snorkeling in open water... I can only do it if it's off the beach where I can still touch.

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