Aruba Trip Reports

The Mill Resort

January 19-26, 2008 by Glenn & Donna

Saturday, January 19, 2008, So I said to my wife, "Isn't that Scarlett O'Hara over there?"

The alarm goes off at 1:30am. Aruba, here we come!! The London Limo car picks us up at 2:30 right on the dot, and we head out to the airport. A relatively effortless check-in at Air Canada, we have our bags tagged through to Aruba, and we head through security to our departure gate for the flight to Toronto. The flight is full, and probably 60-70% of the passengers are connecting in Toronto to go somewhere warm. Our Air Canada flight to Aruba leaves Toronto at 11:00, so we have plenty of time to make our connection.

We start boarding at 4:30 and are pretty much on time. A quick trip to the de-icing bay and we're on our way. We take off and, oh oh. What's that grinding noise? We're not climbing anymore. The nose gear wouldn't retract, probably something to do with the -30 degree temperaure outside. Anyway, we head back to the Winnipeg airport, and we're told that this aircraft isn't going anywhere.

Everybody gets off the plane, we get our bags and get back in line at Air Canada to get re-booked. We quickly realize, as do many others, that we're not going to make our connection out of Toronto. We are re-booked to Toronto, then booked to Atlanta where we will stay the night, and we're booked on Delta Airline's Sunday morning flight Atlanta to Aruba.

Once we are in Toronto, we notify Air Canada Vacations so they can tell The Mill and Avis Rent-a-car that we'll be a day late.

Air Canada gives us vouchers for the hotel and meals in Atlanta, and a Flight Disruption Certificate which we are to present to Delta Airlines for tomorrow's flight to Aruba.

We get to Atlanta and go to the Airport Holiday Inn North, and it's cold!! Anyway we check in, and go get a bite to eat. Never been to Atlanta before. Of course I'm looking for Aruba Lisa, but the only person I recognize is Scarlett. At least I think it was her. Donna's just hoping I don't say anything stupid.

Sunday, January 20, 2008. We can all learn from this. At least the seats were comfy!!

We get up early, get shuttle to the Atlanta airport and get in line at the Delta Airlines ticket counter.

Without going into the details, Delta would not recognize Air Canada's Flight Disruption Certificate as a ticket. The end of this is simple. The flight to Aruba is full, except for two seats in Business Class, so I shell out an additional $1800.00 for 2 one-way tickets from Atlanta to Aruba. Always, always, always leave room on the credit card for this type of occurance. That's the lesson.

Donna is stressed, but once we are under way and on our way to Aruba, I tell her just to sit back and enjoy the ride.

We arrive in Aruba on time, quickly go through Immigration, get our bags, out through Customs and over to AVIS.
We get our car and it's off to The Mill. It's a beautiful day in Aruba. There were showers earlier in the day but it's sunny and warm.

We arrive at The Mill, quickly check-in and find our room on the 2nd floor. The old elevator is working so that's good , Donna won't have to do the stairs.

Our room is clean, well-appointed and has a balcony facing the bird sanctuary. I get the parking pass, put the car in the lot, then head back upstairs to help Donna unpack. In a little while I'm in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals, and I head downstairs to check out the pool area. It really is a lovely area. I find a chaisse lounge that's calling my name. It's now about 4:30, so the sun is low enough that I can take my t-shirt off, and aaahhhh, does that Aruban sun feel good.

Around 6 we get in the car and go to Texas de Brasil. The salad bar still has a large selection to choose from, including some lovely cold cuts.

Now it's time to turn the little coaster over to green, and very quickly, the servers arrive with a great variety of meats. Filet mignon, prime rib, Brazillian sausages, short ribs, chicken, pork tenderloin, lamb, and flank steak are but a few of the meats brought to us on skewers. Last year, I had arrived in Aruba with a cold, so I couldn't enjoy Texas de Brasil as much as usual. This time though, both Donna and I feel great, and we thoroughly enjoy both food, service and atmosphere.

We're both full, but pleasantly so. We're not overly stuffed, I think the days of us doing that are past. We head downstairs, and walk over to Paseo Herencia. This is where JavAruba was supposed to relocate to. At first glance, Paseo is a beautiful place. In the centre of Paseo, and at this time of night, around 7:00 is a water ballet or lquid fireworks. Sort of like what they have at Bellagio in Las Vegas, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. Tonight's water ballet is set set to soft jazz. It's really quite beautiful.

Donna & I check the little directory for JavAruba, but in the spot where the directory says JavAruba is there is instead leather-goods store, Madame Buenas Aires. We're sort of perplexed, but after walking around a bit, we head home to The Mill. It's been stressful, and we're both asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Monday, January 21, 2008 The best laid schemes of . . . clothing store owners. And, anybody for the high-hurdles?

We wake up, have our juice coffee and cereal out on the balcony, and just enjoy the warmth. The pool opens at 8:00, and right on the dot, I head downstairs, get our pool towels and get a couple of chaisse lounges set up. I get Donna's set up under a thatched-roof covered table, and near a couple of palms so she'll have quite a bit of shade. I get my own set up right in the sun. The Mill's pool area is quite large and has two large pools along with a smaller wading pool.

It doesn't take long for the pool area to fill up. It's a real mixture between the time-share owners and hotel guests like us. As far as where people are from, well everywhere. About half from the U.S.A., but others from The Netherlands, Venezuela , Germany, and Canada. There are quite a few "Fran Drescher types", usually in groups of 6 or 8. Most of them seem to be time-share owners.

Around 10:45 I look over to Donna and I get that unmistakable look; you know; "That's enough sun for the first morning, and I've got shopping to do". I'm sure you'd recognize the look.

After showering and changing, we head off to O'stad. I let her off at Renaissance Marketplace while I go and find my favourite parking spot. I find her at Jewels in Paradise (where else?) but the owner is busy with another customer. He waves hello and we tell him we'll be back in a while. Donna finds a lovely t-shirt shop, buys a couple of things, and asks about JavAruba. The sales clerk tells her that JavAruba is still here. after paying for her purchases, we make a bee-line for JavAruba.

The owner, Reissa recognizes Donna from previous years and its hugs all 'round. She goes into some detail about Paseo and her intended relocation there. We won't share those here; let's just say that JavAruba is going to stay in Renaissance Marketplace for some time to come. After that, Donna starts her clothes search in earnest, so I go outside, and sit on one of the stone benches between the Marketplace and The Seaport Casino. This is going to take a while, so I just sit and watch the boats in the harbour.

Donna emerges from JavAruba with two or three shopping bags and by the look on her face, I know she's pleased. Was that really an hour? Seems like no time at all. Anyway, we go to Pannekoekhuis at the end of The Marketplace. Donna has one of the savory pancakes with vegetables, while I have the usual; a plain Dutch pancake, swimming in cane syrup. Donna blood-sugar count skyrockets just looking at my plate!!! It's delicious, and the young lady serving us accepted my broken Dutch. I hope to speek it more fluently next year.

After lunch we walk around a bit more, then head back to The Mill. Before we get there though, we find BINGO!, because that's where we want to go for dinner tonight.

Finally back at The Mill, we have a siesta for about an hour or so. I get up, put on my pool duds, and head outside. Donna, as is always the case in the afternoon, opts to stay in and rest a bit more. I just love The Mill's pool area.

This afternoon " me at the pool, she having a longer rest will characterize the week. We're early birds, so around 6 we go to BINGO!.

We each start with a bowl of onion soup, and I order a seared tuna special. The onion soup is to die for!! We both laughed when the server arrived with what looked like two mixing bowl-sized bowls of soup. We thought someone in the kitchen thought we wanted all the soup they had, but the lovely young lady assured us that there was no mistake. I think we'll order a cup next time. By the way, the tuna was excellent!! BINGO! is now on our "go to" list for Aruba.

Before going back to The Mill, we head to Alhambra Casino to dump the days change into the slots. This is a nightly routine for us.

The high-hurdles? Oh, that's what it takes to get in and out of the shower. Seems the tub/shower were installed with NBA all-stars in mind, not 5' to 5'7" shrimps like us. I think for Donna it's going to be a week of sponge baths.

Tuesday, January 22,2008 The tried and true, and the nearly new!!

Same beautiful morning routine at the pool. Another gorgeous day. A New Jersey woman starts talking to Donna; Donna thinks "Jeez, another hardluck story", then the woman's insecure control-freak of a husband appears. For the remainder of the week, Karen will seek Donna out each morning; Donna listens like she actually cares. Me, I'm in a chaisse lounge about 50 feet away. Funny, she never comes over and talks to me. Maybe I have that "Don't tell me your troubles" kind of look!

Anyway, after pool time it's a full-contact downtown shop-a-thon! T-shirst, sweatshirts, tank tops, white short-sleeved cotton shirts, gifts for people back home; you name it we buy it! I love watching Donna shop!

Lunchtime and we head to La Trattoria Il Faro Blanco, the restaurant next to the California Lighthouse. This is tried and true for us. We share a wonderful antipasto plate, then tuck into lovely panini sandwiches. We love both the food and the view out over the water. Lot's of Jolly Roger-type boats out, and on the horizon, lots of tanker traffic.

After lunch we drive through the Tierra del Sol district with it's beautiful homes, and head to the golf course. We always get a cap for the husband of one of Donna's girlfriends. It's a beautiful area.

Back to The Mill for our siesta. After an hour, I head to the pool and meet to of the most fun-loving people I've ever seen. I'll just call them Aruba K and Aruba Sue; one is from Virginia and the other is from Nebraska. These Balashi-loving 50-somethings want me to join them on a beach-bar walk the next day, while their husbands while away the afternoon in the casinos. Now I love fun as much as the next guy, but I've got this mental picture of Donna with that brand new rolling pin I got her last Christmas, so I politely decline. They both say, at the same time, "Glenn, you gotta get out more". How incredibly perceptive.

Evening comes and we off to the Aqua Grill, next door to Amazonia. While it may have been here for a while, we haven't been there before, so it's new to us. Snapper is not availableso I try the grouper instead. When it's alive it has to be one of the ugliest fish in the sea, but seared on the outside and grilled medium, it really is tasty. The service and the food were really great and like BINGO!, AQUA GRILL is a keeper for us.

Wednesday, January, 23, 2008 Lunch; I've been waiting for this for a whole year....!! In the evening; could they have made this any more awkward?

More pool time, sunshine and another downtown shopping spree. After all this shopping Donna suggest that we head to El Gaucho for lunch, like she has to ask!!!

The service is efficient, they're not about to fall all over themselves, and I order the 16oz Gaucho steak, medium. Oh my goodness, it is mouth-watering delicious. We are so full when we leave that we walk around a bit outside before going to our car which is parked up the block on Wilhemenastraat. It was a lovely, satisfying lunch, and as far as I'm concerned El Gaucho's Gauco steak is still the best-tasting red meat anywhere!!

This afternoon's siesta means we're both asleep before our heads hit the pillow. Probably has something to do with what we just ate! After an hour and a half of snoozing, I get up and head out to the pool.

Because we are still full, we decide to just eat sometning light for dinner and we decide to try Scala in Paseo Herencia. Donna's arthritic knees won't let her take the steep stairs upto Scala, so we go to the escalator. So far, so good. However if you take the escalator up, you must then ask the nice man at the entrance to the movie theatre if you can cut through the theatre to Scala. He says yes, but once we get to the exit, we realize that getting back down is going to involve some teamwork.

Scala's menu selection is fine but the food is mediocre. Donna and I were the only one's in the place, (this was about 6:30pm) and the three 20-something female staff could barely hide their hostility because we disturbed whatever conversation they were having when we walked in. (That's a worldwide thing; not confined to Aruba by any means.)

We just had a couple of appetizers because we were still full from lunch. When we were leaving, we saw Scala's teamwork in action; because the exit from the movie theatre locks from the other side, a young busboy had to go downstairs, run to the escalator, up the escalator to the movie theatre entrance, through the theatre foyer and open the door for us so we could go through the theatre to the escalator and back down to the ground level. As I said, Donna just can't do that steep double staircase, up or down.

As I said in earlier posts, Paseo Herencia looks nice, the water ballet is lovely but it is terribly awkward to get around in. As for Scala, it's off our "go to" list.

Thursday, January 24, 2008 The Netherlands is lovely, the USA is wonderful, Canada is home but nobody makes frites like they do in Belgium. Now, they're in Aruba!!!

Another morning spent lazing by the pool. For about the 4th day in a row, Karen, the New Jersey girl, is bending Donna's ear. Jeez, I admire my for her people skills; by now I'd have told Karen to get lost. Over the course of the past 4 days, Karen's husband has appeared pool side with a variety of books, all of them with a "get rich quick" theme.

Anyway after pool time, it's another downtown shop-a-thon, then we go to Paseo, and walk around. Donna get's spends about $120.00 at the Aruba Aloe store. We a little hungry but it's too early for lunch, so we go to A Taste of Belgium, tucked behind the escalator, and to tide us over we get frites with mayonaise; these frites, (french fries, chips, whatever you want to call them) are abosolutely to die for. Brings back memories of my student days, when I'd go on holiday to Brussels in the summer. As the caption says, Holland is lovely, Canada is home, the USA is wonderful, but nobody, and I mean nobody does frites and mayo like the Belgians!!!! Donna and I were in frite heaven!!!

Back downtown for more looking around, then we go for lunch and head to CUBA'S COOKING on Wilheminastraat. We both have Cuban sandwiches, and they are delicious. Lovely artwork on the walls, good food and a cozy atmosphere means this, like BINBO! is a keeper for us. We'll be back!!

Another siesta, more pool time and around 6 we head for SMOKEY JOE's. They say they have the best ribs in the Caribbean, and both tonight as well as last year, they don't disappoint. Love watching the party buses from Carlos and Charley's go by. Anyway, SMOKEY JOE's is great casual outdoor fare, and yes, I'll have the ribs again next year.

Friday, January 25, 2008 Does she really need to do more shopping?? Oh, nothing dear, just mumbling to myself.

Morning pool routine and it's as wonderful today as it was the day we arrived.

Yes, after pool time we go Renaissance Marketplace for one final look around. Well of course she buys something! Like you had to ask! I'm just kidding, I get a kick out of watching her shop.

We give BINGO! a try for lunch, except this time we order cups of onion soup, which means we get our idea of a bowl; not the mixing-bowl portions we got last Monday. In order a Dutch cheese sandwich and it's delicious. There had to be a pounnd and a half of Gouda cheese on it.

Another siesta, more pool time then it's off to AMAZONIA for the last dinner of our holiday. As I've said before it's been a friendly competition for us as to which is the better resataurant experience, AMAZONIA or TEXAS de BRASIL. Up till now, both Donna and I have said that TdB puts on a better show, while AMAZONIA had better food, including a better slad bar, and better-tasting cuts of meat.

Unfortunately, AMAZONIA, at least on this night, was to prove disappointing. The salad bar selection has been cut back to less than half of what was there last year, and certainly much smaller than TdB. But of course, this is a meat restaurant and here too, we notice a diffrence. Again, it could just have been who was in the kitchen on this night, but for many of the various cuts of meat, whoever prepped them was heavy-handed with the salt. It had at least three glasses of iced-tea.

We will give AMAZONIA another try, but in the course of a short 6 days, we may have to pass it by next year. The service was very good, but decrease in both salad bar and meat selection, along with salty meat potions, means that for this year anyway, TEXAS de BRASIL wins the Brazillian BBQ contest hands down!!!

After dinner we go to Alhambra for one last time at the slots, then back to The Mill. Parking tonight is almost impossible because The Mill is hosting carnaval celebrations. The pool deck area is crowded with about 200 or 300 people, and Aruba television is covering the celebrations live.

We start packing for tomorrow's return trip to Winnipeg.

Saturday, January 26, 2008 Home? But we just got here!

Leaving today, so we finsh packing, Donna does all the bills for customs and I stay out of the way by heading down to the pool area for one last hour. It has been raining, but now the sun is poking through.

Around 11:00, I take the suitcases down to the car, we do a final check around, check out and head to the airport. Our Air Canada flight to Toronto leaves around 4. We drop the car at AVIS, go to the non-US departure area and get in line. There's a line for Air Canada, and two flights for Venezuela checking it at the same time.

We eventually get through the line, get our boarding passes, go through security then to the gate area. Our gate area is jammed, mostly with German tourists getting ready to board a CONDOR flight for Frankfurt.

Our flight to Toronto is a little rough, be we arrive on time, go through Canada Immigration and Customs, put our bags on the bags for connections and find our gate for the flight to Winnipeg.

We finally get home around midnight. We made the connection to Winnipeg, but our bags didn't. Sunday afternoon, I go out to the airport and get them. They had been put on a later flight from Toronto to Winnipeg.

All in all, after a stressful start, we had a lovely time. Tried some new restaurants, enjoyed old favourites, and just had a wonderful time. Aruba,

To recap; We'll stay at The Mill again.


"Go again" list:
El Gaucho, BINGO!, AQUA GRILL, La Trattoria Il Faro Blanco (California Lighthouse), Cuba's Cooking!, Pannekoekhuis, Taste of Belgium, Smokey Joe's

"Not for a while" list:
Scala, Amazonia

It's now 11 months till we are back in Aruba. See you next year!!

Glenn and Donna