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24th trip to Aruba - Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort

May 10 - 24, 2011 by ~Amy~® and Mike

Aruba Forum Profile: ~Amy~®

Flew Delta again this year (MSP-ATL-AUA) and arrived in Aruba early around 1:30pm. My husband is a Delta Gold Medallion member so we were able to get free upgrades to First Class - very nice to have decent food and champagne on the flights down.

Rented a car from Payless/Optima. Usually see them with our name on a sign waiting for us at the airport. Looked around a bit and didn’t see anyone so we asked a transportation/tour guy if he knew where they were. He got on his cell phone and called them and they arrived to pick us up within a couple of minutes to take us to their location at the Toyota dealership. Only took a couple of minutes for the paperwork, car was already waiting for us with the A/C turned on, and we were on our way. Stopped at Kong Hing (our usual favorite) for supplies and as soon as we walked in, we could see that they were out of Diet Mt. Dew (hubby’s "morning coffee") and Amstel Brights. Well, this won’t do at all so we decided to try Ling & Sons. Ling’s had all of our beverage needs but didn’t have our food favorites that we usually get at Kong Hing. A pain to go to two grocery stores but oh well.

We stayed at Amsterdam Manor again (our 15th stay with them in 24 trips to Aruba.) We booked a one bedroom but they upgraded us to a honeymoon suite which was very nice with a large bathroom, double sinks, jacuzzi tub for two, separate shower, living room, kitchen, and a private patio. A bucket of Amstel Brights on ice was waiting for us in the room as well - a very nice way to start the vacation. We had picked up a 6 pack of the new Balashi Chill and compared that to the Brights… tastes almost exactly the same.

Hit the beach bar for happy hour and watched the sunset. Then off to Pago Pago at the Westin for dinner to see Chef Matt where we had a great dinner of scallops and ahi tuna. After dinner, we drove to Amadeus for a nightcap and to say hello to Thomas and Frankie. Had a glass of wine and a sip of their new signature drink called Lost Symphony made right on the island for their restaurant - delicious!

Most mornings we made breakfast on our patio along with a few mimosas. We spent most of our days on the beach with a cooler of Brights and would either make some sandwiches for lunch or order lunch from Passions’ Beach Bar.

We went downtown one morning and did a little window shopping. The Main Street in back where we do most of our shopping was torn up about half way so we had to head back to the main road. Then we drove to Bugaloe for a late lunch and many Brights and Chills.

We did make it to the gym at LaCabana to work out… once! LOL! They have some very nice equipment there. Got in my 30 minutes of interval on the bike but decided to pass on the weights - too tired from the night before (too much wine.) It would be nice though if the people on the machines actually signed up for them like the sign-up sheets had indicated. The person who was in charge of the towels and sign-up sheets didn’t seem to care when I pointed out there were 3 slots open for treadmills but all 4 were being used at that particular time. So I just went for one of the bikes instead. Would probably have used the gym more if it wasn’t such a hassle to pay - first you go to the gym and wait for the attendant to fill out a sheet. Then you have to take that sheet to the front desk (and wait in line) and pay for it. Then back to the gym you go with your receipt. By that time I already felt like I had my workout. LOL!

One night a good friend of ours from Amsterdam Manor stopped by our patio with a bottle of wine so we sat on the patio and talked and talked (got another bottle and some snacks delivered to the room) and almost missed getting a dinner since it was so late. But luckily Bingo serves food until 11pm so we popped in there (saw more friends) and had some great French onion soup and a goat cheese salad.

Had lunch at Taste of Belgium and walked around the new mall area. Checked out the Flow Rider and watched people try to surf and boogie board. Looked like fun but when you wiped out, you really went flying. I loved the sign with info and instructions that says "You WILL fall off!" LOL!!

Dinner at Screaming Eagle was fantastic as always. As usual, stayed much too late talking to a couple of friends (and also made some new ones.) We met David (say it with a French accent) who is the son of the owner of the Casa Tua restaurants. He's French and his accent and energy (and brutal honesty) had me laughing all night!

When we had dinner at Amadeus, Mike couldn't make up his mind between two entrees for dinner, so the chef (Thomas) was kind enough to give him half of each one for his entree. I had my usual favorite goulash soup and also now have the recipe so I can try it at home (Thomas was kind enough to print it out for me.)

Went to Matthew's for breakfast one morning and ran into Stefan (owner) there. His new restaurant, Da Vinci, is now open in the old Milano spot across from Rembrandt's - Italian food for the family, good prices, and you can eat there or take out. He also said that The Kitchen will soon be adding seating so you can eat in there as well.

Took a drive all over the island to Baby Beach, saw the windmills, and also saw what looks like a HUGE goat population explosion. I have never seen so many goats before - we must have seen about 5 herds which had anywhere from 50-75 goats per herd. Lots of babies and lots of green, green grass for them to eat.

Had lunch at B55 and stopped for a beer at the Rum Reef Bar and at the Balashi Beer Garden (was able to get a Balashi Light on tap at the beer garden.) The manager at the Rum Reef Bar said they would soon be expanding a deck in the back of the building that will overlook Baby Beach. Will be nice since Coco Beach Bar at Rodger’s Beach is no more.

Great group of people showed up for the bulletin board party on Monday night! Ann and her husband were there, two couples who we met last year (Carolina & Ken from Atlanta and Susan and Dave from England), got to meet Cecile (cammiedog) who is a wonderful lady, Diane (beachgirl) and her husband who we met last year, too, Linda who, on the spur of the moment, stayed an extra week, and another couple we met from one of the bulletin boards from Australia. After the party we ended up going out to dinner at Pinchos afterwards with Linda. It was SO GREAT to see everyone!!!

Dinner at Carte Blanche was just as amazing as it was in January! We had one appetizer that was the same as in January (grouper ceviche) because that has now become their signature dish. Everything else was completely different (and so good) from the last time we were there. I was going to opt for the 4 course since I was pretty full from 5 courses the first time we went but I just didn't want to miss out on an appetizer so I went for the 5 courses and the wine pairings again. Expensive night but so worth it for the food experience. Dennis and Glen are great! They even gave us some of the leftover chocolate torte which we had on the beach the following day. Also a quick shout out to Bobby and Margarite who were celebrating their anniversary there that night - great to meet you!

Stopped at the casino at the Holiday Inn with friends one night for a bit. I watched the guys play for awhile. Mike played on $30 at the slots and lost it pretty quick so that was the end of our casino night. LOL!! It was pretty late anyway. We didn't leave Carte Blanche until close to midnight since we sat around chatting after dinner. Later on in the week, Mike found $40 laying on the ground alongside the road from Amsterdam Manor to LaCabana - so we recouped our casino loss! LOL!

We were booked (with 2 other couples - friends of ours) to go on the Tranquilo. Got there in the morning at the pier and it proceeded to rain for about 15 minutes with very overcast skies. Anthony gave us the choice of going or not. Since we had been sailing with him before (and the thought of sitting in the rain on the boat did not appeal to me), Mike and I and one of our friends opted out. Of course, it cleared up and was sunny and hot within the hour (knew that would happen if I didn't go.) So the 3 of us barhopped down Palm Beach all day and made it back to the Bugaloe around 4pm to meet up with everyone again when the Tranquilo came in. They said they had a great time. My conclusion on the bar hopping on Palm Beach - beer is expensive and not that cold. Best place for decent prices and cold beer on Palm Beach is the Bugaloe.

One night we did a little restaurant/bar hopping with Carolina & Ken and Susan & Dave. Crammed the six of us in the Xtera and went to the lighthouse for drinks at sunset. Then to Amadeus for drinks and dinner at the bar, followed by drinks and a few games of darts at The Old Dutch and then ended the night at Cafe 080. I was exhausted the next day. LOL! Ran into our friend Mark of Café Capri at 080…we ordered our drinks from the bartender and next thing you know there is Mark with the tray of drinks, serving us!

A wonderful friend of ours offered us a very special helicopter tour one day- a 2 hour private ride all over the island. Very hesitant when we first got into the helicopter because…there were NO doors! I made sure my seatbelt was as tight as possible! It was very freaky at first without the doors but it was an amazing ride. I took a ton of photos and even got one of Venezuela in the distance and one where a large rock just off the shore is in the shape of Aruba. I didn’t realize it until about 20 minutes into the ride that I had been gritting my teeth and my feet felt "cemented" to the floor because I was so nervous about the lack of a door. My jaw hurt for a couple of days afterwards. LOL!

Restaurants/Bars

  • Carte Blanche - simply amazing!
  • Passions - always the best romantic beach dinner and they had my favorite fish (Wahoo) as catch of the day so it doesn’t get any better than that.
  • Screaming Eagle - never fails to disappoint! Erwin is a great chef!
  • Pago Pago at the Westin - love their food! Chef Matt has a really great menu!
  • Amadeus - love it so much that we ate here twice
  • Madame Janette’s - great, as always and I’ve learned how to order more healthy entrees here without the heavy sauces so I’m now a happy camper.
  • Bingo! - love the food, love the drinks, love the owners and staff!

Other places we liked: Papillon, Pinchos, Ellioti’s, Rembrandt’s, and Tulip

Great lunch spots: B55, Matthew’s, Bugaloe, and Taste of Belgium

Favorite Bars: Bingo, Café 080, The Old Dutch, and Bugaloe - and, of course, Passions Beach Bar

Our one "clunker" of the trip: I'm bummed we didn't go to Linda’s for our take-out pizza. It was between Linda's and Pizza Bob's and we opted for Pizza Bob's. The flavor, etc. of our pizza was okay at Pizza Bob's but they never get our order correct. For years we've always ordered a salad with our pizza (when we eat there) and for years they always bring out the pizza first, we ask about the salad, and they say "oh, you wanted a salad?" Well, no, not now since we have our pizza. LOL! It has been a running joke with us for years and we’ve just learned to accept the fact that we’re NOT getting a salad (we always joke that we don’t think they even have lettuce - LOL!) So we ordered a pizza to go and asked for extra sauce, sausage, peppers, and tomatoes. Well, instead we got extra cheese instead of extra sauce and there was barely any sausage on it. I know some people love Pizza Bob's (everyone likes different things) but for us, they now are off of our list because there are better places out there for pizza (who can get your order correct.)

Couple of new places we wanted to try but didn’t have time were Mirpas and Espanola Way. Mirpas is located downtown across the street from the cinema and looks like a cute little wine bar with outdoor seating and a light menu. Espanola Way is located on the road going from the high rise hotel area to Bingo. They also have outdoor seating but it would probably be noisy from the road traffic. Both looked fairly new and we hope to try them (especially Mirpas) in Sept.

We also stopped in at Dos Locos for a drink before dinner one night. It’s a small, casual, inexpensive place with a bar just down the street from LaQuinta. We had a glass of wine and talked to the staff and another patron and they were very nice and explained the menu to us. We wanted to go back for dinner or breakfast but…never had the time.

Also did take-out at The Kitchen one night and the food was excellent. We got some pasta and some California rolls to go - more than enough food for two people.

Beach

The water on Eagle Beach in front of Amsterdam Manor was very calm and clear as a bell. So clear that you can see the sand ripples on the very bottom and small schools of silvery fish swim around your legs. Saw some crabs one morning on the rocks by the water near "the tree" and also saw an eagle ray close to shore one morning as well.

Amsterdam Manor

We love this resort and the staff so much! They really take the time to get to know you and go the extra mile when you haven’t even asked for anything. It was fun having Carolina & Ken and Susan & Dave staying at the same place while we were there - felt like our own private house/resort in a way since we knew a lot of people there.

This year we had hers and hers robes to use, some pretty "towel art" on the bed, and Dove chocolates each night for turn-down service. They keep improving with even the little touches year after year.

 

Departure

Mike had flown home a couple of days before me (he got upgraded again to First Class - lucky dog!) I spent my last morning on the beach - just me and a Mimosa and a pelican who was fishing for breakfast - very peaceful and quiet.

Went to Payless and they dropped me off at the airport in the same car I drove over in. Got to the airport about 3 hours early and made it through check-in, security, etc. and was at the gate in about 50 minutes (this was on a Tuesday.) I used the self check-in kiosks which I love and there is never a line for those. Then just took my bags to the "baggage drop" and I was off.

Thank You.....I still cannot thank everyone at Amsterdam Manor enough for another wonderful vacation at their resort! I look forward to seeing them and the many great friends we’ve made over the years very soon (Sept!)