We left our house at 4:30 a.m. and we thought we were running late. Thankfully, we were lucky that there was absolutely no traffic on I-95. I think we made it to BWI in record time. I had a moment of concern when my husband realized that the flier for the privately owned parking lot we were planning to use only offered directions from the B/W Parkway. But, I am fortunate that my husband knows his way around that area quite well. He knew how to get us where we needed to be. We parked in the blue lot of Airport FastPark . It really did work nicely. The woman in the booth was actually very pleasant and she gave us the day’s newspaper. Then, she called the shuttle bus driver, who was circling around the parking lot. He met us right at our car and helped us with our luggage.
There were only a couple of people in front of us to check bags at the Continental airlines counter. The attendant said the security check was around the corner, so off we went. There was a line and it kept going and going and going. Finally, we got to the end of it. We were sure we would be in that line for an hour. Incredibly, it moved slowly, but surely, and we were at the front in about 15 minutes. Right as we were standing in front of the machines, a traveler behind us began saying, repeatedly, that we were going to get in trouble for having full water bottles with us. We had forgotten that you are not allowed to take water through security, in case it is actually some kind of flammable material, such as alcohol. My husband offered to chug his and they said that wasn’t good enough. He told them to throw the whole Nalgene bottle away. We did not have time to go through the line again. The Nalgene bottle I had was a Christmas gift from my husband and I was distraught over the thought of it being thrown away. I said out loud to no one in particular that I loved that water bottle. The traveler behind me said, “I told you.” I looked at her and said I had heard her, but I was not speaking to her… I was listening to the guards. She replied angrily, “It’s obvious you are not listening to anyone.” The security guard glared at the nasty passenger, looked at me, and said, “Come on, honey. I’ll walk with you to the water fountain so you can pour out the water and keep your bottle.” I followed the guard and didn’t look back. I guess I’ll never see that nasty woman again.
We were glad that we did not have to change terminals in Newark (because you have to take a monorail or walk a long way if you do). We got on the plane just fine, but then the tug that pushes the planes away from the gate broke down. It took about 10 minutes for them to hook up a new one. Then, there was a bit of a line to get on the actual runway. We finally took off 30 minutes late and settled in for the 5 hour flight. We were handed a form that must be submitted when you go through customs upon arriving in Aruba, so we filled that out (the basic questions about how long you will be staying and where). The movie they showed was The Lake House. The food was cheerios, milk, a banana nut muffin, and a box of raisins. I also ate two cheddar cheese sticks, some salami, and triscuits that we brought from home. We realized that our water did not make it through security, but the gel ice pack we had in our lunchbox made it through without any question whatsoever. What’s up with that?
There was a fair amount of turbulence for the descent in to Aruba and I now know that’s because Aruba is a very windy place. Apparently, there were a few planes waiting to land, so we had to fly in circles until it was our turn. I didn’t think the turbulence was all that bad, but when we landed with a bit of a jolt, everyone on the plane clapped loudly. Off we went, like a heard of cattle, to the lines for customs. We were happy to see that nearly every desk was staffed and the lines were not long. The Spanish speaking family in front of us realized they had not completed the form and frantically began looking for a pen. The wife asked two other Latinos, both of whom said they didn’t have one. I raised my pen and timidly asked, “¿Necesitas una pluma?” She smiled and took it. It was just a give-away we had picked up somewhere, so we told them to keep it. The guard smiled, stamped our passports, and said, “Bon bini! Welcome to Aruba!” We were through customs in less than 5 minutes.
All of the passengers were jostling to have a place to stand right up against the baggage carousel, which made the experience somewhat stressful. It was difficult to see which suitcases were coming along. Plus, there was a suitcase exactly like mine that belonged to a different person and it went around about six times before mine finally appeared. I had a unique luggage tag on my old suitcase, so I don’t know why I didn’t think to personalize my new suitcase (I tied a yellow ribbon on it for the flight back home). I guess we waited about 15 minutes for our luggage. The next step was to pick up our rental car.
I chose a local car rental agency named Royal . I had read that their office was not in the terminal, but within walking distance. I couldn’t remember if it was to the right or left, so we went to the information desk at the airport. The woman said she wasn’t sure where Royal’s office was, but she said it was “across the street.” I envisioned having to walk across a highway. We stepped out of the terminal and, compared to what we are used to, the road in front of their airport is tiny. Indeed, Royal car rental was just across the street, on the left side of a row of rental car offices. They had our reservation information immediately and all was well. The attendant saw that my husband’s middle name is Selby and that was close enough to Shelby that they began to have a conversation about Ford Shelby Mustangs. Apparently that guy really likes cars. He also told us a little bit about how to drive around Oranjestad, instead of down the busiest street, since we were staying several miles north of the city. We got a Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which suddenly looked very big, considering the small road. We also realized that the reason the cars at Royal are $100 less expensive than the name brand places is that the vehicles have higher mileage on them than those of name brand companies. But, the engine was strong. I was a little worried about backing out on to that tiny access road, so my husband drove. We were instructed to go to the end of the car rental office and turn right. There were people all over the place doing the same thing we were, so there was a constant sense that someone was going to step out on to the road, or a car would back out of its parking space. Well, the turn is quite literally immediately after the building ends. We drove past it and entered a parking lot for which you had to have a code number to exit (it was where the rental car companies kept the extra cars). We were terribly flustered and ready to park the car and walk back to the rental center when a Royal employee drove up beside us; they had seen us make the mistake, which probably happens to them several times a day. He told us the code number and off we went. When we got to Oranjestad we went in to a traffic circle and quickly realized we had missed our turn. We went along the main drag of Oranjestad, along the harbor where the monster cruise ships dock. The traffic crept along very slowly, but it’s not a big town, so we made it though. Seeing a beautiful rainbow soon after we were outside of town rewarded us.
When we finally got to the Marriott, we had to wait over ½ an hour, because they didn’t have our reservation uploaded correctly. The stay had been booked using “points” from the Marriott Rewards program, so the information was in some alternate database in the main business office of the hotel. We got to our room around 5 p.m. The first thing I did was to call the restaurant at which we had reservations for Sunday brunch to confirm our reservations. After taking some time to get settled, we started to think about dinner. I had read about a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, so we went to MooMba Beach Bar and Grill. We decided to eat at the bar, instead of at the fancier restaurant part. We ordered chicken wings and the Dutch snack platter, which was a couple of cheese cubes, chicken nuggets, frikandel (something like Vienna sausages), and bitterballen (kind of like a meatball that has a lot of breadcrumbs in the mixture). We were treated to a very nice sunset.
We were feeling a little refreshed, so we decided to go back to a grocery store we had passed a couple of miles down the road. We went to the Kong Hing grocery store in between Palm and Eagle Beach. It is right on Rt. 1, so you can’t miss it. The trick is that you have to get on an access road to enter the grocery store parking lot. To accomplish that feat, you have to drive past the grocery store, go around a traffic circle, then, as soon as you exit the traffic circle, you make an immediate little right hook of a turn to get on the access road that parallels Rt. 1. We had to go around the circle twice before we got it right. When we began looking around the grocery store we realized, just as the guidebooks and web sites noted, the food was very expensive. We bought the basics of milk, eggs, bread, chips, juice, a bag of apples, some beer, and some rum. The bill was about $60. I held out my credit card and she seemed a little annoyed by it. She had to walk over to the front office to run it for me. It turned out that they were just about to close the grocery store, so I think they had sort of turned off some of the cash registers (if we had been earlier, using a credit card would not have been a problem). The speedy drivers and traffic circles were stressing out my husband, so I drove back to the hotel. We got up to the room and we thought we had lost the bottle of rum we purchased. Luckily, when he went back to the car, it had simply rolled out of the grocery bag. I was too tired to do anything else. I went to sleep immediately.