Name: Jill, aka "Jill Robinson"
Posts by :
If you’re looking for a sweet spot on a Caribbean island with plenty of fun, sun and bathtub-warm water in which to float, Aruba more than meets your requirements.
First off, the small island nation is easy to navigate and everyone is extremely helpful and friendly. Not friendly just because you’re a tourist, but genuinely friendly as in, “Your car broke down? Come wait in my house to get out of the sun. Would you like a cold beverage?” The local language, Papiamento, includes the word dushi (sweetheart). It’s featured in everything from hot-dog stands to menu items to boat tours, and the word’s prevalence and simplicity serve as a soothing influence.
My home base was the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, right on Palm Beach. The hotel finished a $50-million renovation last year, and the room décor is modern and luxe, while retaining a feeling of island simplicity. The eight-story complex includes 411 rooms (including 23 oceanfront suites), a pool with cascading waterfalls, seven bars and restaurants (such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, La Vista, Simply Fish and Waves Beach Bar), the Stellaris Casino and Mandara Spa.
Room rates start at $279 per night, and depend on season and type of room. I had a pool ocean view room, with ample space to lounge and also get work done. If you must work on your Aruba vacation, it’s easy to do so with the hotel’s Jack Pack—a device allowing guests to plug in laptops or iPods to 37 inch-wide TVs in each room. My room’s refrigerator kept my drinks cold, and the in-room coffee maker gave me hot java each day, until the thing fell apart in my hands. (It didn’t take long to get another one, though.)
If you want an exclusive feel to your island getaway, stay in the Tradewinds Club, on the eighth floor of the Marriott. The upscale amenity includes a private lounge with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and cocktails. In addition, you’ll have a secluded beach area to camp out under an umbrella and forget all about the stresses back home. Room rates for Tradewinds Club guests start at $504 per night.
On Palm Beach, home to high-rise hotels, I never found it too crowded. It was easy to get around the sun-worshipers when I wanted to hoof it down the beach. In the water, even though the kiteboarders zip by with speeds that make your jaw drop, it was never close enough for me to worry. Easy to relax? Check.
Just lounging on the beach not for you? Take a class at the nearby Dare2Fly kiteboarding center. For three lessons (kite mastery, “body dragging” and board lesson), the cost is $375. The Aruba Marriott also offers a special “Surf in to Luxury” package that includes accommodations at the Tradewinds Club and a free windsurfing or intro kiteboarding class.
If you’re looking for something in between, play beach tennis at the Moomba Beach Bar, right next to the Marriott. As instructor Sjoerd de Vries told me, “it’s a relaxed sport; you can play with a beer in your hand.”
Adventure seekers can take a tour of the island with De Palm Tours. The Natural Pool Jeep Adventure ($92) is a half-day trip covering such sites as the California Lighthouse, a natural bridge, the ruins of an old gold mill and a natural pool that’s perfect to swim and snorkel in. In fact, I didn’t want to leave the pool at all. I guess I’ll have to put it on my list for my next Aruban adventure.
I was in Aruba as a guest of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, but the opinions in this article are my own.
I’ve been on tequila-, beer- and wine-tasting trips, so naturally the opportunity to add Cognac to my libation travel list caught my eye.
On your next trip to France, swing by the House of Rémy Martin and indulge in Les Rendez-Vous Rémy Martin: A selection of gastronomic experiences that allow you to participate in a Cognac-tasting session, meal and tour of the celebrated estate. Dip your toe in by choosing a half-day or evening tour, or jump straight in to a complete day tour. A variety of options for each choice allows you to pick exactly what you’re interested in.
Photo: Louis XIII de Rémy Martin
Check out these choices:
The four-hour Discover Rémy Martin package includes a tour of the House of Rémy Martin in Cognac and the Merphins Estate for a cognac-tasting session. Appetizers and lunch follow at Club Rémy Martin. €160 (about $216).
The nine-hour Rémy Martin for the Epicurean package starts with a tour of vineyards or the Rémy Martin cooperage, and then moves on to a distillery tour where you can taste recently distilled eaux-de-vie. Lunch in the distillery before a tour of the Merpins Estate and House of Rémy Martin in Cognac. The day ends with dinner in a private dining room. €380 (about $513).
The 10-hour Louis XIII Experience is a customizable package, which highlights the luxury of Louis XIII and the Cognac region. Take a private tour through the family estate and private cellar, taste prized cognac, and enjoy a private lunch and dinner. €850 (about $1,147).
Prices on Les Rendez-Vous Rémy Martin packages include taxes and are guaranteed through Dec. 31, 2009. For more information, visit www.visitesremymartin.com.
If you go, consider taking me!
I’m sitting in the lobby of the Hacienda San Angel in Puerto Vallarta, and wishing I wasn’t leaving. After spending five days in this fantastic Mexican coastal town, my absolutely favorite thing has been this beautiful hacienda in the old part of the city, with 21 rooms spread throughout five different buildings.
Once you’re enclosed within the hacienda, you’ve got three swimming pools to choose from, a handful of common areas (with Wi-Fi and even a free telephone to call people within the United States and Canada), a friendly and attentive staff, and the feeling that you’ve been transported back in time when you have all day to relax and do absolutely nothing. If you want to explore, you’re within walking distance of the old town and the shopping district, as well as the malecón (the seaside walkway).
When I arrived here two days ago, I immediately felt that I wanted to call home and send for my things so I could move in. I’ll blog more about my trip this week, and will have some Puerto Vallarta articles on the site soon. In the meantime, check out www.haciendasanangel.com and see if you don’t want to move in too.
Who says you have to be a geek to appreciate museum events? At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Thursday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. (through Oct. 29, 2009) are now dedicated to NightLife, with music, food, cocktails and science presentations for adults 21 years and older.
For only $10 ($8 for members), you can shake your groove thang to hot DJ-supplied tunes or learn something scientific with your drink in hand. Each week, a different part of the Academy hosts the party, but you can still walk through the exhibits to your heart’s content (although some, like the Rainforest and Penguin exhibits, close early).
NightLife is the perfect event for those of us who love seeing kids excited about science, and who also prefer to get in close to see that cool-looking stingray, thankyouverymuch.
So, on your next San Francisco vacation, go to the Academy of Sciences at night—and you can check “spectacular new science museum” and “cool San Francisco nightlife” off your itinerary at once! For more information, visit www.calacademy.org.
Port of Call. This is the place to go if you have a hankering for hamburgers. Award-winning, half-pound burgers are served along with fat, baked potatoes. Steak and pizza are also available. Wash it all down with a tropical cocktail, like the Neptune’s monsoon or the windjammer. 838 Esplanade Ave., tel. 504-523-0120. www.portofcallneworleans.com
Coop’s Place. One quick glance into this spot on Decatur Street, and you might just pass it by, thinking it’s merely a small watering hole. Venture in, however, and take a gander at the menu on the wall. Coop’s serves up delicious jambalaya, gumbo, pasta dishes and more. To top it off, the chef uses house-smoked tasso (a seasoned, smoked pork) in a few dishes (like the crawfish and tasso pasta), so start with those for sure. 1109 Decatur St., tel. 504-525-9053. www.coopsplace.net
Domilise’s Po’boys. Hit this Uptown bar before the lunch rush to get a seat at the counter. And if you find yourself in line—wait. It’s worth it. Some folks prefer the shrimp po’boy, others dream of the fried oyster, hot smoked sausage or roast beef po’boy—they’re all great. Add a bag of Zapp’s chips to your order, and wash it down with an Abita beer. 5240 Annunciation St., tel. 504-899-9126.
Verti Marte. You’re seated in the perfect bar in the French Quarter or Faubourg Marigny. The only problem: It doesn’t serve food, and you’re hungry. Do you get up to find a meal, or wait a while and savor your great New Orleans moment? Here’s where Verti Marte comes in. With a full menu ranging from breakfast to sandwiches to entrées, they’ll deliver to your perfect bar. You can also walk in and order directly from the counter. My favorite dish? The grilled shrimp po’boy with “wow” sauce (a spicy, creamy sauce). No, it’s not on the menu. Order it anyway. 1201 Royal St., tel. 504-525-4767. www.vertimarte.com