Last day in Aruba

What to do, what to do!? I can’t just lounge around all day. Don’t want to shop or sail so it’s off to walk the beach.

Thank goodness I bought a sun shirt as I’m a little sunburned. Seriously people shouldn’t be this tan.

I really like the area south of the Ritz so wandered back down to find a meal and a place to chill for awhile. Ended up at Playa Linda and a great little restaurant/bar in the beach.

Enjoyed a great cheeseburger while mentally humming some Jimmy Buffet. And of course had to celebrate last nights win with an Aruba Ariba. Luck was also with me as I got the perfect table to watch the world walk by.

I kinda like being beach homeless. Simply wander the beach and jump in when the mood strikes.

Eventually I wandered back to the Ritz and kept going until the beach became too rocky. Just passed the Ritz are a few kitesurfing schools. Loved watching the guys take flight. They make it look so easy.

Eventually my tolerance for the sun was at an end so time to clean up and find dinner. But first another run at the casino.

Now, I’m never lucky but over the past several days I’ve won. Tonight was no different! At this point my trip (and the next) is paid for. My luck apparently rubbed off on the woman next to me who on her last $0.60 spin won over $300! Was so excited for her.

Dinner had me enjoying freshly caught Wahoo and hearing how my Dutch bartender came to Aruba and never left.

What strikes me about the island is that everyone here just wants to have fun. Whether it’s the vacationers, the locals or the expats, they’re all out for a good time.

So thank you Aruba. I had a good time.

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Leave a comment

Sun, snorkel and sail

Spent Tuesday enjoying a great half day catamaran snorkel trip. I almost didn’t go as the 7:30 alarm was a rude awakening. Glad I persevered and it would have been rude to simply not show up for my bus pickup.

I was a little apprehensive as there were 60 folks on the trip. Max passengers is 100.

The first hour folks pretty much kept to their groups. But sun and an open bar soon had conversation flowing.

We snorkeled three stops. The Antilla shipwreck was interesting but the water was murky and at least three other loaded excursions were present. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many snorkels bobbing in the water. But, I saw a turtle! And apparently was the only one in the group to see it

Next stop was a reef area and we were the only group there. Much calmer water and interesting life. Spotted numerous critters and my highlight was a parrot fish.

Final stop was another reef area I essentially jumped in the water then spent most of the time chatting with my fellow vacationers.

Too soon we were back at the dock.

Instead of taking the bus back to my hotel I chose to walk back via the street markets and then the beach. Perfect opportunity to buy my One Happy Island souvenirs.

I also enjoyed just being able to jump in the water wherever I wanted (and did enjoy a hotel pool or two along the way).

Soon I was back at the Ritz where I found an open pool lounge chair and well, lounged before cleaning up and going crazy with conditioner.

Have I mentioned the casinos yet? At the Renaissance I think I won about $40. Well the Ritz and Marriott Stellaris casino have been good to me. Really good. I ended the night up over a grand. Still shocked. But wait. It got better, but that’s Wednesday’s story!

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Flamingo island and going upscale

Pretty much the reason I booked the Renaissance hotel was their private island. So after checking out and storing my luggage I hopped in the water taxi and zipped along with fellow eager island goers.

The island is small and comprised of an adult beach with the flamingos and then a family friendly section. And iguanas were everywhere!

It is beautiful but also crowded. Personally I found the water to be a little cool and sadly some clouds rolled in and was rather breezy. Yep. I was cold. Geesh. 85 and I was chilled.

The flamingos are not shy about approaching people. They’re well accustomed to tourists buying feed and seem to think that if you stand near them you will feed them! And I’m nearly convinced the iguanas understand English.

After a few hours I headed back to collect my luggage and head up to the Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz doesn’t disappoint in its pure resortness. I’ve a lovely ocean view room. The grounds are spectacular and the staff incredibly welcoming. After mentioning the disaster that was my hair from the ocean and water taxi I was treated to a complimentary salon visit for a wash and blow dry. Talk about surprised!

It’s definitely drawn a different vacationer than the Renaissance. Marriott Ocean Villas and Marina hotel seemed to have an older crowd. More group vacationers and a few solos. So far here it’s couples and some families and seems to be a little younger. Also more Europeans. At first glance folks look better in their swimsuits here. Sigh.

Well tomorrow is snorkeling!

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First day in Aruba

Spending my first day in Aruba being lazy. As I understand it that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m staying at the adults only Renaissance Marina hotel. While not directly on the water the hotel also boasts their Ocean Villas across the street and has a great pool and a lovely beach.

So after sleeping in I took the short stroll over to the Ocean Villas. The pool flows directly onto a sandy beach with ocean views. It was early afternoon and a little crowded but I was able to find a lounge chair. Lovely way to spend some time.

But being me, I’m not good at doing nothing so took a stroll around the marina. Crabs scuttle around and iguanas join in the sunbathing fun.

Now I think it’s time for a nap. Lazy continues.

Posted in Trip Reports | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

We interrupt this work week for Aruba

I suck at relaxing. Lounge around a pool or beach and I get jittery. But I’m not a quitter so once again I’m attempting a do nothing, relaxing vacation. Aruba.

Images of tourquoise waters, warm sand and soothing breezes. I can see myself enjoying that sand and warmth. Warm. Looking forward to warm. Dallas is cold. Yes, I know it’s not THAT cold but after 13 years in Southern California it’s cold.

We’ll see how I do. I’m going to persevere and try to relax. Do nothing. Chill. I’m getting jittery just thinking about it.

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Leave a comment

Frankfurt, Germany Christmas market

Frankfurt was the last stop on our German Christmas Markets trip. After several days in quiet Würzburg we were back on the train for the two hour tip to Frankfurt.

While Nuremberg and Würzburg have charm, Frankfurt had sheer size! Our hotel was just outside the northern end of where the market started. Loved being able to just walk everywhere on this trip. Only exception was using Uber between train stations, airport and hotels.

Street after street and square after square were full of booths and crowds all enjoying the massive Frankfurt market which seemed to be made up mostly with food vendors. There just wasn’t time to try a fraction of the offerings.

Food everywhere! And crowds. Crowds everywhere! Turned out this was the last weekend of the market so the crowds were definitely out.

Culturally, Frankfurt was a massive melting pot with tourists from around the world. Lots of languages being spoken with English abundant in the restaurants, booths and hotels.

Here are a few other pictures of the market.

All in all another fantastic trip. Next time though I’m going someplace warm!

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

German Christmas markets

I hope to get back and finish up some of the prior years trips but wanted to first share a more recent adventure. Christmas Markets! German Christmas markets!

I’ve been in Europe when some of the markets were just getting underway but never to a full-fledged market. This trip accomplished goal of a total market experience.

The plan was to experience some of the best and most notable German markets: Nurnberg, Wurzburg and Frankfurt. Each are u inquest in their attractions and attractees.

Here’s the recap and highlights. We arrived in Frankfurt from Dallas around 9am and immediately took the train directly from the airport to Nurnberg. Jet lagged and exhausted we checked into our hotel and after a too brief nap headed out to explore.

The Nurnberg markets sprawls over numerous streets leading up to the main square with off-shoots to other minor squares.

The primary booths seemed to be ornaments and artisan Christmas decor. Bakeries selling gingerbread and other goodies and of course the spiced wine stalls and sausage vendors.

And the crowds! Daytime is crowded but at night the crowds are thick. I didn’t manage a crowd picture in Nurnberg but you’ll get the idea soon.

Nurnberg seemed to attract lots of tourists from around Germany. The shopkeepers spoke fantastic English though I didn’t hear much in the crowds.

Despite the cold (froze my hiney off) we really enjoyed wandering this beautiful city.

A world reality check was visiting the Nazi history museum (easy tram ride). It’s a chilling and extremely well done museum documenting the rise and fall of the Nazi party. We spent a surprisingly long time there reading the displays and listening to the audio. That evening the markets helped bolster spirits again.

After several days we hopped back in a train for the two-hour ride to Würzburg (that’s me in the right if you’re new and my friend Linda in the left).

A smaller town with another charming Christmas market. This one was different in both it’s size and goods. There weren’t as many ornament booths yet there were more food stalls. The attendance also changed to a younger and more European tourist. It’s a university town so expected the younger crowd. There was also much less English spoken which surprised me. We never had an issue communicating but it was a definite shift from Nuremberg.

Here are a few scenes from Würzburg. One consistent element to the markets is that everyone comes out to enjoy the evening.

One thing we really enjoyed touring was the Residence. Beautiful palace and winter added a stark beauty to the grounds.

And while Würzburg didn’t have as many ornament vendors I steadily added to my growing collection.

I’ll continue Frankfurt under another post. Stay tuned!

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Back in The Cotswolds

And I’m back! Linda and I headed back to London for a quick night then off to Cheltenham to hike the Cotswolds Way to Chipping Campden.

A few differences. I moved to Dallas at the end of last year so Linda was on her own to London. I did however wait for over four hours at Heathrow so we could travel into the city together. Thankfully I qualify for the American Airlines arrivals lounge so was able to shower and refresh before heading over to Terminal 5 to wait fortunately I waited with pate and a glass of wine.

Good thing we traveled together as the Express train and a few other lines were closed resulting in the underground being a zoo. Eventually we called it quits at Earls Court station and grabbed an Uber to our hotel.

We wrapped up the day with a stroll to Westminster and Parliament before calling it quits for the day.

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Vacation challenges

My mom once told me that a vacation should challenge you. Step outside your comfort zone. Learn. Grow. Do something different.  

Sometimes it’s new countries and entirely new cultures. But wherever we go the one constant is  ourselves. Sometimes we just need to step outside ourselves. 

I’m heading to Amsterdam for a short vacation and I’m challenging myself to be more extroverted. I’m not going to rely on my iPhone as a solo crutch. And yes. Us solo travelers tend to do so. I’m going to push beyond and engage. It’s my personal challenge for this trip. I’ll keep you posted as to how I do – but perhaps not too posted! 

Posted in Ramblings from the Road, Trip Reports | Leave a comment

In Beautiful Stockholm

One busy day in port led to another and this time we’re enjoying the beautiful city of Stockholm. Sadly, due to our ship size we had to dock about an hour south which dramatically cut into our exploration time. 

We took advantage of the transportation offered in the Stockholm On Your Own tour and were soon immersed in the beautiful city. 

Once again we relied on the Rick Steve’s self-guided walking tour which wove us through the medieval streets of Gamla Stan. 

Taking advantage of the ferry we zipped over to the Djurgarden and a short stroll brought us to the Vasa museum.  

Stepping into the museum takes your breath away. While you know it’s a Viking ship seeing it whole in all its salvaged glory is incredible. The model below shows what the ship looked like before it sunk in its maiden voyage. 

What a fantastic museum. Informative exhibits cover several floors and surround the ship. While a bit crowded we had a great time exploring and enjoying the harbor. 
One thing I’ve noticed is the Rick Steve’s books for this part of the world contain more errors and fewer details than their Western European counterparts. A prime example is the public ferry dock shown outside the Vasa doesn’t exist other than a Hop-on-Hop-off ferry dock. Luckily we scored a taxi dropping off a passenger nearby and saved our tired feet the excursion. There is a tram but we hadn’t taken out local currency but did see those trams packed to the gills. 

We spent our last in Stockholm enjoying a light meal at a garden cafe before cramming back in the bus for the hour drive. I don’t see how people spend all day on bus tours! 

The cruise out of Stockholm held more picture perfect moments. Wasn’t expecting to enjoying a balcony on a Baltic cruise but the abnormally warm weather has been a surprise. 

Evenings aboard the ship have been interesting. While some passengers spend all their time very casual others dress nearly every night ranging from smart casual to cocktail attire.  

One particular couple we always looked for seemed to cruise in costume complete with Venetian masks one evening.

We spent our evening tapping our toes and bopping along to the Million Dollar Quartette show which was surprisingly fun.  

Looking forward to tomorrow’s day at sea. It’s been four busy port days with Stockholm as one of my favorites. Just wish we had more time. 

Posted in Ramblings from the Road | Leave a comment