Posts tagged ‘Bucuti’

November 10, 2008

Sitting on the dock of the bay

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Just returned from a dinner with Susan of Bucuti that I am absolutely certain will remain the highlight of my trip. When I stayed at the Tara Suites which she kindly offered me she was too busy for us to sit down for any length of time but this evening at Marandi we managed to have a great conversation in beautiful surroundings. Actually, that is not entirely correct as it started when I got in her car and ended only after she dropped me back at Amsterdam Manor. We are from very different backgrounds but share many similar thoughts on life and the planet. The fact we are what Dubya  would categorize as bleeding heart pinko liberals only helps matters and now that Obama is going to be president of the USA I believe we are on the A-OK list.

Susan has had a fascinating life and learning about her life process was anything but dull listening. You just know that anyone who has a story about falling afoul of Israeli border police in her youth will have me tuned in. I also realize now that being of a similar age can make a meaningful conversation much more relaxed as there are points of reference. I don’t have to explain who Nixon was and she didn’t have to explain to me what Thatcherite Economics was all about. Off the top of my head a few of the subjects covered were, the internet, DOS, US Politics, New York, London, Aruba politics, the hotel business, relationships, cutting dog toenails with a device that looks alarmingly like a vibrator and the environment. As to the details of any of those conversational topics..well..I am keeping those close to my puny chest. I am just glad that I came to Aruba a year ago and connected to someone who is truly a citizen of the world.

In other news…well…let’s see. I was up early and then surrounded by flies, mosquitoes and other airborne wildlife , in what seemed to be an outtake from The Exorcist as i waited to get on a horse. My request for an aged equine that had been tranquilized was turned down as was my request for a valium IV. The horse I was asked to mount ( and how decidedly vulgar those words look in type) was laughingly named Excalibur. What the snorting brown creature had to do with Arthurian legend I cannot tell you but it may have been some inside joke. I got on with little problem and shortly after the whole posse of 8 of us started off on a pee and manure peppered trek through the wilds of Aruba’s landscape. All I can say is that while I know the horse was instrumental in the development of the US West and of European civilization they must all have had sore asses. I can see now why they invented the car and I promise I will kiss my misbehaving Mondeo when I see her next.

We finished that ordeal adventure and proceeded to the Westin for lunch with Patrick Donovan the Marketing Guy. I managed a fair cleanup of the dust on my face thanks to my ever present St. Ives blemish fighting wipes .It was nice seeing him again and I have to say that I am impressed with the changes at the Westin Aruba. They inherited the current property from another hotel and they have finally succeded in de-Wyndhamizing it and making it their own. Patrick is a great conversationalist and along with my ATA pal Ricardo we had a lovely lunch at their Asian restaurant Blossoms. I loved my General Tso chicken but honest to Abe those portions could have fed a Vietnamese family for a week. I am not a fan of high-rise hotels but if I had to pick one on Aruba the Westin would be it.

Upon returning to my hotel I ran to the shower to wash off whatever horse and dust remained on me but as I proceeded to disrobe …and I apologize for the lack of delicacy here Dear Reader,…an insect lodged in my clothing bit me on the ass. It hurt about as much as a bee sting and I got an immediate welt. Susan told me in the car it was most likely a scorpion and she has survived being stung by one. The life of a Fodor’s writer is not as pretty as it seems I can assure you.

I also ventured to the local supermarket area with the ostensible aim of getting some extra coffee and maybe suntan lotion at non-hotel prices. I did eventually get those items but somewhere along the line I also got a lovely pair of deck shoes, a shoulder bag and a decidedly non-Vern pair of Puma Fluxion II training shoes. I hope this serves as a cautionary tale to all that it is never safe to think “Oh look a shoe shop I wonder if they have sports socks?” because the next words you say will be “Do you have these in a size 10?”.

Tomorrow I am on a submarine which should be most interesting and, at any rate, will not result in any scorpions in my underwear.

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November 9, 2008

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Just back in from a rather wonderful dinner at Passions Restaurant on the beach in front Amsterdam Manor my new hotel. It was fun sitting with my toes in the and i was pleasantly surprised with the excellent quality of the food. The watermelon salad with carambola, greens and a chili dressing was a great way to start and the Seven Seas Parade may not have been parading but the lobster, grouper, catch of the day and assorted accouterments were all certainly having a very good time. This is the third romantic dinner i have had and I regret that I was , once again, not able to cash in at all. Michelle from Amsterdam Manor was great company for me and Ricardo though.

 

Speaking of Amsterdam Manor..and I was..they have really upgraded the rooms. They now have that sleek Euro look favoured by a lot of the more fashionable hotels. I rather liked the old A M but I have to say thsi new look is quite cool as well. It is still one of the best mid sized hotels on the island.

Tomorrow is the much dreaded horseback riding through the bush. As I am not known to be one for either large smelly animals ( though I have dated a few) or bush this may be a challenge. The big question is will I rise to it? Ah well, at least if I live I will have something to laugh with Susan with over dinner.

November 8, 2008

Happy Hellos and sad farewells.

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The many wonders of Aruba continue to unfold as i cover the island for Fodor’s Caribbean Guide 2010. I have just returned to the Bucuti/Tara Suites after a truly enjoyable evening at Pinchos with owners Anabela and Robbie. The food was great, the atmosphere on a lit pier in the ocean was unbeatable and I had a wonderful conversation. Anabela is something of a friend and I would call her the restaurant equivalent of Susan at Bucuti in that we tend to gab the night away if given half a chance. I arrived, and though we haven;t seen each other for a couple of years, it was like old times. We hugged and then got to eating, talking and drinking. The food is as delicious and simple as I remember and the conversation was as scintillating. I was somewhat gratified to learn from Annabella that my granting them a coveted Fodor’s Choice star has resulted in real sales for her and she was ecstatic. Who knew?

Tomorrow I must deal with the trauma of leaving Bucuti and the Tara Suites to head to Amsterdam Manor. I love Amsterdam Manor as it it is a great and intimate hotel but honestly…leaving Bucuti? They should offer trauma counseling. I toured other hotels today including the exceptionally bizarre Riu Palace ( where I had lunch) which , on the outside, looks like a wedding cake baked by a cocaine addict and on the inside looks like  Disney meets Byzantium. I really don’t know what to think about it as it is really not my taste but some readers may like it. The lunch was good – I will  give them that. I dunno…I guess being in the Caribbean I expect a hotel to reflect its location and the RIU adheres to an international look that its fans expect.

I am now going to consider two problems as I sign off. How do I smuggle the Tara Suites bed out in my hand luggage and how do I fit a steering wheel on a horse on Monday?

November 7, 2008

Unfamiliar things.

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A pretty amazing day in Aruba and I am dead tired at 11pm. Let me get the most important thing out of the way off the bat. I have fallen deeply in love at Bucuti…with my bed at the Tara Suites. She is a lovely creature set on a platform base but her sleek insouciance is misleading as she has been created by some unearthly power or , more likely, Susan,  to be the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. Ignoring the obvious jokes I really have slept in many beds in my few years on the planet and this one is now the benchmark for that floating on a cloud feeling.

I left my cumulous sanctuary with reluctance this morning to venture into the world of off-roading with a Tomcar. We found Rancho del Campo and I looked at our Israeli Military designed vehicles with concern. They are strange. Essentially they are the illegitimate child of the unholy pairing of a dune buggy and a US military jeep. After a briefing from our guide Hiram we set off with me behind the wheel of the thing that sounded like we were in a blender. To cut a long story short I had the best time driving the Tomcar and no matter what I did the sucker refused to roll. The things are stable and other than the steering wheel banging your hands you would hardly know you were driving over rocks and climbing ridiculous hills. It was several hours of driving and at the end I missed the damned thing…I want one.

After the most exciting tour I have ever had in Aruba ( sorry ziplining in the Yucatan was slightly more exciting) I came back to stunning Bucuti. I had a couple of hours to kill so I walked around the property and realized that it is as beautiful as I remembered it. A walk on the beach with no shades also reminded me that Aruba sun plus white sand is a recipe for watering eyes and headache. Instead Bucuti made me do something I have never done in Aruba. I went and got towels from the towel hut and took off my shirt and tanned for 45 minutes. This hotel seems to be able to get me over my insecurities…talk about selling points.

Afterwards we went to a totally eyecatching new restaurant that I think will be a huge attraction for Aruba in the future…The Old Man and the Sea. When I entered I just loved the whole concept. It is a beach restaurant concept complete with light wrapped coconut trees and sand under your feet. I really like it and when we actually ate it was even better. We are not talking NYC food here as it wasn’t stacked and pilloried but it was tasty. It was seafood and it tasted pretty darned great. Then we met young Mr. Vieira who manages and owns the place and I was floored. A gentleman of 28 has no business being that clever and to make it more disturbing…he is also a local celebrity and pianist/producer/singer/judge of Aruban Idol and even would be actor. This place is more than deserving of Fodor’s accolades and so it shall be. 

This is weird. In two days I have stayed at one property that is more than deserving of a Fodor’s Choice ( Bucuti..and may I find a higher rating) and now a great restaurant that should and will get one. This has been a good day. I hope tomorrow can match.

November 6, 2008

I’ve died and gone to Bucuti

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Well after a singularly uneventful and actually pleasant flight with Surinam Airways to Curacao, a rather boring 3 hour layover and a hair raising flight on a 10 seater prop I am in Aruba.Ricardo whisked me through immigration and customs and we headed to TGI Friday’s of all places for lunch. I dealt with it with the stoicism i normally reserve for Republican wins and even posed for a picture with the staff to be put in the newspapers at some point in the next few days. I really can’t say it is the milieu I really wanted to have immortalized in print but what can i say…i can sell out with the best of them.

From there it was off to my the Bucuti resort where I felt I was Barack Obama two minutes after being voted in. An attendant met me at the curb and walked me through to the Tara Suites reception area where they checked me in so quickly and pleasantly I was actually taken aback. Then co-owner Susan snuck up behind me and we hugged and promised to catch up properly after i recovered from my somewhat sweaty 10 seater experience. I was taken to my room and shown around by Mukesh the attendant/bell hop/guest services representative and then I was left alone to contemplate my room in all it’s environmentally friendly beauty. Quite simply it is gorgeous in the way that i would want to decorate my own place.It is sleek, comfortable, roomy and just plain stylish. The balcony…oh the balcony..it could easily be converted into an intimate 5 table restaurant without fear of crowding and has a view that would knock Sarah Palin’s toque off. I am in love with a room. Don’t get me wrong I have always loved the Bucuti with it’s beautiful grounds, exceptionally friendly staff and green ways but this room was just short of heaven. 

I say just short because I tried to get WiFi and found that it said I needed a card which I could get at the front desk. I walked down and handy dandy Mukesh ( from Surinam no less) came up to me most concerned that I seemed to be in need of something. He told me that had I scrolled down the page i would have seen that I could just use a credit card. That was useful enough but he then offered to assist me and followed me up to my room, scrolled the page down for me and told me that in future I need not do anything so stressful as coming down to the lobby but rather just call and Tara Suites/Bucuti would be up to my room to help. With WiFi enabled I can now say with no doubt in my head that I have died and gone to heaven.

As a reviewer  for a major publication I am supposed to be objective …and honestly i am…it really is that good. Small wonder this place has over 90% occupancy year round. This is high praise coming from me when I say I would actually pay to stay here.

After puttering around in the interstices of the net I showered and went down to meet Ricardo for our dinner at Mr. Jazz a new Cuban restaurant/Jazz club on the scene. Considering it is on the second story of a mall they did a great job transforming it into a realistic jazz club including a huge stage. I had a pork dish ( of course) which was a bit salty but it is a traditional dish and maybe it is supposed to be that way. Then we were treated to live music as the Marketing Manager/Jazz singer did his stuff belting out 70s, and 80s standards while patrons danced the night away. This really is one happy island. I told Ricardo on the way back to Bucuti ( how I smile at the very word) that I am sure Zoloft is one of the sponsors of Aruba.

October 25, 2008

Shaking the foundations.

 

It has now become transparently obvious to me that to blog more frequently I am completely dependent on my powerbook Tinkerbell. It isn’t that the iMac I am now using is flawed in any way or even her big sister Sybil, the dual processor PowerPC sitting next to her with the impressively large flat screen display it is just that I like sitting on the couch and blogging. I am a multitasking kind of person I need to blog, while watching something on TV and reading an economic treatise. It might not be the ideal concentration situation but it works for me so I am counting the  days till Harry replaces her hard drive and I can pack her for my upcoming trip.

 

Speaking of my upcoming trip it is nice to see that things are slowly coming together because the logistics are headache inducing. Planning a trip of a limited number of days but still managing to see as many hotels, restaurants and sights is not an easy business. Arranging accommodation alone is a major task since no hotel can reasonably host a travel writer for more than a few days and not the duration of a visit. I am really looking forward to Bucuti in Aruba as my pal of last year ,Susan, has graciously offered to host me for a few days. Having a chance to experience a hotel that seldom has a vacant room and that takes style and environmental consciousness to a new level is going to be one of the highlights of this expedition. Still, I can’t help hoping that the global economic downturn will not take a toll on the tourism income of the ABC islands that rely on visitors.

 

The world economy has been one of my major focuses these days both for work and personal reasons. I have long love the magical science of economics and have been boning up on as many studies that I can so I can seem semi-literate when speaking to both economists and politicians. It is a complicated business but, ultimately, economies have cycles of ups and downs and no amount of intervention can stop them. The world will pull out of this slump once we establish a nadir and inevitably we will, after months or years, start the upward journey again. 

 

Here at home the main problem is inflation heavily fuelled by massive government spending on non-productive projects. Sure, there are a few areas that may spur productivity such as infrastructure but tall government buildings and unnecessary stadiums i shardly likely to bring a return on investment. They don’t seem to have studied the whole FDR New Deal thing properly. Inflation has now reached a worrisome 14.8% and is almost certainly likely to climb. This is the headline inflation  but food inflation is the especially troubling part. Newsday condensed the Central Bank’s analysis of the situation :

 

Food price inflation, considered a key driver of the headline inflation rate, was recorded at 34.6 percent in September. This represents an increase from 30.2 percent, as a result of increases in bread and cereals (63.2 percent), fruits (38.4 percent) vegetables (42.4 percent) and fish ( 25.1 percent). “

 

For people living on the edge such price rises can lead to catastrophe and for some I am sure it already is. Governments have two ways of dealing with rising prices one is curtailing demand and the other is addressing supply. Clearly, as the figures are not measuring caviar prices, it is impossible for people to cut back on consumption if they are already having a hard time affording food to feed their families. On the supply side government has been proposing that people start small gardens which is hardly a useful suggestion in a largely urban country. It has also been pushing the import substitution agenda saying that we should substitute local things like eddoes ( taro) and cassava ( manioc) for imported potatoes. Great suggestion except last time I checked both local items were a lot more expensive than potatoes. Things must really be desperate in their “Vision 20/20 heading for developed country status”world if they have to dredge up unworkable solutions last employed by underdeveloped nations in the 1970s.

 

The other budget “initiatives” involve a “new” agricultural thrust calling for everything from mega-farms run by Cuban farmers to improving access to rural areas. It is like a tired and fading echo now. They have been promising such things for years and nothing has been delivered. I wish they would just get sense and let the private sector do what it does best – get results. Offer meaningful incentives for people to grow food crops. If they want to make it more attractive than long hours slogging in the hot sun and fearing floods then make it more attractive and modern. The simplest solution is to promote things like large-scale hydroponics and aquaculture. Offer potential farmers a $200,000 grant ,a $500,000 interest free loan and a 10 year tax holiday to undertake such projects and I can guarantee that we would be overflowing with food in a matter of 6 months.

 

On the other hand, we can keep making misguided halfway efforts to do things the old way and hope the population doesn’t finally get fed up.