Our days start with rum and end with champagne. There was bourbon for a while, too, but we drank the bar out of Maker’s on our third day and have had to make accommodations. Many things are plentiful in Aruba, just not bourbon.
A lazy rhythm carries us through our days here. We start early and catch a boat launch to a small private island off the main coast. Few people are out, leaving us with the whole of an island to ourselves. Pristine white sand and palm trees stretch from end to end, flanked by intertwining mangrove trees at one side and a curved rocky point at the other. Flamingos walk the shore and cast silly shadows on my toes as I ripen in the fresh sun.
We hop from water to bar to hammock to beach, repeating the dance over several hours until we’re ready to find a new adventure on the mainland. There isn’t so much a downtown to an island that stretches 20 miles, only strips of stores, bars and restaurants, and rows of high rise hotels along the coast. Color, however, is everywhere.
Local buildings painted in vibrant shades of green, pink, and yellow nod to the island’s Caribbean influences, while tiled roofs and ornate balconies show off Spanish leanings. A windmill can be spotted between the cacti and palm trees near Eagle Beach. Every influence from Dutch to Mediterranean converges here, with no specific one having discernible dominance.
It reminds me of New Orleans, at least in that I can wander the streets with a cocktail in hand. But Aruba rolls to its own accord, dazzling and fruity and surprisingly unassuming in its tropical splendor.
My drink radiates green, from the grenadine I hope, and tastes of sunshine. I purchased it using florins. American dollars are widely accepted but Aruba’s thin, colorful papers and small square coins feel satisfying in my hand. So many things remind me how far we are from Chicago, and the more foreign currency I collect, the further away it seems.
I love this new impermanent home we have made. Particularly for the seafood that can be had at every meal. Breakfast means a plate piled high with shrimp. Its plump texture and sweet taste make a perfect contrast to the fluffy couscous and salty olives served with it. Calamari comes for lunch, either breaded or lightly sautéed in olive oil, and we pop the tender rings by the handful, washing them down with heavy pours of rum and pineapple juice. They are meant only to sustain us until dinner.
“Which do you prefer, water or sand?”
The hostess points toward a line of small tables placed gently within the slow laps of the ocean, then indicates similar tables on the warm white sand. Iron trees sit next to each table for the shoes that are never required.
Sunset is all the more spectacular when your toes are coated with sand, and the soft rays are filtered through a large pitcher of sangria. Here, my guy and I hold hands and face the sun through salt-speckled sunglasses. The sun is low yet it still washes over us like Technicolor. It’s hard to imagine this is the same sun everyone sees every day when we are so far removed from the every day.
Giant succulent lobsters and caught-that-morning wahoo steaks are brought to our table with sides of melted butter and tarragon mayonnaise for dipping. Deceptively simple, the meal stretches into the easy dark of night before we finally move on.
Most of the travelers we meet are European. They winter here for months, a nouveaux riche circle that pulls hundred-dollar casino chips from their pockets and purses ceaselessly as we join them for rounds of three card poker after dinner. To them, with our blissful eyes and easy touching, we are honeymooners, and will remain so for next 20 years.
We play well. Several won hands eventually equal a bottle of Moet. Its dripping bucket is brought to us on the pool terrace. Candles in large hurricane glasses trace the outline of the infinity pool. Palm leaves rustle above us as we settle onto a couch and look out onto the ocean’s edges. Even under the moonlight, our glasses mist with condensation. We clink, we toast, and we continue our path into the never-ending throes of wanderlust.