Warning: This is going to be a picture heavy post!
Late last night, we got back from a wonderful and relaxing family trip to Aruba. Ken’s parents have a timeshare with the Marriott which they haven’t been using as much recently since they bought a second home in Florida, and which they are able to trade in for pretty much any Marriott Vacation Club location in the world! They were nice enough to gift us, for our anniversary, a week in Aruba! We had a bunch of unused points on Southwest so we didn’t have to pay for airfare, either! All we had to pay for was food and activities on the Island.
This was our first real family vacation, just the three of us going somewhere not to see family. It was necessary and so nice to spend time together without any agenda or responsibilities during the week.
We left EARLY Monday morning (our flight was at 6:30 AM which meant we left the house around 4!) Julia did surprisingly well despite being woken up way before her normal wake-up time. We had a quick layover in Orlando and then boarded our flight for Aruba! After a frustrating time checking in for the flight and getting Julia’s carseat (which got lost and didn’t show up until the next day!) we finally made it to our hotel, the Marriott Surf Club. We had a beautiful view from our room!
The hotel is very family friendly… there are two big pools, a lazy river, a water slide, tons of kids activities throughout the day, movie nights, a beautiful beach, etc. It’s also close to a lot of the activities that are available on the water and it’s a pretty short walk from a commercial stretch with lots of restaurants, shops, and a couple of malls.
Our first day there we got settled into our room and then headed down to the pool to relax a bit. Julia apparently finds the, sun, wind and sound of water to be very relaxing as she took several naps throughout the week right next to the pool!
We took her around the lazy river a few times:
and we introduced her to the beach for the first time!
At first she was a little afraid of the waves but after a while she figured out that they weren’t too scary and she absolutely LOVED playing in the sand!
Once we got Julia’s carseat, we were able to relax a little more and really enjoy ourselves! Ken had been to Aruba before (this was my first time in the Caribbean!) so he knew that we wanted to get a rental car. We were very glad to have it since it gave us the freedom to explore the island without having to get taxis each time we wanted to leave the resort. We explored on the Northshore of the island a bit, where there were some old ruins:
a lovely little church:
some beautiful views of beaches/rocks (though the waves on the Northshore are much rougher so you can’t really go in the water to swim):
and Phillips Animal Garden, which was probably the highlight of the trip as far as Julia was concerned. She has absolutely no fear around animals and had so much fun feeding the animals. She especially loved giving carrots to the goats. As soon as she fed a carrot to a goat, she would turn around and ask for another carrot. She’d go right up to them, stick the carrot in their mouth and then do a little dance of excitement about having fed the goat. It was pretty adorable!
They had all kinds of animals there including camels, donkeys, cows, parrots, snakes, pigs, ferrets and many others. The goats were probably the biggest hit for Julia!
We also visited a Donkey Sanctuary but for some reason Julia wasn’t as into the donkeys as she was the goats… I think she liked the goats were closer to her size!
One of the days, we took a drive through Aruba’s National Park. There were a couple of caves we stopped to explore, and it was fun to just see all the scenery in the Park! If we go back to Aruba some day (which I hope we do!) it would be great to get out and hike around a bit but with Julia it was a little hard to get in and out of the car. The next time we go we’ll also try to get a car that’s 4-wheel drive so we can go off-roading and head down to the Natural Pool. This time though, the caves were pretty cool!
Another big hit with Julia was the Jolly Pirates boat trip that we did… Ken had been on this pirate ship one of the last times he was in Aruba with his family and he remembered it being tons of fun. We had also heard from other people that it was a good thing to do with kids. Julia did have a really good time… they played music the whole time so she loved dancing!
and the movement of the boat even put her to sleep for over an hour!
Ken & I also got to go snorkeling, which was tons of fun!
Sadly we didn’t get any pictures of me all trussed up in my snorkeling gear but we did get a beautiful family picture on the boat!
and I got to wear my new beach hat!
Back at the resort, Julia really loved the iguanas that we found all over the place!
One day she even got to feed them! Just like with the goats, she had no fear and just went right up to them to hand them lettuce to eat.
Of course Aruba has some must-see tourist attractions including the California lighthouse:
There were birds flying all around the area where the lighthouse is, and Julia had tons of fun chasing them and yelling “come birds!”
A lot of time was also spent playing in and around the pool. Julia woke up each morning, looked out the window and pointed out the water (which she still calls “agua”) then started pulling at her clothes indicating she wanted to take them off. She would pick out her swimsuit, ask to put on her hat and her “agua shoe-ah” (water shoes) and then we’d get ready to go down to the pool!
We had a few nice dinners out:
and Julia learned to eat directly from an apple:
and she also learned to do the splits… a trick we didn’t know she was capable of! On our last day in town, we had to take a picture of the “I love Aruba” sign:
and one last picture in front of the hotel:
and of course we were sad to leave (though apparently unless she’s actually sad, Julia can’t make a sad face!):
Customs and immigration were quite the ordeal and Julia was an absolute nightmare on the plane from Aruba to Orlando but late last night we finally made it home and we were glad to have made it safely (Julia even slept through the landing in Baltimore!)
Today we had to come back to reality, back down from our vacation cloud… we both went back to work and Julia went back to school but today was her first day in her new classroom! So here, I present to you, her first day of school picture for the 2014-2015 school year!