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Trip Report Five days in paradise: Manchebo, Aruba TR

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Just back from a wonderfully relaxing November getaway to Aruba. You know we had a good time when, even with a visit to the emergency room, we still came home saying it was an outstanding trip!

This trip was designed to be an extended weekend of peace and relaxation for my husband, who had just finished a particularly busy period at work. Our primary goal was just to sit in a lounge chair all day, and that is exactly what we did. Fabulous. I chose Aruba because there were easy direct flights from EWR, and I chose our hotel, Manchebo, because it seemed to provide the relaxing environment we were looking for. I was extremely happy with our choice!

There is a lot of discussion on Fodors and TA about where to stay in Aruba... Palm or Eagle beach. I was glad we went with Eagle. We only took one quick visit to the Palm beach area, but I could tell immediately it was not for us. It is primarily large mega resorts, many of which are all inclusive. Beach seemed quite narrow, with more emphasis on pools than the beach. I recognize that this is what some people want, and certainly would be more appealing to families with kids. However, for a more romantic, peaceful experience, I was really happy with our choice of Manchebo. The beach is nice and wide, there are plenty of chairs and palapas, and you can roll right out of your bed onto the beach. (The Bucuti next door shares the same beach and provides a similar experience, though a bit more pricey/upscale). Of course, one of the advantages of Palm Beach is it is easier to walk to a variety of restaurants, but there were still several good choices where we were, and we found it easy to take a cab or bus when we wanted to head further out.

We only did one major "activity" which was the sunset sail with Red Sail Sports. Loved it. Peaceful and relaxing. It was a huge catamaran that seats about 80 people, but there were only nine of us on the boat. Fantastic. We sailed the whole trip-- not using motor power. And we were extra lucky because it happened to be a full moon, so after the sun set, it turned into a moonlight sail. Really enjoyable.

Places we ate were:
Pizza Bobs- very short walk from Manchebo. Pizza was very good! Can eat there or take out. Great spot for casual pizza and beer.

Pega Pega- the beach bar/ restaurant at Manchebo. Good lunch food and drinks. We ate at a table one day, and ordered food on the beach another.

Matthews- ate lunch here twice we liked it so much. A short walk down the beach from Manchebo. We liked the setting here as the restaurant is quite close to the water. Happy hour at lunch, means 2 for 1 drinks, so we each ordered a daquiri. Imagine the looks on our faces when they brought us four! Well, yes, the waiter said, it is two for one.

Smoky Joe's- went here for dinner after the sunset sail in Palm Beach. Good ribs, etc. Fun, casual atmosphere.

Barefoot- really outstanding. A highlight of the trip. You need to take a cab here, and when you first pull up, you might think you are in the wrong place because it doesn't look like much from the outside. But then you step into a beautiful oasis, looking at the ocean with your feet in the sand. Beautiful sunset view. (Time your reservation to be there for sunset!) Service and food were outstanding. We shared the grand dessert which was a small sample of five different desserts... Each was spectacular and the perfect end to a delightful evening.

Madame Janettes- excellent. Really great food. Beautiful atmosphere... Kind of an indoor/outdoor feel, with soft live music. Great vibe with delicious food. But it's hard for me to give a totally objective review of MJ, because this is where the trip to the ER came in.

We were having a great meal, and after we finished dessert, I said to my husband, "I don't feel too good." About five seconds later, I slumped over in my seat, out cold. I must say the staff of MJs was fantastic. Several servers came over to help my husband get me to the floor and back to consciousness. One had nursing training, and she stayed with me, taking my pulse and reassuring me until the ambulance arrived. Ambulance workers were helpful and professional, and they hooked me up to an IV. Went to the hospital, which was also very helpful and professional. They gave me more fluids and took some tests, and eventually cleared me to go. I followed up with my doctor at home when I got back, and all is well.

Lessons learned from this experience:
1. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and speed of medical care. I had no wait at all in the ER-- the dr saw me immediately and was knowledgeable and professional. Nurses were good too.
2. Be sure to drink lots of water in Aruba! It's a desert climate, and your body really needs to stay hydrated, especially if you have any medical issues. My basic issue was dehydration.
3. There is nothing more life-affirming than the kindness of strangers. The staff at MJs could not have been more caring or helpful. Same is true of the ambulance workers and hospital staff.
4. The whole experience cost us $500. Two hundred for the ambulance and 300 for the ER. Well worth it, given the situation. Much cheaper, I'm sure, than a similar experience at home.

So again, even with a trip to the ER, we had a wonderful, relaxing, memorable trip to Aruba and can't wait to go back. It really is One Happy Island!

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