Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oranjestad, Aruba

Oranjestad, Aruba
Capital of Aruba. While considering the ports of this particular cruise, we were not excited to visit Aruba as the incident with the young American student was fresh in our mind. However, while reading up on the incident, it was brought out that upon learning of the disappearance of the student, almost the whole island's population joined in the search. We rapidly changed our mind about the caring and sincerity of the residents of the island.   

Oranjestad is a picturesque city with its Dutch colonial architecture in pastel colors. Along the wharf, merchants come to sell fresh fish and produce right off the boats every morning. The city would have made another great walking tour but we had already decided to take a small tour and a trip to a beach.
 One of our first stops was the Chapel of Alto Vista (highest view). Because of its high elevation and location, the Alto Vista Church is the ideal setting for sunrise and sunset services.   
Professional photo borrowed by permission.
The chapel was the island's first Roman Catholic Church, built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953. The Chapel is reached by a winding unpaved road lined with white crosses marking the Stations of the Cross. For locals, pilgrimages are made to the Chapel by traveling on their knees. 
Note the outdoor rock pews for over-flow worshipers on special occasions. 
Pilgrimages to the Chapel involve real sacrifices. Not only is the road not paved, the setting is a desert. 
The cacti remind me of Arizona. 
Our next stop was the California lighthouse. It was named after a vessel called the "California". The California was a wooden ship sailing from England to Venezuela when she ran aground off Aruba on September 23, 1891. The lighthouse wasn't built until 1914. Perched on a high seaside elevation, the lighthouse has become one of Aruba's scenic trademarks and offers a picture perfect view of the island's western coastline of sandy beaches.
And, speaking of beaches, that was our next stop.

I was taking a picture of the sandy beach when a group of people walked right in front of my camera.
The water was a little murky and the ocean bottom was slick like moss, but if you took a handful, it was just slippery mud.
We settled in a lounge chair under a nice shade tree and little birds kept getting closer and closer above us. I thought a flash from the camera might preclude an "accident" such as one of our neighbors experienced.

This little bird looked like a baby vulture and was not easily persuaded to leave.
After another swim in the water, I took another shot of the beach and people walked in front of me again!

On the way back to the ship, we took a little tour of various scenic places such as the Dutch windmill bar and restaurant. 
I think this was a gigantic hotel and casino, but I don't recall which one.
Back aboard our ship, I was impressed by the "austerity" of an accompanying cruiser. Note there are only port holes and no balcony rooms. Nowadays cruise ships have as many balcony rooms as possible as they are premium cabins.
Despite our initial reluctance to visit Aruba, it turned out to be a pleasant experience, and it was easy to tell why it was a popular spring break destination.

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