This past winter in New York just didn’t want to quit. As an East Coast native, you’d think I’d be used to our harsh and unpredictable winters by now, but this one just kept zagging on us. One weekend we were lounging in the park, enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree temperatures; the next we were huddled inside, braving our third major snowstorm of the year. Don’t let anyone tell you that climate change isn’t real, kids.
It kind of bums me out that Spring Break ceases to be a thing once you’ve exited the academic world. We could all use a break during the long months between the holidays and the first signs of summer. I try my darndest to get out of town at some point during the winter/early spring. As much as I love the city, a little sunshine is extremely beneficial to my mental health. So when my parents planned a late winter getaway to Aruba, I decided to tag along (with their permission, of course – as an only child I’m a pro third-wheeler, but I know my boundaries).
Most of our time on the island, just 18 miles north of Venezuela, was spent at the beach or pool at our resort. I was very grateful for the time to just chill out and actually read a book for once. I finished John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, two very different but equally excellent reads, while enjoying the (surprisingly strong) Caribbean sun. Knowing my parents, of course, we weren’t content to just plop for the whole week. We needed to get out and see some of the island.
We woke up early one morning to take a Jeep ride out Arikok National Park, which makes up a good chunk of the northeast part of the island. Arikok’s terrain and shoreline stand in stark contrast to the sandy beaches of the island’s south side. It’s much more rough around the edges, featuring huge limestone formations, cliffs, and fields of aloe plants. It’s cliche, but it honestly felt like we’d traveled to a completely different island in the 30 minute ride from our resort to the park.
The tour guides drove us out to the Natural Pool, one of Arikok’s top attractions, for a bit of snorkeling. It was kind of amazing to get to swim in this one calm little pond, while the waves of the Caribbean crashed on the rocks around us. We saw some great local fish, and I only hit my head on the rocks once! From there, we got to check out the Natural Bridge, ate some delicious pastechi, and took in the view from the comfort of our Jeep.
One of the last stops on the tour was the Alto Vista Chapel, a tiny Catholic chapel in the hills just outside the town of Noord. The chapel stands on the site of the original church built by Venezuelan missionaries in 1750. The original church was abandoned in 1816 after a plague hit the area, but a schoolteacher raised funds to rebuild it in 1952. Though I’m not particularly religious, I was raised Catholic and something about this church resonated with me more than others I’ve visited. Maybe it was the warmth of yellow walls, or the striking statue of the Virgin Mary at the altar, or just the serenity of its location high above the ocean. The place almost demands that you take a moment to sit down and just be still. Whether you feel like praying is totally up to you.
Later in our trip, we took a sunset catamaran cruise around the south side of the island. I’ll be real with you, I don’t have much to say about this part of the trip other than a) I love sunsets, b) I love boats, and c) I love taking pictures of myself with sunset lighting on a boat. Also drinks were included. So that’s cool.
I had a really lovely time in Aruba and would go back in a minute. This time with more cash for the casino, of course.
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