Aruba Experience, in its new and exciting incarnation
Just north of Daniel Leo Plaza, two city blocks away, on Emanstraat #37, you will find a freshly remodeled Cunucu House, it is a classic beauty and it was totally invisible before restoration. I imagine it was a shell, I don’t even remember, perhaps abandoned, and the coming Friday is will open as the Aruba Experience Couture, Espresso & Patisserie. Congratulations to all involved.
If the name sounds familiar, it is, it was the name of a magazine, first published in 1986, a tourist publication that quietly went away when audiences transitioned to on line, but it did not go away completely, it morphed into an exciting business opportunity.
The restoration of the cunucu was entrusted to Tanya Dorer, Acme Real Estate & Development N.V., and she struck the right cord, balancing old and retro, it all looks gorgeous and respectful to the structure’s historical past.
The business initiative is by Susanita La Bella, that’s her Facebook handle, a fashionista, an entrepreneur, a diva, and a runner with a social conscience — the café will operate an Integration Room, where Papiamento language and Aruban culture will be taught to those newly-arrived, with a desire to belong.
The opening of the charming café provides another good excuse to visit Rancho, the heart of Oranjestad, once its most important neighborhood, down on its luck for decades, and reemerging now, thanks to private sector initiative such as Susanita’s.
Good luck with the barista training this week.
The recent urban revival projects are finally breathing new life into downtown Oranjestad.
Craft Beer, Beards and Tattoos
The three go together apparently, because there was plenty of facial hair and body art, at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino Grand Caribbean Ballroom, as the third annual Craft Beer Festival attracted a hefty crowd, Saturday night.
A local beer distributor by the name of Craft Beer Lovers created the event, and has been hosting it successfully, with the support of related initiatives such as Local Store, Bros & Beer and Balashi National Brewery Inc.
In fact, our national brewery created a limited edition, a small batch of unfiltered Balashi beer in honor of the festival. I tasted it, it was nicely chilled and light, no bitter finish – you understand I am no world class maven on the subject.
The Balashi Brewery display within the ballroom deserves compliments. It included the virtual tour of the plant and its production process, the one unveiled at the recent new image launch.
I noticed the Bros & Beer stand had Shoco beer on tap. Shoco was developed in the US last year, inspired by Aruba, embodying the island lifestyle. The beer is distributed here by Divino NV and poured at Bros & Beer. It derives its name from the tiny Shoco owl, a borrowing subspecies, our national bird.
Next stop, Local Store. The fun bar is located on Palm Beach, it usually carries over 80 kinds of Craft Beer, and according to my sources, makes the world’s best chicken wings. As expected, they had an impressive stand and owner Curt Harms was converting us all into Intergalactic Beer drinkers, so rare and so refined, they managed to get just five cases in honor of the festival. Curt was determined to teach the uninformed multitudes, including me, to appreciate the grapefruit-tangerine-orange spectrum of the cloudy libation. I did my best to graduate his program. He is adorable.
Great crowd could be found around Rogue and Coronado Brewery.
Overall, it was a nice effort. With rocker Mirugia de Cuba and the So What band.
The food court had some great selections of nibbles by White Modern Cuisine, Hollywood Smokehouse Bros & Bro, and Local store.
I had my pulled pork and brisket tacos at the Hollywood Smokehouse tent and went home quite content!
Star studded CSJF coming up!
21st & 22nd September 2018
CARIBBEAN SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL 2018
Yes! Getting in gear for the 12th edition of the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival, we can finally give you a sneak peek into this year’s program! Over the more recent years, Aruba’s greatest festival has grown from a music enthusiasts’ gathering into the island’s most renowned cultural event. Whether you like to explore new dance steps with music from around the world or indulge yourself with local food and visual art spectacles, the 2018 CSJF is the place to be!
Save the date!
The 2018 Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival will be held on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd of September. Early birds can get their tickets on our website exclusively (check the link below). For our international visitors, who have visited us the prior festival from Holland, USA, Colombia, Curacao, United Kingdom and more to mention, please visit our website as well for more information and also to purchase your ticket online.
Early bird general admission ticket price: $50 per day and USD 90 for a weekend pass – available until June 30th.
Presale general admission ticket price: $65 per day and USD 120 for a weekend pass – from July 1st onwards.
VIP tickets vary from USD 175 up till USD 3.000. You can visit caribbeanseajazz.com for more info.
What to expect in 2018?
The 12th edition of Aruba’s most beloved festival will once again be held at the Renaissance Festival Plaza in Oranjestad. Aside from seaside scenery, the festival terrain will offer the visitor multiple performing stages, an extensive Food Court comprised of the best local restaurants, and a colorful Arts & Crafts Market.
The first name for the Friday we proudly reveal, is of Vallenato singer Jorge Celedón. This Colombian heartthrob has won a Latin Grammy award for his folksy album ‘Son… Para El Mundo’ (Sound… For the World). Directly from Cuba we will have an all-girl band Anacaona, who has visited us already in the past. Althea Rene, who will bring the Jazzy atmosphere alive on Friday. One of our local bands for Friday is Havana Vieja All Stars. For Saturday we are proud to announce our star of the evening which is Kathy Sledge of the famous Sister Sledge. We also have Di Mongo, a trio consisting of Directie, Montis and Goudsmit. Also, Di-Rect, famous Rock Band from Holland. For all our Jazz lovers, Yellow Jackets and Eric Darius (band) who will entertain us with Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop
Nothing of the above mentioned would be possible without our branding partners, who do not hesitate in joining us each year again and again. That is why we would like to give a very special thanks to Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA), Tropical Bottling (Chill), Aruba Airport Authority (AAA), Renaissance Hotel, Divi Resorts and Unoca.
For more information on our festival and on ticket sales, please visit:
Aruba Faces Many Challenges Simultaneously
An email this morning from: Evelyn Wever-Croes, Prime Minister of Aruba, Minister of General Affairs, Energy, Innovation, Government Organization
Aruba is facing big challenges. Below you will find a link in which these challenges are explained in more detail. I cannot and will no longer spend any energy on this discussion. Aruba will tackle the challenges itself and with decisiveness and does not wish to be involved in internal Dutch politics.
Here is what she said in a media interview in Curacao, thank you Google translate
The Aruban Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes reacted amazed to an article in the NRC “Premier Aruba denounces lack of support for the reception of refugees from Venezuela”. This article was then taken over by other media without prior consultation with the Prime Minister.
Aruba confronts many challenges at the same time. Financial challenges, social challenges and perhaps the biggest challenge: the situation with Venezuela. The Cabinet Wever-Croes is barely 6 months old and has to cope with a rather heavy legacy, as left behind by the previous cabinet under the leadership of Mike Eman.
“We are concerned about the situation in Venezuela. We already have thousands of people without legal status in Aruba, and this, on a population of just 110,000 people, is a big problem. Aruban society has apparently been able to absorb this number so far, but we can no longer handle this. That is why we also make all preparations to prevent a mass influx of people from Venezuela, Aruba with even greater impact, with all the consequences.
We have an asylum procedure that we follow and we will comply with the international agreements in those cases where people fear for their lives. We cannot do more because we ourselves have our challenges and limitations.
Part of the preparations is of course the price card. Aruba has, thanks to the financial mismanagement of the former government, a national debt against the 90% of the Aruban GDP. In that case, Aruba itself does not have sufficient resources to bear the costs that an asylum policy implies.
The Netherlands has indicated that this is an internal matter and that Aruba itself has to see how it is doing this.
“I can also imagine this attitude of the Dutch government quite well. In the Hague, thanks to the financial mismanagement of my predecessor, there is no trust in Aruba. And now the Aruban population has to pay for this. Incidentally, I do not think that the Netherlands will be able to continue this attitude for a long time.
I believe that this will affect the entire Kingdom. Aruba will do everything it can to tackle the refugee situation as well as possible so that this will not have a negative impact on the Kingdom, but it does need help. Contrary to what has been published in the NRC, I am not irritated by this attitude. I do not, however, irritate me quickly. I even find it somewhat understandable, given the experience that has been gained in The Hague with my predecessor. We are working hard to improve this relationship and to restore (mutual) trust. It will undoubtedly take the necessary time before we reach that point. “
We have not been idle and we are now in consultation with the EU, with ECLAC, with the US, for this help. In addition, I have also made agreements with the Prime Minister of Curaçao, and recently with the President of Panama and the Vice President of Colombia, to step up together. We can also count on support from that side. But each of these agencies and countries want to see first how the Netherlands will help itself with this crisis. I am sure that if people in The Hague see that we are seriously concerned with tackling our own problems, we must also be able to count on support there. Meanwhile, the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs have pledged support in terms of assistance, expertise and logistics. We appreciate that.
Visit of Minister Stef Blok to Venezuela
Minister of Foreign Affairs Blok visited Aruba and Curaçao in April for a Kingdom Consultation on Foreign Relations with the Prime Ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. During his trip, he managed to break the deadlock with Venezuela, after President Maduro unilaterally closed the borders between the countries on 6 January 2018.
The position of Aruba was always to come to reopening the borders as soon as possible, but under very stringent conditions. Minister Blok finally succeeded in signing a covenant. Now we are working together with Curaçao to make arrangements with Venezuela about the implementation of the covenant. Contrary to what was published in the Dutch media, I was not invited to be present on that occasion and I did not say that there would have been a show.
“We already have enough to protect our small island from the many external factors that we cannot influence. We therefore do not appreciate the use of the Dutch media for domestic politics (consumption). In these difficult times we expect support from everyone; especially from the Netherlands.
Source: Press release Dutch Prime Minister Wever-Croes
El Diablito at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino
Stacey Banfield, Marketing & Communications Manager at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Casino asked me if I wanted to meet El Diablito, chef Emilio Marcias.
What do you think I said?
The culinary devil will be exercising his magic in the lobby of the resort from 7pm to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday, with a limited number of seats available.
He’s been here before, last year, when nomadic Chef Diego Muñoz stopped in Aruba on his world tour offering a 5-course Peruvian dinner at La Vista. He was the chef’s assistant.
With the aid of a culinary devil, last year’s event was a resounding success giving birth to a series of similar specials.
The upcoming weekend fiesta features Mexican cuisine, the old-fashioned way, flavored with many local ingredients from Aruba.
Chef Emilio promises harmonies of tastes and textures, chased by special Tequila cocktails and sipping Mezcal, fat worm included.
What we recognize as Mexican cuisine, El Diablito explains, is a hybrid that traveled the world and adopted many twists and modifications.
In his own kitchen, El Diablito developed a concept that goes back to the source, to the original methods and techniques, no cutting corners, and you will taste the difference when you bite into his snappy, zesty, crunchy, lively dishes, flavored with chapulin dust, the dried snackable grasshoppers, drizzled with lime juice, salt, chili, from mild to devilish, and loaded with fresh herbs, exotic tubers, different varieties of corn and tomato, green and red salsas and the ever present heavenly avocado! Yum.
So, drop in for an a la carte experience, El Diablito is here for just two days. He is busy traveling the world otherwise and spreading his gospel in Europe and South America. When back from charming the world he hopes to open his own El Diablito in Lima, Peru, where he presently lives and where he met Teddy Bouroncle, the resort’s Director of Food & Beverage Operations, back in the days when they all worked for a legendary restaurant Astrid & Gastón, high up on the World’s Best Restaurant list.
Save me a seat at the bar, I never had Mezcal, or dried high protein, low fat grasshopper dust, I am ready!
The funniest thing you will ever read
A crisis levy of 2.5% will enter in effect July 1st 2018, it was approved by parliament, a few days ago.
A mere 1% will be added to our current BAZV to help pay for the island’s rising health care costs. Consequently, BAZV is now a 3% levy.
The other 1 ½% tax approved under the name B-AVP, is a brand-new burden on the public, and I understand it has some legit Dutch abbreviations. Parliament approved it to service the annual debt of 80 million florins over the next 20 years to help pay for the frivolous PPP projects initiated by the former government.
To remind those who forgot the PPP, Public-Private Projects, include the new road to the airport, pompously named after a late AVP politician, the Watty Vos Boulevard, and the overstated bridge and the multi-purpose facilities, in Paradera and Noord. The PPP projects ran out of money before they got to San Nicolas, so we are paying for a multi-purpose facility there, but it doesn’t exist.
The opposition complained, but tough luck, the daily encounter with BBO, BAZV and BAVP will remind us all of the wasteful way in which the AVP government treated public funds.
The former MinInfra bragged about the PPA projects, and indeed multi-purpose facilities turned out to be useful, but if you cannot afford a Mercedes, you should get a super mini affordable Getz, even if the bank begs you to take a low interest loan for the fancy sedan and throws in the pre-paid insurance.
If you value your peace of mind, and financial stability you should stick to the Getz. And if you don’t believe me just read about the subprime mortgage crisis in the US. It’s been 10 years, we are still trying to recover.
Good news for my contact lens wearing friends
Botica di Servicio just introduced its own house-brand of contact lenses OPTINOVA, two different kinds, a 10-pack of daily disposable lenses, and a monthly pack, both made with Hyaluron, a soft water-containing gel, which make the lenses so thin, pliable, and easy on the eyes.
Best of all, because of smart buying strategies, the prices are now slashed in half.
Contact lenses are an integral part of our lives and are the preferred option for those feeling awkward in glasses, but it is an expensive choice on Aruba.
With the new OPTINOVA brand at affordable prices these contact lenses will win your heart and they are available at all Botica di Servicio locations here: Palm beach, Noord, Eagle, St Cruz and Seroe Preto.
The Boticas carry a huge inventory of lenses from -4.00 +10.00, eighty-four different prescription strengths, so you can mix and match and finally have clear vision, at half of what it used to cost you.
Ata Mulder, Senior Managing Pharmacist at Botica Di Servicio reports he used to bring disposable lenses for friends and family members back from his travels, then he decided to look into the possibility of creating a house-brand for the pharmacies. The idea caught on and a top Dutch manufacturer was picked for the job, giving birth to OPTINOVA: Spherical contact lenses which have the same lens power throughout the entire optical part of the lens to correct myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
Most importantly: No prescription needed.
Police School Project
Kudos to the cadets of the Police school for their environmental project. We were surprised yesterday when we saw DOW, in full force at Fisherman’s Huts moving sand and digging trenches. The mystery was solved when the digging reveled a low stone fence, built around the Millennium, upon the request of Turtuga Aruba to prevent locals and visitors from driving on the beach where the endangered sea turtles were building nests.
Over the years the wind shifted sand and slowly swallowed the barrier. The cadets decided as part of their environmental studies to initiate a community project, digging the barrier out and re-enforcing the no-driving-on-the-beach policy!
Recently we have been confronted with recurring ugly images of tire tracks on our dunes and beaches.
How do you educate the public about the fragility of our environment?
Visitors are culpable as well, they let their hair down here, and often drive the way they would never drive back home. We all need to slow down a bit.
Good job cadets, excellent initiative.
Regarding that stone wall: According to hotelier Ewald Biemans who paid for it, the wall was constructed by a Colombian artisan, who worked on it 100 meters at a time. When finished it ran from Malmok to Boardwalk Plantation, 400-meter long.
It is in dire need of repair, certain section keeled over.
Do you know an artisan who could restore the fence? We will find the funds!
Back from the Brink
The Aruba Experience Couture, Espresso & Patisserie opened charmingly with great fanfare yesterday with an A list of dignitaries and invitees, all full of praise for the courage and the determination it took to restore a practical ruin to its former glory plus.
The unsung hero of the restoration is contractor Jorge Garcia that translated Susan Ruiter’s vision into reality.
A number of other contractors were approach and they all said that demolition was best, but Garcia stuck it out and for one and a half years, painstakingly putting the puzzle together.
Apparently, I have a connection there. Many years ago, on a visit to the legendary Hotel Tequendama in Bogota, an ambitious sous-chef slipped a resume to my travel companion. He was looking for work overseas, he wanted to break away from violent Colombia, he heard Aruba was paradise.
That man was Garcia and he ended up working at the Concorde hotel as a chef for ten happy years before opening Green Forest Blue Sea, on Wilhelminastraat.
Gotta appreciate his initiative. He heard about hotel guests from Aruba, approached them, that was before the internet and linked in, and took his destiny in his own hands.
He later became a contractor, moved Green Forest and Blue Sea to Santa Cruz and I hear as a contractor he only leaves happy clients behind.
Susan says ten Haitian families lived in the crumbling building, on the demolition list. But thanks to their hard-headedness they were relocated and the building found a new owner, willing to invest, and a new life.
Their neighbor architect Raffy Kock must be pleased, he now has a cute place for lunch. Also, the new Canwood Legal is located around the corner. Oranjestad is moving in the right direction.
Check out Emanstraat #37, a freshly remodeled Cunucu House, a classic beauty, the Aruba Experience Couture, Espresso & Patisserie. Congratulations to all involved.