COCKTAILS UNDER THE TREE. We went to Happy Hour on Friday at Fort Zoutman, under the tree, street-side. The last time I was there, exactly one year ago, was the day our Prime Minister abandoned his self-styled hunger strike, as Malaysia Airline, MH 17, was shot down over the Ukraine. So, back to the Fort on the anniversary of that fated day, for an event conceived by the ever-entertaining Joase-Ann van der Biest, who is today the director of the Historical Museum. Joase says she wanted to breathe life into the complex, which is usually hopping and happening on Tuesdays, during the Bon Bini Festival and very quiet the rest of the week. Reasonably priced beers and futuristic flavors by Taki Aruba, with foraged flowers and locally grown veggies welcomed us to the a social mixer, brushing shoulders with Aruba Tourism Authority personalities, and the Ministry of Tourism officials including the Minister himself. We also took a speed-tour of the museum with Valerie who is a great story-teller. Joase will repeat the get together bao palo at the end of the month.
YOU WERE MENTIONED IN BATI BLEKI. We recently said goodbye, as in bon voyage, to a Belgian-born friend-of-Aruba, who has been living in Paris for decades. Hotelier Willy Libert spent the last three months here and reports appreciating our sunshiny lifestyle and our gracious people. On weekends, walking to his favorite Arashi beach, he never failed to collect trash, and on several occasions joined local friends hiking the wild side, taking pictures and marveling at the diversity of his life, retired in Paris one day, then heading to Aruba for a project on the following day! Among friends saying adieu were Hotel Manager Leslie Prea, Marriott Aruba Hotel & Stellaris Casino and Erwin Noguera General Manager Marriott Ocean Club. The party on Quatorze Juillet featured French dishes by the now stylishly-bearded Chef Miguel Garcia and the adorable Chef Romeo Penacino, proud members of the Marriott culinary team. Looking around the dinner table Erwin immediately established that of all famous party-goers Leslie has never received a mention in Bati Bleki, he then went on to spend the rest of the evening telling me that a good-juicy story about the ever-cheerful Seychelles-born hospitality executive would sell a mountain of newspapers on Monday, but, he never gave me any fodder, and never spilled any exciting information besides what I already knew from the day we met at La Cabana, many years ago, that Leslie is a stand up guy, and a good boy! So here we go, a mention in Bati Bleki for a perfect gentleman, father and friend!
WELCOME TO THE HILTON. As the Radisson logo lettering went off the Aruba tower many of my friends expressed a variety of emotions. First there was joy, over the fact that the new owners of the real estate, the Aruba Growth Fund, made good on its promise to purchase and protect all employees and their work places. That by itself is a huge accomplishment. We were talking at dinner about the reality of local businesses changing hands and one of us reported living with the eternal sting of being fired without compensation, when Chez Mathilde Restaurant, went so-called bankrupt. She said she was still hurting from that insult. In the Radisson’s case, it was business as usual, one day lime green, the next day blue, when the Aruba Growth Fund introduced Hilton International, in charge of navigating the Grande Dame into its glorious future. On the other hand there was an end-of-an-era sentiment. Twenty-five years under the Radisson brand were good, albeit less-than perfect General Managers. The resort introduced contemporary ideas to its traditional clientele, and adjusted to demographic shifts, and ever-changing guests’ preferences, needs and wants. It was apparent that management watched its customer-behavior and decision-making and continuously tweaked the product, managing to stay popular, all these years. But there is more pressure to succeed now that a large investment was made, and it is up to employees to show their gratitude, for the fact their jobs were save, by applying themselves 120% to guest satisfaction and top notch service, to help push the hotel to higher, better room rates.
NEW COLLECTION. The new Breitling 2015 Basel Collection was previewed in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton hotel recently. The trunk show was hosted by Little Switzerland marketing and management duo Nathalie Van Trikt and Jeanette Keith. It is nice to know that that the watches unveiled at the international BaselWorld fair, in Switzerland in March, are already available in Aruba. John Travolta, the famous superstar with a passion for aviation is now the spokesperson for the brand appearing in advertising campaigns, replacing British celebrity David Beckam. The ladies report that the Little Switzerland flagship store in Oranjestad, at Royal Plaza, is open, having undergone a complete renovation in record 8 weeks.
MAGGY’S MAKE UP FESTIVEL CONCLUDES 13th EDITION. Hosted by Rachel Hughes Senior Marketing & Sales Manager, Diane Fleming, Support Office Manager, and Roxana Hoevertsz, Marketing Assistant, the 13th annual make up festival hosted a number of events, at the main street store. Opening night offered a special cocktail hour with music by saxophonist Eduardo Proveyer, hors d’oeuvres by Croleco Snacks and wine by a Boma Wines, a company owned by Ramon Helgers of Madame Jeanette fame. Wine Advisor Remco van Kerlhof was in charge of pouring wines, and reported they were imported to Aruba from France, for the occasion. During the week Maggy’s also offered a Google Glasses / YSL Makeup Event, for the first time ever. Basically, the makeup artists wearing the glasses recorded the process of makeup application and the customers got a video, to replay the experience at home, and be able to recreate the look step by step on their own. The partnership between Google Glasses and YSL was launched at Bloomingdale’s in New York City, and at Maggy’s in Aruba.
NEW COMPANY IN ARUBA. Have you ever asked yourself how long it takes to open a new company in Aruba. Recently it took seven month to open one here. And while everyone we met along the way seemed efficient and helpful, I am asking myself if seven-month is indeed our idea of fast and well-organized. Notary Ted Johnson and his assistant Cheryl Trim were helpful. One meeting and a couple of trips to the Orange Plaza was all it took. Yet, they charged extra for the English transcripts. Then the Censo was not as bad as we expected, but we had to take a number of trips down there for a number of different extracts, as each turn of the road required a fresh Censo paper! The Ministry of Justice where our Good Conduct certificates were issued was on the ball. The papelito was ready at the time they indicated it would be. The Chamber of Commerce receptionist was helpful, though she charge double, Awg 30, for an extract in English VS one in Papiamento. Then the CMB executive, Diza Arends was helpful, naturally, it was a non-borrowing account. But, our visit in the CMB branch in Noord was stressful. The lines were endless. We stood in a Caracas-style cola fortísima, then someone suggested to line up at the much-shorter business queue. Sure it had fewer people, but cash depositing members of the business community take much longer, and so the time-saving ploy failed. Last but not least after a number of visits to the Department of Economic Affairs, we picked up the directors’ permits, on a Friday afternoon, just before 4pm. The ladies at Economic Affairs, Esther Ramirz Kelly, Mary Baarh, Marcycelly Ras, seem organized and diligent, but the process is still paper-bogged, with the photocopy machine in a starring role, spitting out a copy of this, and a copy that, continuously. I think someone needs to look at the process, and make overall recommendations.
WINDOWS ON ARUBA DESERVES A REPEAT VISIT. Our colleague Yentl Lieuw now wears a diamond ring and consequently is moving to Las Vegas to be with her main man Brian Stedeford. A special event required a special celebration so Tabitha Fecunda invited for dinner at Windows on Aruba at the Divi Links clubhouse where executive Chef Matt Boland recently tweaked the menu. As I opened the elegant menu cover and looked over the food items offered, the much-loved Sunset Grille of yesteryears came to mind, especially when we dug into the amazing breadbasket brimming with Jalapeño muffins, olive sticks and Parmesan cookies, escorted by olives and herbal butter! It is no wonder that I had the association, because Matt Boland was at the head of the team creating the old Sunset Grille at the Radisson, around the millennium. The breadbasket was a strong beginning to an excellent experience, culminating in spectacular dessert. Between those bookends, the menu now lists many new appetizers such as Tuna Tataki and Tomato Carpaccio. It also features long forgotten favorites such as Oysters Rockefeller and Wild Mushroom Pie. The duo concept, made popular by Window on Aruba retains its menu presence with Shrimp and Escargots and Crab Cake & Salmon. I wanted to stay on the appetizer page forever. The main courses feature freshly caught seafood, Sea Bass, Salmon, Crab & Shrimp, Twin Lobster Tails and Swordfish in huge potions, graced by contemporary escorts such as coconut black rice, asparagus, red quinoa, baby rainbow potatoes, and baby bok choy. The menu also features US Angus beef, lamb, duck, veal, not just any veal, Veal Oscar with lobster meat, asparagus, Swiss Chard, Spinach and Kale, which regrettably I did not have, because of recent futile diet consideration. The main course are escorted by deliciously interesting combinations, the Chateaubriand comes with chimi-churi sauce and yucca fries, the Kurobuto pork with apple-ginger chutney and bacon potatoes. Soups, salads, desserts they are all worthy of your attention.