Bati Bleki, September 29th, 2014

THE GRANDE DAME OF PALM BEACH, AN UPDATE. Some of my friends in tourism circles indicate that the Grande Dame of Palm Beach, the first luxury hotel on the island, which was designed by famed American art-deco architect Morris Lapidus, might end up in Aruban ownership, if the bid by the Aruba Growth Fund, a unique investor in the Aruban economy, funded by local investors, is successful. The fund presented itself as a serious buyer of the resort which was the playground of many Aruban baby-boomers as they were growing up, and the backdrop of many of life’s great events from baptisms to graduations and marriages. The real estate, at the heart of Palm Beach, was, as you know, listed for sale on the international market a few months ago. Many interested suitors expressed their desire to buy, yet at the end it seems that the Aruba Growth Fund secured the prize. The private equity fund receives its initial capital from the main Aruban pension funds and several reputable private companies such as Meta Corp and Caribbean Mercantile Bank, meaning that those contributing to the pensions funds of AAA, WEB, ELMAR, and APFA will become the owners of the hotel, and as local investors with a social conscience employees can now take a deep breath, allowing anxiety to dissipate and national pride to take over. Should things work out, the fund is certainly a reliable partner with a good reputation and track record, well positioned to continue operating the resort into the next decades.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES. Herman’s Sports Bar in Noord closed its door. Popular bartender JC Conception will probably be looking for a new address, stay tuned, as local sports bars compete for the NFL football viewing bar business in the next few months, until February. Two new boutiques will be opening in town, one dedicated to Swiss-made Omega, a luxury watch worn during the first manned lunar landing in July of 1969 and every single one of NASA’s manned missions since March of 1965. The other boutique will feature the equally famous Swiss made Breitling, a watch brand associated with aviation, diving, and British chic, in the form of Breitling for Bentley, both stores by top-rated Gemani Jewelers, located across the fruit and souvenir market on the Oranjested waterfront.

FUN AD. The Maduro Travel ad in the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival magazine is hereby awarded a special industry prize for being fresh and innovative. The ad depicts the friendly, good-looking group of agents working at Maduro Travel under the caption Performing Live Year Round, Maduro Travel, Music to Your Ears. We suspect that Isabel Welage should be credited with creative!

BLOGGERS BOARDWALK WEEKEND. The entire Boarwalk Small Hotel is occupied by bloggers this weekend, having been invited here from around the world to come discover Aruba on their own terms, in their own language, and style. The unique initiative by twin owners Stephanie and Kimberly Rooijakkers, endorsed by the Aruba Tourism Authority and supported by their publicist Karin Swiers will result in fresh and unique coverage in diverse markets, and contribute to Aruba’s fame in faraway places. So what is a celebrity blogger and how can I become one? Good news, you can easily become a celebrity blogger if you take it upon yourself to write passionately and consistently about your life, encouraging millions of readers from all walks of life to anticipate your charmingly-worded ruminations, and to follow all of your adventures, promoting travel, not just tourism. And here’s difference. When you travel you discover, you take your time, free of schedules and agendas. When you are a tourist, you are often bound to a program, guides by four-color canned brochures. It’s not the same thing.

THE RITZ CARLTON ENTERTAINS CORPORATE DECISION MAKERS. The Ritz Carlton formulated special local packages in honor of the upcoming holidays and introduced its culinary firecrackers to an elegantly dressed crowd on Friday, competing in the local market for holiday parties and corporate events: Speak to Danny Biemans about your needs and wishes, says Richard Kasofsky and he will make it all happen! Guests sipped champagne cocktails in the foyer and were then invited to sit-down for a surprise dinner instead of a cocktail party affair with interactive buffet stations. The new Tsunami played contemporary Latin dance music. The crowd was polite, and genuinely more interested in the very tasty food, until the band cranked up the decibels and played Carnival music, for an hora loca of grinding and jumping fun! The cookies were our favorites among desserts, so hearty and gooey, and we happily accepted some to go. if anybody was worried about the allegedly missing $15 millions dollars, lost in the investment fund by some elaborate scheme, it didn’t show, because the entire management crew was on hand to welcome guests and mingle, to make sure we had a great time, eating, drinking and dancing the night away. The happiest guest was Gino Goeloe, about to receive a donation from the resort for the White & Yellow Cross.

EXPO CAS WAS IMPRESSIVE. With over 90 exhibitors, Expo Cas was very impressive, packing more than 3,000 visitors in just the first day. Congratulations to 4Sale Magazine, ATCO and Barcadera Cement for the attractive and professional booth design and Kudos to Stanley and Clayton Brown, with Multi Media International since 1994, for setting the stage for a tremendous event. The twins also run a popular real estate portal and doing the same for cars, besides the Aruba Blue Pages guidebook, and an annual Beauty Expo.

PASSION FOR PIZZA. We tried Italy’s favorite pie in a number of places over the past few weeks, and Casa Tua is the winner. The restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month and their mushroom pizza whose recipe was formulated by Daveed Nataf is a hit, with three types of aromatic mushrooms, a touch of garlic, a creamy mix of cheeses, over crispy thin crust, with zingy home-made hot sauce. The perfect pizza for two. We tried the Urataka Center pizza on a Sunday night. The local ambiance and the cold beer were very welcoming, but we were not crazy about the screaming kids exercising their vocal cords behind us. The BBQ chicken pizza was a bit anemic and watery, but we finished it anyway. I don’t remember anything particular about the pizza at Amore Mio Bistro except that it was good, and my dinner partner interesting. One of us forgot a phone at dinner and Ruben, a handsome waiter promptly returned it, without even expecting a tip. The Pizza at Tomato Charlie’s, Brickell Bay Beach Resort is no longer cut into squares, and I hear the place has a new owner who is planning some changes down the road. You’re not going to believe me but it’s true, a famous Italian chef, Fiorenzo Trunzo now owns the restaurant. Trunzo, chef and partner at Dal Toro Ristorante, within the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian/Palazzo Las Vegas, is coming to Aruba with his genuine recipe of Lasagna della Nonna, his own grandma, which is great news, for the beaten up, sidewalk eatery at Brickell Bay.