Bati Bleki, Weekly Recap, November 9th, 2015

CARITO BAKERY OPENING AT FANTASTIC GARDENS. Grace Maduro recently told me that Carito’s Bakery is opening within the building of the famed nursery in Bushiri, with an added garden terrace. Carito’s Bakery is already a sweet spot in Oranjestad, where Pastries equal Happiness. Apparently, they are passionate about creating delicious baked goods that are beautiful and unique, thus true to their slogan, You Crave It, We Bake It, they will create sinful desserts, worth the calories, for Carito’s new Garden Café, at Fantastic Gardens. If you happen to visit FG these days, the existing café is closed until November 26th. Then on the 27th for opening day, Farilene Croes,  is orchestrating a Christmas-themed party. And, remember that FG always has the best Christmas trees, so go early, to get one. And yes, in answer to your many questions, the alpha pair, Grace and Roy, are divorced, Grace is taking care of business, Roy is living in Panama, gardening and cooking? #YoucraveitWebakeit

BOOKS ABOUT ARUBA. Aruba Point to Point, is a new book about the island written by wildlife and nature photographer, Federico Cabello,, who has published several other books of photography to date, among them one on the raw natural beauty of the Los Roques Archipelago in Venezuela, and one exploring all dive sites of Bonaire in the Leeward Antilles. Federico is a son of the Caribbean, and he says he is delighted to present this photographic celebration of the island of Aruba as a coffee table book, capturing the stunning landscapes and intricate details of of our vistas. Aruba is his second Point to Point book, the first one was Bonaire, with 90 official dive sites, and at the rate Federico is going, covering all Caribbean islands point to point, he has his work cut out for him for the next fifty years, not to forget the fact that he is also working on a publication containing a series of artistic photographs entitled: Drawing with Water and Wind. In Aruba Point to Point Federico went beyond the dynamic tourist industry to discover our wild and undeveloped beauty. Starting at the extreme north, at the California Lighthouse, he traveled south along pristine beaches and translucent seas, passing hotels, sailboats and shipwrecks. As he reached the southern tip, he says, he wished that the island would never end. From beach to beach, point to point, cave to cliff to boat to bird, Aruba is truly … One Happy Island.  Two other books which I recently wrote about were: Mi Pret’i Wowo, created by Karin Swiers for the Aruba Tourism Authority, showcasing the island from a poetic and spontaneous view point, and Linda Reijnders’, We Are Aruba, with the English version upcoming, focusing on the people who live here. Karin’s book is available for sale at the Aruba Tourism Authority headquarters and Linda’s book  is available in the book stores. Federico reports his book is being shipped to the island and will be available soon.

RARE FORM OF AUTISM DETECTED IN ARUBA’S PARLIAMENT. I heard yesterday, or maybe it was the day before yesterday, that Parliament decided NOT to reform our car license plate system, the way we previously heard it would be reformed. The plan to piggyback car license plate fees, on our gasoline purchases meant that those travelling longer and further will pay more, i.e., the residents of San Nicholas who work on Palm Beach will be carrying a larger burden than the residents of Oranjestad working at the same place, because of their less-frequent gasoline purchases. And how they planned to tie in insurance coverage, remained a mystery. According to me, no insurance, no license plates, the two must go together, by law. So, the whoosh of the pedaling backwards on that plan was audible, letting us wonder what’s gonna happen when January comes around. In any case, this wasteful system of new metal license plates every year, gotta stop, even if it means a decline in sales for Retraco, the company manufacturing the plates. I also hear the whoosh of pedaling backwards regarding the Government’s decision to remove the prohibition of fixed-term contracts. Another reform nixed. Parliament is getting cold feet, and temporary contracts will not be implement, contrary to the recommendations of the hotel sector. The hoteliers, truly wish to implement fixed term contracts, to be able to hire people temporarily at peak times, without having to offer them full time employment. With fixed term contracts you may hire a temp to help you over the hump in high season. Many will benefit for the arrangement, especially the very young and inexperienced and people on pension, who would still like o work on a project, or a special assignment. The hoteliers must be totally disappointed and frustrated having spent so much time, building their case, and hearing that it will probably not go through for fear of the labor unions. Hello: You should never govern for fear of the voter, because then, the voter has you by the balls. You should do what’s right for the country, and listen to BOTH sides, workers and employers. Which brings me to the conclusion that they are all a bit autistic, suffering from a rare form of “me-not-want-to-listen-to-you!” Taxation without representation had sparked many revolutions throughout history, from the Boston Tea Party, to the French Revolution, you cannot tax citizens and ignore their requests. No Taxation Without Representation was the slogan that started the American Revolution, and going back even further, the Egyptian Pharaoh, suffering from a similar stubborn heart,  did not listen to Moses either, and look what happened to him.

OMEGA INTRODUCES A NEW JAMES BOND WATCH. In anticipation of a new 007 movie by the name of Spectre, Omega revealed its new James Bond-themed watch with a limited-edition. It’s called Omega Seamaster. Yes, movie star Daniel Craig shows off the watch on the screen, and visitors and locals may now obtain that same limited-edition beauty at Little Switzerland, Royal Plaza and at the Omega Boutique one street over, at the Harbor Boutiques. The watch is both sporty and elegant but quite minimalistic-looking, the dial is blue, and it comes with two kinds of wrist bands. The presentation is bombastic, in a case with its own screwdriver, so you can do the band changes yourself! Available worldwide, the company also prides itself on other special features and complications, in just 15,007pieces for sale. Traditionally, Bond has a special relationship with brands, Bollinger Champagne, Belvedere Vodka, Swiss made Omega Watches, British Aston Martin Cars, and Tom Ford Suits, they all benefit from the association with the cool, dashing and deadly British super spy. Spectre, already opened in Great Britain on Nov 2nd and broke all box office records. I am sure if will be successful in Aruba, but don’t wait too long, go see it before it gets taken off screens, because the action in Craig’s 4th Bond movie is spectacular, as filmed in Mexico and in Rome. Would you believe that this is the 24th Bond movie? Have you seen them all?? While visiting Little Switzerland, I chatted with Miss Aruba Digene Zimmerman, who was parading her beauty and style in a red dress and diamonds, as a Bond girl, and a brand ambassador, for the full week. One street over at the Gemani’s chic Omega Boutique, a party is planned for Friday, November 6th, 2015, from 7pm to 10pm, with cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres, to preview the new Omega Seamaster limited-edition. Varsha Mahtani reminded me that Omega Ambassadors are always the biggest, hottest stars, from George Clooney and Nicole Kidman to Pierce Brosnan, and Cindy Crawford. Not bad, for something that just tells time.

ANNA MARIA’S AUTENTICO RISTORANTE ITALIANO. Romar Trading Company was looking for an out of the box location for a dinner party with Federico Trost, Export Manager of Santa Margherita Winery, and found the restaurant in a private residence in Noord, seven houses up from the Del Rey Apartments. Chef Anna Maria and her husband Christian Saponara entertained Romar’s guests with a stellar menu of delicious Italian specialties and equally amazing wines. Chris told me that they started their home-restaurant for the love of fine dining, and their passion for cooking! They have been graciously hosting people at their home-restaurant since 2009, and have cultivated a large and loyal following. If you remember Chris sold timeshare for many years at the Marriott Vacation Club, and he explains that he stayed in touch with all his MVC clients, inviting them for dinner at the house. It started with an occasional dinner, and grew into a daily-operation. The place is nice, located in the garden of a classic villa, with white columns, hanging plants and wall paintings. Anna Maria is a hair-dresser by day, and a master chef by night. Chris is now retired from MVC and runs the restaurant full time. As you leave after a tasty meal, Chris offers guests an irresistible Lemoncello Cream, his own secret recipe, and not surprisingly, they always want to buy a bottle to go after tasting the concoction. Chris enthusiastically complies, he has a fridge full of it, in the office.

HELICOPTER MAKES A DEBUT IN MALMOK. From the clearing activity in the Salina across from the Ritz Carlton Aruba, it was evident to the neighbors that some new business is checking into the area. Surprise, it’s a helipad, which has just been granted permission to operate in a residential area. Apparently this whole exercise of going to the airport by car, getting on a plane to 10.000 feet and skydiving in tandem, takes too long, and in an attempt to speed things up, the ParaJumpers decided to recruit Caribbean’s Heli Center to pick clients up and drop them off, right at the site. We’re just the aerial taxi drivers, says John Ooster who was instrumental in setting Caribbean Heli Center up for the necessary paperwork. Of course, the neighbors will complain, he adds, but we promise to be quiet, operating a EURO 120 Colibri helicopter with minimal noise. Anyway, I understand that both the Ritz Carlton Aruba and the Boardwalk Small Hotel do NOT share John’s enthusiasm, and they are totally surprised by the new addition to the neighborhood, no matter how low the helicopter’s operating noise. John reassures me that the Kite Surfers and Windsurfers are in no danger from rotor blades, but then from a housekeeping point of view, get the mops and dusters out, the whirlwind lobby dust factor was just raised considerably. As far as the government granting the permit to operate a helipad in the Salina, rest assure that no impact study was ever made, and that no neighbor was ever asked for input! Silly question, why not relocate the business to the area past Arashi Beach?!

AMBULANCE AT $250 AN HOUR. Did you know that as a tourist, god forbid, if you are caught in an accident and require a ride to the emergency room by ambulance, the cost would be $250 charged to your credit card?! And I can tell you from my own experience in 2013, when I was the victim of a hit & run incident, it is not a comfortable ride. So, if tfu-tfu-tfu, you are in a pickle, take a taxi or bum a ride, because the ambulance will set you back $250, which even the ambulance drivers think is highway robbery, much too much!!

HIGH HEEL GLAMOUR WALK. CILO Aruba orchestrated a clever fund-raiser last weekend, a high heel glamour walk, around the block at Renaissance Marketplace. I saw a handful of excited divas in high heels and pink anything from ribbons to tutu, take off for the ten minutes spin, having made a donation to the Mary Joan foundation. The Mary Joan Breast Cancer Support Group, sustains the more than 50 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year on Aruba. The not-for-profit foundation, named after Mary Joan who died at the age of 32, has been active for the past fifteen years, and Femke Beeren, the owners’ representative at CILO Aruba reports she had the fund raiser in mind for a few years, and she intends to host it every year from now on…

PRICESMART IS AN EXPERIENCE. I occasionally visit Price-Not-So-Smart and am always entertained by the sign hanging by the exit door, stating that the shop ticks off items on shopping receipts for consumers’ protection, to verify we weren’t overcharged. Really?! Who are you kiddin’. That checkpoint clearly sends a message out that you don’t trust your customers, but for the sake of this blurb, let’s pretend you do! Anyway, we all tolerate the humiliation at the door, because the store does offer some decent deals, and now that I know that Satesh Vreeswijk works there, I feel better about their electronic department. Back to today’s visit, and its highlight: My visit to the toilet. The store had just installed three-in-one sinks, with faucets, soap dispensers, and hand dryers, all incorporated into single ugly and efficient units. They work well. Another highlight is the fact that the store sends shoppers on their merry way without packing their groceries in plastic. Bless you for that. Evidently, the store has some smart aspects to it. While there, I tried to secure an extra card for son #1, but due to a myriad of complicated, bureaucratic, rules and regulations, I couldn’t just charge it my own account, I had to open a second one, ‘cause you cannot have more than two cards per membership, unless you are a company, presenting your KVK registration to the clerk. For the life of me, why would you make it so difficult to obtain another card? Another card means another shopper. No? And now that we’re already talking, how do they manage to make giant pizza pies for just Awg 20, while other places charge so much more? We ordered our pizza, and waited for a long time. The numbering system was stuck on 60. Finally, motivated by hunger we asked. Well, apparently it’s been ready for ages, and they called, but without a PA system, we did not hear. Please don’t tell anyone I had a piece of that undercooked wonder, I am not proud of it, but hunger drives one to desperate acts.

CATERING IS EASY. What makes a great party? The right mix of people, location, drinks, music and food. Most importantly, if the host enjoys his/her own party, then it’s a good one! For a recent festive occasion I asked Chef Ludwig Samson, No Limit Catering, to make a Chili, and he offered to make it with turkey, as a healthier option. He delivered at the designated hour, a huge pot, escorted by a Tex-Mex vegetable salad and sour cream. I ordered for thirty, and he delivered generously! It tasted fantastic. Then the Hollywood Smokehouse delivered its signature smoked brisket and smoked pork, smoked sausage too, that was a hit, with traditional coleslaw and potato salad. My friends are still talking about it, asking me for recipes, as if I had anything to do with food preparation. I didn’t. I just paid, reasonably for it. Totally recommended.