Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Importance of a Broad Smile and a Fresh Scent

Along with a slightly darker complexion that is still peeling in places and a few souvenirs, I brought home some important lessons from my most recent beach vacation. We began our sojourn on the island of Curacao (the "C" island of the ABC islands in the Dutch Antilles). We lasted two days there, but only because all the other desirable hotels on the island were booked for the week and the travel agent was closed on Sunday. By Monday morning however, Bobby, at Majors Travel in New Dorp, NY, was on top of things.

Upon arrival at the Breezes Superclub, I am sad to admit that I was left with a less than appealing first impression. We pulled off Martin Luther King Road straight into the parking lot of our hotel. There was no winding path through a tunnel of trees, no carefully shaped shrubbery, and no tropical flowers or potted palms welcoming us at the entrance. Where is my paradise?!

Disappointment also lurked behind the door to our room in the pneumatic form of a rudely pungent odor. Imagine sea foam with the essence of mildew and hospital bleach. To escape the odiferous ambiance of our room we went to the bar for some tropical libations. One of my favorite images soon became a smoky plastic glass (day care size) with rum swirling around on top of its frosty contents. Unfortunately, it was rare that our drinks were served with a smile or friendly banter from the bartenders. Mama Love soon became our exclusive bartender because she loved to interact with the guests and never let anyone slink away from the bar with a drink made by her hands without at least finding out how their day was going.

Now, it's imporatnt to lower one's expectations when traveling in order to induce a state of being pleasantly surprised more often than not. Doing my best to abide by this rule of thumb, it was not until we reached the Occidental Grand Resort in Aruba that I realized how much energy it took to see the sunny side of our accommodations in Curacao.

Upon arrival, I received my answer; I had found my paradise. Not only was there a lush drive and circle in front of the resort, but there were pots of tropical foliage in the entrance along with a bellman who opened the taxi doors for us, and yes, even helped with our luggage. We were greeted warmly by the front desk agent and showed to our rooms. Like the front drive, our rooms did not disappoint. They were nicely, yet subtly decorated, overlooked the pool oasis, and smelled clean -- but not institutional -- without a hint of mildew or leftover swim suit water.

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