Archive for the 'Vacation' Category

Up North

September 03rd, 2008 | Category: Vacation

Last weekend we visited Grand Marais on the north shore of Minnesota.  I’ve always known that the North Shore was a MN hot-spot, what I didn’t know is how many times I would say, “I can’t believe this beautiful place is in my own state!”  Our friends Adam and Dena have frequented Grand Marais and invited Heather and I along with friends Tom and Gwen to join them in a weekend of outdoor recreation and fun in the sun.  The weather was simply amazing all weekend long–we didn’t even need our warm clothes! The sites, food and friendship were even better!  We would spend all day walking around, retire for refreshments and then a game of Catchphrase.

Anyway, I just posted my photos early this morning.  Have a gander here!


My Business Trip to Aruba 11.12.2007

December 05th, 2007 | Category: Geographical,Vacation,Work

The video:

Though the quality of the video is low, the source material is not. All of the actual trip photos are here. Everything was taken with my Canon SD800 IS.

I was there on business trip that they needed a Sales Engineer for. I’m a Systems Engineer for Identix–a biometric company. They were all out of Sales Engineers and I happily volunteered. It seems I have excellent “soft skills”. My wife and I frequently talk about the fact that I’d make a great Sales Engineer. My job requires me to play a Sales Engineer from time to time, so this was a chance to really do it–not just play one on TV.

The Aruban government is implementing a sophisticated passport system which will be tied to a watchlist and used for collecting tourist information. Tourism is their largest export. The biometric system that Identix specializes in will provide them with live biometric searches of the watchlist for suspected criminals or fraudulent passport usage (including RF ID passports).

Aruba a small 19×5 mile island (about the size of Bloomington, MN) very very near Venezuela. (30-40 minutes by plane.) It’s a Dutch colony (still owned and operated by). The national language is Dutch but all natives speak English, Dutch and Papiamento. The official currency of Aruba is the Aruban florin, which not unlike the dollar is divided into 100 cents. Just like American money, they are in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents, one florin and 5 florins. The square shaped 50-cent “yotin” coin is Aruba’s most recognizable coin. However, you never see their money as the American dollar is readily accepted (and ironically will worth more than the Florin). They also accept Euros of course.

Map of Aruba

The beach you see in the photos was private to the Renaissance Hotel where I was staying. You in order to get to the Beach, you had to go down to the first floor, get in a boat and drive out of the hotel, under the water to get to it. It’s 5-8 minutes away from the hotel by boat. There were two beaches when you arrived: Family and Adult. It wasn’t spring break so the “adult” beach consisted mainly of flamingos and old people. The beach and the ocean were beautiful and the water was as warm as a bath.

Notes on items in the video:

  • The bar, simply named “blue”, was very pretty the first night so I snapped a shot. That pool shortly after is behind the bar. It’s a horizon pool so when you’re in it, all you see is the ocean.
  • The blue blobs on the black background are live jellyfish that were behind the concierge desk at the hotel.
  • The first restaurant is Gambero Rosso an Aruban Italian fusion restaurant. Great food, fresh sea-food and a large wine list.
  • The second restaurant is “Scandals“. It’s a theme restaurant in which the walls and menus are plastered with (mainly) American news scandals.
  • The rock stacking is an Indian tradition that has held over the years. It’s said if you stack the rocks your prayers will be answered, or for the tourists: Good luck will follow you and you are sure to return to the island. There is a close-up of two rock formations. Mine is on the left. 😉
  • My colleagues from my company and our Aruban colleague who was giving us a tour of this Suburban sized island saw tour after tour on ATV, snorkling off Eagle Beach and several other beaches throughout. There was a “safari tour” you see in the video and the landscape on the north side of the island is visited often for the gold mine tour, the tour of the collapsed stone bridge and other “rustic” Aruban tours.
  • The weird looking ruins-type structure you see after the Aruba Ostrich farm and the collapsed stone bridge is an old gold mine. Shortly after that you see the Malta Balashi sign is for the local brewery. It’s their “native” brew. Ironically, they have to import all the hops and everything.

I worked 14 hours the first day in a small dark cold room, but I was able to get out on the 2nd and third days for little tours here and there. I would DEFINITELY return to Aruba for a vacation. I loved it! Although it’s no K’auai, it’s better than the Bahamas (at least Nassau). It’s really expensive during tourist season (which began Nov. 14) but if you book it a at the beginning of November you will have a nice private vacation without the herds of college kids getting drunk–oh they’re still there… just not en masse.

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