Aruba

Every June is Wellness Month at the Hilton Aruba, but this year they piloted a Wellness Week in September with activities specifically focused on all aspects of wellness including diet, exercise, and mental health.  After a smooth flight, Melini and I landed in beautiful and humid Aruba - my first time on this beautiful island!

The first two things I like to do when arriving in a new location is:  find food and location scout.  So after a quick lunch, we wandered around the premises.  Of course for island photography, I like to try and assess best spots for sunrise and sunset but sometimes it's hard to ascertain until those actual times.  Based on how the sun was moving, I was sure we would get a beautiful sunset but I wasn't sure about sunrise since we were on the west side of the island.

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We were rewarded with a beautiful pastel sunset the first night.

We met Jessica Gonzalez, our Hilton representative, the first morning.  She turned out to be the hostess with the mostest!  

Every morning for Wellness Week, there were physical activities such as meditation, yoga, HIIT or Stand Up Paddleboard.  Melini tried SUP and then we headed to the Bird Interaction.

The Hilton Aruba has a small menagerie of birds, cared for by the past 18 years by this amazing bird keeper Victor.  Victor not only handles the birds, he will also art direct your shoot by giving angles and pose ideas, and will fix hair and just clothing.  He was the best, and the birds love him.  I love animals, so I was happy to see that the care of these birds is important to the Hilton.

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 Me with One, an African Gray

Me with One, an African Gray

Our second full day was such a fun full day!  Since we were not on the sunrise side of the island, we didn't get a glorious sunrise but instead witnessed the quickly changing colors of the sky, sort of the sunrise runoff. 

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After our shoot, we headed out on a morning bicycle tour, riding along the beachfront.  We saw the divi-divi tree, which is the Aruban national tree and grows by the ocean and is shaped by the wind.  I love watching landscape change - we went from beach and palm trees to palm trees and cacti!  Our cycling guides also made sure everyone in the group was looked after.

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After the bike tour, we ran into "Cooking with Chef" where Chef Matt taught us how to cook rich food healthily - home baked pita chips and crab-spinach-artichoke dip using non fat yogurt as a base!  I have posted the recipe below. Hilton Aruba offers a few of these cooking type classes, including health(ier) options for alcoholic drinks.  Side note:  there is a drink called the Aruba Arriba and it was created by a mixologist who worked at the Hilton in the 1960s.  

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The sunset highlight of our last day was Dog Yoga with puppies from the Luna Foundation!  The Luna Foundation rescues dogs from around the island and re-homes them.  One of the volunteers I spoke with told me that a lot of their dogs are adopted in the US.  I have so much respect for people who work in animal rescue; I feel like we as humans have put animals in their states of domestication but then we have turned around and abused that, instead of acting responsibly and kindly.  This was a trial run for Dog Yoga, and I hope that the Hilton Aruba continues this because it brings awareness to the Luna Foundation, and people on vacation really enjoy playing with puppies!

 Melini with a puppy

Melini with a puppy

 Janice with a puppy

Janice with a puppy

 Emily with a puppy

Emily with a puppy

Thank you Hilton Aruba for your hospitality and welcoming staff.  Cant wait to return!

*I was invited as a guest of the Hilton Aruba. All opinions are my own.

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Low-Fat Spinach Artichoke Dip & Toasted Dill Pita Chips

INGREDIENTS for the Dip*
2 8oz packs low fat or fat free Cream Cheese
2 8oz packs frozen chopped Spinach
2 cans 12-14oz Artichoke Hearts
2oz fat free Mayonnaise
2oz fat free Sour Cream
4oz Greek Yogurt
2oz Parmesan Cheese

*The version we had at “Cooking with the Chef” also had cooked crab in it.

DIRECTIONS
Mix ingredients in a large bowl and serve chilled.

Toasted Dill Pita Chips

INGREDIENTS for the chips
1 tbsp Dill Weed, minced
1 pack Whole Wheat Pita Bread
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut each pita bread in quarters and each quarter in half to make 8 triangles. Place them in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, dill, salt and pepper.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once.