On August 1, 2006 I travelled to Aruba for the very first time. I had long heard about this unique island so close to Venezuela because my college roommate had gone on many gambling junkets there, and always raved about the beauty of the island, its people and mostly the weather. Since I am a hot weather type of person, I knew that it would be a place at some point in my lifetime I would want to visit. Needless to say my intense interest in the Natalee Holloway case, seemed to push it to the top for a vacation destination. It is of course not surprising that the other members of my family did not exactly share my Holloway passion. Thus, my trip to Aruba would be solo and that was probably a good thing, so I could spend most of my time revisiting the many locations I had been reading about for over a year.
There is of course no secret my most important reason for going to Aruba was to meet the Van der Sloot family. I had coordinated, to some extent my trip there based on when Joran would be on the island, and also with the schedule of Anita and Paul. If I was going to visit Aruba, I certainly would not want to miss out on finally meeting my new friends.
I arrived at Queen Beatrix airport on August 1st around 3:30 P.M. and was surprised in a way what a small airport it really was. In fact approaching from the sky, one could quickly see that Aruba was a very tiny island. I remember also understanding, that such a small island was probably way out of its league, dealing with such a high profile missing person's case and certainly the intensity of the United States media. That was a strong initial impression that came over me as I landed. It only grew stronger as I went to the tiniest rental car company I had ever dealt with. It was almost like in a closet at the airport. Handy, though, as I could rent a local cell phone at the exact same spot. But it also showed me again how this was not on par with other more plush island resorts. And made me realize that perhaps the island's law enforcement was probably not either.
I got in my tiny rental car and made my way from the airport, down the coastal road to the city of Oranjestad. I have to say that drive was very impressive to me. It was a beautiful city right on the coast. There were some very large hotels, lots of classy shops, lovely restaurants and people everywhere. I could see a couple of cruise ships docked there and it certainly seemed to me this was quite a tourist attraction. As I drove along, rather slowly as there was a lot of traffic, I saw the big sign that truly made me realize once again where I was, Carlos 'N Charlies. I do not think I expected it to be in a location that was so busy and so upscale. I am not exactly sure where I expected it to be, but that stuck with me as I made my way along that coastal highway.
|This trip and also my trip in 2008 were very helpful in getting an accurate perspective on all the people, places and events that happened in Aruba where Natalee Holloway went missing. Meeting Joran van der Sloot and his parents Anita & Paul allowed me to get a real sense of family. I was able to get to know one of the reporters very close to the story from day one, Julia Renfro of Aruba Today. And I visited the Internet Cafe on both trips and spoke with Deepak Kalpoe, Satish and even met his mother Nadira. Carlos n Charlies, the Aruban lighthouse, fisherman huts and even Mc Donalds were all places I visited while touring the island. It really changes how one views this story when you can actually get a true sense of the places and people that filled the headlines.|
My destination was the Brickell Bay Hotel. I had been able to secure a week at a time share but felt I needed a little bit more time there, so booked the rest of my days at the Brickell Bay. I picked that hotel because of its location. I was right around the corner from the famous McDonalds and also right near all of the resorts that had been part of this case. And of course the price was right too.
I checked in at the hotel and then I was ready to begin my journey. Anita had given me her phone number and told me to call her upon arrival, which I did. In a couple hours she would stop by my hotel and we would meet for the first time. I ventured out and walked a bit around my hotel, actually walked over to the McDonalds, odd that a place like a McDonalds would be part of a big case like this. I had a delicious dinner, at the hotel restaurant outside and then heard back from Anita that she was on her way to my hotel.
I went down to my lobby and waited. I have to admit I was nervous. But never before have I ever wanted to meet anyone so much. I do not intend to discuss anything of a personal nature here as I share my trip. All I want to say about that first initial meeting, is that it was something I will never forget. Anita was all I expected her to be and more. She and I hugged and I felt like I would have a friend for life!
We actually walked to Moombas, which certainly was another spot I could not wait to visit. Moomba Beach is located between the Holiday Inn & Marriott Hotel, right on the beach. The area is also known as High Rise Hotels or Palm Beach. When we got to Moombas Joran was there waiting for us and it was quite exciting and interesting finally getting to know the young man that had filled the headlines. Another colorful fellow was there too, Boeti, and Joran introduced me to him too. It was all just unbelievable. These were real people and in so many ways nothing like what the media had made them appear. As we were walking on the beach Anita, pointed out the location of Natalee's room, while passing by the Holiday Inn.
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