What do you do when there's nothing to do? Within hours of arriving on Aruba, we knew we'd come to a different kind of place to our normal destination. There were no monuments, no major museums, no architectural or natural wonders. Sights were so few that a windmill, shipped to the island piece by piece by the Dutch in 1960 (Aruba falls within the Kingdom of the Netherlands) was recommended as a day trip. I thought the Connect Four the eight-year-old twins had got in their in-flight bag would come in very handy.
Perhaps that's why I'd never heard of Aruba before going there; it's the unknown island of the Caribbean, just 30 kilometres off the Venezuelan coast. I looked at the soupy sea and the bleached rosette of a sun. I spotted sunloungers, a relentlessly blue sky, and bottles of factor 50. "It could be anywhere," I said. "No," said the husband. "It's not anywhere. It's nowhere. We're on holiday in a country called Nowhere."
I searched for something for us to do. The Tamarijn resort where we stayed did have a Kids' Club, although it was very low-key - just the occasional sketching and hoola hoop class. But as our room was just a hop, skip and step from the Caribbean, there were plenty of on-site kids' activities - jumping in the sea, snorkelling and making sandcastles. There were plenty of adult activities, too - jumping in the sea, snorkelling and helping to make the sandcastles.
But Aruba creeps up on you, and what seems like a nothing soon becomes a subtle something. We went down to Zee Rover café on the waterfront in Saventa, on the eastern tip of the long island, and watched a fisherman fillet a giant barracuda, feeding the guts to the pelicans. We ate Aruban pan bati (corn bread pancake) with conch, mouthful by mouthful. Everything on Aruba moves slowly. And as the day progresses, the hotter it gets and the slower all human and animal movement. If you visit the Butterfly Farm after lunch, even the Monarch and Owl butterflies will be asleep.
And so were we. Sated with jerk chicken, even my teenager took a nap in the afternoon. So we added to our activities of swimming and snorkelling - snoozing. Now back in the maelstrom of home life, I look back to the time on Aruba. It wasn't Nowhere at all. It's definitely Somewhere - somewhere to go on holiday. And we never even had time to visit the windmill. Dea Birkett's family stayed at the Sun Tamarijn all-inclusive resort with First Choice (www.firstchoice.co.uk).
Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at firstname.lastname@example.org