24 hours in Curacao

My first thoughts upon landing in this island nation were: do I speak English or Spanish? Upon completion of my stay, I still wasn’t sure. In general, most people here speak four languages: Dutch, Papiamento, English, and Spanish. However, it seemed that the people that I greeted in English responded in Spanish and vice versa. It was interesting to note that after two months without sight of a foreigner, I felt like I identified more with the Spanish speakers than the English speakers. Still, a vacation in paradise was much appreciated, even with the overflow of tourists. You are probably wondering, why Curacao? Well, because of the flight situation, that was the only place that I could fly to at a reasonable price, and I am so excited I went. I had to stay the night because my flight out to Quito wasn’t until the next day, still at a fraction of the cost it would have been to fly the same day. In less than 24 hours, I fell in love with Curacao.

As with any tourist destination, Curacao had its rip-offs. For example, when I first landed, I was told a taxi costs $30 and the bus costs $2 to Punda/Otrabanda in Willemstad (the capital). However, buses are only for people with handbags, and since I’m not really what one would call a light packer, that wasn’t an option. As I drag back over to the taxi station, I am joined by a group of six people, all of whom are staying at the same hotel, how perfect. And, with the split cab fare, I only had to pay $5. Between all of the negotiating with the displeased taxi driver, I didn’t realize how hot it was until I noticed that all of us were dripping in sweat. It reminded me of Utila, in the BayIslands off of Honduras. Unfortunately, it wasn’t appropriate here to strip down to a bathing suit when not on the beach. 

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Two outfit changes and a hotel check-in later, I am strolling through the streets of Willemstad. On the west side, where my hotel was, is Otrabanda. On the east is Punda. They are joined by the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, a floating bride that disconnects on one side to let ships through and it affectionately called “the swinging old lady.”

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I began my walking tour through town with my fellow taxi mates, who were all from Venezuela and here for a short weekend to spend their cupo (government allowance) and buy dollars. These people are nicknamed raspasos, and this is how the black market works. I decided to split up with them when they wanted McDonalds for lunch, as this was definitely not on my itinerary. On the lookout for a cute café that I had read about, I ducked under an awning as a quick shower passed and it turned out to be that very café! Lucky me. At the EetCafe de Buren, I treated myself to fresh squeezed orange juice and their Holland wrap and soaked in the sights.

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After lunch, I embarked on the rest of my walk through town. I discovered the floating market, where boats from Aruba, Bonaire, and Venezuela dock and sell their goods straight directly from their attached fruit stands. A man gave me way too many bananas for $1, which I shared with friends later. 

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Nearby was the Jewish synagogue, which boasts the title of oldest continually used synagogue in the western world. It caught my attention, but was quite small and I didn’t want to pay the $10 admission fee, which I now regret. 
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Instead, I went to the Kura Hulanda slave museum, which was quite the trek across town in my cute summer wedges (why did I decide to wear those?). Upon arrival I was met by a man with a sad face and a sign that said closed for repairs. That’s when I wished I would have paid to enter the synagogue, but it was getting late and I needed to rest for a bit. I did accomplish a good amount of sightseeing by mid-afternoon though. The colonial architecture and vibrant buildings were beautiful and I met some interesting people, including this Rasta Car Wash man (and his cat):

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I followed the road behind his house to a perfectly picturesque quiet alley of old homes. 

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I think that because I lived for two months in an industrial city that lacked cultural appeal such as museums (my favorite!), Curacao was overwhelming charming and I could have stayed for weeks. It was also nice to see foreigners, although that was a little culture-shocking, and no longer be the only gringa!

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After disappointingly napping through sunset (Ali, napping? Shocker.), I showered and set out for a night stroll, delighted that I could safely walk around after dusk. I walked over to the Rif Fort, which used to guard Willemstad and the inlet beyond. Now, it serves as a high-end shopping area complete with many designer stores. I went there because it had a Starbucks and I wanted to check it out. After all, it’s only been two months since I quit the company that I had been working at for the past seven years. As I was checking out this year’s Christmas collection, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and I turned around to see the face of someone I knew! How crazy is that? We laughed about it because it wasn’t just someone I knew, it was a former CU student and regular at the Sbux store where I worked for most of college, on the Hill. He is now a singer/dancer on a cruise ship and was at port there for the night. He came to Sbux for free wifi (who doesn’t?) and I came to buy some Christmas Blend coffee. What does it mean that we were both there? Probably that we’re addicts. It was a strange feeling to not be able to get free coffee beans at Sbux, and since I was out of the country I paid about double, but it was a nice treat since my Christmas abroad will be limited this year.

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To end my amazing micro-vacation, I had an elegant dinner for one at Restaurant & Café Gouverneur de Rouville: a crisp glass of white wine (which I haven’t tasted since leaving the US, too expensive in Venezuela) and local stew which was to die for. I don’t normally eat a lot of red meat but this was a welcome exception. The Caribbean spices were mouthwatering and the chef had created some sort of cornbread garnish. My view from the balcony wasn’t bad either – it overlooked the pontoon bridge and the Dutch houses. 

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I think I have too many favorite parts about this quick one day vacation. Although I didn’t get to sip fruity cocktails on the beach (not enough time to lounge!), I loved the rest of the scenery and history of the island. I think what was most welcoming was being able to drink the cold and delicious tap water, which was not an option in Venezuela. I hope I can return to Curacao for some diving in the future.

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One thought on “24 hours in Curacao

  1. Pingback: There’s MAC cosmetics in Curacao! | lisa laughs

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