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Ayo, Dushi Kòrsou!

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Coming on the heels of one of the most difficult years we’ve ever endured, Jürgen and I had been desperate for a relaxing and stress-free 91 days. With its chilled-out atmosphere, low-adrenaline activities, friendly people, comforting cuisine, and an infectiously fun culture and all packed into one, small, easily manageable island, Curaçao was exactly what we needed. We couldn’t have made a better choice.

It was the beaches that first won our hearts. Soon after arriving, we drove to the northern tip of the island and laid our eyes upon Grote Knip — it was as though someone had plugged a USB cable into my brain, ordered me to concentrate on the phrase “Caribbean Dream Beach,” and had then printed out the mental image. And as our time on Curaçao progressed, we would find plenty of other beaches that were just as good, or even better. In the foreseeable future, when I feel stress setting in, I’ll just close my eyes and repeat the mantra, “Knip. Forti. Daaiboi. Hunku.” Take me back to the Caribbean!

But one can only enjoy so much beach time before one starts to get restless. Luckily, this island offers a number of other activities, including some excellent hikes. Excellent, but never all that strenuous. Loops around Patrick, St. Michielsbaai and Ascension are both beautiful and simple. Even the island’s highest peak, the Christoffelberg, takes no longer than 90 minutes to ascend. Oh Curaçao, even when you’re trying to be hardcore, you just can’t help yourself. Everything on this island is easy!

I mean that: everything is easy! Try to get along with the locals. Guess what? It’s easy. Before the words “Bon dia” have even left your tongue, the person you’re talking with has already greeted you in four different languages, and shook your hand, and slapped you on the back, and asked your name. They’re so friendly, you don’t even have to try.

Oh shoot, it’s raining. Don’t worry, even bad weather in Curaçao is easy. Look again — in the time it’s taken to read this sentence, the rain has already stopped. Wait, look again: now the sun has come out. During our time on the island, we had exactly one day of truly bad weather. That’s 1 out of 91… during winter. And now you start to understand why everyone’s always smiling. They have it good here, and they know it.

Interested in scuba diving? By now, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that scuba diving on Curaçao is easy. All the best sites are accessible from shore, so there’s no need to rent a boat, and you never have to dive very deep. Even easier is the snorkeling. Directorsbaai, Tugboat, the Blue Room, Kalki… with no effort at all, you can see some underwater landscapes that you’ll never forget.

And then there’s the food; easy and familiar dishes like barbecue ribs, meat stews, and fish fried Caribbean-style with herbs and limes. Almost everything we ordered here was delicious, and none of it required any special culinary courage to enjoy. Like we said: easy.

Is Curaçao without problems? Of course not. There’s the Isla Refinery and the stinky veneer of smoke it spreads over half the island. There’s too much crime, and the driving habits of the people border on the outrageous. But these are problems which most countries suffer from. There’s a tendency among tourists to view Curaçao solely as a vacation destination, and to forget that it’s a real country… and then be “shocked” when confronted with something dirty or bad. Yes, there are problems here. Just like everywhere.

For us, we’ll take a place like Curaçao over any destination whose sole focus is on the comfort of tourists. This is an island with its own vibrant culture — just watching the celebrations of Carnival confirms that! I mean, anyone is welcome to watch these parades and parties, with their all-night dancing and drinking, but they’re not meant for the amusement of tourists; Carnival is for the Curaçaoans. And the the island has real history, too, not all of it comfortable. Curaçao was one of the main hubs of the Atlantic slave trade, and much of the current population is descended directly from those who fought, often violently, against the chains which bound them… chains placed by the ancestors of the very tourists who are today so amicably welcomed as guests.

Curaçao is simply an incredible place. It’s small but has tremendous depth, with enough culture and experiences for a country ten times its size, and a heart that is simply bursting with warmth. It’s impossible to spend time among the people of Curaçao without becoming completely enchanted with them.

Like I said earlier, Curaçao was exactly what we needed. It had been a difficult year for us, with serious measures of personal grief and loss, and we had become disenchanted with certain aspects of life. Turns out that, for us, the best antidote to despondency was to dunk ourselves completely in a culture where life is fully enjoyed, where every day is a gift, where the sun is almost always shining, the water is always warm, your neighbor is always smiling, and everything is wonderfully, gloriously easy.

Thanks for picking us back up, Curaçao. We’ll be in your debt for awhile.

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March 5, 2016 at 5:00 pm Comments (6)

Our Home in Otrobanda

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Always, the hardest part of our travel project is finding decent accommodation. Picking a destination? That’s easy! There are literally thousands of places around the world which we’d like to visit. Booking flights? Please, we live in an age of convenience, when booking a flight on the internet takes mere minutes. But finding an apartment… that’s a different matter.

There are a lot of factors which complicate renting an apartment for 91 days. It’s too long a period for hotels, and too short to consider a regular lease. It has to be furnished, and it has to have internet. And these are countries and cities to which we’ve never been! You can do all the research you like but if you’ve never, for example, actually been to Istanbul how can you really know whether Cihangir is a good place to live?

In the end, it requires a leap of faith. And despite our long history taking this particular leap, it’s one that freaks us out every time.

So when we land in a place as wonderful as our home in Otrobanda has been, we feel like we have to share. We weren’t sure, but we thought Otrobanda would be the ideal neighborhood to live in. And it has been. We weren’t positive, but Kurt, the apartment’s owner, sounded like a genuinely friendly and welcoming person. And he has been. Everything has been exactly as we had hoped… this is the kind of accommodation which can make a good vacation great.

Not only is Kurt’s house central, comfortable and stylish, it’s also historic. This is an original Otrobanda property, built by a cabinetmaker in 1874, when the neighborhood was first being developed. In the 1930s, it passed into the hands of a money-lending lottery ticket seller, and remained in her family until 2002, when it was purchased by Kurt, along with the properties on either side.

Kurt has renovated the houses completely, restoring their interiors and installing quality furniture and decorations. Our apartment is a duplex, with all the conveniences you might want… ceiling fans on both floors, a large and comfortable bed, blazing internet, TV, kitchen, and more. We were instantly comfortable here, and haven’t had a single complaint during our stay.

And the neighborhood is exactly what we wanted. The location in Otrobanda is safe and central, but hasn’t given itself over to foreign tourism in the way that Pietermaai has. All of the houses on our street are owned by locals. After three months, our neighbors have gotten to know our faces, and we’ve gotten to know their’s… as well as their language. Rarely have we been able to walk to the end of our street without at least one “Bon dia!”

Kurt’s Otrobanda apartment earns our highest possible recommendation — 5 out of 5 dushis! If you’re looking for the perfect home-away-from-home, look no further. Check the AirBnb page for availability and prices, and then book it without worries. We promise you’ll be happy.

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March 3, 2016 at 12:32 am Comments (0)

Drag Racing in Curaçao

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Drag racing is a phenomenon across the Caribbean, and Curaçao is no exception. When the races are on, hundreds of people cram into the stands to watch tuned-up cars and tricked-out motorcycles squeal down the track. Our last Sunday on the island coincided with the first day of the season, so we decided to check it out.

Drag Racing Curacao

Jürgen and I are not exactly racing fans. In fact, until now, the only “Drag Race” I had been familiar with was the one hosted by RuPaul. I had never attended any sort of motorsports event, whether NASCAR, Formula 1, or Motocross, and never felt like I was missing out. But for whatever reason, I was excited to see the Curaçao drag races on Sunday night. Who knew? Maybe RuPaul would be there!

We showed up, expecting to see some sweet cars, gleaming and polished, perhaps sporting racing stripes and definitely with huge spoilers and other crazy custom modifications. So, when a little Volkswagen Polo pulled up to the starting line, I was confused. “Surely, it’s just the test car,” I reasoned. But no, this was one of the racers, and much of its competition was in a similar category. These were the types of cars I frequently overtake on the way to the supermarket… in fact, I’m pretty sure that they were those cars!

Drag Racing Curacao

So, I had to adjust my expectations for the day, especially after watching a Vespa “blaze” down the track and shatter exactly zero world speed records. But there was something cool about the fact that seemingly anyone could race with any kind of vehicle. And as the day went along, the cooler cars started to show up; the kinds you’d expect to see at a Caribbean drag race. They’d rev their engines before starting, producing billows of smoke while waiting for the green light, then peel down the track, racing two at a time.

Even better than the cars were the motorcycles, many of which were tricked-out and extremely cool. The guys (and a girl) who drive them are insane! I don’t know how many times my heart jumped, watching them nearly lose control after blasting off down the track. We didn’t see any wipeouts, but they must happen frequently.

Drag Racing Curacao

The races started at four in the afternoon, but the crowds didn’t start showing up until about six. The racing strip is on an elevated plain, and there’s a nice view, especially when the sun starts to go down. Considering that this was a relatively unimportant race day, we were surprised by the number of spectators. Later during the season, for the bigger events, the stands can be packed to capacity.

If you’re a fan of racing, check out the Speedway’s website, where you’ll find a calendar of upcoming events. It makes for an entertaining Sunday evening, and provides a reminder that Curaçao isn’t just about tranquil beaches and nature… they like their action, too.

Location of the Track
Curaçao International Speedway – Website

Rent A Car In Curacao

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March 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm Comments (0)
Ayo, Dushi Krsou! Coming on the heels of one of the most difficult years we've ever endured, Jrgen and I had been desperate for a relaxing and stress-free 91 days. With its chilled-out atmosphere, low-adrenaline activities, friendly people, comforting cuisine, and an infectiously fun culture and all packed into one, small, easily manageable island, Curaao was exactly what we needed. We couldn't have made a better choice.
For 91 Days