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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

Drag Racing Curacao
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March 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm Comments (0)

Meals on Wheels – Curaçao’s Food Trucks

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Budget travelers to Curaçao will find no lack of cheap lunch joints in Willemstad. We’ve already written about some of our favorites in Punda, and there are plenty of others that we didn’t get a chance to try out. But as the sun goes down, these shops tend to close up. So what are the cash-strapped do for dinner? Cooking at home is a reasonable solution, but that’s no fun. The best option is to hunt down a food truck.

Food Trucks Curacao

Food trucks can be found all over Curaçao, dishing out delicious meals at cheap prices to those who have no need for niceties like silverware, plates, tables and waiters. Slop it into a styrofoam container, grab a plastic fork, hock down on the nearest curb, and fill your belly. That’s possibly not the most appealing description of a dining experience, but some of the best meals we’ve eaten on Curaçao have come through the window of a truck.

Food Trucks Curacao

If you only check out one food truck during your time on the island, make it the BBQ Express, currently found on Caracasbaaiweg. (I think this one’s location is more permanent, but other trucks seem to switch spots with casual frequency.) I ordered a serving of the ribs, which came with fries and noodle salad, and cost me about seven bucks. Despite my having ordered a “small” portion, this was a huge slab, dripping with sauce and falling off the bone — the best ribs I had during our time here. That’s no faint praise, considering that ribs are a Curaçao specialty.

The trucks are mostly a night-time phenomenon, but there’s one in Pietermaai which operates during lunch time. This white wagon also serves up local specialties like goat stew — ask what the daily special is. I had a breaded fish filet, served with the usual sides. Again, incredibly good value, but you should be prepared to wait in line!

Food Trucks Curacao

Generous portions of meat and fries aren’t the only things you can find at Curaçao’s food trucks. Often, we would pull over on the way home from the beach to pick up a refreshing drink. There are a number of trucks selling batidos: fruit shakes made with milk and sugar. Our favorite is found on the road to Soto (location), where we often stopped, and tried just about every conceivable combination. Mango-Pineapple was my favorite. No, Strawberry-Banana. No Passionfruit-Melon. The guys are super nice, and there’s a cute garden where you can sit and enjoy the drink.

You can also find trucks selling fresh coconuts. We got addicted to coconuts during our time in Sri Lanka, and were thrilled to find them on Curaçao, as well. After a day in the sun, nothing is as replenishing and refreshing as cold, pure coconut water.

Locations on our Map: BBQ Express | White Pietermaai Truck | Batido Place

Rent A Car For Curacao

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February 28, 2016 at 12:48 pm Comments (2)

Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai

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An 18th-century plantation house on the western side of Willemstad, the Landhuis Habaai is home to Curaçao’s oldest private art gallery. On the second Saturday of every month, they host a crafts market, where the island’s amateur artisans can sell their masterpieces.

Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai

We pulled up to the Landhuis Habaai at around 11am, when the place was already buzzing with activity. There were people admiring the art in the permanent gallery, others listening to an artist present her latest creations, and yet more crowding the garden, where an array of stands were selling crafts and artisan products.

Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai

Much of the art inside the gallery is excellent, with themes and colors inspired by the Caribbean. And it’s all for sale, although one look at the prices confirmed what we already suspected: those of us whose monthly “art budget” is jingling around inside our pants pockets are not going to be making any purchases at the Gallery Alma Blou.

We spent more time outside in the garden, among the more affordable artistic offerings of the monthly crafts fair. If you’re in the market for a unique souvenir from Curçaco and happen to be here during the second Saturday of the month, you might want to stop by. Even if the market isn’t on, it’s worth checking out the Gallery Alma Blou, as much for the art as for the lovely old mansion in which its housed.

Location on our Map
Gallery Alma Blou – Website

Framed Curacao Photos

Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai
Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai
Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai
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Gallery Alma Blou at Landhuis Habaai
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February 27, 2016 at 7:19 pm Comments (0)

A Couple of Curious Museums in Willemstad

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The very fact that tiny Curaçao has a Postal Museum was strange enough to arouse our curiosity. And after learning that it’s housed in the island’s oldest surviving building, we knew that we’d have to check it out. Later on the same day, we passed by another museum which looked to be even more unusual: the Octagon Museum in Pietermaai.

Postal Museum Curacao

The building currently occupied by the Postal Museum dates from 1693, just a few decades after the Dutch established Willemstad. Tightly packed between other buildings on the narrow, pedestrian-only Kuekenstraat, it’d be easy to waltz right by the ancient structure without ever noticing it. But it’s worth pausing to take a look, and depending on your interest in stamps, perhaps stepping inside.

To be honest, neither Jürgen nor I are the slightest bit interested in stamps, but we decided to visit the museum anyway. It’s kind of our job. When we stepped inside, the woman working there jumped to life; it’s safe to say that the Postal Museum doesn’t draw a lot of tourists. After taking our money (just $2 apiece), she led us on an exhaustive tour of the museum’s exhibits.

Her enthusiastic presence turned an experience which might have been dry into one which was rather fun. Frequently, she’d start to take her leave, saying something like, “Alright, I should let you see the rest at your own pace,” before remembering another piece of trivia which she simply had to share. And after we were done with the exhibits (all of which are dedicated to the history of postage in the Dutch Antilles) we stayed and chatted for awhile about her trips to Holland, and her distaste for Carnival.

We now walked down to Pietermaai, where we had seen signs for something called the Octagon Museum. We followed the signs onto the property of the Avila Beach Hotel, where we found an evidently old, octagon-shaped building. What could possibly be the subject matter of this museum?! Go on, I’ll give you a few guesses…

[splutter] Why, yes… you’re right! The Octagon Museum is dedicated to the life and times of South American liberator Simón Bólivar! How in the world did you guess that?!

Yes, this museum, which is only open for a couple hours on a couple days during the week, is all about the accomplishments of Simón Bólivar, and his Curaçaoan connections. Immediately before his military successes on the continent, he spent time on the island, staying in the now-vanished Plezier House in Otrobanda, and as a guest of the wealthy merchant Don Mordechai Ricardo, who owned the Octagon tower.

The museum is nicely done, with copious information on placards spread throughout the rooms. There are paintings and period furniture, as well as a copy of the Cartagena Manifesto. Although the museum itself is small, you’ll have to dedicate some time to it, if you want to read everything.

So there you have it: the oldest house on Curaçao is dedicated to stamps, and the most geometric house in Curaçao is dedicated to Bólivar. In the unlikely event of a rainy day during your stay, you might want to check out one, or even both of them.

Locations on our Map: Postal Museum | Octagon Museum

Curacao Collectible Stamps Online

More photos of the Postal Museum
Postal Museum Curacao
Postal Museum Curacao
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Postal Museum Curacao
More photos of the Octagon Museum
Octagan Museum
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February 26, 2016 at 9:51 pm Comments (0)

The Curaçao Liquor Factory

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From now on, when I hear the word “Curaçao,” I’ll think primarily of soft, sandy beaches, and colorful buildings. But there was a time (not that long ago!) when the only connotation brought to mind would have been “liquor.” Blue Curaçao has long been a staple at bars around the world, and we went to the Landhuis Chobolobo to see the factory in which it was originally produced.

Curaçao liquor is made from orange peels. Oranges aren’t a native fruit to the island, but a few trees were brought over long ago from Valencia, Spain. The harsh, windy climate of Curaçao proved too brutal for the sweet little trees and after they failed as a crop, they were forgotten about. Over the course of the centuries, the oranges adapted to the terrain, toughening up and becoming known as lahara trees. The bitter fruit of lahara oranges is nearly inedible, but the peels retain the aromatic essence of their Valencian ancestors, and lend Curaçao Liquor its distinctive flavor.

Call me naive, but I had assumed that Blue Curaçao’s famous color was due to some sort of strange chemical process, and I was excited to tour the Landhuis Chobolobo and find out exactly how it was achieved. So when I learned that the liquor itself is clear, and the blue comes from regular food coloring, I was disappointed. Turns out, the “secret” behind Blue Curaçao’s color is one which has already been unlocked various times by my five-year-old nephew during his kitchen experiments.

The Chobolobo factory is still churning out Blue Curaçao, and even using their original distillation equipment, which dates from the early 19th century. The factory tour is free and self-guided, but at least they’ve bothered to make the displays interesting and well-organized. You get a quick history of the island, and learn the story of the Seniors, the Jewish family who established the business. (Fun fact: Curaçao Liquor is kosher. When they were first starting their business, the Seniors had experts brought in from overseas to certify their product.)

As you might expect, the tour ends at a bar where you can taste a variety of the Curaçao liquors, and a shop where you can buy some to take home. It makes a good souvenir, although a rather short-lived one. This sweet drink is one that goes down fast.

Location on our Map
Landhuis Chobolobo – Website
The Genuine Curaçao Liquor – Website

Framed Curacao Photos

Blue Curacao Liquor
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February 25, 2016 at 5:58 pm Comments (0)

Curacao’s Maritime Museum

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Ever since the dawn of the 16th century, when it was finally drawn onto the maps of European explorers, Curaçao’s fortunes have been tied to the sea. The Maritime Museum, located across from the Floating Market at the beginning of the Waaigat Harbor, is a must for anyone interested in understanding the history of the island.

Maritime Museum Curacao

The museum occupies one of the most stunning mansions of the Scharloo, directly at the end of the pedestrian L.B. Smith bridge. This two-story house was built as a private residence in 1729, but burnt to the ground in 1988. After a complete renovation, the building re-opened to the public in 1998 as the Maritime Museum.

The renovation of the property was marvelously done, with an interior designed to evoke the hull of a ship, including portholes, railings and even the spiral staircase which leads to the deck… although in the museum’s case, it leads to a third-story room for special exhibitions.

Maritime Museum Curacao

Even those without a special interest in the seas should find plenty inside this museum to hold their attention. The exhibits start at the very beginning, with the canoes employed by the Arwak Indians to reach Curaçao from the Venezuelan mainland. The museum then moves on to the “discovery” of the island, its occupation by the Spanish and Dutch, and the Atlantic slave trade.

We enjoyed the section about the dawning of cruise ship tourism. I had never thought about when this phenomenon began, but it’s older than I would have guessed. The first cruise ship reached Curaçao from New York City in 1901. Passengers in those days eschewed the island’s beaches, disembarking primarily to shop in Willemstad, which was known for fashions and jewelry at prices unheard of in Manhattan.

With further exhibitions about the Isla Refinery and its dry dock, as well as old nautical maps and uniforms, this museum could easily occupy an hour or more, and we highly recommend a visit. Keep in mind that they also offer a ferry tour of the Schottegat Harbor two days a week. If you plan correctly, you can buy a joint ticket for both the museum and the tour.

Location on our Map
Curacao Maritime Museum – Website

Hotels In Curacao

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February 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm Comments (0)

A Hike Around Patrick

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Between the town of Barber and the eastern coast of Curaçao lies a swath of land known as Patrick, named after a plantation house which used to sit roughly in its center. Rugged, isolated and mostly flat, this is a popular area for ATV tours, but you can also hike and easily reach the coast where there are a couple of impressive inlets.

The hike begins on a path through the woods. Two minutes in, we encountered a young guy with a machete, walking swiftly towards us. “Keep cool,” I told myself. “There’s got to be a rational explanation that doesn’t involve bloodshed.” And sure enough, after a cheerful “bon dia,” he took a side path leading to a field of palm trees. A coconut collector, not a murderer. And a reminder that Curaçao is a country where people might have legitimate reasons for walking around with machetes.

Patrick Hike Curaco

The path was easy enough to follow and led us directly to the coast, where we found a strange geological formation called the Suplado. Like a younger sibling to the larger “Eye of Curaçao” at Watamula, this is a round hole not far from the coast, through which the churning ocean is visible. We’ve heard this spot referred to as a “natural jacuzzi,” since you can apparently bathe in the shallow pools which surround it. But this looked as though it would have been dangerous, and we were content to stay dry.

On either side of the Suplado are a pair of interesting bokas, or inlets. To the north is Boka Santu Pretu, most remarkable for its darkened sand and rough waves. We paused here for a packed lunch, and then continued south to Boka Patrick.

Patrick Hike Curaco

Boka Patrick is a large inlet with a wide, sandy beach strewn with petrified wood and plastic. It’s a shame how much of Curaçao’s eastern coastline is inundated with trash. I don’t know if these are places too infrequently visited to bother with clean-up crews, or if there’s simply too much trash to keep up with, but the heaping mounds of old shoes and tires are a real turn-off. Still, we liked Boka Patrick for its extreme natural beauty and solitude; it’s amazing that such a place could be completely off-the-radar for both tourists and locals.

The path back to our car led us around a hill called the Seru Kosta, and toward heavier vegetation. The final quarter of the hike was the most difficult, as we entered the woods and lost the trail a couple times. But it became interesting when we passed the ruins of the old Patrick plantation house, spotting a well and what looked to be the walls of an old reservoir.

We’d miss the beaches, for sure, but we also enjoyed these peeks into Curaçao’s less-heralded side. This is an island of striking contrasts, which you won’t see unless you embark on hikes like the one we experienced at Patrick.

Locations on our Map: Suplado | Boka Santu Pretu | Boka Patrick
Our Route on Wikiloc

Rent Your Jeep For Curacao Here

Patrick Hike Curaco
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February 24, 2016 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

Playa Cas Abou

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A large, full-service beach between Playa Porto Mari and the beaches of San Juan, Playa Cas Abou is not a recommended destination when you feel like getting away from it all. But if you want an easy day on the sand, with food and drinks readily available, you could certainly do worse.

Cas Aboa

Cas Abou is yet another of Curaçao’s unfairly beautiful beaches. This long stretch of sand, with palm trees and crystal clear waters draws equal numbers of locals and tourists. You can walk right into the sea without worrying about hurting your feet on dead coral, and the sand is soft and comfortable. All the services you might expect can be found here, including a dive shop and a massage hut located right against the water.

Perhaps the only problem with Cas Abou is that it’s too nice, and attracts too many people. We visited twice, and both times had problems finding shade; there are no umbrellas, so everyone competes for the few areas protected by palm trees. The afternoon hours can get hot, and we even saw people laying right up against the side of the massage hut, trying to get into its shadow.

But if you don’t mind the sun, no problem. This is the kind of beach you’ll be happy to spend all day at. The entrance costs a little, as do the lounge chairs, but it’s not expensive, and you’re free to bring your own drinks and snacks.

Location on our Map

We Used This Camera For the Underwater Photos

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February 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm Comments (0)

The Sunday Market at Barber

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Every Sunday morning in the northern town of Barber, the market hall is converted into a food court where you can find every type of Curaçaoan specialty imaginable, from fish soup to stewed papaya, along with a wide variety of baked sweets and homemade drinks. Show up hungry, because you’ll likely want to sample a little of everything.

Barber Market

This weekly market is a popular local event, with a number of stands dishing out home-cooked meals to hungry patrons. The Marshe di Barber is right across from the town church, and I would wager that since the market is held on Sunday morning, a lot of people come here either after or before services. Probably during, too.

With so much to choose from, I had a difficult time deciding what to order. Looking at the menu of one place, I almost settled on Sopa di Mandongo. No idea what “mandongo” is, but it sounds exotic. Just to be safe, I looked it up and discovered that it’s tripe. Nothing against tripe; I’ve eaten it before, and probably will again. But not sober, and definitely not for breakfast!

We stuck to more identifiable foods, like goat stew and fried pastries filled with cheese called pastechis, and ordered tamarind juice. It was all delicious, and even better was the lively atmosphere inside the market, with old friends sitting around tables, drinking and laughing, while their kids ran around outside. These families probably meet here every week, and won’t mind if you join them. So if you wake up hungry for a hearty breakfast on Sunday morning, head to Barber.

Location on our Map

Hotels On Curacao

Barber Market
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February 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm Comments (0)

Fine Dining at Fort Nassau

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Of all Curaçao’s former Dutch fortresses, our favorite was destined to be Fort Nassau. Fort Amsterdam might have the most fascinating history and Fort Beekenburg the coolest atmosphere… but Fort Nassau has the food nailed down. And food beats history or atmosphere every time.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Dutch were busy extending their tendrils across the globe, a number of forts named Nassau were established to protect their new properties. You could find a Fort Nassau in the Bahamas, New York, New Jersey, Indonesia, Senegal, Ghana and Guyana, all of them named for the House of Orange-Nassau, an influential Dutch dynasty. In 1797, Curaçao got its own Fort Nassau, on the point where the Saint Anna Bay empties into the Schottegat Harbor.

Fort Nassau was taken over for a brief period by the British, but never came under serious attack, so it’s been able to remain in marvelous condition. In 1959, a restaurant was established in the old fortress, and ever since, Fort Nassau has been Curaçao’s most celebrated place to eat. For Jürgen’s birthday dinner, it was the only real choice.

Set high on a hill, the views from Fort Nassau are incredible, especially at night with the lights (and flames) of the Isla Oil Refinery off toward the north, and Punda laid out to the south. Almost anywhere you sit inside the restaurant, you’re guaranteed an excellent panoramic view.

However, you might have trouble taking your eyes off your plates, because the food in Fort Nassau is mouth-watering. The dinner menu includes an appetizer, a main course and dessert. And while it’s not cheap, neither is it overly expensive, considering the quality of the dishes and the generous portions. We both took the steak, and were left very satisfied.

If you only have time and money for one fine dining experience in Curaçao, rest assured that Fort Nassau makes a great choice. Often, these “most famous” restaurants don’t live up to the hype, but Fort Nassau was as good as we had hoped, with top-notch views, food, and service.

Location on our Map

Curacao Car Rental

La Isla Refinery Curacao
Fort Nassau Curacao
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February 14, 2016 at 3:33 pm Comments (0)

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Drag Racing in Curaao 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.
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