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After One Month in Curaçao

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At the end of our first month in a new location, we like to take stock of our first impressions with a short self-interview. A third of our time on Curaçao has already passed; what do we think about life on the island, so far?

Most Memorable

Mike: Pulling into the parking lot which overlooks the Grote Knip Beach. This was our first sighting of the Caribbean Sea, and the beach simply couldn’t have been more lovely. If I wasn’t quite in love with Curaçao yet, this view sealed the deal.

Jürgen: Driving across the towering Queen Juliana Bridge for the very first time. On one side you see historic Willemstad and on the other side the refinery. These two views say so much about this island.
Favorite Food

Mike: I don’t know if I’d order guiambo every day, but this was defnitely the most interesting dish I’ve yet had on Curaçao. A rich, salty, slimy soup made of okra, it’s a popular item at Plasa Bieu.

Jürgen: It’s not the most traditional Curaçaoan cuisine, but the skewers at Equus were the best meal I’ve had so far on the island.
Most Surprising

Mike: It’s been a month, and I still haven’t had any Blue Curaçao! Green rum, yes. Despite its fame abroad, Blue Curaçao doesn’t seem to be all that popular at bars on the island.

Jürgen: The language skills of the islanders. Many here can speak five or more languages fluently, and it even gets better when they start blending them all together, and it becomes one true world language.
Most Disappointing

Mike: I’d say the danger of theft. The island has done so much to encourage tourism, and most of the people are so polite and welcoming, and then a few punks ruin all the goodwill by repeatedly smashing car windows, and stealing bags. Everyone knows it goes on, and everyone knows the spots in which it’s especially likely to happen… so, where are the cops?

Jürgen: The amount of pollution, starting with the obvious: the refinery. Also, old cars leaving trails of huge black fume clouds behind them, and the huge amount of plastic trash left out to rot in nature.
Funniest/Weirdest

Mike: The Papiamento word “dushi” means “sweet,” and the sheer frequency with which it’s used cracks me up. Apparently everything is dushi to Curaçaoans. Dushi food, dushi people, dushi tourists. And then there’s the fact of its English-language homonym — a word impossible to use while here. In Curaçao, telling someone that they’re “douchey” is a compliment!

Jürgen: There can be up to three huge cruise ships at the port of Willemstad. The amazing thing is, even though there are suddenly thousands more people on the island, you won’t notice them if you go to the smaller beaches up north.
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)

Mike: 7. Curaçao is a lot more expensive than I thought a Caribbean island would be. It does make sense; this is an island, so everything has to be imported. But still… fresh produce, museum tickets, restaurants, excursions… it all costs much more than we had expected.

Jürgen: Curaçao has its price, so I give it a 7. A night out can get expensive but luckily there are plenty of Happy Hours you can take advantage of. Groceries are more pricey than back home. Taxis are expensive but you can find cheap car rentals with some planning. Bring your own snorkeling gear and hunt down the free beaches if you’re on a budget.
People from Curaçao Are…

Mike: … about as multi-ethnic as people get. Everyone seems able to speak five languages, and every shade on the human spectrum is represented here. The people are relaxed, almost always in a good mood, friendly and welcoming to strangers… and boy, do they love to honk their horns. We’ve started doing it, too!

Jürgen: … masters of language, and there’s nothing more interesting than listening to people talk Papiamento. If you speak some Spanish, you’ll be able to pick up quite a lot.
Curaçao in Three Words

Mike: Colorful, Relaxed, Diverse

Jürgen: Blue, Windy, Dushi
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January 18, 2016 at 6:59 pm Comments (0)

Grote Knip – Our First Beach in Curaçao

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We pulled our car into the parking lot and, for a few stunned seconds, sat in silence. We had found the perfect beach. The one which your optimistic mind envisions whenever you set off for the ocean. But Grote Knip was the very first beach we were visiting in Curaçao! Was it just luck we had already found the best one? Or… we allowed ourselves to hope… would all the island’s beaches be this spectacular?

Grote Knip Curacao

Grote Knip is found on the northwestern tip of Curaçao, near the Knip Landhuis and a smaller beach called Kleine Knip. It’s one of Curaçao’s most popular places, and we were visiting on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but even so, it wasn’t very crowded. We grabbed lounge chairs, set ourselves up in the shade of a tree, and leaned back to appreciate the Caribbean beauty.

There was an appealing mix of people around us, most of them locals. Dozens of crazy teenagers were crammed onto a floating dock in the middle of the bay, and were hard at work singing, dancing, laughing and throwing each other into the water. The foreigners at the beach, like the foreigners all over Curaçao, were almost entirely Dutch. I got the sense that a lot of them live here at least on a semi-permanent basis, as most of them were grilling. Tourists generally aren’t equipped to grill.

Grote Knip Curacao

Grote Knip is set within a cove, protected by rocky cliffs from which the more daring kids will occasionally leap. I considered joining in, but was spooked by how shallow the water seemed. It was probably an illusion, because of the water’s astounding clarity, but I wasn’t about to risk my life on that theory.

There’s a small snack shop on the beach, which serves basic grub like hamburgers and fries, and you have to rent the chairs for a reasonable price, but otherwise the beach is free to use. Our original plan was to just stay for an hour, and then check out Kleine Knip… but we soon decided that Kleine Knip could wait for another day. We were in no hurry to leave the perfect beach.

Location on our Map

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December 21, 2015 at 9:26 pm Comments (0)

First Impressions of Willemstad

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Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao and by far its largest city, with about 98% of the island’s total population. In many respects, Willemstad is Curaçao. And for 91 days, it would also be our home.

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Willemstad was founded by the Dutch West India Company in 1634, immediately after the Netherlands took over Curaçao from Spain. The city has preserved much of its colonial architecture and style, prompting UNESCO to name it a world heritage site in 1997.

The location for Willemstad was chosen because of the Schottegat, a large natural port which connects to the Caribbean by way of the Saint Anna Bay. It was ideal geography for the sea-faring Dutch, who settled down on the bay’s eastern side, and began constructing a neighborhood that wouldn’t look out of place in Amsterdam. This eastern section, known as Punda, is the oldest of Willemstad’s four historic districts.

Once Punda became overcrowded, in the early 19th century, people started to populate the western side of the bay. This new neighborhood was called Otrobanda, literally “other side,” and presents a slightly different style of architecture to that of Punda. Today, Otrobanda is considered to be Willemstad’s cultural heart, where locals come to shop, eat and party.

Curacao Blog

The other two historical districts are smaller, but still of interest. To the east of Punda, Pietermaai is where the Dutch ship captains and officers settled. This neighborhood is notable for its proximity to the sea, old theaters, and neoclassical architecture. Finally, there’s the Scharloo, just north of Punda, across the Waaigat Bay. This was home to the upper-crust of Curaçaoan society, and still preserves many of its colonial mansions.

We spent our first day in Curaçao walking around the capital city. The first thing I noticed was the city’s outrageous color scheme. Almost every building in Willemstad is a different shade of blue, yellow, green or red. This rainbow array is actually mandated by law in Curaçao — before 1837, when sunglasses were not yet in widespread use, the buildings had been completely white, and the glaring sun caused headaches and eye problems. The colors helped, and the law has stuck around into the present day. Curaçaoans seem to take great pride in their buildings; we often saw homeowners at work repainting their houses.

After the color, the next thing I noticed was the music. Our first excursion into Willemstad was on a Saturday afternoon, and cumbia, samba and salsa were blasting out of houses, booming from the windows of passing cars, and being played by bands at touristy restaurants. We even saw a DJ who had set up on a regular street corner in Otrobanda. Curaçaoans apparently enjoy living with a constant soundtrack of feel-good rhythms.

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Other random first impressions: there seem to be as many tourists as locals, but this surely waxes and wanes whether a cruise ship is in port. The family across the street from us owns a rooster. Policeman are rare, though there are a lot of security guards protecting higher-end shops. Also, there are plenty of dogs but we hardly saw cats. And there’s all types of income-levels: During our first week in Willemstad, Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s yacht, the Tatoosh, was docked in the bay (this is a boat which comes equipped with multiple other boats and a helicopter). I was admiring it, when a crazy-eyed guy with a yellow beard and an apparent drug habit came up to me. “What a boat! Hey man, you have a guilder?”

With all the music, the people randomly dancing, the bars spilling out onto the streets, the festive atmosphere, the sun’s warmth, and the brightly-colored houses, Willemstad is certainly not a city for those who enjoy being dour. There’s nothing gray about it, and it would be difficult to stay in a bad mood once you’re outside and mixed up in the happy-go-lucky vibe. In fact, during the extent of our stay in Willemstad, I don’t think I had a single grumpy day. That can’t possibly be true, but it’s how I remember it… and I guess that’s all that matters, now.

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December 10, 2015 at 9:09 pm Comments (0)
After One Month in Curaao At the end of our first month in a new location, we like to take stock of our first impressions with a short self-interview. A third of our time on Curaao has already passed; what do we think about life on the island, so far?
For 91 Days