Our next stop was Curaçao! The motherland of that vile blue liquor used to add unnatural color to tiki drinks and frat party punches! Patrick drank some right away.
Curaçao is part of the ABC islands bringing up the rear behind Aruba and Bonaire. It is autonomous within the Kingdom of Netherlands which means it can take whatever cute Dutch stuff it wants and leave all the other junk behind. Curaçao has rows upon rows of adorable Dutch style buildings beautifully painted with bright, pastel colors.
We stayed right by the harbor which is home to two iconic bridges, the Queen Emma and Queen Juliana. The Queen Emma is a footbridge, floating in the water to allow people to traverse back and forth between the two sides of the harbor. When a boat needs to get through, the bridge pivots off one side and swiftly sweeps open 90 degrees so the boat can travel past. Like the magical staircases at Hogwarts. Naturally, Patrick and I sat and watched the bridge swing open and shut a number of times. The locals call the bridge The Swinging Old Lady. What a sense of humor.
The Queen Juliana bridge boasts to be the tallest in the Caribbean at 185’ tall. It’s pretty neat, but not as neat as the bridge that swings open.
Curaçao is hot. Upon landing and again clearing customs and immigration alarmingly fast (no words were spoken) we sweated our way through the 20 minute cab ride to our hostel. Driving down the dry, bright, and colorful roads we passed dozens of slightly rundown roadside strip malls filled with weird stores that I desperately wanted to visit. For example we passed a furniture store that featured children’s bunkbeds shaped like firetrucks and boats and I thought, “How cute, I love bunkbeds!”.
We arrived at our hostel, The Ritz, because when we came across it online we said, “Wouldn’t it be so funny if we…” and we did. The Ritz used to be an ice cream factory and was restored with a brightly colored exterior, sweet little pool area, and pool bar. A friendly staff member in his faded pink Ritz polo led us to our room (private double with ensuite bathroom) where we were greeted with, get ready for it, bunkbeds. And not like, “Oh! Bunkbeds!” like, “Oh… bunkbeds.”
We left the hostel in search of food, and quickly settled into a nice waterfront bar/tourist trap called the Iguana Bar or something. We were joined by loads of squishy cruise ship passengers, lanyards swinging proudly around their necks, as they went lumbering by to catch the ferry back to their mothership. Of course, Patrick and I spent the rest of our lunch discussing how badly we wanted to go on a cruise and where should we go and when and so on. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the waterfront and surrounding streets before closing out the night splitting six tiny Polar beers and spaghetti at our pool bar.
Saturday we went exploring. I wanted to try the Cafe Copacabana for lunch and with a lot of luck (none of the streets are labeled) we found it. We enjoyed Amstel Brights (not a typo) and sandwiches while seated in a beautiful square intersection of four alleyways with colorful murals on the walls.
We visited the Maritime Museum and tried to visit the Postal Museum and Kura Hulanda Museum (both were closed).
We walked through the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere with a sand floor, which was preparing for a wedding that night. The security guard, with a hand gun loosely tucked in his pants pocket, explained it was another American couple who was flying here to get married in the synagogue. “It’s always Americans,” he sighed.
We walked through the floating market, where the fish and vegetables are so fresh they don’t even unload them off the boats. The proprietors just pull up in the harbor and you can buy right off the boat.
After the cruise ships left the town emptied a considerable amount. Everywhere we’ve been has felt really, really empty. We’re wondering if it’s offseason? Or Zika scared everyone? Either way, both St. Martin and Curaçao have been really quiet.
That evening we hopped in a cab to go a few miles down the beach to check out the Kontiki Beach Resort. It was gorgeous. We took a self guided tour through the hotel property and marveled at the millions of dollars of ferns, palms, and giant flowering tropical plants the resort had installed to add privacy and ambiance to the beautiful “rooms”. I say “rooms” because they were like mansion versions of the Robinson Curuso treehouse. Sprinkled in were beautiful saltwater pools, connect via a narrow stream covered in stone footbridges. This place was stunning.
We kept walking until we found the hotel restaurant, which was dead. It looked closed. It was 6:30pm, on a Saturday, we were a resort bar and there is no one else there. When the waiter asked us if we had a reservation I almost snorted. The food was awful, even the wine was bad, and we quickly departed. We walked along the beach to the neighboring resort which was more like a small city. Every shopping whim, style of restaurant (sushi, indian, pizza, BBQ, crepes, Dutch, American, etc) and activity (everything from design your own flip flops to a real tattoo shop) were provided so the guests would never have to leave the property. I was surprised to find I was looking forward to returning to our dinky little hostel.
The next morning after breakfast (Patrick ordered The Canadian complete with pancakes and maple syrup, of course) we packed up and shipped out to the airport. Overall I enjoyed Curaçao. There was a ton of the island we didn’t see, but based on our small taste I think we’d prefer to explore another Caribbean island before heading back.