As we all freeze and huddle around our computer screens to keep warm, D.G. Kaye.. Debby Gies continues to bring sunshine into our lives… This month it is Curacao…not just blue seas but also a wonderful blue liqueur.
Welcome to this month’s edition of the Travel Column. Today we’re going to Curacao.
Curacao is classified as part of a group of the ABC islands – Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. These islands are part of the Lesser Antilles. Curacao lies approximately 40 miles north of the tip of Venezuela, and is considered a Caribbean island along with Bonaire and Aruba. They are part of North America, despite them lying on South America’s geographic plate.
Formerly part of the Curacao and Dependencies (1815 to 1954), Curacao is now formally called the country of Curacao, along with its 1.7 kilometres long, uninhabited sister island – Klein Curacao. The capital of Curacao is Willemstad.
The first inhabitants of the island were the Arawak People, migrating from South America centuries before the Spanish came in with the Spanish expedition of 1499, using the Arawack people for slave labor.
In 1634 Netherlands became independent from Spain and began colonizing the island. Curacao had previously been ignored by colonists because it lacked gold deposits, but proved valuable for trade. The natural harbor of Willemstad was the perfect location for trade.
In 1662, the Dutch West India Company made Curacao a center of Atlantic Slave Trade, selling slaves to other islands and South American mainland. Although a few plantations existed, the main source of trade came from their salt mines. Many Dutch colonists grew rich from slave trade and the city grew with impressive colonial buildings. A wide range of historic buildings had deemed Curacao a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, ownership of the island had changed hands several times between British, French and the Dutch. In 1815, after the Napoleonic wars, the island was incorporated into the colony of Curacao and Dependencies. During that time, the language spoken on the island was predominantly Spanish. In 1863 slavery was abolished.
In October of 2010, Curacao became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The first language of the island spoken today is Dutch, followed by Papiemento (creole), English, and Spanish.
Legend has it there are two stories to how Curacao got its name. The first tell us that back in the 16th and 17th centuries, sailors on long voyages became ill with scurvy because of lack of Vitamin C. According to old accounts, sick Portuguese sailors were dropped off to the island, and when their ship returned, these sailors had miraculously recovered from the abundance of availability of fruit. The Portuguese referred to the island as ‘Island of Healing’ – Ilha da Curacao. A different belief is that the island’s name derived from the Portuguese word for heart ‘coracao’. With the Portuguese pronunciation, the first ‘o’ is pronounced as a ‘u’ sound, making the word for heart pronounced as ‘kuresaw’. The Spanish kept the name as did the Dutch.
This capital of Curacao is Willemstad, and its downtown core is a World Unesco Heritage site boasting an array of pastel and primary colored buildings that line the waterfront market (Handelskade – merchant’s wharf). In 1918, then governor Albert Kickert wasn’t happy with the whitewashed looking paled out buildings and ordered up some color be painted on those buildings. As it turns out, the governor coincidentally owned a paint company, and consequently, not long after this discovery it prompted Curacao to put in a new law that politicians are not allowed to have private economic interests. But these colorful Dutch colonial buildings give off a feeling of old-world European charm.
Willemstad has a kind of artsy feel to it with the colorful buildings and the numerous galleries, outdoor cafes, and interesting stores lining the wharf and surrounding streets. At night the citylife lights up with plenty of bars and jazz clubs, and don’t forget to have a ‘blue’ drink and buy a bottle of Curacao’s own liqueur – Blue Curacao.
Curacao is ranked one of the best and affordable islands in the Caribbean. You can actually drive around the whole island in just under two hours. Of course, your best deals to visit this island for vacation will be found April through September in their low-season. And another good point is that Curacao is located away from the hurricane belt so it’s predominantly unaffected by vicious storms.
Taxis and buses and cars are all available on the island. But it’s interesting to note that most people walk or get around by bicycles.
The climate in Curacao is semi-arid with January through September being mostly dry. The wet season is typically October through December. Average temps range between 80 – 85 degrees year-round.
When Curacao was taken over by the Dutch in 1634, they built a fortress which still stands today, Fort Amsterdam, to protect the island from pirates and other invaders. You can walk to this fort conveniently located past the local town shopping core before approaching the pedestrian bridge, Queen Emma Bridge to get across the water (St. Anna Bay) to the Merchant’s Wharf, connecting both the Punda and Otrobanda. This bridge opens to allow ships to pass. And don’t worry if you miss the bridge opened when you’re ready to cross as there is a ferry boat awaiting to take passengers to and fro across in between bridge openings. There are also 5 additional forts still standing in Curacao.
Christoffel National Park is Curacao’s largest national park, a favorite for hikers, boasting eight trails of varying difficulty. You can hire a guide or take a pickup safari for a mini tour. Or you can visit Shete Boka National Park, named for the picturesque coves carved out of limestone along the coastline meaning ‘Seven inlets’. Powerful surf crashes into a cave in the cliffs. Walk or drive north along this coast and you will find smaller inlets with many turtle nesting grounds.
For more things to see and do in Curacao click HERE
Below you will see the pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting the two sides of the island. When the bridge closes, it sweeps to the side and stays against the open cement edge.
The local food is called Krioyo, pronounced ‘criollo’ – the Spanish word for Creole. These flavors usually consist of Caribbean and Latin. You will find plenty of fried plantains, soups and fish dishes. A traditional breakfast food is called ‘pastechi’, which is fried pastry with various fillings from cheese to tuna, to ham or ground meat. There are also many Chinese restaurants serving Indonesian foods. And there is always plenty of American food to be had in the various cafes and pubs.
Some recommended places to eat can be found HERE
Prostitution is illegal for residents, but legal for foreign women who obtain a temporary work permit for the large brothel called ‘Le Mirage’ that has been in operation since the 1940s. Curacao regulates this industry by giving them a safe environment and access to medical professionals.
We can’t forget about shopping! There are many interesting shops and markets in Willemstad. The island is not considered ‘duty-free’, but still, ‘duty-relaxed’ as the island pays low import taxes and passes it on to consumers. There is plenty of jewelry to be had as well as some interesting stores with handcrafted wares and artisan goods.
Other items of interest you will find in the stores: A wonderful selection of European clothing, French perfumes, Japanese electronics, Irish crystal, English china, fine Italian leathers, Chinese embroidered linen tablecloths, Indonesian batik clothing and accessories, just to name a few. My prized souvenir is a Fendi watch I’d been eyeing for awhile which held a hefty price tag of $3000 US dollars in the States, but my husband bargained vigorously for it and we purchased for $1600 US, a real bargain!
For a good list of shopping and stores, visit this LINK
Curacao is home to over 35 beaches! Two popular beaches are Playa Knip – with its white sand and azure water, and not many rental activity places, but a less known and less busy beach than more of the popular beaches offering a slice of paradise. And Playa Lagun offers a perfect spot for snorkeling. You can find a list of the many beaches and what they have to offer HERE and HERE
Where to Stay?
I’ve visited Curacao a few times, but I’ve yet to spend a staycation there. You can find a nice selection of hotels and what they have to offer HERE
Have you ever been to Curacao?
Please let us know if you have experiences of the island that you would like to share, and as always a huge thank you to Debby for sharing her own travel expertise.
About D.G. Kaye
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
Books by D.G. Kaye
One of the recent reviews for Words We Carry.
Once in a while you come across a book that really speaks to you. Reading ‘Words We Carry’ by D. G. Kaye was like having friends over for coffee and revealing our innermost secrets or speaking to your mentor about life and how to make it better. The author, who has natural psychology opened my eyes and made me ponder why I react the way I do to certain things or certain people. I enjoyed author, D.G. Kaye’s writing style––so friendly and warm. This book is well written and is easily one that can change someone’s life. I recommend this book to anyone who ever felt insecure, self-conscious or inadequate. An easy 5 star read.
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Thank you for dropping in today and please help spread the news of Debby’s travel column and we look forward to your questions and comments. Thanks Sally and Debby