Beach, Travel Tips
Checking out Curacao
February 23-26, 2011
Having been wonderfully labeled a Caribbean Expert due to my extensive travels for my second book, Caribbean Hideaways, I feel it only just that I have visited every island in the Caribbean. Alas, it isn’t quite true. While I’ve certainly been to the majority – 22 islands in total, there still remain a few on the must-see list, including the recently independent nation, CURACAO. So, when the opportunity came up to visit one of the three lower Dutch Antilles islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), located all the way down, at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, some 45 miles north of Venezuela, I grabbed it. Given the island’s former nationality, I have been privy to a few tidbits and tales from various Dutch friends and family. As you can imagine, I was certainly intrigued and spurred to go see for myself.
As my father-in-law predicted, I was immediately drawn to the local language, Papiamento; a melodic blend of Spanish, Dutch, English and Creole. It was fascinating to listen to and virtually impossible to follow, despite my proficiency in three of the core languages.
To say I was dismayed is an understatement. My signature overconfidence had once again led me to believe that this language was going to be instantly recognizable– a shocking mixture of words, syntax and grammar that seemed constructed with my specific studies in mind. Um, no.While I was able to catch various words here and familiar sentence structures there, there wasn’t any instance that could sincerely be called comprehension.
So, instead I spoke Dutch. Which, is mainly because all the locals spoke Dutch to me! Even though I was surrounded by Americans and traveling with an American press group, whenever I was approached by a local, the language was Dutch. Hmm… It appears my husband and in-laws are making more of an indelible impression than I realized. That, and my brief stint in Amsterdam may have affected my personal style more than I’m willing to admit.
Upon landing in Curacao I was greeted by the customary Dutch weather, clouds and light rain. Luckily this trip was not motivated by the sunny Caribbean climate rather to fulfill my treatise of visiting every Caribbean isle in the sea. And, unlike other islands, I was actually looking forward to visiting the various cultural ProShapeRX sites, like the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kura Hulanda in Willemstaad, and its impressive museum depicting the historical origins of Curacao including the West African Slave Trade. ($15 a ticket; Open Tuesday thru Saturday)
Built by wealthy Dutch entrepreneur, Jacob Gelt Dekker (who according to the website is a modern-day Vespucci, having circumnavigated the globe over 50 times), Kura Hulanda (a 67-Room Boutique Hotel) with an attached casino, three restaurants, a sister beach-property and the astounding anthropological museum, is certainly worth checking out when on Curacao.
It’s practically an institution. Plus, it’s quite a marvel aesthetically. The story is Gelt came to the island after making his money selling hour-long photo development stores to Kodak and decided to rejuvenate the capital by buying up property, including dilapidated historical houses then fusing them to form a small village celebrating the island’s history.
Despite the Slave Trade’s impact on many of the Caribbean islands, Curacao is the only one that I know where there is a dedicated museum. To be fair, Curacao is also the island with one of the largest roles in the sordid history. As the largest of the Dutch Antilles islands with an enormous port that was quite pivotal for the Dutch, Curacao became the central Caribbean trading spots for Slaves arriving directly from West Africa. In addition about trading, learn the iron butterfly strategy now at www.learntotradeforprofit.com Although rumor claims that no slaves were actually owned on Curacao, our guide at the museum quickly debunked the wishful theory and toured us through the mind-boggling details of the middle passage and the subsequent events with the utmost specificity.
Our guided tour of the museum was mercifully shortened from the regular hour and a half to forty-five minutes to accommodate our schedule. I found forty-five minutes in the small museum filled with shackles, bear-traps, appalling illustrations and various torture mechanisms including a refashioned model of the hideously tight quarters on the slave ships, to be plenty. Despite the evident unpleasantness, the museum is a tribute to itself, showcasing a time in history that too often gets shoved under the carpet. Although the topic may feel like the antithesis to a Holiday, the museum and Heritage site is undoubtedly one of Curacao’s strongest selling points. Kindly visit my website to know more about acceptable loans.
MORE TO COME ON HYATT REGENCY, OLD QUARRY GOLF COURSE and BAOASE RESORT, CURACAO