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MUSEUM KURA HULANDA
Museum Kurá Hulanda is also one of Jacob's masterpieces. He built it because he couldn't believe the island didn't have a museum to showcase the island's history, including its involvement in the slave trade. This is now one of the largest museums in the Caribbean and is housed in a series of buildings from the 1800s that Jacob rescued and restored. The museum's main focus is the history and culture of Africa. It offers a chronicle of the Origin of Man, the African slave trade, West African empires, Pre-Colombian gold, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art. There's a life-sized reconstruction of a slave ship
with pictures detailing how captured slaves would sleep on top of each other in the most horrific
on their journey from the Ivory Coast. It also includes Jacob's personal collection
of art and artifacts from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, which he collected in less than a year. Hours are daily from 10am to 5pm; admission is 10 NLG ($6 USD) for adults and 5 NLG ($3 USD) for children 12 years old and younger. Museum Kurá Hulanda, Klipstraat 9 (Otrabanda) Willemstad, Curacao Netherlands Antilles; Tel.: (+5999) 434-7765.
WHAT TO SEE
You really won’t want to miss Willemstad. This capital city is what most cruise ship passengers
see since they dock in its harbor. The highlight is Handelskade Street, which has rows of pastel-colored, red-roofed townhouses. They look like something from a fairy tale
and are described on UNESCO's World Heritage List. As the local story goes, the buildings were all originally white, but the bright reflection from the sun hurt a past Governor’s eyes so he had them painted. It’s also said that the Governor had them painted because he owned the paint store. Smart man, eh?
There’s a canal that divides Willemstad in two. The historic side is called Punda (meaning "point") and offers great shopping while Otrabanda (meaning "the other side") is more contemporary. To cross
the canal, there’s a floating bridge called the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. Built in 1888, it swings open to let ships pass by. When the orange flag is hoisted, it means it will just be a short opening but when there’s a blue flag, it means that in order to cross, you must take one of the two ferries
that shuttle passengers back and forth for free. For automobiles, the Queen Juliana Bridge was opened in 1973 and is 194 feet high (59m) making it the highest bridge in the Caribbean But it’s still not high enough to let the new mega cruise ships pass through.
I had a tour of Willemstad from a very stylish (wearing Prada glasses, pearl earrings and shell-patterned capris) and knowledgeable Dutch woman named Eveline van Arkel (click here for her Business Card). Eveline, like many retired Dutch, moved to the island from Holland. She’s been here since 1984, knows the island better than most locals and charges just $15 USD for a 2-hour tour. This rate is per person and tours require a minimum of four people. She showed my group around the waterfront, including the pervertedly carved out trees
by local sculptor Mac Alberto. We visited Fort Amsterdam, which is where the Governor's Palace is and a 1769 Dutch Reformed church. We then walked
through the shopping district and met the island’s most popular artist Nena Sanchez
(Biz Card ). Eveline offers a variety of tours including visiting Curacao’s liquor
factories and trips to the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
(tel.: (+5999) 461-1067). Services
are held every Friday at 6:30pm and Saturday at 10am.
CAFÉ GOUVERNEUR DE ROUVILLE
If you’re in the capital city and are looking for a great place to take a break in and have lunch, check out Restaurant and Café Gouverneur de Rouville. The building dates back to 1737 but was restored in 1987. It’s located on the Otrabanda waterfront and has a spectacular view
of the famous Handelskade. The restaurant offers salads, sandwiches and one of the best soups I’ve ever had. Creamy and spicy, the Cuban banana soup is worth going for alone. Other popular dishes include Old Gouda cheese with mustard and mayonnaise, raw beef
sausage with capers, mustard, mayonnaise and egg, and fried eggs served on bread with cheese and tomato. ‘Keshi Yená’ is a local specialty that was created by slaves; they took the hollowed-out rounds of imported Dutch Gouda cheese, stuffed it with chicken and prunes and melted it. No matter what you order, chances are you’ll be washing it down with the island’s most popular beer – Amstel Bright
or Awa di Lamunchie
(water of limes), which essentially tastes like limeade. (Curacao doesn’t have lemons on the island). Restaurant and Café Gouverneur de Rouville, De Rouvilleweg 9 Otrabanda; tel.: (+5999) 462-5999. Click here for their business card.
Another good restaurant is the Boathouse Food & Marina. It’s got a fantastic view
but is located further away from the town centre. They serve local fish, farm-fresh poultry and fresh vegetables. The wait staff
are mostly from Holland
and can be a bit slow but the atmosphere
makes it worthwhile. Boathouse Food & Marina, Brakkeput Ariba; tel.:
(+5999) 767-2221. Click here for their business card.
The most famous restaurant
on the island (and a local favorite) is Jaanchie's
in Westpunt. It’s been around for 71 years and there’s no menu – Jaanchie himself will tell you what the daily specials are! He’s quite a character (as you can see in the video below). The specials always include fresh fish, chicken and iguana. That’s right – this place
serves iguana, which is supposedly an aphrodisiac because the little guy has two penises. I reluctantly tried it and found it to be really bony (no pun intended). It tasted like chicken. It’s open 12pm to 6pm every day and has a rustic setting, surrounded by hedges with hundreds of chirping birds. FYI: It’s about a 45-minute drive from the Marriott. Jaanchie's; tel.: (+5999) 864-0126.
After eating at Jaanchie's, you might as well go to the beach and sleep off all that food. The southwestern side of the island
and Curacao’s best beaches. Don’t get me wrong – the beach at the Marriott is nice but it doesn’t compare to the ones out here (about a 30-minute drive from the
hotel). Some of them charge
a small entry fee (fees range between 3.50 NLG to 10 NLG or $2 USD to $6 USD) per car but it’s well worth the price. I visited Playa
PortoMari, Casabao Beach, West End Beach, Fish Market
Beach and Big Kenepa Beach. I couldn’t take just looking at the clear, turquoise-blue water so I followed a local
and jumped off
a 20-foot cliff. It was so much fun I did it three times!
SNORKELING AND DIVING
Another great thing about Curacao? Awesome snorkeling can be found just off any beach, including the beach at the Marriott, where I was staying. However, for those who want to go diving
in a cave, then go out on an excursion with Ocean Encounters. They have a couple of branches around the island and I used the one stationed at Lodge Kurá Hulanda
on the west side. Captain Tuki
is a riot as he walks around in his banana-hammock bathing suit! He’s got a ripped, small-framed body and an attitude that would make a New Yorker back down. He took us
out on a relaxing
in a 42 foot dive boat (we never went over 10 knots). We passed all the waterfront houses, high up on the limestone cliffs, kids jumping off into the refreshing water. We stopped at the Blue Room
for our first dip in a cavern
similar to the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy but not as nice. The only way to get in is to swim
so be sure you are a strong swimmer. On the way back, we explored a World War II ship that was intentionally sunken to attract more divers. Unfortunately, the water was cloudy
on the day that I went, so it wasn’t all that cool. Tours are from 9am to1pm, and cost $75 USD for 2 dives. Ocean Encounters.
The best and most exciting way to see the island is on one of Eric's ATV Adventures (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes shared one of Eric’s All-Terrain Vehicles
when they visited). Eric himself leads most of the 3- to 3 ½- hour wild and off-the-beaten-path tours. I did the East Island tour, which covered
35 miles and first took us down some of Curacao’s streets before entering the bush. To add to the excitement, it was pouring rain and at one point it was coming down so hard
we even had to take shelter in a car wash. The highlights included going down a never-ending, narrow dirt path that occasionally required a duck and jig of the body to avoid getting pricked (or should I say stabbed?) by a Wabi plant -- it’s basically a cactus
and does not feel good. We stopped for an espresso to get warm and a refreshing Aloe Vera juice
– it’s my new favorite drink! They serve it at the
Zambezi Ostrich Farm
(OstrichFarm.net) that’s next door to the Aloe Vera Plantation
Curacao (AloeCuracao.com). They not only have ostriches, but emus, pigs, goats and a safari. From there, we went to a remote part of the island and climbed
into a bat cave
where bats whisked right over your head! On top of the cave is an inspiring view
of the land; Eric pointed out all the coral that we were standing on and explained how it all used to be underwater. For lunch we stopped
at E Bista Restaurant. You’ll never find this lady’s
home on your own because it’s out in the boonies. If by chance you do, she’s only open for lunch. There’s no menu but she serves
tasty fish, chicken and ribs. Reservations are required and meals cost just 10 NLG ($6 USD) per person. On the hour-long ride back to home base I was traveling 47 mph at times, but you can go at your own pace and first-timers are welcome. Just remember to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, old clothes, sneakers,
and your camera! Costs: $90 single, $140 double. Eric's ATV Adventures, Tel: (+5999) 524-7418, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Welcome To Curacao
Origin of Man
Café Gouverneur de Rouville
Waitress At Café Gouverneur
Boat House Waitress
Aloe Vera Plantation
Does Anyone Have Some Soap?