It is said that a former governor of the island who suffered from severe headaches, believing his malady was aggravated by the sun’s brilliant reflections off the white buildings, mandated that building exteriors be painted any color but white. Despite later discovery that the governor was a shareholder in the island’s only paint store, the tradition of painting in vivid colors has endured, making Willemstad’s Dutch and Spanish colonial style architecture one of the most stunning sights in the Caribbean.
I love work conventions. Not necessarily because I enjoy the meetings that much, but because it almost always brings me to a city with a major airport hub, making it a lot easier to escape for a quick weekend trip. When you live in a town without a major hub, you spend most of your first day just trying to leave the country: Your first or even first two flights are usually domestic; you’ve traveled for a whole day and haven’t even left the country! So I love these business conventions, because I’m already at the hub when it’s quittin’ time on Friday, poised for blast off into another country or even continent. And who really stays until the very end of a convention on a Friday afternoon anyway? Not this guy.
This time is was the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in Dallas. And I knew all too well that DFW was a huge airport with so many direct international options. I salivated at the thought of all the options I’d have from DF-Dub. And while the easiest of routes would be to Latin America (great directs to Bogota, etc.), I of course leaned to somewhere I haven’t been before: Curação and Aruba came up as winners.
I actually did have to transfer in Miami to get to Curação, but the routes—with minimal stopover time—looked too good not to take. And while both Curação and Aruba don’t count towards my official “UN” country count of 193, they are territories belonging to the Travelers Century Club‘s count of 327, a list I do plan on someday completing.
My DFW to MIA flights went off without a hitch, as did my MIA to CUR flight. I picked up the keys to my rental car (on site) and by 2:10PM I was cruising through the tropical-deserty landscape of Curação, headed for Willemstad.
RAMBLIN’ TIP: Absolutely do rent a car in Curação. I probably rent cars in foreign countries less than 3% of the time; driving in other countries scares me! But having your own car to get around in Curação is an absolute must; there isn’t any other way to do it.
I enjoyed listening to Curação radio on the drive in immensely. The list of stations ranged from Reggaeton to Top 40 to Jazz to Calypso. The music was almost as good as the DJs Papiamento banter. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but it sure sounded like fun.
My hotel was an unexpected treat as well. Besides its luxury, the Renaissance Curação was just so damn charming. From its pastel colors, to its beachy fixtures and features, including a mirror with a glowing letters inside the glass that said “No hurries, you’re on island time,” the place was just fantastic. The check-in was wonderful (Tiffany was very warm and welcoming, and it didn’t hurt that I got a sweet upgrade to an ocean view room.) I wouldn’t be spending much time on the property though; it was nearing 3PM and this would be my only day on the island. I had to get moving before the sun escaped.
We’ll Get There Fast and Then We’ll Take it Slow
I’d originally planned on visiting Playa Piskado, but it was completely on the other side of the island and it was getting late, so I opted for the closer Kokomo Beach. I wondered if this was the same Kokomo referenced by The Beach Boys. Let’s just agree that it is.
The managed cove featured parking and a gate that I walked through to access the beach. There was no admission charge, except I’d pay $7 for the chair and whatever drinks and food I ordered. I joined about 25 others who were basking in the sun, and swimming and snorkeling in that gorgeous water. Others were dining at the waterside restaurant and inside a small massage parlor. While both food and a good massage really sounded good right about now, I knew I was losing sun fast, so I went straight for the water.
I enjoyed about 45 minutes in the water, letting the tide take me where it wanted and then huffed and puffed to fight the opposing water flow back to the beach. The water felt wonderful and Kokomo was home to many fish. There are sunken car wrecks somewhere in the vicinity, but I’d need more time and scuba gear to partake in that adventure. I had neither today.
United Colors of Curação
While I could’ve easily enjoyed the beach until sundown, I really wanted to get into town and get a look at those famous colored buildings on the water; the ones you see on every Curação postcard. I was losing light quickly, so I toweled off, jumped in the car and split.
It was a pleasant and breezy walk over the pedestrian Queen Emma Bridge, as those gorgeous, fairy tale buildings came into view. I’ve seen this row of old Dutch houses in so many pictures, and now I was gazing lovingly at the them with my own eyes…absolutely one of the coolest sights ever. It looked like a movie set, but I knew it was real life, and these buildings had great history.
Legend Has It
It is said that a former governor of the island who suffered from severe headaches, believing his malady was aggravated by the sun’s brilliant reflections off the white buildings, mandated that building exteriors be painted any color but white. Despite later discovery that the governor was a shareholder in the island’s only paint store, the tradition of painting in vivid colors has endured, making Willemstad’s Dutch and Spanish colonial style architecture one of the most stunning sights in the Caribbean. Source: holeinthedonut.com
I had a good 90 minutes before the dark would come, so I scurried haphazardly about downtown, with no particular destination, but to catch what I could while I could. Most of the shops had closed up and it looked like I’d missed the town in its busy prime, but that was okay with me. I wandered the sidewalks, streets and alleys, taking in as much as I could before the sun dropped completely out of view. I was enamored by hints of Venezuelan business (it’s one of my favorite countries, and difficult to visit these days.) I soon succumbed to my thirst and love of the Caribbean’s own flavor of cream soda called “Champagne Cola,” stopping into a convenience store for a bright bottle of Kolita Fria. I admired the sexy lines of an old, Art Deco styled theater before searching for food; finally giving in to the touristy Iguana Café. Though I would’ve preferred something more for the locals, I couldn’t resist its waterfront location and live music that lured me in like a siren. The meal was a a nice end to a productive day. It was hard to believe I was in Dallas this morning.
Change of Plans
I had an 11:30AM direct flight to Aruba the next day, via Winair, booked months earlier after I’d failed to find a way to Aruba through Bonaire. However, the night before, I’d discovered a way to get that stop in Bonaire; I was determined not to miss the chance to check off all three of the ABC Islands while I was here. How inconvenient it would be to have to come all the way back to the region just because I missed little ol’ Bonaire…it was less than 50 miles away! You know I don’t roll that way, and will do anything to snag another country, especially if it’s in reach. So I chalked up my Winair ticket as a loss and headed to the airport to catch an 8:30AM flight to Bonaire via Divi Divi Air. I would soon know my ABCs! See you in Bonaire!
And NOW…the REST of the (Insta)Story:
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