This follows on from the Planning an Unusual Holiday post. Cba reading? We booked a holiday to a Caribbean island having found ourselves with some extra money because Scottish Power aren’t very good at being an energy company.
We arrived in Curacao in the early evening on Monday 24th August. Since you can’t get the local currency, Netherland Antillian Guilders, in the UK, we’d brought US Dollars to swap when we arrived. We did so at Hato airport and then hopped in a Taxi to get to our hotel in Willemstad.
The hotel we stayed in, The Plaza, is part of an old fort from when the Dutch had to protect the island from the Spanish. The lobby and the views were beautiful. The pool was small but not tiny and pretty much no one used it. The rooms were basic and in serious need of an update but… if you’re spending a lot of time in your room when you’re on a Caribbean holiday, you might not be doing it right.
We settled in. It got dark very suddenly at about 7pm – a feature of being close to the equator that, given we live in Glasgow, was a bit surprising. Rather than exploring the town at night for the first time, and in desperate need of sleep, we opted to eat dinner in the hotel and spend the next morning wandering around and finding our bearings.
Dinner was fine but pricey. We ate breakfast in the restaurant the next day and found it to also be fine but pricey. We avoided eating in the hotel after that. We explored the town that morning but quickly succumbed to the heat. Curacao in August hovers around 35 C during the day and around 28 C at night. Glasgow in August is more like 12 C during the day and 7 C at night. Also, Curacao has the trade winds, a constant warm breeze that blows in off the sea and which doesn’t start to feel refreshing until you’re already used to the ambient temperature. It was just what we’d wanted, but we certainly weren’t ready for it.
We spent the afternoon by the pool, hiding in the shade to avoid the inevitable sunburn (sunscreen helps but can’t entirely save us – we’re very pale, in Weegie terms we would be described as “pure paley wally”). Swimming to stay cool, reading, and occasionally bursting into giggles about how ridiculous it was that this was actually happening.
Our hotel was right on the corner of the port so we could watch the huge ships that sailed in and our every hour or so. As far as I can tell, Curacao makes its money from tourism, gambling and oil. There’s a massive oil refinery on the island and I think they ship oil in from Venezuela (which is really close by) to refine it. I enjoyed watching the ships and they weren’t noisy, but were a bit disappointed to learn that the floating bridge that normally allows people to cross the port was currently being repaired in dry dock. Instead, if we wanted to cross from Punda (corner) to Otrobando (other side) we should use the free ferry.
We had been warned multiple times that the best way to get around the island was to hire a car. As neither of us drive we decided to try the buses. We were further warned that the buses were very unreliable, that they didn’t have proper schedules and that we might end up waiting for them for a very long time. That didn’t matter – we wanted to go to the beach and it was too far to walk. We risked the bus.
The buses were absolutely fine. They were regular, and big, coach-like, buses ran as well as hundreds of little local ones. They were cheap. They were air conditioned. We never took a trip that took more than 20 minutes, so maybe they aren’t ideal if you want to cross the whole island, but for us they were ideal. I have no idea why tourists are warned not to use them.
With transport sorted out we divided our days between the beach, the town and the pool. We swam in the sea. We drank ice cold lager in little bottles (big bottles warm up too quick) at happy hour. We tasted a few cocktails. We visited the Blue Curacao factory and the slavery museum (fascinating but not for the faint hearted), we generally lounged around soaking up the sun and the island atmosphere. It was perfect.
It made me think that visiting these places isn’t all that difficult. We put money aside every month that was originally intended to pay energy bills that never we ended up not having to pay. Over the year it added up to enough for a holiday, but split across each month it really didn’t feel like that much. We plan now to continue putting money aside each month. We’ll probably fail in March when our PhD funding will come to an end but maybe not, maybe we’ll get new jobs pretty quickly. If so, we might be able to have a similar holiday next year. All it takes is a little planning.
Originally posted here: http://unazukin210.tumblr.com/post/128717191140/visit-to-curacao