My initial impression of Curacao began with the name of the island itself. What a perfect blend of vowels and consonants that just rolls lightly in the mouth – cur/uh/say/o. Using this name as a linguistic mantra, I felt confident that our early start at 8:00 am. would prophecize that the remainder of our stay here would be equally untroubled.
Upon first sight of this picturesque island from the ship, I observed a complexity of landscape that flat Aruba was missing. Tropical beach greenness rising to a rugged and hilly interior seemed to dominate my gaze at first. Gradually the Dutch architectural presence of the capital city, Willemstad, came into view in a captivating explosion of color. Brightly colored pastels of yellow, blue, and pink -covered villas lined the lagoon enveloping the commercial hub of the downtown sector. Further inland, tourists shops overlooking cobblestone streets provided visions of Old Europe living.
A crowd of locals had quietly gathered in the streets leading to the center at 9:00 am. as we took our place amidst the relaxed calm of the morning commute. I felt relieved that we had arrived in the city without the expected cruise mob presence later. Crossing an 18th century, swingbridge, we entered the town proper. The walls of Fort Amsterdam, enclosing a towering palace of yellowish ocher, immediately came into view. Serving as the national seat of Curacao government now, this UNESCO World Heritage site, provided clear evidence to us about the Dutch legacy on this island.
Making our way seaward to a limestone jetty along a rocky beach, we reached an aging pier as land crabs scurried away from our presence to protective rocks over a crystal blue water scene. Resting in quiet contentment now, today had been cooler and a more fulfilling experience than the Aruba excursion before.
Crossing the lagoon again, we ascended to the Anthropology Museum, and viewed an amazing display of African and Middle East artifact and slave trade memorabilia. The most impressive parts of this “Smithsonian-quality” experience were the extensive collections of hieroglyphic writings on stone tablet, an actual boat from the slave trade, and the eerie African masks that added an element of “black magic” to the experience.
Classy but unpretentious, crowded yet tranquil, Curacao captured my attention today with minimal stress today. I picture this island with the cool name as a worthy stop today and it leaves me curious to explore further this island in future travels.