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On Our Way To The Beach!

We're headed to Curaçao for our honeymoon! The trip began with an ominous token of intrigue...

Not immediately obvious, but above is a lunar eclipse, even more fascinating that it lands on the equinox! Special days ahead!

We stayed in Burlingame the night before the trip so we would be close to our departing flight. No getting up at 3am in Oakland to travel all the way to SFO.

Our tour of the Caribbean begins at first class! Thanks Charles & Alayne for the gracious wedding gift; it turned out to be quite a treat.

Enjoying the flight with a few drinks. And biscuits!

Next stop is Miami and then on to Curacao!

Wine and a two course dinner on the flight to Curaçao as night falls outside the plane.

We'll be there soon!

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Warm (and humid!) Bon Bini to Curacao

We got to Atlantis Apartments, just west of Punda in Willemstad late Tuesday evening. After picking up our car (literally the same car, color and all, as Heather's Yaris back home) we immediately got lost driving through Curaçao's windy, unmarked roads. Luck would have it, and possibly my obsession with studying google maps prior to our trip, we arrived safely at our new home close to 9:30pm. I was a little bummed that the single bedroom home I had rented had two separate beds, but we dealt with and pushed the little guys together, prior to falling asleep.

But since we were on California time (as well as being excited to finally be on our honeymoon), we could not just stay in our seaside apartment.  We had to check out the sites that Willemstad had to offer. Downtown Willemstad looks like Disneyland with all the buildings along the water lit up.

The next morning, we scouted out our new spot. Ahh the Caribbean!

We started the day out by heading out for a little look around town. Our first stop was back down to the heart of Punda along Handelskade, home of the famous pastel buildings Curaçao is famous for. We caught breakfast at the Iguana Cafe; eggs, ham and croissants and a morning cocktail.

Of course...what's breakfast without a cocktail?

Above is the famous pontoon bridge that crosses St. Anna Bay, the mouth of the Schottegat Bay. We watched it open for a dinky little ship.

Curaçao is very Dutch.

After breakfast, we got rained on a little, then we headed back to our apartment in Yaris 2.

No need for car heat in the tropics!

After getting back from our adventure downtown, I met with our landlord Ingrid to discuss getting the internet working and almost as a second thought, I mentioned that I was a little disappointed that the two little beds we had pushed together did not exactly add up to the king size bed I had been expecting based on the website. Ingrid gave me a funny look and told me that I was wrong, there shouldn't be too small beds. We sat silent for a second and then she looked at me and smiled."You slept in the wrong room...". That didn't make sense. I'd booked a one room apartment. I guess somehow we got bumped up to a two bedroom place, possibly because the staff was aware of our honeymoon? Ingrid guided me back to the apartment and sure enough, the little door in the back of the apartment was not a closet, like Heather and I had guessed, but was in fact a much larger bedroom! With the king size bed and all. Not only that, but Donna, the maid, had carefully hand picked flowers to decorate the room. Quite a Caribbean welcome. A big surprise (and honestly a relief).

After a light bit of napping (Heather is the undisputed champ of napping) we got back on the road for a snack and ended up at Surf'n'Turn, just down the road headed east. That's

Mmmm...Chicken sate and morro. We hung out for a while and then went back on the road exploring. After a few twists and turns with no real direction in mind, we landed further east on the island at Jan Thiel, a resort and public beach. We relaxed and watched people swim, then had a couple of drinks and watched the sun set over Jan Thiel bay. We decided to come back later in the evening (if we could find it again!) and hang out for Unplugged, the weekly acoustic event. When we came back, the evening had drawn and folks were casually enjoying the sounds and lounging in the sand. We joined in.

Our first full day in Curaçao comes to a close. Good night.

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Ostriches and Playa Portamari

This morning started out better after sleeping in our newly found bed. We made an egg breakfast and planned out the day. To start, we would be visiting an ostrich farm (the largest outside of Africa) and then heading to Playa Portamari for a swim.

It has now become habit to aim the car in the general direction of our destination and "wing it". The island is small so we're not too worried about getting lost. The roads aren't very well marked so we're never really sure where we are. So far, though, we've always made our way.

The ostrich farm!

Our caravan.


An ostrich egg is about 2mm thick, but can hold the weight of a human.

After the tour, Heather bought us a bottle of Sentebibu, a locally made juice consisting of aloe vera pulp. I wasn't too thrilled.

After leaving the ostrich farm, I pointed the car west and we began the search for Playa Portamari, one of the many many beaches dotted along the south and west coasts of Curaçao. It was about a twenty minute drive through some pretty muddy back roads before we found it. Then...beachin it.

Amstel bright. not light. bright. All beer in Curaçao is served in little 8oz bottles, possibly to keep them from getting too warm.

Another beautiful sunset.

On the way out, we tripped across a few more oddities and interesting sites.

Heather's first flamingo sighting.

Good night again, more fun tomorrow!

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Hato Caves and Playa Cas Abou On Christmas Eve

This year Stuart and I are experiencing a new first as a couple, spending the holidays completely away from all family and friends.  Therefore we were quite curious about what the locals do during this time.  Well, the day pretty much goes on as usual with the stores closing around 6pm (some earlier if they are more rural).  So we planned for visiting the Hato Caves, stopping by the store for some Christmas lights, and lounging on a beach.

Our new friend, the castaway, now has a name: Pero. Or Perra...not quite sure...anyway this dog has been inching closer and closer for the past two days.  Pero has been a manifestation of Chester, of whom we miss dearly, and we have adopted as our own.  It all started when Stuart generously shared our hamburgers with her last night.  But we are not the only ones who have a soft spot for her, our neighbors three doors down have been feeding her as well.  In all honesty, I think she likes us the best because she has been camping out in a corner of our porch in the evenings.

A little closer...

After breakfast, we headed out for the day's first adventure, the Hato Caves on the north side of the island. The caves were formed naturally and have a colorful past. During Curaçao's early years, plantation owners kept slaves. Those that escaped would hide in the various caves throughout the hills, including the Hato caves. The residue of these escapees can be seen in the form of permanent ash on the ceilings from the torches and campfires kept. In addition to slaves, bats also call the caves home.

The window room, where the long-nose fruit bats escape at night to eat berries off the surrounding cacti.

the pathway to freedom...

Goodbye caves!

A quick lunch while headed northwest to find a beach to lie around on. We had no clue what we ordered at the snack shack by the gas station, but over all it was just the right amount of substance we needed to carry on.

Curaçao has numerous beautiful beaches. Our plan at this point is to pick a new one each day. Playa Cas Abou. I guess each day's post is going to contain a bunch of frolicking in turquoise water.

After the beach, we headed back to Otrabanda/Punda area for a bit of Christmas eve shopping. Heather and I will be exchanging small tacky gifts for Christmas eve, Christmas, and our newly discovered Dutch tradition, 2nd Christmas!  We finished up our day with a nice dinner at Pampus and indulging in a Duperroir family tradition, watching Christmas Story (sadly it was not in Papaimento).  At dinner we also learned that the locals attend 11pm mass and then head out to the bars afterward for some liquid salvation.

Punda, as seen from Otrabanda.

Merry Christmas eve!

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Rainy Christmas Day: Sea Aquarium

Merry Christmas all!

A Caribbean Christmas...

We woke this morning to rain. Not typical Caribbean rain, but the kind that stays around all day. We made some breakfast and headed off for some indoor entertainment at the Sea Aquarium east of our Apt at the end of Martin Luther King Weg. We got to see a few oddities up close, like the  caribbean spiny lobster which has no pincers. Other local fauna were on display, including the various colorful fish that inhabit the reefs. We got to see a sea lion show where Snapper clapped for us, danced and did a handstand.

Heather "petting" a shark.

Said shark being fed. Quite a pull.

Snapper doing a headstand.

After the Sea Aquarium visit, everything was pretty much closed up for the holiday. We finally stumbled onto a VERY overpriced buffet lunch (VERY) but it was the only spot open to get a bite to eat and we were starving.

We headed home and made dinner and chatted with the neighbors. Realizing that dinner was going to be a bit precarious, considering nothing was open, we headed out to search for an open market. After close to a half hour of driving, we found a Best Buy (not the electronics shop) that happened to be open for business. We got supplies for dinner and (quite possibly, according to some locals) the only set of Christmas lights on the island since yesterday's hunt for lights was unsuccessful. Heather used them to decorate up a palm tree outside our apartment, along with the "Santa on the beach" Christmas Tree ornament I gave her for Christmas (I also had Christmas music playing in the background while I hung up the lights to create more holiday cheer. What can I say, I am a sucker for holiday traditions-Heather).

Prior to hanging up the lights, we found out why they were the only ones left, only 1/3 of the lights actually lit up and there were no spare lights. Like a Macgyver, Stuart twisted two of the broken light wires together and got another 1/3 of them to light up. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the last third of our lights to turn on, but two-thirds is better than nothing. Concerned about exposed wires shocking someone, Stuart used band-aids from our first aid kit as electrical tape. I am a very lucky gal to have married a man who is quite witty as well as handy.

In lieu of hanging out with family, we hung out with Pero and the English couple next door. We carried on about light subjects like child labor, Hugo Chavez, English distaste for the French, the Palistinian/Israeli conflict, religion in general, the European Union's woes, etc. Light dinner talk mostly...Pero had no comment on either of these topics.

Overall, it was a relaxing Christmas day filled with good people, good food, and Christmas cheer.  It was a dream come true today for Pero because she was fed all of our leftovers.  As she sleeps tonight in safety of the corner of our porch, we know she will be dreaming of bones, sausages, hamburgers, and belly rubs.

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Second Christmas: Curacao Distillery & Playa Bluebaai

Second Christmas, or Boxing Day, started off with rain again, a continuation of yesterday's storm front.Not much of a sunrise, but a beautiful sky.

We started out lazy but then built up the energy to launch out on another adventure, this time to the Curaçao of Curaçao Distillery. The plantation isn't much of a tour. The Señor Mansion is the home of the original family that manufactures the liqueur and guests are free to roam around the premises and sample the drink as well as look at some of the ancient equipment used during the distillation and bottling.

Ancient Curaçao kitchen.

We left the distillery and headed down to the Maritime Museum to learn about the history of Willemstad and the neighborhoods around St. Anna Bay.

An old Dutch sailboat. In the old days, they were much larger than this.

We walked across the bridge to the Punda District in search of the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest functioning synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. We found it, but it was closed so we went in search of food instead. By this point, two massive cruise liners had docked and tourists were flooding the neighborhood. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant, which ended up not being very Mexican. Possibly what Europeans think of Mexican. Not sure. Heavy-handed curry in Mexican food? Maybe they confused the cumin for curry? Que mal...

Heather counting up our Guilders.

Lenticular facade.

More exploration back to the car.

We left Punda and headed for another beach excursion. This time, Blue Bay. This beach had much more of a resort feel with many bars and chairs and people. I tried out my snorkel mask which worked to some degree.

Silly Euro bathing suits.

Also known as the last picture taken with this camera (the underwater one) on this trip. The battery has died and naturally I forgot the incredibly rare and proprietary charger. Bummer, because we're going diving tomorrow morning.

Back at home we grilled over the charcoal and carried on with our neighbors and new friends, Kevin and Cheryl, both avid divers and residents of the UK. Kevin is into cricket and "Don't get me started..." sentences. Cheryl has an underwater camera and she shared a lot of dazzling photographs of their subterranean journeys.

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Intro Reef Dive and Playa Forti

This morning began at 9am at the Atlantis Diving Center (also owners of the apt we are staying in). Heather and I signed up for an introduction to SCUBA diving. After watching a 45 minute DVD and a few instructions, we were carted down to Pieterbaai and placed in the water. Along with two other Dutchmen, we descended into the reef surrounding the bay. It was a truly magical experience! There are so many colors, fish and shapes and plants; there truly is another world beneath the ocean surface. Ironically, the camera that I had bought for shooting underwater, the one that died the day before, would have been useless at the depths we went to. I guess it worked out for the best, but no pictures to show for it :(

Scuba diving was such a strange but eye-popping experience!  I was a bit nervous and had to get use to breathing dry air while my body was completely submerged, but Stu was like a fish to water.  I think the most joy I got out of our dive today (besides seeing the remarkable sea life literally at my fingertips) was seeing the happiness that this brought to my husband.  Diving totally bridged his curiosity and love for for aquatic life together.  He was so taken way with the beauty of the ocean, he swam a bit to deep and far from the group and our instructor's liking.  I had to laugh because he often strays too far on land when we go on excursions together.

After the dive, Heather and I agreed to take the full open water certification course, so we get to do a lot of diving in the next week. After completing the course, we'll both be certified to dive, without an instructor, to depths of 18 meters (60 ft), anywhere in the world. Should be a fun few days.

Following the morning dive, we drove all the way to the west end of the island to Westpunt to hang out at Playa Forti. I had read about this spot having a large cliff overlooking the water and I was determined to jump off of it

I on the other hand was not so determined and for several good reasons. First, I am not a very strong swimmer therefore I lack confidence in my ability to swim in giant bodies of water.  Then I also had my contacts in and salt water stings.  Ahh!  So in common sense, I was avoiding a potential panic attack if I had actually jumped, right?  I know that these two reason may sound silly for someone who just signed up for open water scuba certification, but when you are scuba diving, you have a mask (eye protection from the H2O) and a BCD (a vest-like unit to help you obtain buoyancy) which equals out to I am safe from drowning.  Lastly, I just was not compelled to throw myself off a cliff.  I stood on the edge and thought no way, so left the risk taking to good ol' Stu.

There's a small restaurant up on the cliff that we climbed up to. People were milling around, building up the courage to jump off the cliff above.

This is a profile of a man who accomplished two great feats today.

This girl watched her friends go, but never could build up the courage to go off the 40 ft drop.

There was also a crowd of Air Force guys who were taking the plunge...This guy gets the medal for the fanciest dive.

A few street dogs did not seem fazed by the height, but the heat was overwhelming.

Here's my fancy jump:

Off home to another grilling on the porch and studying for our course tomorrow!

When we got home, after dinner, the neighbors started blasting off fireworks. The people of Curaçao LOVE their fireworks. The noise was getting old, but it was quite a site!

Someone is getting braver and braver...

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Another Day of Dive Classes & El Toro Express

Not much scenery to report. We spent the day in a classroom, or two actually, one on land and the other underwater. We learned new skills today and dived a new site, right out in front of our apartment.

Some dive literature.

After a full day of classes, we watched the sun set and then headed out for dinner at El Toro Express, a little restaurant a few blocks down the street. We struggled through a menu and tried to order a few things, but most of the food had been reserved for a large party coming in at the same time. The place only seats about 20 people. It was still great!

Our backyard...

Our neighbors, Cheryl and Kevin.


More class tomorrow...ugg!  We have to just think happy thoughts...2 more days and well will be certified open water divers! :)

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Tugging Along

Today was our second day of PADI open water diver course at Atlantis Diving.  After this class, we are two-thirds done with our certification. We are just trying to keep our eyes on the prize.

We started our day out like this: greeting everyone in our diving group, watching a video, reviewing and answering questions from the chapters we read, taking a quiz, getting our equipment ready for use and going out to place to practice our skills.  It was at the practicing skills part of the day that sent me on a downward spiral. Prior to practicing any scuba skills, it was required that we had to swim 200 meters and float/tread water for 10 minutes.  This was one of the many things I have been dreading since we started this new venture because like I have said before, I am NOT a strong swimmer and I can easily get freaked out when I can't touch the bottom of a body of water without a life jacket.  I swear when we started this activity it was the longest 25 minutes or so of my life, not to mention it was the longest distance I think I have ever swam.  After this whole ordeal was done with, I was literally weak in the knees and light headed while everyone else shrugged off the activity like it was nothing.

It took me a couple of minutes and a few sips of water to get me back on track with the rest of the class.  Once we were all suited up, we jumped back into the water for some more underwater skills and then I encountered another problem...being unable to equalize due to congestion.  When  I was able to take care of that problem, then it seemed like I would encounter another challenge and another.  Few of the challenges were fine for me to master when I was able to calm myself down, while others felt I couldn't do them correctly at all regardless of how I felt. I just wanted the day to end.

When we finally got to go out on a dive during the last part of our day, our instructor took the class to a place called Tugboat.  What do we find under the surrounding water at Tugboat? A sunken tugboat. Once again I am bogged down by more challenges that I felt like I couldn't get a grasp on during our dive. Grrr!!! I thought scuba diving was suppose to be fun (at least that what the video and everyone else kept telling me), but now it feels like a chore. In all retrospect, there are three positives that I can pull out from a day filled with negatives (1) I learned that I love jumping in the water with the scuba gear on, (2) I am almost done with this process, and (3) I got to see a sunken vessel teaming with sea life, now that is something you do not get to see everyday.

Which way to scuba class?

A mini model of Atlantis Diving.

Kunt, fellow scuba classmate

Morning Tea

Our instructor, Yves.

Fritz, fellow scuba classmate and the father of Kunt's girlfriend

Paling around.

Whoa, single rainbow all the way!!

Sunset chats have become a ritual here with our new Atlantis family.

Cheryl and Kevin gave us helpful tips on purchasing diving gear while admiring the scenery beyond our patio.

And now for some sunset photos from our ocean view terrace...

Ahhh...the good life! :)

For dinner, we decided to head back to El Toro Express to try out more of their menu.  Prior to going out for dinner, Stuart made a Google phone call to Darcy, a Curaçao native, who explained the tradition (or superstition) of lighting vuurweks (Dutch for fireworks) around the New Year. Darcy said that fireworks are set off to scare off all the bad luck from the previous year, so another year can be started off fresh.  On the island, people start setting off fireworks around the 26th or so of December, and the frequency of blasts increases more and more the closer it gets to New Year's Day.  But after the 2nd day of January, the "Polis" will start citing people. So along the way to El Toro Express, Stuart had to stop and pick up a few vuurwerks at a neighborhood stand.  All I have to say is...Pop would be tickled pink about the selection of vuurwerks for sale here.  On the island, these are not just your typical safety firework like back home in the States, they are actually the illegal kind..aka the good kind! ;)

When we finally arrived at our dinner spot, we were greeted by the owner, Junior, who immediately recognized us from the night before. Luckily tonight's menu wasn't compromised by a large party coming in. After we ordered our meal, we talked with Junior for awhile and he introduced us to his family.  We started a conversaiton with his sister, Jackie.  She told us about how and where she lived in the US and her hopes to move back. In addition to meeting his family, Junior also introduced us to some Americans who happened to be grabbing a bite as well.  It seemed to us that Junior wanted everybody who walked into place to be friends, thus completing the elements of a great place to eat...good food, good people, good vibe. Not only leaving your stomach full, but your spirit as well.

Junior, the owner of El Toro Express


Jackie, Junior's sister.  She confessed to us that last year, she did not set off any fireworks and it just so happened that this year had been a terrible year for her. So the lesson learned from today is to light many vuurworks as possible on New Years.  On second thought, perhaps I should light and throw some vuurwerks to ward off any bad luck looming from today's scuba lesson for a hope of a better tomorrow.

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Open Water Certified and Certifiably Sick

Today was the final course day for our open water diver certification class. We arrived at the dive center at 9am, put together our diving kits and set off for Portamari, a beach we had visited earlier last week. The weather was ideal, very sunny. After swimming out past the breakers, we descended down for a little review of skills that we had acquired over the last few days, like removing the face mask, sharing air with another diver, neutral buoyancy, etc. Following the review, we took a stroll through 1/2 of the Portamari reef on the southern end, hovering around 10 meters depth. Quite a lot of life going on there! We saw two spotted eagle rays, a flounder and a yellowhead jawfish. The jawfish lives in an interesting cooperation with a little crab. The crab excavates a hole in the ground, which the jawfish hovers above. During a moment of danger, the jawfish will pop down into the crab's hole lightning fast. In this way, the crab stays protected by the jawfish, and the jawfish has a place to hide.

After lunch and our final exam (Heather and I both passed!) we headed back to the northern reef at Portamari for a final swim. I recorded my deepest descent at 18 meters (almost 60 ft), the limit I'm allowed to dive as a certified open water diver. The second reef was better than the first! We saw a few eels, a couple angel fish, another flounder and down at the bottom I witnessed some really interesting, tiny shrimp that had phosphorescent details. After the dive, we tore down the gear, filled out our first dive log and then called it a session. We're done!

Unfortunately, whatever throat/lung/sinus infection Heather has been dealing with throughout this last week has spread to me. Ukk. We'll be arguing with this bug for a few more days, I have a feeling.

When we got home last night, we dropped by the grocery store and finished up our grocery shopping for the next few days. We hope to stick to eating as much locally prepared food as possible, time allowing. A lot of shops are shutting down on New Years Eve and will stay closed through the new year. Following local tradition, Heather shopped us out some fire crackers to blast off the old year and welcome the new one. These things are lethally loud.

For New Years Eve, we'll be taking it easy to combat our bug and relax after a grueling few days of diving.


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New Year's Eve (or Old Year's Day)

Having now completed our open water diving course, Heather and I were happy to get back to the business of vacation; lounging around and taking walks, etc. We began the day with breakfast and a final chat with Cheryl & Kevin who were headed back to England early in the afternoon. Following the slow course of the day we lounged out and then took a stroll down Pietermaai toward Punda. Along the way we saw some interesting sites and met some interesting people!

Cheryl's last morning with Stinky.

Interesting Dutch architecture along Pietermaai.

Family of four?

This house was for sale (te koop). A fixer upper, to say the least, but also a cool opportunity to grab a really old house and bring it back to glory. Some of the restorations we saw were fantastic.

This house HAS to be haunted.

We got this far into the back of the house before being chased out by a dog.

We took a quick break to check out the Avila Hotel, also the home of the Blues Club, which we plan to check out for dinner and relaxation on New Year's Day.

Headed back to home, towards Oranjestraat. Caribbean Painted Ladies :)

In an alley headed towards Oranjestraat.

Some interesting characters live on Oranjestraat!

We crossed back down to Pietermaai from Oranjestraat for the last leg of the walk back home. We came across a guy, I think his name was Gale, grilling with his family. Heather and I smiled and commented on how good it smelled, and without any prompting, Gale immediately asked his daughter to prepare us a plate to go. Very generous and very good meat! As run down as this neighborhood may look on the outside, it overflows with generous, friendly and vibrant people.

Gale's friend or son applying more of the special sauce to some ribs.

A gift for the Americans! A taste of Curaçao.

Back at the Atlantis Diving Center (also our apartment complex) it was close to 1pm and time to begin scaring away the old year and welcoming the new year. In Curaçao, most businesses invest in a pagara to light off. A pagara is a very long rope of firecrackers that blast off one by one. In the case of Atlantis, the strand was 500k long! To round out the event, the diving instructors all came prepared with a few of their own, including the Goon Lee in Heather's left hand and the unassuming but powerful "stamp" triangular cracker in Heather's right. The latter packs a surprisingly heavy blast!

Mid to aftermath of the 500k long pagara ignited by the Atlantis staff. The entire city of Willemstad was covered in this red pagara residue!

Janik (dive instructor) and Stu blasting off a few in front of Atlantis Diving Center.

Fuego Mejor.

Ingrid, matron of Atlantis, with a napkin tulip.

After an extended nap, we decided to lurk around to see if anyone was serving food in town. As expected, most businesses had shut down their kitchens and we're only serving drinks. In other cases, businesses were shut down all together, leaving behind the tell-tale mound of red pagara paper.

On a walk to the Seaside Restaurant, Heather and I met Isidro. Isidro immediately launched into a sermon on the quirks and resolutions of marriage and then lead us in prayer, something resembling a Pentecostal/Catholic mish-mash. A long prayer. After the prayer, Isidro lectured me on calling out honesty in men. According to him, "you can't trust a man with anything like money or help unless he is willing to show his identification. Ask him for his identification. If he does not provide this, then he is not to be trusted."

Isidro can apparently be trusted.

The sun was setting, so I had to take advantage of the golden light...

Unfortunately the Seaside was closed, so we headed back to the apartment for some sandwiches and then got ready to walk down to Punda for the New Year celebration. On the walk down, we met two Alaskans who were headed the same direction. Talk about fish out of water; the mother and daughter were actually from North Pole, Alaska. They get mail every year from thousands of children all over the world.

Downtown Punda was in celebration. We hit the dance floor. The men were happy to see Heather, then the only girl, out dancing!

At some point we came across our dive instructor friends. Being that we don't speak Dutch, it was nice of them to keep the evening in English for our benefit. Nice folks!

Janik and Linda.

Yves (our dive instructor) and some tourists. I think he was having a bit of fun at their expense, grabbing the most glamorous one he could find to pose with him :)



Happy New Year!

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All Is Quiet (in Curaçao) On New Year's Day

New Year's Day in Curaçao means another day of all businesses closing down and generally quiet neighborhoods (except for the firecrackers). We went driving around the island to do some investigating. Heather had picked up on an advertisement for a spa that offers a fish cleaning service. Basically, you stick your legs in a pool of water and some kind of semi-carnivorous fish supposedly cleans off the dead skin around your feet. I would hope that this activity is monitored by some kind of professional.

The spa was closed so we drove down to the Beth Haim Jewish cemetery, believed to be one of the oldest cemeteries in the western hemisphere occupied by Europeans. The site dates back to 1659, and some grave stones still exist from the 350 year mark. An extra layer of creepiness is the Isla oil refinery in the background of the cemetery. It feels like two stages of death.

We left the cemetery and headed back down to Punda (downtown Willemstad) for some lunch and leisure walking around. It was quiet.

Do these guys look like "after church party" types to you?

Per chance we saw our Alaskan friends again!

After getting back home, we decided to take a little stroll up to Mambo Beach. We ran into our dive friend Kunt and his family (Fritz was passed out on a chair)

Following the beach, we headed home for a while and then walked down to Blues, a restaurant that hangs off the back of the luxurious Avila Hotel. The food was not that fantastic, but it was still a pleasant experience. Heather had a vegetarian pasta and I had the rib eye jazz, which is basically a rib eye with some peppers, onions, mushrooms and sausage and potato chips.

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Westpunt and the North Coast

Today we milled around the island, trying to enjoy any other thing we may have missed along the way.  Our daily adventure lead us to Otrabanda at the Kura Hulanda Hotel because we had no luck in scheduling in a last minute ostrich ride.  :( I guess we will have to save that excursion for when we return.  Anyway, Kura Hulanda means the Dutch Courtyard. The entire compound stretches 8 small blocks that were restored back to their Dutch glory. We stopped in at the spa to make an appointment for a 2 person massage tomorrow afternoon.

After checking out Kura Hulanda, we drove around Otrabanda and got a neat shot of the Queen Juliana Bridge.

A few shots overlooking downtown Willemstad taken from the Queen Juliana Bridge. On the left side of St Anna Bay, or the east side, is the Punda district. The west side is Otrabanda.

We drove west again in the afternoon to check out a few beaches in Westpunt.

Playa Lagun.

After leaving Playa Lagun, we headed north to try to get a view of the northern coast of Curaçao. The north coast is basically a moonscape, uninhabited by people, plants or animals. The strong trade winds blast this shores constantly, drawing massive waves and incredibly violent water. The ground is made of volcanic stones, mostly jagged and difficult to walk over. Trash from various northern islands and cruise ships litters the shores all over with no one interested in cleaning it up. Basically, it is one of the ugliest and most beautiful meetings of water and land I have ever witnessed. Not specifically geared for the tourist.

small life appears occasionally.

We walked over 200 yards of razor sharp volcanic rock. Probably basalt?

Plastonia. The shores are just covered. Not exactly sea shells...

violent waves.

primitive forms of human development?

a bit of grass.

A wrecked car carefully placed.

Back at home it was rib eyes and veggies over the flame while Heather reads an Apple.

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The Curacao Finale

As the fireworks and noise dies down in Curaçao, so does our trip to the Caribbean. We spent our final day doing what do best, exploring. Venturing back to the north coast for another round of big waves and rocky coast, we launched out onto a spot north of Christoffelpark called Shete Boka. Getting out to this spot was considerably easier than yesterday's journey across mean rocks. Today was more pebble path than no-man's land.

A view from the cave at the beginning of Shete Boka where waves come crashing in and sea spray explodes. There is a heavy bass umph every time a wave eclipses the cavern's opening, sending a rumble out the pedestrian entrance along with a cloud of salty air.

More violence from the rocky north coast of Curaçao.

Temporary rainbows appear during a crashing wave. This apparently only works when the sun positioned just so.

After leaving Shete Boka Park, we traveled back to our apartment for some lunch and then headed downtown to the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel synagogue in Punda. The sanctuary was very interesting. I was required to place a kippah on my head to enter. The floor was completely covered in sand and light came from blue glass windows (and my trusty flash).

Following our synagogue visit and the adjoining museum, we walked across the Queen Emma swinging pontoon bridge to Otrabonda and then up to Kura Hulanada for a couple's massage. No pictures of this even, I'm sorry. It was like a time warp anyway.

of course, a drink after the massage to relax.

Once again, a tropical vacation that wrecks my feet.

Sir, the man sitting next to you...

Back home, our final few moments on Drielstraat at the Atlantis Diving Center. Thanks again Ingrid and all!

Bon Voyage. Our trip to Curaçao comes to a close.

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