I started writing this from my hotel bed on Wednesday, in front of the Tonight Show, because I couldn’t get to sleep. It wasn’t because I was having a bad time, or that I wasn’t relaxed, or that there were college students having a kegger in the room next door. It’s because I had a cup of very strong European coffee after dinner, and I was waiting for the caffeine to wear off.
Curacao itself is the largest of three southern Caribbean islands (Aruba and Bonaire) off the coast of Venezuela, and features a full-sized runway, which avoided the need for a puddle-jumper connecting flight. The hotel we chose, the Mariott, is situated away from the center of the island’s largest town, and has been a quiet oasis where we both regressed to levels of sloth not seen since the height of the Roman Empire. We had a few requirements when we were looking for our destination: Jen wanted a beach where people would serve us drinks while we sunbathed. We both wanted a hotel away from civilization but with enough amenities to make it feel like we weren’t doing time in the joint. We also wanted to have a vacation where we weren’t focused on going and doing and seeing and learning, but sleeping and drinking and napping and sunning. I’m proud to say our longest hike was the one from the beach back to the hotel room (or maybe to the restaurant on Friday night. Oh, the horror.)
Everything about the trip was fantastic. The flight down featured a surprise, which made rising at 3am for the taxi worthwhile: the only remaining seats available were in First Class, so we suffered the comfy seats, ample legroom, warmed mixed nuts, multiple wine refills, and jealous glances of the rabble in steerage on both legs of the trip southward. It will be hard to go back to Economy.
The weather has been perfect-we lounged on deck chairs under brilliant blue skies all week, and got more sun than we probably deserved. The beach at the hotel featured soft, tan sand and crystal blue water; the wind blew steadily across our chairs hard enough to warrant weighting down our towels, cutting the heat and humidity of the day back to a pleasant warmth. And yes, after an hour or so, a smiling woman stopped over to offer us cold alcoholic beverages. Perfect.
Curacao is noted for its diving and snorkeling, and we saw some breathtaking fish 20 feet off the hotel beach (but couldn’t be bothered to schedule a snorkeling trip-this was about the leisure, after all) and enjoyed cooling off in the bathwater-like ocean. At one point, I was surrounded by a cloud of striped grunts and sergeant majors, watching a small yellow wrasse clean the mouth of a queen parrotfish as a long, narrow trumpetfish floated above us, nose down, surveying the rocks and brain coral below. Out over the sand, yellow goatfish quietly schooled as needlefish patrolled overhead. Instead of spending time getting certified (or re-certified), we were happy to snorkel at our leisure, and that was perfect.
Wednesday we broke down and left the siren song of the beach and the pool to explore Willemstad, the main city on the island, which is a pleasant mixture of European sophistication and island charm. In the central section of town, we found palm-lined streets lined with open air cafes, and after wandering the streets and alleys for a while, we stopped to have a cold beer.
After a while, the people next to us struck up a conversation, and as it turned out, the woman had lived in Baltimore for six years until moving to Texas earlier this year to be with her new fiancee. So we had a lot to talk about, and after agreeing to meet up in town for dinner the next time they visited, we parted ways and continued our wandering.
Our hotel was a perfect mixture of convenience and solitude; the ability to find something to eat at 11PM was only tempered by the fact that it was hotel food–a few crucial steps above eating out of vending machines (which I’ve done.) After sampling pretty much every offering at the hotel, Jen suggested we try a restaurant down the street called Hook’s Hut on Friday, which turned out to be an open-air beachfront establishment with a run-down repair shed vibe, but which served excellent seafood and cold drinks.
The following night we tried a place called Sjallotte, a european-flavored restaurant conveniently located across the street but hidden within another hotel’s grounds. Once we’d found the actual hostess desk, we were seated near the kitchen (which was not a bad seat at all) and enjoyed a delicious meal in the cool evening air.
Everyone on the island couldn’t be friendlier, kinder, or more helpful. Our final days were filled with a mixture of happiness and sorrow as the hours ticked down until we had to leave.
Postscript: Avoid flying through the Miami airport, especially if it’s an international connection. Saturday evening, we got in from Curacao and had to go through border security, then pick up our checked baggage, drag it through customs, and then attempt to figure out what to do next. We were technically outside the airport with our bags, so we had to re-check them and go through security again before walking across the airport to reach our connecting flight. Predictably, they lost our luggage, so we caught a cab home and filed a claim over the phone.