I chose Curaçao because I was freezing in Prague and wanted someplace warm. Boy, did it deliver. For good measure it threw in magnificent cactus formations and one very painful scorpion sting. And it drained me with the oppressive humidity.
Despite, that, here are the highlights:
- Great ocean views
- Blue Curaçao liqueur
- Unreliable utilities
- A very strange language
Oh wow. These alone were worth the price of admission. Too humid? Go walk on the coast. No electricity? Go walk on the coast. Scorpion sting? Go walk on the coast.
(He was hiding in my backpack and stung my hand when I reached in. I may never be able to blindly reach into that bag again. Instead I just grab things by the corner and shake them hard. No photos, because I squished him.)
Every morning I would step outside as soon as I woke up and see that view. It made everything worth it. I even took a job interview with it as the background.
I ate nearly every lunch and dinner by the ocean. I snacked on a dutch cheese sandwich with arugula and figs. I drank a Blue Curaçao piña colada. I dined on barracuda. (The latter was purely for the sake of experience. Not my favorite meal.)
The interior of the island has a starker beauty. Craggy fields that reminded me of Ireland, but with more cactus and fewer clouds. Or the flamingo marsh that needed a few more inches of water to be blue instead of brown. I did enjoy how colorful the landhouses and downtown buildings were.
Blue Curaçao Liqueur
I know I’ve seen cocktail menus that mention Blue Curaçao among the ingredients. I’m not a connoisseur of hard alcohol, so I didn’t really know what it was. It’s a pretty interesting story about how the Spanish tried to grow Valencia oranges in Curaçao, but they shriveled up instead. The peels, however, had very concentrated orange oils that were then used to make alcohol. (Pretty ingenious.)
I got to visit a tasting room where they make authentic Blue Curaçao. They also make it in green, orange, red, and clear. They aren’t very happy that there are so many knock-off version. My favorite comment was “you can’t trademark a country.” (They need to try an “appellation controlée” system.)
I’m getting better at knowing what’s important to me in an Airbnb. Traveling by myself, I know I need internet just to stay in touch. I also need an air-conditioner if it’s going to be 90 degrees and 100% humidity.
The first surprise came when my host said I could only use air-conditioning in one room, and only at night. Electricity is just too expensive on the island. Not what I’d signed up for, but I don’t want to be wasteful either. So when I found myself sweating too much, it was time to go outdoors where there was a breeze. Or take a drive in my rental car, where the a/c runs off the engine.
The second surprise was that the wifi stopped working every evening. A.k.a., right when I wanted it the most. Fortunately my job interviews were in the mornings.
The third surprise was when the electricity cut out altogether. Now you’re really cramping my style. I guess you can’t expect an island paradise to come with integrated digital infrastructure. (But that would make it even paradise-ier)
That’s A Strange Language
The language convenience almost made up for the frustrating utilities. English is an official language. So are Dutch, and something called Papiamentu. Dutch is fully legible when you know German. Most of the airbnb listings I read were in Dutch, and were easy to comprehend.
Papiamento is…strange. I could only pick out a few words when I heard it. But then I read it. It looked like German/Dutch mixed with French and Portuguese/Spanish. Sorta made my head spin since I’ve studied all of those except Dutch. Still, I was quite happy to see how many signs and menus I could read, though I stuck with English for speaking.
I would rate Curaçao as a place to visit sometime. If you’re a cruise person, there are plenty that go there. If you’re a camper, you’d love the landscape away from the port city, and also the beaches. Or you can just get an Airbnb somewhere in between. Just bring your own generator and a/c unit.
Finally… this is what a sabbatical is about!