Escape to Dushi “Sweet” Curacao
By Ronda M. Parag
A recent trip to the beautiful island of Curacao made me realize how small the world really is. I discovered several people from the Tampa Bay area that grew up on the island, located in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea and 35 miles from Venezuela; and spent an evening out on the town in Curacao with a friend who was born there and lived 14 years in the U.S., but recently returned to her homeland. Traveling certainly brings friends and family together and the opportunity to realize that, as humans, we aren’t really all that different.
In the local language of Papiamentu, “dushi” means sweet and if referring to a person, “sweetheart.” After my short stay, I’d say the island is “dushi” and I certainly want to return. Curacao is welcoming to tourists and offers many different type of experiences. The locals speak multiple languages, usually Papiamentu, English, Dutch and Spanish, so conversing is easy. American Airlines via Miami, makes access to the island an easy three hour flight. As part of the ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, these islands offer plenty of water activities and exquisite diving experiences. The crystal clear blue waters, variety of sea life and sunken shipwrecks are ideal for novice divers. Numerous beaches each have their own feel and flavor from family friendly sugar-white sands, to the more remote and rocky romantic. Be sure to visit the Shete Boka National Park on the western shore of Curacao, where the white caps crash into the “bokas” or coves and the views are spectacular. A fun activity that requires no diving experience is the new Aquafari Excursion. After a quick lesson on how to operate the underwater scooter, guests are gliding under the water to see all the exciting marine life.
Willemstad is the capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. The ideal way to discover Willemstad is with a Walking Food and City Tour by local guide, Clarita Hagenaar. Clarita greets and smiles, as everyone seems to know her. She is extremely knowledgeable about the island and was delighted to showcase it. We walked the Queen Emma Bridge across the St. Anna Bay, which divides the city in two – Punda in the east and Otrobanda to the west. Locals call the bridge the “Swinging Old Lady” or “Pontoon Bridge,” as there are literally 16 pontoons that hold up the bridge. There were several stops that allowed the group to taste local foods. The tastiest stop included lunch at the Plasa Bieu, an open air lunch market with long picnic style tables. Local cuisine included different stews such as Yuana (iguana stew), Kabritu Stoba (goat stew), Jamba (okra & seafood soup) and Karko (conch). The portions were large and the prices very reasonable, (about $8 US per plate). Out on the West End, be sure to dine at Jaanchies in Westput. The colorful and friendly owner and his sons serve local cuisine and recite the menu to patrons. The fresh fish and goat and iguana stews are prepared daily and really delicious. A visit to The Floating Market also offered a peek into the local Venezuelan traders that dock their boats filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and fish. Locals usually shop everyday for their evening meals. For a chic, ultra evening, the Papagayo Restaurant creates an atmosphere that you might find in Miami. The sleek furniture and décor and delicious dining should be on the must-do list.
There are numerous hotels, apartments and small inns that are available for lodging. From the well-known, family friendly Hilton Curacao, to the more romantic and intimate, Kontiki Beach Resort, a week’s stay in Curacao will leave you recharged and refreshed, and longing to return to this “dushi” island. M
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