This past July, my sister Jinell and I went on our very first cruise. We visited four islands, Grand Turk (Turks & Caicos), The Dominican Republic, Aruba and Curaçao.
It was a bright, crisp day as we disembarked the ship. Jinell and I walked along the main pathway of Mega Pier in West Willemstad (Otrabanda), Curaçao. Various vendors selling souvenirs lined one side of the street, and the blue, glistening Santa Anna Bay, was on the other.
We walked through Renaissance Mall & Rif Fort, passing colorful buildings and hotels and climbed up a lookout point that had a beautiful view of the city and the bay. As we walked through Plaza Brión, on one of the old ships docked in the bay, I noticed the Venezuelan flag flying in the wind.
Wilemstad is split in two, Otrabanda (west) and Punda (east), which is connected by the Queen Emma Bridge.
On that particular day, the waters were torrentous and the bridge swayed with the tide. After being on a ship that was a bit rocky, I had already become accustomed to the movement. My sister, on the other hand was slightly freaking out.
In Punda, we strolled through the narrow streets, stopped at a couple of stores including a fabulous hair store until we found a nice place to sit. Honestly, it was a big slab of concrete located in the center of what looked to be a main road.
The city had free wi-fi and being disconnected from the world for over 12 hours, we immediately got on our phones. As we sat and chat, a strong cool breeze whipped past us. Suddenly, I heard a soft thumping beat. It took me a second to realize it was a drum. Then, almost out of nowhere, the man playing the drum started thumping louder and was joined by a guitar. The tempo quickly picked up and a strong tenor voice began to sing. We could hear but not see them as they played and sang on the far left side, presumably in front of a store or restaurant. The afro-beat song filled the street, and I could hear some locals singing along. As the song finished, the band segued into another song. One that had a distinct latin flair. Some locals passing by us, were speaking Spanish. I hadn’t noticed until that moment.
I was shocked. I had no real knowledge of Curacao prior to going. However, I knew the island had Dutch and West African roots. And that’s when it all clicked and I remembered the Venezuelan flag. As we made our way back to the bridge, I smiled. Once again reminded of why I love to travel. The nice little surprises and lessons a new place brings.
Curaçao has quickly become one of my favorite islands. The mixture of Dutch (the Netherlands), Latin (Venezuela) and West African culture displayed in their roadways and buildings, heard through their music and felt by their people makes me want to return and hopefully spend more than a couple of hours.