The inner city and harbour of Willemstad have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site which made it a pretty good place to start our exploration of the island. If you google Willemstad, Curacao’s capital city, chances are you’ll find a picture of the colourful buildings lining Sint Anna Bay, so I’ll save you the trouble.
Of course, before we could explore Willemstad we had to get there, which just might have cost us our ‘parents of the year’ award.
That’s right, I don’t think we’re going to win the award for 2013. Sure I was probably never even in the running, but maybe Katy was, at least until we got here.
We rode in a taxi… without a car seat… twice. I know. Not safe. Even worse, we didn’t have Ella in the ergo carrier which we normally use to convince ourselves that she’s at least somewhat safe. (Since I’m in a confessing mood, we also let her eat food that’s fallen on the ground… even after more than 5 seconds have elapsed.)
You know what though, Ella kind of loved it. I think she’s a bit of daredevil. She quite enjoyed standing on our laps in the middle seat of a rickety old van with wind that feels like it’s coming out of an oven blowing through her sweaty, matted “island hair” (as Katy likes to call it). It’s not something we’re going to make a habit of, but we’ve learned that the occasional calculated risk is a necessary thing when travelling.
Ok, I feel better having got that off my chest.
Floating markets and bridges, but no floating iguana
Though it’s not a big city, Willemstad’s natural deep water harbour makes it a popular cruise ship stop and regionally important seaport. In fact, you might be fascinated to learn that it is the Caribbean’s largest oil handling port. Save that little tidbit for quiz night! (You’re welcome.)
The two main districts in Willemstad, Punda and Otrabanda are separated by Sint Anna Bay. Since 1888 it’s been possible to cross from one side to the other using the Queen Emma Bridge. A hinged pontoon bridge that swings out of the way so large vessels can pass. The descriptions we read before arriving made this swinging seem like a sight not to be missed. Unfortunately, the bridge stayed in it’s standard bridgey form the whole time we were in town. Of course, those same descriptions also said the bridge opened every 30 minutes, so maybe they just didn’t know what they were talking about.
Having walked back and forth across the bridge we headed over to the floating market. The market is really just series of boats, mostly from Venezuela, tied up along the harbour’s edge. Thanks to captain nappy pants, I think we arrived a little late for the fish portion of the market. The other boats had primarily tourist trinkets on offer but we picked up a little drum for Ella to torment us with back home.
Before heading back to our hotel we stopped off at the local food market where the driver of our airport transfer had recommended eating. We were pleased to find that there were a a large number of locals eating so we were fairly confident that it wasn’t just a tourist trap.
Sadly, at least where we ate, there was no iguana soup on the menu so I settled for goat and Katy had some mixed vegetable while Ella wandered around making friends.
We definitely didn’t see everything Willemstad has to offer, but we were happy to get a taste of the town. After a death defying taxi ride back to the hotel and a quick nap it was time to hit the pool at the hotel next to ours. It seems our hotel chose this week to fix their pool, but at least they arranged for us to get access to the neighbouring hotel pools.