enRoute magazine (© ©2009 Spafax Canada Inc.)
Updated: December 31, 2012 | By Karen Burshtein, enRoute magazine

5 Shades of Curaçao



On Canvas

Curaçao’s most dynamic art is housed in bright galleries that were once landhuizen (plantation houses). Curaçao is a different island. “We don’t have light filtering through hills. The sun here is head on,” says Luisette Verboom, whose family rebuilt the crumbling Landhuis Habaai into the Gallery Alma Blou . Drop by to admire first-rate works including Hortence Brouwn’s native limestone sculptures, coral-inspired ceramics from Dutch expat Ellen Spikstra and Boy Namias de Crasto’s abstract oil paintings. The Landhuis Bloemhof gallery built in 1735 is also well curated with island-inspired works from top local artists like Yubi Kirindongo and Ellen Spijkstra and expats Philippe Zanolino and Midzy. For a neon-coloured take on island scenery – think beach views and native cottages – visit artist Nena Sanchez ’s landhuis-cum-gallery for small prints you can take home. Make sure to look up as little yellow warblers often fly through the open windows.

At the Market

At the floating market in Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital, vendors hailing from nearby Venezuela hawk eye-catching produce, like spiny green komkomber and pawpaw fruit, along with freshly caught fish amid a flurry of languages. (Everyone in Curaçao speaks a rainbow of tongues, the official ones being Dutch and Papiamento, a blend of Dutch, African languages, Spanish, Portuguese and French.) We were particularly taken with a pair of electric blue fish offered to us by our fishmonger, whose aquamarine eyes perfectly reflected the hue of the fish’s scaly flesh. The sellers live on board wooden boats and stay on the arid island for months at a time while compatriots provide them with daily shipments of fruits, vegetables, fish and spices.

On the Menu

Would you expect a cocktail from this island to be anything less than vibrant? If you want to see how the laraha orange peel is used to make what is likely Curaçao’s most famous export, Blue Curaçao liqueur, visit the 115-year-old factory in the Landhuis Chobolobo . Cab it or drive to Willemstad to nab lunch on the terrace at Gouverneur de Rouville restaurant, which has uninterrupted views of the waterfront Handelskade, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 17th-century Crayola-coloured Dutch gabled buildings. Local specialties include pika hasa, a spicy dish of red snapper, and stoba, a dish of papaya and salted beef that is a savoury and sweet holdover from the days when meat was shipped salted.

At the Hotel

The lobby at the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino in Willemstad is a veritable Pantone catalogue of poufs, ottomans and carpets, with supergraphic walls adding even more impact. Located near both the town’s upscale shopping district and the Queen Emma Pontoon swinging bridge – an engineering marvel that locals call the Swinging Old Lady – the hotel offers a man-made beach, complete with white sand, palm trees and an infinity pool that seems to spill into the Caribbean. Less frenetic than the lobby scene but no less colourful is the hotel spa’s Pomegranate Cran-Apple All Over Body Scrub, made with pomegranate juice, cranberry and apple.

Underwater

The intimate white sand beaches on the west side of the 61-kilometre-long island overlook a blue sea. Curaçao’s reefs fringe the coast, treating even close-to-shore snorkellers to gardens of coral and schools of marine life. One of the best snorkelling sites on the island is Curaçao Underwater Marine Park . Flipper kick your way through the 19 kilometres of coral landscape and colourful fish, and you’ll see why the subaquatic scene has made Curaçao a diver’s and snorkeller’s paradise as well as an inspiration for artists.

Originally published in enRoute magazine .

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