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Netherlands Antilles

Curacao Day 10: Annoying Bubbles and a Miami Surprise

The next day was our last full day on the island and unfortunately, Mike was having a full-blown flare-up. He needed to rest but he didn't want me to waste my day doing nothing so I decided to go back to Playa Lagun for a snorkeling visit. I loaded up the car with my gear and the underwater camera and set off. I spent a wonderful hour snorkeling and taking lots of pictures. I saw so many different fish hiding in the rocks. Since it was a Friday, it was much less crowded than the Sunday we were there before. I was very excited about the pictures I had taken. When I got back to the house and checked the camera, however, I discovered a big problem. I had forgotten to take the lens off and remove the air bubble that forms when you submerge the camera so NONE of my pictures had turned out. Talk about a huge disappointment!

After I returned, we drove around and took some pictures of our neighborhood. It was filled with houses of all different colors.


At this rather run-down property, someone was building a wooden boat by hand.

This was the little grocery store we visited almost every day for snacks, Cokes, and beer.

Just before leaving for dinner, we enjoyed our last island sunset.


We had reservations for dinner at Fishalicious, a small, Dutch seafood restaurant where, even with a reservation, we had to wait 30 minutes for our table. We started out with the shrimp croquettes.

MIke had the clam chowder.

I had Dover sole.

We left immediately after dinner so that Mike could return to bed. I spent the rest of the evening packing our bags. The next morning, the house manager came over to check us out at 10a. Our flight didn't leave until a few hours later so we passed the time with drinks and lunch at Pirate Bay then headed to the airport.

Our plane left Curacao about 30 minutes late, giving us only one and a half hours to change planes in Miami. When I bought the plane tickets months prior, we had three hours to change planes but in the meantime, American changed the flight times, giving us a shorter layover. To top it all off, there was bad weather somewhere else in the Caribbean so there were tons of people arriving in Miami at the same time. This created a line to re-check bags that wound all around the luggage carousels. People who had flights were trying to cut lines and I got into several verbal exchanges with people trying to get in front of us. As if we didn't have a flight to catch as well! We made it through the line about 30 minutes before our flight was to leave but were informed that we couldn't get on the plane because they didn't have enough time to get our luggage on. Apparently they needed 45 minute to load the luggage. Seriously? So, because American had changed our flight times, they sent us to the Doubletree in Miami for the night, gave us food vouchers, and re-booked us on an early morning flight. We went straight to the hotel and crashed, returning to the Miami airport at 6a, only to face more huge lines and an agent who tried to charge us baggage fees again. Once all of that was sorted, we had breakfast at a London pub-type place and finally boarded our flight, making it home mid-morning. And after that experience and one I had prior going to Turks and Caicos, we now try to avoid the Miami airport whenever possible.

We really enjoyed this trip to Curacao but we both agree that we probably wouldn't return. The pros? We LOVED the house because of the price, the privacy, and the easy access to diving. We loved that the island had local culture, great restaurants, and some nightlife but wasn't a party island. We liked that most of the beaches had facilities for eating and drinking. But if we go to the ABC islands again, we'll probably return to Bonaire. It doesn't compare with regard to island culture (it's more Americanized), beaches, food, and nightlife but the diving is incomparable. Bonaire's marine life is undeniably better in our opinion and that would sway us to Bonaire over Curacao any day.

Posted by zihuatcat 17:22 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 9: Submarine Celebration

Today I woke up a year older and in a new decade of my life. It was my 40th birthday. Since that's kind of a momentous occasion, we wanted to do something a little different. We booked a submarine ride with Substation Curacao. We would travel 500 feet below the surface in a submarine. I was a little nervous about this, not about something awful happening, but mainly about being claustrophobic. But I could tell online that there was a large picture window in the sub so I was hoping this would stave off those feelings. Our appointment was at 11a and we arrived a little early for orientation.

We watched a safety video and drew designs on Styrofoam cups that would be strapped to our sub to show compression at 500 ft.

Afterwards, we went outside and watched them lower the sub into the water with a crane.




They had us take our shoes off and put on socks to wear on-board the sub.

This is the boat that rides along on the surface above the sub for safety reasons.

Then it was time to climb aboard through the very, very small porthole.

Luckily it was just the two of us and the pilot.

Sometimes they fill it with four guests. Honestly, for the price you pay to do this, I would be pretty upset about that. There would not be enough room to be comfortable and have a good view if that were the case. The pilot sits in the back and we layed down on either side in front of him, looking out the big picture window.

We descended slowly underwater. The chase boat remained above us and a scuba diver followed us down to 50 or 60 feet to take pictures.






Unfortunately, we saw LOTS of lionfish.


The deepest were at over 400 feet. I have no idea what they eat at that depth.

Some new species of fish have been discovered during sub rides. These are some discovered recently at almost 500 feet.

Our deepest depth on the gauge.

Black coral on the way back up.

Coral overhang.

Small fish hiding in a barrel sponge.


French angelfish.

The ride lasted about an hour and a half and was more scientific in nature than scenic but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Not many people get to have such an experience. Afterwards, we were hungry so we stopped at a local restaurant on the beach called Seaside Terrace.


I had some fried lionfish that were wonderful.

Mike had crab salad.

We drove back to the house to relax for a while. We spent a couple of hours on the back porch then decided to go back into town for some shopping and casino time. That would be shopping for me and casino time for Mike. By this time, Mike was starting to feel a flare up coming on. But it was my birthday so he powered on through my birthday dinner at The Wine Cellar. He wasn't hungry at all but ordered some stuffed mushrooms. He didn't end up eating any and the kind waiter noticed and removed them from our bill. I, on the other hand, had lobster bisque and chateaubriand. Although this restaurant receives very high reviews and the service was outstanding, I thought the food was much better at other restaurants we visited. Since Mike wasn't feeling well, we went home to bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 15:41 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 8: Bitch Out at Blue Bay

We slept in today and woke up to spend a lazy morning watching the boat traffic and eating crackers and Boursin cheese for breakfast. This is one of my favorite snacks and I was surprised and excited to see that Centrum had it for sale. One of the ships in front of the house was The Ocean Mariner. It had been coasting around back and forth, back and forth for days for no apparent reason. It had no course listed on Mike's marine app. We had a little joke going that the Captain was drunk and couldn't figure out where he was going.

The pilot boat was busy doing its thing.

A few fishing boats were tooling around as well. We compared the eco-factors of two of them while we watched. There were these two guys who just had a little rowboat and they would fish as they drifted along.

Then there were these two guys who had a motor and actually dropped anchor out on the reef!

Here comes the biggest environmental impact of all.

Around late morning, we packed up all of our empty tanks and headed over to Blue Bay for Mike's last dive and to settle our account. I was not even going down that road today, just planning on snorkeling. I wanted to enjoy the day without the diving stress I had endured all trip. We started with pina coladas and lunch at Azzuro, as usual. Afterwards, Mike went deep and I went snorkeling. Blue Bay has a rocky pier that goes out to a point and then horseshoes into a little bay area around the left side of the main beach area. There was a group of guys fishing off the end of this rocky pier on this day. I'm not sure this was even legal but it was sure annoying to try and dodge their casting hooks. Worse than that, apparently the cruise ship we'd seen earlier had dumped off a bunch of people here and they were flailing about in the water and standing on the reef. So frustrating! I'm not sure why people seem to think that knowing how to swim is not a pre-requisite for snorkeling. I had a nice time anyway and saw lots of marine life. This is a good snorkel site when it's not crowded as lots of fish like to hide in these rocks.

Mike took the camera diving.

Peacock flounder.

Fish inside tube sponge.





Mike's dive watch at 202 feet.


Yellowhead wrasse.

I've never seen anything like this before and cannot figure out what it is. Some kind of eel, maybe?

After Mike's dive, we met on the beach and I found out that he had gone to 219 feet, by himself, on nitrox. Now I wasn't happy about this but I learned a long time ago this was not a fight I would win. Mike is an ex-commercial diver with LOTS of dive experience and he does what makes him happy and he does it responsibly. It may not seem so to others but the buddy system doesn't work for everyone. Unfortunately, the dive shop did not agree with this philosophy and when we went to pay for our tanks for the week, they were pretty unhappy to learn we had used an odd number of tanks. This made it pretty obvious we hadn't been buddy diving. They were even more upset when Mike opened his mouth and told him about his dive today (I had told him not to). He got an earful about solo diving and deep diving on nitrox. In any event, I don't think we're welcome back at Diveversity at Blue Bay anytime soon.

One divemaster from Austria that did seem to understand Mike's position.

After that experience we decided to cool down at the bar with a pina colada before heading home to clean up for dinner. It was a long drive across Curacao and into a part of town we'd never been to before. So much so that Mike thought I had screwed up the address and that GPS was wrong. It was not. We were dining at El Gaucho, an Argentinian steakhouse nestled on top of a large hill, which overlooked the city of Willemstad.

View from our table.

We started with El Gaucho's wonderful salad bar. I ordered the hanger steak and Mike ordered the beef short ribs. Both were outstanding. We had a dinner guest who wandered through while we ate, down below us on the hill. But he was polite and didn't beg.

After dinner we made the long drive home and hit the bed early.

Posted by zihuatcat 14:21 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 7: Postcard Willemstad...Day and Night

I woke up about 9a this morning and let Mike sleep in. The housekeeper, Veronica, arrived for our mid-week cleaning. Around noon, when Mike hadn't yet stirred, I woke him up to see what the plan of the day was going to be. His knee was hurting and had kept him up a lot of the night so he was in no shape for any diving. We decided to just have a down day and then explore town later on. I took some pictures of the birdlife around the house.





Iguanas loved to hang out on the rocky cliffs over the water.

Several large ships cruised by.


On the way into town, we stopped at the Centrum grocery store to pick up a few items. I was very excited to find they had Havana Club rum, one of my favorites. It's made in Cuba so of course, you can't buy it in the U.S. We drove into Willemstad and stopped at Anchor Bar in Riff Fort to have a drink on the water. The Fort is located right in the entranceway to the canal that goes through Willemstad, where the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge opens, so we watched the ships go in and out and the seagulls fly by. When a ship enters the canal, the Pilot boat goes out to meet the boat and escorts it in and out.




We also had postcard views of the bridge and the Willemstad waterfront from our perch at the bar.


After having a drink at Anchor Bar, we walked across the pontoon bridge to the other side of Willemstad and did a little souvenir shopping. IMG_7918.jpg

We stopped for another drink and to watch the sunset at Iguana Café.

Finally it was time for our dinner reservation. We walked along the waterway and through the streets to a little place on the water called Perla del Mar.


Unfortunately, the food was not as good as the view but they sure could make a pretty drink.

Mike had garlic shrimp with French fries and I had a red snapper fillet with a baked potato.


After dinner, we strolled around town a little bit on our way back to the bridge.


The lights on the bridge at night are beautiful. They change colors every few seconds.



Pictures from the bridge.


After crossing back over the bridge, we went to the casino for a bit to try our luck again before heading home for the evening.

Posted by zihuatcat 18:56 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 6: Our Age Catches Up to Us

Since we'd called it an early night the night before, we both woke up fairly early today, around 8:30a. We hung out on the back porch for a couple of hours, just relaxing and watching the boats go by. Mike loves to look them up on a marine traffic site on the computer. The site tells you each boat's flagship, route, etc., which is quite amazing with the current era of terrorism and pirating. After a while, we drove over to Blue Bay to the dive shop to turn in our used tanks and get some new ones and then headed to Porto Marie beach for some diving. Porto Marie is a nice, sandy beach with facilities just a few miles north up the island from our house.



Before getting in the water, we had some lunch at the beach restaurant. Mike had a ham and cheese tosti and I had a cheeseburger and fries. Then we made the long trek back up the hill to the parking lot in the heat to gear up and drive the car down with all of our gear. I still had problems getting the integrated weights into my BCD and carrying all of it into the water. I never had that much trouble when I used a weight belt. When entering the water, Mike fell and hit his knee on a rock. It didn't keep him from continuing the dive but it would come back to haunt him later. We had already decided to dive separately as I knew I wanted to stay shallow. So Mike set off to the depths and I stayed behind. I didn't see much at all as there was very little in the shallows but turtle grass. Mike went to 172 feet with the camera.

Ocean Surgeonfish with barrel sponge




Afterwards, we went back to the restaurant and had a couple of pina coladas then headed home. Mike fell asleep in the car. I stopped along the way to take some pictures of a beautiful roadside church.

Mike was done for the night. He fell asleep on the couch while I unloaded the dive gear and got caught up on emails and the travel journal. He woke up a little later and had some Cheetos and Jumex for dinner then promptly went back to sleep. I just had my leftover fettucine alfredo from yesterday's lunch. I watched Gordon Ramsey episodes on TV the rest of the night, read my Kindle, and went to bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 11:02 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

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