Curacao Day 2

November 11

After the debacle that was night one, it was good to just get some sleep. We slept until after noon. Luckily the room stayed cool and comfortable. Sleeping in the heat and humidity just would not have made for a good night.

Making the most of our trip, we decided to stay at the resort for the day and see what there was to offer. We headed down to the beach, only a couple hundred yards away for lunch and a swim.

The restaurant had a good selection of lunches and I opted for the pulled pork sandwich. I was surprised it was not just an attempt to be “American” by slathering the pork with barbecue sauce. No, no, no. The pork had what I could best describe as a “Caribbean” flavor to it. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I could taste the seasonings used by the Caribbean restaurant back home.

After lunch we headed to the water to play with our snorkels (and my underwater camera). Only a few yards out from the water’s edge were a plethora of fish. I’m not an ichthyologist, so I can’t tell you what they were, but every color of the rainbow appeared to be well-represented. I had gotten a full-face snorkel mask specifically for the trip. I figured it would work better with my contact lenses, and would make for easier breathing. I was right. I could just breathe normally, without having to have a snorkel mouthpiece in my mouth. The only downside was the snorkel tube wasn’t very long, so I had to stay very close to the surface.

Jail fish?
These guys were all over!

While taking a break from swimming, I instantly noticed something. We had picked a destination with very few Americans. Nearly everyone we met was from Europe – mostly the Netherlands and Germany. I guess with Curacao being a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it’s a fairly easy trip for them. However, we did run into a group of guys from Philadelphia while at the beach. As it turned out, they were our downstairs neighbors at the apartment. They were very glad to get away from the cold and hang out in the sun for a while.

Things were already looking better. After all, the room was just a place to sleep and hold our stuff.

We took a drive to Westpunt on the (surprise!) west part of the island. Nothing is really too far away in Curacao, seeing as the island is about 35 miles by 7 miles. On the way, we observed more crazy driving from the locals. We took advantage of the convertible we had rented and put the top down. Wouldn’t you know it we ran into some rain on the way. Oh well, you only live once! It only rained for a minute anyway and we shared a laugh about it.


We found a little restaurant we had heard about online called Sol Food. The restaurant looked like it was in a bad neighborhood – bars on all the windows, people giving you side glances. When we arrived, we were a bit confused because our GPS put us in front of a house. The GPS was right, though. The restaurant was behind the house. Sunshine, the owner, built the restaurant literally in her back yard.

The food at Sol Food was great! I had some snapper with rice. The view couldn’t be beat either. The restaurant was on a bluff overlooking a beach, and we were able to watch the sunset.


Alicia, as usual, struck up a conversation with a Canadian couple during dinner. Actually, they lived in Canada, but he was from the United Kingdom and she was from South Africa. They were regulars at Sol Food, and visited Curacao often. I’m not one to talk to strangers, but I’m glad Alicia is because meeting new people is actually fun. Little did we know this couple would come into play later in the week.

On the way back to Blue Bay we stopped at a grocery store. I don’t know why, but I’ve never seen a grocery store in any of the places I’ve traveled outside the US. It seemed weird walking into a store that looked like any other supermarket back home, except the labels were in a different language.

Say what? It’s oxtail soup.
Avocado with bananas for scale
“American” pancakes. What makes them American?

We picked up a few provisions for the room and headed to Blue Bay for drinks and snacks on the beach.

Maybe this will all turn out OK.

Curacao Day 1

At long last, I’m finally getting around to writing about my trip to Curacao. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

Friday, November 10, 2017
San Francisco, Calif. to Curacao via Miami, Fla.

Normally we go on cruises for our vacations. Cruises are fun – all your travel, lodging, entertainment, and dining are housed together in one self-contained metal container. However, after 10 years of cruising together, we wanted to try something else for our anniversary.

We planned to fly to a tropical destination and spend a week there rather than moving daily from port to port. Originally we had planned to take a trip to Saint Maarten; however 2017’s hurricane season had different plans. In August, Hurricane Irma formed in the Atlantic and nailed Saint Maarten head on. The airport was heavily damaged and much of the island was destroyed. After some further research, we chose to give Curacao a try.

Curacao is an island in the southern Caribbean, part of the Lesser Antilles. Curacao is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and sits about 40 miles north of Venezuela. Our research showed English was widely spoken, and they readily took American dollars – always a plus on vacation. After some hurdles, we changed our flight and lodging reservations.

On the day we were to leave we got up at 5 a.m. to catch the shuttle to San Francisco International Airport. Our shuttle driver did his best to get us to the airport in a timely manner, pressing the petal to metal, redlining the engine several times.

As usual, there was a long line at the airport to get through security. As usual, Alicia struck up a conversation with a random stranger. We talked to a nice Finnish lady who was on her way home. As Alicia and Finnish lady talked, I saw several salespeople from a company called Clear trying to entice travelers with being able to skip the line. All you had to do was give up all your personal information for a background check and you get to zip through security, all for one low annual fee.

Sunrise over SFO
Must. Have. Coffee.

I’ve been flying since I was a kid, and I’ve noticed a change in the way people dress to fly. Flying used to be something special. People used to dress nicely to get on a plane. Now, the uniform of the day looks like pajamas. When did the magic of flight, become something we take for granted?

Airlines even nickel and dime you for almost every little thing now! You have to pay for your bags to fly with you; you pay for snacks; you pay extra if you want to make your reservations over the phone; some airlines even make you pay to use the overhead bin if you buy a certain discounted ticket! Something special in the air indeed!

If that wasn’t bad enough, the airlines pack you on the plane like sardines. They’ve adjusted the distance between seats to the bare minimum, simply to fit one extra row in the planes. When I finally got seated, I had about one-half of an inch between my knees and the seat in front of me. At least I had room on the sides. We thought ahead and bought the seat in between us for the extra arm room.

Tight squeeze

The flight to Miami was nothing to write home about. I got within a few pages of finishing Mark Kelly’s book Endurance. All I had to do was spend six hours on a plane. He spent a year on the space station! One thing I did notice was how loud the plane was. We were on a 737-800 – Boeing’s quietest 737 ever – you could have fooled me!

In Miami we had burgers at Shula’s grill while waiting for our next flight. After eating, we discovered that Miami’s airport is huge! We walked for 15 minutes and still had not arrived at our gate. It was then we discovered there was a train that ran the length of the terminal. Why had nobody told us about that?!

The bun is branded in case I forget where I’m eating
Very Miami Customs and Border Protection golf cart
Almost there!

While waiting for our flight to Curacao, I noticed a large group of very lovely ladies waiting around the gate. They all appeared to be dressed the same: black suit jackets and slacks. Who were these people? Alicia once again talked to strangers in line and we found out they were the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders! Lucky us! It turned out they were on their way to Curacao, where there is a USAF base at the airport. The cheerleaders were going to be doing a show for Veterans Day. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Alicia persuaded them to take a picture with me once on the ground in Curacao.

Is it odd that I’m wearing a San Francisco Giants shirt while posing with the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders?

We picked up our rental car and headed out to the mean streets of Curacao to find our accommodations for the week. As I’ve noticed in other countries – Mexico, I’m looking at you – speed limits and rules of the road are merely a suggestion. Drivers just drove wherever there was an open space for a car. I’m used to lane splitting on a motorcycle, but I’ve never seen it done by a car!

Once we reached the Blue Bay Resort where we had rented an apartment through AirBNB we hit the first, and hopefully only, snag of the trip. We found cockroaches in our room – GROSS!!! Not the way to start our Tenth-Anniversary trip. The apartment manager was not much help. She did not seem concerned there were roaches in their fancy new apartment.


By this time, it was close to midnight and we were starting to get hangry. We headed out to find food and to figure out what we would do. Fortunately, we found a little taste of home. We found a Denny’s.

This Denny’s was right next to a casino, and instantly looked really sketchy when we pulled up. Yeah, yeah. It’s a Denny’s. Isn’t sketchy part of the experience? Well, maybe, but I’ve also been to some non-sketchy Denny’s.

While sitting inside Denny’s, watching the sketchy people inside and outside, oh, and the armed guard by the door, we actually pondered flying back to Miami and spending the week there based on our first impressions of Curacao.

Alicia made some phone calls, and talked to some of the locals, and she talked to the apartment manager about the bug issue. We drove back to Blue Bay to meet with the manager again.

While on the way to Blue Bay, we got some more fine examples of the local driving. We nearly got hit by what looked like a drunk driver! That would have been such a downer.
Alicia spoke with the airline about changing our departure and found it would cost a lot. I called the Hilton about getting a clean hotel room and found out it would cost a lot. Maybe we’d just have to tough it out.

We spoke with the manager, who assured us, roaches had never been a problem, but they might have found their way in during some recent rains. She offered to move us to their upstairs apartment in the same building. We inspected the apartment and found it to be bug free.

At least there was WiFi. I chatted a bit with my friend Greg, no stranger to sleeping in foreign locales having recently gone to Thailand and Mexico. His advice, “Just roll with it and make the most of it.” An outside voice can often have a calming effect.

Maybe this will work out after all.

Beauty In Your Backyard

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find amazing beauty. Often it is in your back yard.

I’m very fortunate to live very close to Redwood National and State Parks – more than 139,000 acres of old-growth Coast Redwoods situated on the North Coast of California. The parks contain 45 percent of all remaining old-growth Coast Redwoods. There are also miles and miles of rugged coastline and grassland prairies.

While on a recent day drive to Crescent City, I took a detour off Highway 101 before reaching the town of Klamath. The side drive, known as Klamath Beach Rd. follows the Klamath River into the forest. Klamath Beach Dr. intersects with Coastal Dr., which used to be a part of Highway 101, until the bridge over the Klamath River was washed out during the flood of 1964.

Coastal Dr. loops around the peninsula created by the path of the Klamath River as it enters the Pacific Ocean. The road turns into a one-way dirt road with stunning views of the ocean. On this day, the waves were high due to an incoming storm. On the return portion of the loop, I located a solitary folding lawn chair in a clearing containing an abandoned house that was slowly being reclaimed by the forest.

After spending a couple hours in Crescent City, I started back toward home. I stopped at False Klamath Cove to watch the surf and sunset. The immense waves crashing over the rocks dotting the coast just off the beach gave you a great idea of the power of the ocean.

I finished the trip by turning off Highway 101 again to take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. NBDSP is another former alignment of Highway 101 and passes through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The road winds its way between towering redwoods and fern-lined cliffs. The south end of the parkway passes through Elk Prairie. I didn’t see any of the elk, but there was a nice layer of fog hanging over the prairie.

Though often overlooked because it’s so close, beauty is out there in your backyard.