5 THINGS I LEARNED ON MY CURACAO VACATION
Story and Photos by Dennis Hensley
I recently returned from 5 days on the Caribbean island of Curacao, a destination that's plenty gay-friendly and full of surprises. Here are five things I learned on my trip that I didn't know before.
1) CURACAO DON'T CARE ABOUT MY FRAPPUCINO HABIT
Unlike its neighbor, the more party-down, Spring Break-y Aruba, Curacao has no Starbucks franchises to speak of. None. Zero. Which is fine. Really. It's not like I'm addicted or anything. I can go a few days without my Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte.
It wasn't easy, I'll admit, but I managed to keep myself distracted with some great meals at some great restaurants, all of which happened to be right on the water, like Gouverneur De Rouville, Bistro le Clochard, Scampi's, La Bahia Seafood and Steakhouse, The Kura Hulanda Lodge and Beach Club and the Lion's Dive and Beach Resort.
2) THEY SPEAK SHALOM IN CURACAO
Did you know that Curacao has a rich Jewish history and a thriving Jewish community? I didn't until I visited the Synagogue Mikve Israel-Emanuel. Built in 1651 by Sephardic settlers who came to the island so they could enjoy religious freedom, the structure is the oldest continued-use synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Imagine a beautiful house of worship with a pipe organ and ornate chandeliers…then pan down to discover a floor made of sand.
My guide, Eveline, said there were several reasons for the this. The one I remember is the early Jewish settlers were so used to having to worship in secret so that they thought convening on sand was safer to do than creaky wooden floors. Also on the property is a Jewish Cultural Historical Museum, where I saw a Koran written on deerskin that dated back to 1320.
3) I LIKE THE WAY THE DUTCH THINK
While taking a walking tour of the island's main town, Willemstad, Eveline showed our group a
living Wyaka tree with a gender-bending human form carved into it by a
local artist named Mac Alberto. The form
had a heart where its head should be, the torso of a male underwear
model and down below? Well... While showing
us this, Eveline explained that there's a very common saying in
Holland: "A dirty mind is a joy forever."
I nearly wept. Isn't that an amazing thing for a country to believe? That's so much better than "In God We Trust." Speaking of cheekiness, she also told us that the town's famous moving pontoon bridge, the Queen Emma, is nicknamed "the Swinging Old Lady." Funny enough, that's actually what Clay Aiken calls his baby mama.