If you’re wondering how I came up with the title of this post, the answer is quite simply: Taylor Swift. Sure, on a surface level she has nothing to do with Curacao but I really identify with her “Out of the Woods” lyric: The rest of the world was black and white but we were in screaming color. Looking back on my trip to Curacao now, I can’t think of a better way to describe this small Dutch Caribbean island packed with personality.
Curacao is in screaming color, especially in the capital city of Willemstad. Not only is the historical city a UNESCO World Heritage site, but there are also modern influences that tie it all together. The first thing that struck me was just how colorful the buildings and homes are in Curacao. Unlike some other destinations I’ve visited, the paint looked fresh and the structures, well maintained. Yet, the buildings are much older than they appear. Take the Penha Building (pictured below) that dates back to 1708.
One of my favorite things to do in Willemstad is shop at the floating market. Every morning, one can buy fresh tropical fruits and vegetables from a series of boats and stalls that float partially on the water. When it comes to snagging the freshest fruit, the early bird definitely gets the worm. Locals recumbent buying at 6:30am if possible. Otherwise, just stop by in the afternoon. Also nearby is the Old Market (Marche Bieuw) where local cooks prepare traditional dishes packed with exotic flavors of the island. Some of the local Curacao specialities include fun chi (polenta), fried fish, okra and goat stew.
In my humble opinion, there’s no better example of Curacao’s colorful culture than the art of Nena Sanchez. There’s a shop in Willemstad and the outdoor decor is just as colorful as the art pieces inside. Inspired by tropical flowers, palm trees, bananas, cactuses and cottages, Nena Sanchez incorporates all these themes into her work.Oddly enough, the dress I wore the day I visited the shop matched the outdoor decor. Keep an eye out for the famous ChiChi dolls. Serena Israel is the creative brain behind the operation and she works with unskilled women who paint the delicate figurines, as part of a charity initiative.
Nena Sanchez is seen throughout Willemstad, even in between streets. This 3D mural depicts sunflowers, birds and butterflies brightens up an otherwise dreary and dark alleyway near Gomezplein (Gomez Plaza) in the heart of the city. Based on this mural and many of Sanchez’s other famous artwork, she is inspired by nature, having grown up with bright blue skies and deep blue waters. She also draws inspiration from folklore and works on several different mediums. Even though the mural is in an alleyway, it’s pretty hard to miss the vibrant colors and 3D figures.
Last but certainly not least are Curacao’s stately bridges. The Queen Emma Bridge connects the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of the city and the Queen Juliana Bridge which was built in 1967 and rebuilt again in 1974. There’s also the Queen Wilhelmina Bridge. The Queen Emma Bridge serves as a footbridge but there are also hinges that allow it to raise for boats and larger vessels to pass. Dating back to 1888, the bridge was renovated again in 1939. Willemstad is a very manageable city and it’s easy to explore on either side of the bridges.
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