A New Year’s Eve in Curacao. We had originally scheduled a snorkeling excursion and yesterday morning we got a letter in our stateroom saying that the tour operator was doing one snorkel stop instead of two. Well, that didn’t matter too much to us, but later in the day, we got a phone call from destinations saying the tour had been cancelled. There were originally 7 different tours offered here, and it turned out that only one actually happened. We don’t really know why, but some of our friends tried to book their own and didn’t get answers to their calls or emails. Maybe it is a NY Eve thing?
So, we decided to explore the town. We have been here before but did water sports that time, so we enjoyed our time in town.
The Queen Juliana Bridge is one of the first things you see – it soars 185 feet above St. Anna Bay and is one of the world’s tallest bridges. In contrast to that, the Queen Emma Bridge, known locally as the “Swinging Old Lady”,is a floating pontoon bridge built in 1888. It is one of the town’s most recognizable features. It links the Otrobanda and Punda sides of Willemstad across St Annabaai Channel. If it is open to allow ships to pass through, there is a ferry to take people across the Channel. If you are lucky, you might be on the bridge when it opens and you have to hope that there is only one ship to pass.
The waterfront is lined by very beautiful and colorful buildings. Crew on the ship were looking forward to going to the casinos. This one looks closed to me, but the building is interesting.
We shopped first for the bamboo sheets from Cariloha which they ship free. Now that we are close enough to home, we can have them sent to us.
We visited the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue and Jewish Cultural Historical Museum which was constructed in 1674 and is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere and is the oldest one in continuous use in the Americas. There are about 350 Jewish members of this congregation. It was built by Sephardic Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam and Recife Brazil.
The floor of the synagogue is modeled after the encampment in the Sinai desert where the early Jewish forefathers wandered from Egypt to the promised land – it is a sand floor! Another reason for the sand floor is that after settling in Curacao, the Jewish people had to put sand on the floor of the secret rooms in which they worshipped. The sand helped muffle the sounds during their service. If discovered, they would have suffered lifelong imprisonment, loss of all property and often burning at the stake. The sand on the floor serves as a reminder of the remarkable faith and courage of these Spanish-Portuguese Jews in the face of such terror.
In the museum, there was a tribute to the “yayas” – which means Nanny – that cared for the children of these early settlers. Many emotional tributes to these exceptional women were documented here. I never knew that yaya meant nanny!!
We got to see the floating market where a small fleet of boats arrives from nearby Venezuela with fresh fish and fruit for sale and ties up near the Queen Juliana bridge. Very colorful.
We climbed up on the fort sea wall and enjoyed the view, and noted the shops that have the original stone, coral and salt walls and ceilings. Very unique.
And we saw another iguana!
It was a noisy day – all day – as the local people celebrated New Year’s Eve. They line the streets with a kind of red paper, then they use gunpowder to create fire and explosions. There is a lot of noise and smoke, and sometimes blocks at a time are involved.
After a fun day, we had dinner with Candace and Rodney in Toscana and then went to the show – Jade Milian and Samuel E. They performed a couple of nights ago in a tribute to Whitney Houston (Jade’s voice and appearance are remarkably like her), and tonight’s show was “soul classics”. It didn’t start until 10:15, so after that we went to Horizons for the NY Eve celebration. Dancing, champagne, noisemakers, hats…and the Captain did the countdown to 2016. Fun evening and a great way to ring in 2016.