A Travellerspoint blog

Curacao Day 3: Diving at the Casa

Mike was in one of his moods and stayed up most of the previous night. He went snorkeling in the dark to check out the dive site right off the house. He then decided to do an early morning solo dive from the house. He went to about 70 feet. I was awake and sitting on the back porch when he got back. Since we were feeling kind of lazy, we decided to dive from home. But we were hungry so we wanted to get a bite of lunch first. We drove over to Pirate Bay, a beachfront restaurant at Piscadera Bay, just a few miles from the house. We came up with our dive plan while Mike had some French onion soup and I had chicken fettucine alfredo.

When we arrived back at the house, we carried our dive gear down the long flight of stairs to the sea. Mike had to first bring up his tank from the morning dive. It's a long haul up those stairs with a tank on your back.
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To get into the water from the bottom of the stairs, you must either put all of your gear on and go down the ladder or go down the ladder and put your gear on in the water. Either way was difficult for me, especially with my new, integrated weight BCD. I struggled. Mike struggled to help me. Again, it was not a good situation. Mike got frustrated. I got frustrated. So in the end, he again went solo diving and I decided just to snorkel. I was a little nervous about snorkeling in this area because the boat traffic was pretty heavy. I did have to constantly pull my head up to look around and make sure I didn't get smacked. The reef was a good ways down from the surface but I managed to see some decent fishlife including squid and a huge pufferfish. Mike went down to 143 feet but this time took the camera.

Yellowtail snapper
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Tube sponge
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Blackbar soldierfish
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Foureye butterflyfish
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Blackbar soldierfish with barrel sponge
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After the dive, Mike made us some pina coladas.
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View through the kitchen window
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Curacao bird (looks like a big-eyed dove)
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Tonight's dinner was a long drive to the north/western side of the island to a restaurant called Trio Penotti. It's located just across the road from Mt. Christoffel, the tallest point in Curacao. We were so tired we didn't take any dinner pictures which was unfortunate because we were entertained throughout our meal by several kittens running around the patio. Dinner was again tasty and I had a sirloin steak with potatoes while Mike had primavera soup and garlic shrimp with polenta. We crashed after the long drive back home.

Posted by deniseandmike 21:40 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 2: Iguana Love

After finally getting a good night's sleep, we woke up about 9:30 the next morning. We sat on the back porch for a while, enjoying the sea view and the wildlife and planning our day. We were on island time.
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Suddenly there was a commotion to our left. Two iguanas were rolling around next to the porch. We thought they were fighting at first but then...
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We got our dive gear together and drove over to Blue Bay, a condo development not far from our house. Diveversity dive shop is located there on a nice beach from which you can shore dive. We got registered with the dive shop and they gave us a tour of the facilities.
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We decided to grab some lunch at the on-site restaurant, Azzuro, before heading into the water. Mike had some more beef carpaccio (this would become an island staple for him) and I had fish and chips.
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After lunch, we suited up and headed into the water together; however, it soon became apparent that we needed to dive separately. I was having multiple problems with leg cramps, ear clearing, and mask flooding. Not to mention my panic was setting in. I was going to stay shallow. Mike set off for the depths. He went to 127 feet, seeing lots of lionfish. He left the camera at home for this dive. I stayed in the 25-foot range and unfortunately, didn't see much of anything. It was not a good first dive for me. So afterwards, we sat at the beach bar and had pina coladas.

We went home and got cleaned up for dinner. We had reservations at a restaurant called Kome in the Pietermaai district of Curacao. This area is across the bridge from Willemstad. It's an older part of the island currently being revitalized with hotels, restaurants, and bars.
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Kome is a tapas restaurant so we started with a couple of small plates of yellowfin tuna tartare with yucca chips and shrimp and funchi which included tasso ham and a poached egg in a Cajun cream sauce.
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The tuna was good but the shrimp and funchi was outstanding! It was so good, in fact, that Mike ordered another plate. I went with the octopus a la plancha--octopus with chorizo, romesco, baby potato, and salsa verde.
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The octopus was also outstanding! Even though it was our first full day on Curacao, this meal was our favorite of the week.
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After dinner, we drove back to the casino to gamble a bit. Mike played some roulette and I stuck with the slots. The woman on the machine NEXT TO ME won a $1K slot! I couldn't believe it. I lost $10.

Afterwards, we went back to the house and relaxed on our porch.

Posted by deniseandmike 20:40 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 1: Another Red Eye to Another ABC Island

Three years ago, we went to Bonaire and loved it. Since that time, we wanted to visit its sister island, Curacao, to see how it compared. Both islands are in the southern Caribbean, not far from the coast of Venezuela. Both islands have great shore diving and are part of the Dutch Netherlands Antilles. Bonaire has rocky beaches. Curacao has sandy beaches. Bonaire's dive sites are much more condensed and side-by-side. Curacao's dive sites require some driving about. Bonaire rolls up the streets by 10p. Curacao has more of a nightlife. On Scubaboard, they say that "Bonaire is where divers go to vacation and Curacao is where vacationers go to dive."

Our flight was leaving at an incredibly early 5:45a and I arranged for a car to take us to the airport at 3a. We decided it would be easier to just stay up all night and try to sleep on the plane. The excitement pretty much kept us awake and then a shower around 1:30a helped. We arrived at the airport to find that security wouldn't be open until 4:30a and there were no places open to get food or drinks. Our flight was on time and we set off for Miami. Unfortunately, the plan to sleep on the plane didn't go well. We arrived in Miami with a couple of hours to kill so we got some brunch at Island Time. I had a tasty, grilled mahi mahi sandwich and Mike had some ribs. We both had bloody marys. We left Miami on time but still arrived a little late in Curacao. We were the last in the immigration line because just as we got off the plane, Mike realized he left his brand new sunglasses on the plane. Of course, they wouldn't let him back on to get them nor would they go to his seat and find them for him. I guess some airport personnel is the lucky owner of a brand new pair of polarized glasses. After the usual to-dos upon entry, we met Robert from Just Drive who took us to his rental car company down the road to pick up our Toyota RAV4 with GPS. They had already set up our rental house in the GPS so all we had to do was hop in the car and go.

The main town of Curacao is Willemstad which is on the southern or eastern portion of the island. Many of the beaches and diving areas are on the northern or western portion of the island. I tried to choose lodging somewhere in the middle because I knew we would want to be in one area for beaches/diving during the day and in town for dinner at night. I found the perfect home, right on the water, mid-island, in a fishing village called St. Michiel.
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Master bedroom
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Master bathroom
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Second bedroom
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Second bathroom, with outside door
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View from livingroom window to front yard
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We met with the property manager, Nathaly, and got things settled in then drove down to the corner store to get some beer, Cokes, and snacks. We had 8:00p dinner reservations at a restaurant on the water so we went into Willemstad early to look around. Mike was excited to check out the casino so we drove to the Renaissance where there is free parking in the garage. The Renaissance casino is the biggest in Curacao and has roulette, blackjack, and slots. We just had time for a couple of slots then walked through Riff Fort and down the waterway to our dinner locale, Governeur de Rouville.
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Governeur is a beautiful, local restaurant with a balcony view of the downtown waterway and the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.
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We started with some tropical drinks and beef carpaccio. Mike ordered a pina colada and I ordered a prosecco with blue curacao.
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For dinner, I had shrimp in garlic sauce with gratin potatoes and vegetables and Mike had spare ribs (for the second time today).
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While we were finishing up dinner, a huge cargo ship came through the canal. It was so gigantic that everyone stopped what they were doing to watch it. It seemed like it might not even fit through the waterway.
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The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is a pedestrian bridge across the waterway in downtown Willemstad. It was built in 1888 and opens and closes when necessary for oceangoing vessels to pass through the waterway. When it's open, ferries are used to take pedestrians across to each side.
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After dinner, we went back to the casino and played roulette for a while then relaxed on the back porch, heading to bed about 12:30a.

Posted by deniseandmike 11:01 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

England Day 10: Come Together

Our last full day in England began with a phone call from Mike's friend we visited in Wivenhoe, Debs. She was trying to find someone to pick up her daughter from school so that she could come into London and meet us on our last day. Our phone minutes were just about out so Mike ran down to the corner store to top them off so we could make and receive calls from her the remainder of the day. In case she made it into the city, we rearranged our plans for the day and decided to head north to Abbey Road. But first we stopped off at Borough Market because Mike wanted some more truffle oil. Unfortunately, the truffle oil booth was closed so we ended up buying some other goodies for friends back home instead. We hopped back on the tube and made the ride to Abbey Road for the obligatory zebra crossing pictures.
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And then there was Abbey Road Studios itself, the studio where the Beatles had their last recording sessions all together before releasing the album Abbey Road in 1969,
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While walking back to the tube station from there, we got a call from Debs so we sat on a cement wall for a few minutes. This flirty little car was parked on the street where we sat.
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Debs was still unsure about her situation so we took the tube back to Westminster and grabbed some fish and chips at the Story Wine Bar in Parliament Square. The plan was to visit Westminster Abbey but by the time we made it back, ate lunch, and dealt with a few more phone calls we ran out of time. And Debs was unable to make it anyway. I was pretty upset about missing Westminster Abbey but maybe one day we'll be back either on another trip or a long layover on our way somewhere else.

We went back to the apartment and began packing and cleaning up in anticipation of leaving the following day. We wanted to get all of that done so we didn't have to do it after dinner later. Mike wanted to have dinner on the Butler's Wharf riverfront and had previously picked out Brown's by reading menus when we passed by. We still had some time before our reservation so we decided to go back to The Vault for some tasty mulled wine.
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After warming up with mulled wine, we braved the cold once again and walked the short way back to Brown's. If it had been warm enough to sit outside, the view would have been spectacular.
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Unfortunately, it was freezing so we sat inside. We tried to start out with some martinis but they were out of olives. Surprisingly, this is a common problem for us. Maybe we should start traveling with our own. So we switched to our standard rum and Coke and gin and tonic. We shared a crab and avocado stack as an appetizer.
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For our main dish, we both ordered the lobster tagliatelle.
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Both dishes were good. We were exhausted after dinner so we went back to the apartment and went to bed, very glad that we had already packed and were ready to leave in the morning.

We awoke the next morning to a foggy, drizzly kind of day.
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We said goodbye to our home for the last six days and a private car took us to Heathrow. Our direct flight to Dallas was on time and we arrived home safe and sound. This trip had been a different kind of trip for us, more planned activities and more of a schedule than we were used to. Mike really enjoyed spending time with his friends in Wivenhoe and all of the Beatles's sights in Liverpool. I was blown away by the "historicalness" of it all. We enjoyed being on our own, taking the tube, and having our little oasis to return home to each evening. We ate some great food and since returning home have perfected our own mulled wine recipe. I'm sorry that we missed some of the major sights but we did visit all of the sights that were most important to us.

Posted by deniseandmike 15:53 Archived in England Tagged london england Comments (0)

England Day 9: Medieval Towers and Halibut with Flowers

I had a bit of an ambitious schedule planned for today. I wanted to hit St. Paul's Cathedral, the U.S.S. Belfast, and the Tower of London before dinner at Gordon Ramsay's. When Mike woke up, he was tired from the day before and asked that we narrow the schedule down a bit. The Tower of London was at the top of my list so we decided just to visit there and save the others for another visit. Upon checkin, the apartment owners gave us a map of the surrounding area and there was a pathway along the waterfront to the Tower Bridge. We decided to walk it rather than take the tube.
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As we walked across Tower Bridge, we could see the U.S.S. Belfast docked close by.
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And the Tower was waiting for us at the end of the bridge.
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Upon reaching the Tower, we walked by Traitors' Gate which used to be an underwater gate. Most prisoners passed through this gate when entering the Tower.
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We were hungry so we decided to have some fish and chips before going in the Tower. Mike ordered some mulled wine for the first time. We had seen this all over London and didn't know quite what it was. It's warm red wine with cinnamon, sugar, and some other added flavors. We were sold on it immediately.
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We had to fight the birds to make sure we got our share.
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The Tower offers tours every hour by yeomen and one was starting just as we entered. But the tour seemed very large and we didn't think we'd be able to hear the guide very well. So we set off on our own.
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We entered the Medieval Palace, built in the 13th century, where medieval kings and queens stayed whenever they visited the Tower. There is a recreation of King Edward's bedchamber.
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From the Medieval Palace, we entered the Wall Walk which runs along the outside perimeter of the entire grounds. You can enter each of the outside towers from this walkway. The towers held exhibits on weaponry, royal beasts, and other similar items from the medieval times. Down below is a courtyard.
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We then made our way to the Crown Jewels which are under guard at all times. A moving walkway takes you through the Crown Jewels exhibits.
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After exiting, there was some sort of guard changing ceremony going on .
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Our last visit at the Tower was to the torture chamber. This was actually a big disappointment. There were four or five examples of torture equipment used but not much else to the exhibit.

We left the Tower and went across the street to the gift shop. I was excited to find an opal necklace there that matched my opal ring from Cozumel. I love to buy locally made jewelry from the various places we visit and it was unexpected to find something so perfect. It was made in Scotland rather than England but, hey, that's still the UK so it counts in my book.

We walked back across Tower Bridge and found a little bar stashed away underneath called The Vault. They advertised mulled wine. We were thirsty and it was cold so we stopped in. That was the best mulled wine!

We headed back to the apartment to get ready for our big night out at Gordon Ramsay's. I had made reservations months in advance and we were very excited about our first ever visit to a three-star Michelin restaurant. We had to travel to an area called Chelsea so we hopped on the tube and when we got off we were in the middle of what looked like a Christmas village. There were little white lights strung up in all the trees around the square. Three story apartment homes lined the streets and everyone rushed around all bundled up in their wool coats. We started off in the direction of the restaurant, with Mike in his new dress shoes, only to discover that it was much further than I had anticipated. Mike and his feet were not too happy with me but we finally made it. We were seated next to a couple and their two young daughters. I was astonished that there would be children dining at a restaurant like this but I came to learn over the course of the meal that these were "foodie" children who were extremely well-behaved and discussed each course with their parents.

We decided on the three course dinner menu, which came with many little extras, and glasses of Ayala champagne. The event started with three amuse bouches--a parmesan mousse, a quail egg inside a scotch egg, and seaweed wrapped caviar. Each of us had our own personal waiter who would explain each dish to us in great detail. I don't remember mine but MIke's was a French guy with an accent that made it difficult to understand him. For the first course, I had pan-fried sea scallops with applies, walnuts, and a celery and cider emulsion. Mike had a large ravioli stuffed with lobster, langoustine, and salmon in a light bisque then topped with Oscietra caviar. Both dishes were fantastic! We had the same main course which was halibut topped with crab sitting on top of cauliflower couscous. Our personal waiters poured around it a finger lime and ras el hanout infused broth. Ras el hanout is a spice from Africa but we couldn't find much spice or taste in this dish. It was beautiful but bland. The whiteness of the fish and cauliflower was offset by colorful, edible flowers swimming in the surrounding broth. After this, we were served a mango and jasmine parfait in a tall glass with glass straws. I assume this was a palate cleanser and it was cool and refreshing. Finally, for dessert, I had a coconut soufflé and Mike had a chocolate and blood orange cigar with cardamom ice cream. Both of these dishes were delicious. At the end of the meal, our last complimentary treat arrived--petit fours of chocolate, rosewater, and strawberry ice cream served on dry ice. These were fairly unmemorable except for the rosewater which we felt was like tasting perfume. In the end, it was a great evening and we enjoyed our time there. The food was good but not the best meal I've ever had. Service was excellent for most of the evening until we had to wait almost 30 minutes for our check after we told them were done for the evening. I would consider returning but I certainly wouldn't recommend the halibut.

While out on smoke breaks during our meal, Mike made friends with the doorman so he called a cab for us to take us back to the tube station. The doorman was very interested in U.S. gun laws and how we can walk into a store and purchase a gun. Such a privilege does not exist in England. We returned home for the evening and fell asleep on the couches. Mike woke up later on and played photographer some more.
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Early morning light.
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Posted by deniseandmike 15:39 Archived in England Tagged london england Comments (0)

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