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Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean ’09’

Caribbean Diary 09: Curacao

Posted by Lissa on April 26, 2009

[Please note that the Internet access is very spotty here — some of these posts are scheduled in advance.  Pix when I get back to Lissaville!]

The morning of our day at Curacao dawned bright and pretty.  Mike once again performed admirably, bringing me enough coffee and food to tempt me out of my warm blanket-encased cave.  (Given the choice of food or sleep, I will take sleep EVERY time.  Unless I’m in actual danger of starving to death, but in that case I’d probably eat one of the pillows, roll over and hit snooze.) 

We hopped on a bus and took off to visit one of the local artists, Yuri something-or-other.  (I’ll look up his info when I’m home and posting photos of his work.)  His shtick was that he creates art out of junk material – hubcaps, car hoods, bumpers and other various scrap metal.  Y’all know me, I’m an art moron, but even I could tell that his stuff was wicked cool.  Of course – again, y’all know me – I was equally fascinated with the artist’s BUTT-ugly Mexican hairless dogs.  Those things were FREAKISHLY hideous, but quite friendly; a good thing, as I insisted on petting them.  Duh.  I also found a Manx cat that reminded me of our dear beloved Gypsy, so I had to scritch his cheeks for a while.  (I miss my Rajah-kitty . . .)

An interesting note from the tour guide regarding the houses – apparently the governor of the island once-upon-a-time hated white buildings, so he made a regulation that anyone who wanted a white house had to apply for a special government permit, to be renewed every ten years.  After he retired it was discovered that he was the owner of the sole paint factory near the island.  (snerk)  I’m sorry that he exploited his constituents and all, but I can’t help but be pleased with the results – the blue and pink and yellow and orange houses are quite picturesque!

After the artist we went off to the Cave of Hato (Cueva de Hato), which many years ago was home to escaped slaves on Curacao.  There is very little fresh water on the island – they have an enormous desalination plant nowadays – but the caves had two freshwater springs.  The former slaves therefore traded the fresh water to the local Indians for food and other supplies.  The cave was pretty enough, but I think I’ve been smugly-snottishly-spoiled in that regard; my idea of pretty caves is the Luray Caverns.  (Ooooooo.  *SHINY* caverns.)  But I did enjoy the tour, and I *almost* managed to pet a bat!  (Okay, not really.)

We definitely enjoyed the first two stops on the tour.  The third stop, unfortunately, was a little less fun.  (Slight political digression here – family, feel free to skip down to the next paragraph!)  It was billed as “Museum Kura Hulanda, an exhibition of the island’s African history” and in fact it started very auspiciously – a large, beautiful sculpture of Mother Africa.  But from there it went directly to a weighty lecture on how black people had been and are still victimized, horribly mistreated and exploited by evil white people.  Now, I don’t think anyone with even a little historical education is unaware of the evils of slavery.  But neither do I think it’s fair to treat the white-enslavement-of-blacks as the ONLY historical evil ever perpetrated.  I think it’s unfairly disingenuous to regale your audience with tales of the horrible punishments for slaves as a comparison to today’s human right standards.  Yes, slaves were evilly and horribly punished and mistreated, more akin to animals than to actual human beings, but it’s still fairer and makes more sense to compare that to punishment standards for other people and the rest of the world AT THAT TIME.  And I think it’s completely unfair to shake your head and sadly inform your audience that the Ku Klux Klan, which lynched and murdered and terrified blacks, is still in existence today.  That’s like saying there are still Nazis today, without explaining that they’re crackpots ignored and despised by the VAST majority of the population.  And what, exactly, do the stupid Kluxers have to do with the African history of Curacao?  (Mike was particularly irked that a lot of what the tour guide said was directly contradicted by the information on the written displays, as well as her speech about “the kingdom of Kah-ee-roh in Western Africa,” while the display clearly indicated Cairo, Egypt.)  Meh.  End political digression.

Anyway, after the tour we wandered over the fabulous floating pedestrian bridge to the market.  (That bridge was AWESOME; it floats on big pontoon-y things and turns sideways to allow ships through the passage.  I wanted to sit on the edge and just rock for a while but, hey, I was hungry.)

We wandered around for quite a while before we located a restaurant that had a) decent-seeming lunch food for b) decent-seeming prices, along with c) restrooms and d) at least nominal air conditioning.  We settled on Cantina Poca Loca and, since I was STEAMING, I selected a table in the very corner that had a LOT of wind whistling around it.  Turned out to be a little TOO much – at various points the wind took hold of my sunglasses, our menus, spare napkins, bread crusts, and a packet of mayonnaise (thankfully closed).  But at least we were cool as we nommed our club sandwiches (me) and schnitzel (Mike).  An interesting variation of schnitzel – they topped it with pineapple and smothered it in cheese before serving it.  We may have to try that the next time we make pork chops!

After all that we walked back to the boat to cool off and clean up.  I was so hot at that point that I practically ripped off my clothes, feverishly threw on my bikini and sprayed sunblock, then SPRINTED over to throw myself into the pool.  We always go to the Solarium pool because it’s adults-only; I like kids and all, but only in small doses unless they’re family.  The Solarium pool is pretty and conveniently located next to a bar, but they throw a crapload of salt into it L  On the upside, I can float!  Yippee!

After a shower and a looooong nap, we got dressed and went down to the Crown & Anchor reception.  Basically they feed you free alcohol, in exchange for making you listen to the new beautiful ships they’re launching next year, so you really should book your next cruise now-now-NOW!  I’ll take a lecture like that in exchange for free alcohol any day; I’ve been tuning out lecturers for over twenty years now.  Just ask my mom.  (Not really, Mom!  I listen to every single thing you ever said!  I swear!!)

The large lunch and champagne tided us over till dinner, at which point I enjoyed sweet crab and shrimp salad, filet of beef shoulder and a triple-chocolate platter consisting of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake.  Mike selected beef and veal tortellini (they called it some other fancy Italian word but I can’t remember what), a seafood penne fradiavolo and the BBB – crème Brule with Bailey’s, bananas and . . . um . . . brown sugar?  B&B?  Baby bok choy?  Maybe the Brule counted as one of the B’s?  Dammit!  Well, it was really delicious crème Brule, let’s leave it at that.  So was the savory-creamy-delicious tortellini appetizer; we were grateful there were only two pieces of pasta.  (Mike says he thinks it was “tortellacci.”)

After our cigars and drinks (Johnnie Walker Black for me, vintage port for Mike) we were still awake enough to go down to the adults-only game show at 11:15, and WE ARE SO GLAD WE DID.  It is AMAZING the things that slightly-inebriated adults will do for maybe, MAYBE a key-chain prize.  Among the things we saw: men holding three bras in their hands, women showing tattoos, women lifting up their skirts to show their thongs (not realizing that they only had to show FLIP FLOPS), two men demonstrating their favorite lovemaking position (not knowing they were allowed to bring down two female partners, rather than all doing it to each other!!), women wearing two men’s belts, a three-legged sack race where a woman had to stick one leg inside a pair of a man’s pants, women holding a piece of fruit (at which point cherries and pineapples started flying out of the stands), men holding up some form of birth control (examples included a packet of The Pill, condoms, plastic bags, wedding rings, and pictures of children), women holding something fake (sure enough, one woman ran up and pointed at her chest), and men holding up a pair of false teeth.  On that last one, one guy JUST missed the deadline, but received double points anyway after HE POPPED THAT SET OF TEETH INTO HIS MOUTH.  THEY PLAYED IT BACK SLOW-MO.  I WAS ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIED WHILE AT THE SAME TIME LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY.

(And do keep an eye out for the photo posts when I come back; we have a lovely Miss America contest of men strutting their stuff while wearing a bra over their bare chests, carrying a purse, and often pantless.  You can’t wait!)

On a final note – I freakin’ LOVED Aruba and Curacao, because the official currency of those islands are florins and guilders.  Yes, really.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.

(BTW, dinner on the Aruba night was antipasto and minestrone for starters, chicken marsala and rosemary lamb shank for dinner, and warm chocolate cake and Tiramisu for dessert.  Mike really did like the Tiramisu but says it was like a solid block of mascarpone cheese; he was very glad later that he had not finished it.  Wuss.  Just kidding sweetie!  When I do the photo posts, keep an eye out for the video of waiters singing O Sole Mio in jumbled Italian, brava!)

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Caribbean Diary ’09: Aruba

Posted by Lissa on April 22, 2009

We were scheduled to arrive at Aruba at eight this morning and needed to be onshore by eight-fifteen.  Consequently, Mike sucked it up and performed his husbandly duties without grumbling – he went off and brought back coffee, then went BACK out and snagged us both food from the breakfast buffet.  I didn’t have to roll out of bed until I had bedside delivery of coffee AND ham-and-cheese omelet AND bacon AND sausage AND pineapple and cantaloupe and honeydew AND hash browns.  (Like one piece of each, not huge helpings.  I’m not wedding-dress-fitting crazy anymore, but neither am I a 300-lb football linebacker.)  He is a good husband-kitty J 

Off the dock and into a tiny little bus for Rancho Notorious!  (I’m hoping they’re notorious for happy horses, ’cause they claim that’s what they’re known for.  Not once-famous now-dead rappers.)  They divided us by experience level and then assigned us our pretty horsies.  Just like last year, I got to be the first person assigned to the horse – I wonder if they customarily assign the most-excited person first?  I’m not saying that if I had to wait around I’d wander about petting random horses . . . but then again I’m not saying I WOULDN’T.  I ended up on a pretty white mare named Pocahontas, while Mike ended up riding  . . . Hillary.  As in Clinton.  Yes, really.

We mostly did a brisk walk, through residential neighborhoods and trails among bushes and cacti, before reaching the beach path.  We rode alongside the beautiful rolling blue-green Caribbean and I very narrowly restrained myself from trying to gallop headlong into the surf.  After all, there might be sharks.  PONY-EATING SHARKS, Y’ALL.

The only really sad thing about the horsies as that their stirrups were MEAN stirrups that chafed me and occasionally bit Mike.  I have leather-burn on the inside of my calves and poor Mike looks like I playfully pinched his calves over and over again.  With a pair of pliers.

(Interjection at Mike’s request – he would like me to mention that one of the guides at Rancho Notorious was wearing a Yankees shirt that read, “Four In a Row – 2001.”  He found this very amusing and wanted to take a picture to send his Yankee-fan uncle.  For the non-baseball fans, he explains that they LOST that fourth-one-in-a-row, so the T-shirts got donated to folks from developing nations.  It’d be funnier if there weren’t “Perfect Season” Patriots shirts that got the same treatment . . .)

After the horsies were done we stopped at an Italian/Brazilian tapas bar and split caprese salad, abondigas, cold sliced chorizo and sautéed shrimp.  Upon wandering back to the boat, we encountered a sad kitty with a hurt paw – he was limping and licking at it, wah!  Didn’t look like anything was broken, and not much I could do about it anyway, but we checked on it twice later that day – I hope it was just a thorn in its paw or something similarly superficial.  It was a pretty kitty, too, looked like a little mini lion L

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful; we picked up a few souvenirs, sampled the local Aruban beer, ditched our stuff in the room and went to play a little mini-golf.  I was pleasantly surprised; I haven’t played mini-golf in about ten years and I’m not NEARLY as terrible as I remember it.  Of course, the last few times I played were at a course right next to a lake; it seriously throws my swing off when I have to swat six mosquitoes in between shots.  Two, or  three, or four I can handle, but even a superwoman has limits, you know.

We had a light snack because I didn’t think I’d make it till 8:30 – roasted vegetables on a cheese roll for me, a slice of pepperoni pizza for Mike, and a cookie apiece should take care of us until dinner.  It’s Italian Festival night; Mike has just informed me that he intends to wear his pale (almost white) khakis and his green polo shirt.  When added to his red nose (bad Mike!  More sunscreen!) he’s got the whole tri-colore thing going on.  And I thought *I* was good at color coordination . . .

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Caribbean Diary 09: Boat Day

Posted by Lissa on April 22, 2009

Made it onto the boat!!!  I was so busy writing up the wedding-y stuff that it took me two full days to mention Caribbean gossip.  Makes me sound terribly jaded, but the second time around I don’t feel the need to post about getting on the boat, the watermelon carvings in the dining room, etc.  Yes, you may accuse me of being spoiled as hell – I’d understand J

We left San Juan Sunday night around eight PM; I upheld my now-traditional custom of jumping out of my skin when they set off the foghorn.  (Managed not to spill my drink though, which is the important part!!)  We settled in and went down to the dining room, crossing our fingers that there were nice people assigned to our dining table.  So far, so good; we’re sitting with a couple named Claudia and Walter from Germany, and a couple named Martin and Jeneen from Canada.  Like, WAY up in Canada.  They claim that you CAN get used to negative-fifty degree weather; I think they’re full of [bleep].

Martin (pronounced mar-TEEN) has a penchant for telling stories, all of which seem to revolve around drinking.  As he says, you know you live in a small town when you can see a movie four times and not remember any of it.  That doesn’t make sense to you?  (It didn’t to me.)  Ah, well, see, the movie theater’s across the street from the liquor store and the same guy runs them both.  (Ohhhhhhhh, okay, that does make sense.)

Apparently, also, when you have nothing to do but drink, you have to get creative with your drinking stunts.  Like the time that Martin and his brother were bored, so they put an armchair in the back of Martin’s pickup truck.  Martin then drove around while his brother held a pole and pretended to fish out the back.  Upon getting pulled over by a rather cute, very petite policewoman, the brother responded to her query, “What th’ hell d’ye think ye’re doin, now?” with a regretful announcement that he’d probably have to throw her back, as she was under the size limit.

Dinner was, as always, delicious!  I started off with a Caesar salad, progressed to prime rib (medium rare, naturally) and finished with a strawberry-topped meringue.  Mike went with the onion-gruyere tart, selected medallions of pork and chose the special chocolate-cherry cake for dessert.  So far we’re sticking with our tried-and-true eating method from last year, which means I order something hearty like steak while Mike goes for chicken or fish.  And then I give him half my entrée.  Works well J

Monday being a boat day, we sort of lazed around for a while.  Oo oo, want to know how gluttonous we are?  We ordered room service for breakfast AND went to the cafeteria around nine-ish.  But it’s not as bad as it sounds, because the room service was really just coffee to get me out of bed, so that we could hit the yummy breakfast buffet.  Hooray for hash browns and sausage!  Hooray for no longer worrying about fitting into my very-tight wedding gown!

We spent some time at the pool – we’re not sufficiently crispy yet – then came back to the room so I could write up my wedding recollections.  We went downstairs to the Schooner Bar to hit the Wifi hot spot and Mike ended up winning a sports trivia contest.  (SHOCKING, that.)  BTW, do y’all know the derivation of the word “golf”?  It comes from the Scottish word “goulf,” which means, “to strike.”  But the silly guy running the trivia contest did his research wrong and really did think it means “gentlemen-only-ladies-forbidden.”  Guess he should have checked Wikipedia instead of just asking his buddies!

Taking our uber-fancy prizes (Royal Caribbean belt pouches) we came back up to the room so that Mike could nap and I could write post cards before getting dressed.  Last night was the super-formal boat night, so Mike yanked out his tuxedo for a second wearing while I slipped into a satin bridesmaid dress bought for Wisconsin Jen’s wedding a few years back.  We were one of the more formally-dressed couples, but I definitely saw couture dresses amongst the glittering throngs.  (And I definitely saw ill-fitting, hideous, unattractive gowns as well.  I rather think they outnumbered the pretty dresses, actually.)  Eventually Mike abandoned me to go look at watches while I walked up and down the promenade admiring (or being horrified at) the different gowns.  *SHIIIIIIIIINY*

Since we were dressed to the nines (and what does that actually mean, anyway?  Can you be dressed to the sevens?  The eights?  The elevens?) we treated ourselves to a fancier wine than the night before; it perfectly complicated our delicious clumps of butter-garlic.  (Otherwise known as escargots.  Otherwise-otherwise known as snails, but escargots sounds so much TASTIER.)  I went with the filet of beef with piquant green peppercorn sauce, while Mike chose roasted duck; we finished with a sugar-free coconut-vanilla layer cake for me and the Gran Marnier soufflé for Mike.

We went to a silly newlyweds party, which was really an excuse to drink more free champagne, before staggering to bed in preparation for an early morning.  Read about horsies in the next post!!

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