Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Curaçao Day 4: Downtown Willemstad and the Tall Cliffs and Water Rescues of Playa Forti

Real life update: Today was a much smoother day. I installed another folding table desk in our bedroom and spent most of the day there on calls and responding to emails without distraction, while popping out occasionally to interact with my family because if I live in a room by myself for 8 hours all day I will either go insane or get severely depressed or both. James handled the schooling with aplomb and the kids are doing some fun, creative, and personalized things. I took a 3 mile walk with the kids at my lunch and their "PE" time and James took a break. Maggie's love is big enough to hold all of us. She loves the quarantine ad she loves you. She is the home-bound hero we all need. It was a good day.

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So let's go back to precisely one week ago when we woke up and enjoyed a lazy breakfast at our rental house on the undeveloped, but crazy gorgeous west side of Curaçao. The day before we had run into a fisherman when walking back from The Blue Room attempt who said we should "come back in 2 days, let the sand settle," so we decided to follow his advice and head into town for the day instead.

And so we drove 35 minutes to the capitol city of Willemstad! We parked at the Renaissance Parking garage (free and very close to all the things), explored the Rifort (fort built in the early 1800's to protect the port), and then headed to the famous floating Queen Emma Bridge.

And it really does float! I thought James might get sea sick, but he held it together while we crossed over to the city.

The colorful buildings are so fun and after two days without really seeing or interacting with anyone, we enjoyed the gentle bustle of crowds and the mixture of languages being bandied about.

The kids were each given $5 to buy a souvenir and the care and excitement and agony that went into those purchasing decisions was truly something to behold.

We wandered narrow alleys between the brightly colored buildings and eventually ate a fantastic Dutch Caribbean lunch at a tiny café tucked between shops.

The big kids had thick yet fluffy pancakes with fruit and banana bread, Cora had a ham and cheese arepa, James had many things, and I had the most amazing giant shaved steak double layer sandwich with a full salad in the bottom half and steak, cheese, and a fried egg in the top half. It was made of magic and I miss it very much.

Along with my daytime mojito. Because that's a thing you can do on vacation.

It was super hot, so we tried to stick to the shade as we wandered around, popping into tiny shops, admiring murals, and exclaiming over Caribbean bulldogs.

"Look mom! It's Maggie!!"

Landon purchased a tiny iguana made of painted shells and Cora bought a bracelet. Claire never made her decision and left empty-handed, which is highly unusual for her. Usually she's the first to spend her cash (and the first to lose/forget what she spent it on). We found a city park across the bridge, so of course had to stop there for a bit. The kids reminisced about that time we found a park on a public beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and how it's equipment was just like ours at home but this one was different. I love hearing how they view their world travels: through the lens of playground equipment.

The slide was judged to have a design flaw, but they loved all the things that spun.

Cora got a stop at Dutch Treat at the end of the bridge, since the kids got smoothies with lunch and she hates fruit and all its flavors. She went with a chocolate ice cream bar and who can blame her.

We walked back to our car, meandering through the fort, and headed home, stopping at the only big grocery store on the island for more provisions. We were now basically experts at shopping in Dutch and got just enough to see us through the second half of our stay.

Once home we changed into suits and headed out for a late beach trip to a new destination: Playa Forti, with its promise of tall cliffs for jumping, many iguanas, and great snorkeling. Those were literally the bullet points I made during my pre-vacation research and MAN did it live up to them. I think we stopped here every day for the rest of our trip.

The beach is named for the old fort that sits atop the cliffs and now serves as the foundation for the restaurant that sits there today. I had many a snack and/or beverage there watching my husband and children throw themselves off the cliff to the applause and shock of the other people eating. I couldn't even tell you how many videos there must be of Claire flying off- a whole table sitting by the edge of the patio gasped, and then cheered when Claire surfaced with a huge grin.

But on that Wednesday, I felt that I needed to lend my beauty and grace to the proceedings and show my kids that mom grew up jumping off tall things on vacation too.

You guys, it was REALLY high. Forty feet high, per my google searches, and, while I'm not afraid of heights and really did throw myself off stuff with regularity as a child, my stomach flipped a bit when looking over the edge.

But I jumped.

And I fell forever and did like 6 different weird things with my arms until I hit the water and bruised them.

There is a coral reef near the cliffs that had amazing snorkeling and, having proved that I could jump off the cliffs if I wanted to, I sat on the beach watching Cora splash in the water while James and the big kids continued leaping, swimming 75 yards to shore, climbing the stairs and walking across the restaurant parking lot, and jumping again.

It was a gorgeous evening.

that little dot floating by the cliff is James

When we were getting close to wrapping it up and heading home, a new group of tourists arrived in the parking lot. Two of them decided they should also jump into the water and followed after James's last jump, nearly landing on him. James swam to shore and then the next thing we knew their friends were yelling "help! they can't swim!" and the two jumpers were sinking.

Luckily (and seriously SO MUCH LUCKILY; we were the only other people on the beach the whole time we were there), a strong swimmer, trained lifeguard, and CPR certified President of the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition was there on the shore to swim back out and rescue them both. And because he is trained, he knew how to do it safely, without putting himself at risk with two large panicked men in very deep water in the ocean without a ring or other flotation device to help him move them the 75 yards to shore.

Both men are fine and I told James later that makes five people he's water rescued in our time together. There are literally people on the earth who might not be if not for him and that's pretty amazing.

We went home and made tacos for dinner. The kids went to bed (it was a 3 bedroom house but they all insisted on sharing one room while the other stayed empty) and, as became our tradition, James and I sat out on the balcony, listening to the waves and enjoying the breeze for another hour or two, chatting and resting up before the next day's adventure would begin.

(All Curaçao posts tagged here.)


  1. Omg who jumps off a 40 foot cliff NOT KNOWING HOW TO SWIM? So glad you were there. My husband is an elementary school principal and once saved a choking kid in the cafeteria by giving him the Heimlich maneuver. I’m still so proud!

  2. That is amazing! Go James saving lives!

  3. What Brook said.

    Your posts make my heart feel lighter. Thank you!

  4. I'm seconding Brooke, here. That's crazy!!
    And good for you for saving a kid!