Sunday, October 18, 2009
Of local cuisine, fast food, and people who surprise you
In this recent post, I mentioned that I'd been away for two weeks, and where I had been the first week (St. Thomas). So where did we spend the second week?
So... about Curacao:
While we were in Willemstad we popped into the local McDonalds -- I know, McDonalds? -- for some iced teas, because, you know, most places in Willemstad don't serve iced tea (the real, brewed fresh kind), and, believe it or not, McDonalds does. While standing in line, we noticed this on the menu board:
McKroket? Seriously? As you may know, the kroket is a Dutch speciality that's available all over the Dutch West Indies -- Holland House in Philipsburg on St. Maarten serves great ham krokets -- but... McKroket?
I had to give it a try.
It looks like this:
It was... tasty. You know, for fast food. Meat and cheese mixed together, breaded, and deep fried. Served on a service-issue McDonalds bun. It was interesting to see McDonalds attempt to incorporate local cuisine into its menu. After a little browsing on the Internet's tubes, I learned that you can get this in McDonalds stores in the Netherlands, too.
Just so you aren't misled, this is what real Curacao cuisine looks like:
And it's great!
Also on the food front, we had lunch at (and took a ton of pictures at) the terrific Curacao Butterfly Garden. There's a post about that on Judi's Butterfly blog. You can find it here.
Another thing I learned on this trip is that you never really know anyone. The sea-channel that links Curacao's magnificent but somewhat-inland harbor to the Caribbean splits the city of Willemstad in two. The side that has most of the buildings and people is called Punda -- literally "this side" in Papiamento, the local language -- while the other side is called Otrabanda -- "other side." Makes sense, eh? :) Punda and Otrabanda are joined by the world famous (really) floating bridge -- a pontoon bridge that swings out of the way when ships and tugboats are making their way through the channel. While the bridge is swung aside, pedestrians gather in crowds on both sides, waiting for it to close.
Judi, as you may know, is big on "following the rules." Common Judi-isms: "The sign says not to do that." "I don't think they want us to go there." "They have that rule for a reason."
So we were in Otrabanda, and just walking up to the floating bridge, wanting to return to Punda, when the bridge started to open. The fence was crowded with pedestrians, waiting. But the gate in the fence was open. And you can't imagine how surprised I was when rule-following Judi suddenly walked through the open gate, all by herself, and, without missing a beat, hopped across the widening space that separated the bridge from the land.
Of course I instantly followed her -- I mean, the gap was getting wider and wider -- and then I was standing on the bridge as it moved under my feet, the land and the crowd of patient pedestrians behind the fence falling away behind me.
Yes, Judi. Jay-bridge-walking Judi, as casual as if this was the kind of thing she did every day::
The bridge is usually crowded with people, so it was strange to be on it when it was almost deserted:
A yacht in the channel, passing by the opposite end of the floating bridge, which is obviously no longer attached to land:
The far end of the bridge is lined up with a restaurant, creating the optical illusion that you could walked from the bridge straight up to your table:
But the fact is that the restaurant is up the channel from the real terminus of the bridge, and there's a lot of water between the bridge and the restaurant.
As Judi waited at the far end for the bridge to close, I caught up with her and said, "I'm amazed that you just jumped across to the bridge. That isn't like you":
She answered, with nonchalance, "I know, and it occurred to me that I might fall in and drown, or my dress might get caught in the mechanism, or I might be crushed. I can imagine the headline: 'American tourist crushed by floating bridge.' But then I went ahead and did it anyway."
You never really know anyone.
I like your blogg about Curacao. I am from Curacao myself. I have only two comments about your story: Punda does not mean " this side". Punda is an old word in Papiamento for "Punta" wich means "the corner". Because this was the first town of Willemstad established by the Dutch, the other side was called Otrobanda, which does mean "the other side". Punda is not been measured to have more buildings and inhabitants than Otrobanda. To be honest I think it is the otherway around. But overall great things you write about my Island. Thank you for that.