Wednesday Write-Up: Falling In Love With Lisbon

I have decided that I need to write more than one post every week for a while. There is so much going on in our lives these days that I feel like my Friday blog post is just about the sights and not the substance of our lives. I want everyone to know how we are doing as well as what we are doing. And so, what I have decided to call my Wednesday Write-Ups, will continue until either our lives get boring (who knows… it could happen) or I just have nothing else to say.

Since my last post on Curacao’s beaches, we have traveled by plane to our new home for the next month or so. The flight, I should say flights, from Curacao to Lisbon, Portugal took a total of 24 hours. We had layovers, just long enough to run from one gate to the next, in Dusseldorf, Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, before finally alighting in the charming and lively city of Lisbon.

Unfortunately, we left a part of ourselves in Zurich, we realized as we waited for our bags at the baggage claim area of Lisbon airport. All of our luggage and our stroller got left behind. It was frustrating to say the least, but we handled it well, and felt blessed to find out that they had already found our luggage at the aforementioned airport, and would deliver it to us the following day at our hostel. The problem was that we were stuck wearing stinky, dirty clothing, plus we had not brushed our teeth in more than 24 hours. I kept wondering why there seemed to three feet of open space around me as I walked about, and then I realized it was probably my putrid less than fresh breath and body odor. The moral of that story is that if you have a problem with personal space, you should just skip brushing your teeth and showering or applying deodorant for a couple of days.

I was wearing a skirt, tank top and flip flops. Zoë was wearing her favorite elephant pajamas. Chad was wearing shorts and light shirt. We walked out of the airport to a cold blustery spring day and took a taxi to the hostel that would be our home for the next 5 days. It actually felt really nice to not be carrying 100 pounds of luggage, Chad and I realized how great it would be that someone else would have to carry our bags to our new place. Yes, we were both trying to be positive, while suffering somewhat severely from jet lag and trying to talk to each other through our hands so as not to commit bad breath homicide.

We checked into our luxury hostel right in the thick of downtown and the tourist district, called Traveller’s House and they have it right: it is luxurious… which made my very natural odor seem even that more wretched. So we dropped off our carry-ons, tried to freshen up the best we could and headed to the nearest market, or mercado, to buy some much needed hygiene products. After getting everything we needed, we settled down for some dinner at an outdoor eatery almost right outside our hostel door. We shared some steak and fish with potatoes and rice, not the best food we have ever had, but a vast improvement over the food in Curacao. We were too tired to go get clothing for the next day at the H&M a block from the hostel (thats right! I am in H&M heaven! I have one a block from me thats 3 stories and another one about 10 blocks away that is 5 stories! Try not to be too jealous…I know it’s tough) and stumbled back to our room to finally brush our teeth. What a great feeling it was to have clean teeth.

We went back to our room and all three of us went to bed around 8pm and slept peacefully until 9 the next morning! I cannot tell you what an awesome thing that was! Chad and I had assumed that Zoë would be getting used to the time difference and would keep us up until the wee hours of the morning, or that she would wake up and want to play half way through the night. But no! She slept from 8pm to 9 am, the longest she has ever slept in her life without waking! And since then, she goes to sleep around eight every night and sleeps until at least 7 am. This time change seems to have agreed with her! Thank you God!

So far this week, we have walked around downtown Lisbon and tried different restaurants, they mostly serve the same fare (lots of seafood and steak… yummy!), but each one has its own slight differences and it’s fun to try them all. I have located two Starbucks in the area and have still been able to enjoy my Chai tea lattes. I know Chad is going to be chagrined with me for talking about Starbucks. He really likes to go to the local cafes, but he drinks Americanos (or as they call it here “American coffee”), which you can get anywhere, but it is difficult to find good chai tea lattes. And so I get a Starbucks every day sometimes, everyone has their guilty pleasures right?

Like Mother Like Daughter-Zoë Loves Her Starbucks

Like Mother Like Daughter-Zoë Loves Her Starbucks

The thing that I love about Lisbon is the architecture and the cobbled sidewalks and streets that make it known to me that I am away from home. I am in this amazing, colorful, old city. It blows my mind that I could live in a building built in the 18th century here, not just take a tour through one, but actually LIVE in one! Two things remind me of home, the hills of Lisbon remind me a lot of the hills of San Francisco. The weather here also reminds me of home. Hot and breezy during the day followed by cool evenings to clean the air and give you a chance to wear your light sweater and jeans.

The Architecture Here is Just Amazing!

The Architecture Here is Just Amazing!

On Thursday we move into a large studio apartment on Rua De Liverpool for the next month or so. The apartment has amazing views of the city as it is on the 4th floor (all stairs too, no elevator…my legs are gonna be gorgeous) and has a balcony overlooking the hills of Lisbon. I cannot wait to post pictures and tell you more about this city that already feels like (a new and exciting) home! I really am falling in love with Lisbon. I really am looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you! Talk to you on Friday.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. James 1:2

Review: The Unexpected Expected.

The Unexpected Expected – By CRM

There are two things that happened on the island of Curacao. Or rather there are two distinct things that happened concerning food. Food is a favorite subject on this blog, Jenny and I love to eat our way around the word, and we love to experience a place by sampling the local cuisine.

Having said that, I am sadly not as adventurous as Jenny in regards to food. I am a lover of fine foods, can appreciate and understand the delicate things, and I have expensive taste. However, sometimes I am as American as can be, and have a hard time with things that don’t fit the flavor profiles I have come to expect.

Does that mean I won’t eat a lizard, river-weed, or rat? No, it does not mean that I won’t step outside of my comfort zone, but I may not be the most excited about doing it, and I may not order it more than once.

So it comes as no surprise that I we ended up doing what one tends to do while in a foreign place and ordering the sandwich with french fries way too often because at least you know you will leave with a full stomach. This is a two part review of the expected, the safe, and the familiar, and secondly of the unexpected, the strange, and the way the road turns.

RibsThe Rib Factory:

Who knew there could be such a place on oude caracasbaaiweg in Curaçao? An out of the way little joint with fresh veggies, delicious entrees, and a rather fine cocktail… It was two doors down from our house, which made it rather convenient, especially after a long day in the sun, and the food is offered to go if that is what you are looking for…

First off order their burger, ribs, sandwiches or anything else that we grew to enjoy and you won’t be disappointed. The samplings are well sized, and are not that pricey compared to what else you can find on this little Caribbean island.

food Ribs2

The menu isn’t diverse or challenging, and the choices are clear and plain. There are quesedilllas (which we didn’t end up trying), Nachos, which are mainly just cheese, chicken, and some light, fresh salsa on top of a bed of decent tortilla chips, fajitas (which looked quite good), and a few other options as well.

Unfortunately, as is the case in most places we’ve traveled outside the US, the vegetarian options are limited to salad. Which is nothing more than a bed of green lettuce, a slice of bell pepper, a tomato or two, and maybe an onion. Followed up with 1000 island dressing. The vegetarian way of life was one we gave up the first time we traveled… Quite simply because we were constantly given meat in our food even when we didn’t order it… and the other option of eating only lettuce or tomatoes all day sounded rather dull…

As for the ambiance, the rib shack looked like… well, a shack, from a distance, but up close it held a nice patio and a cool air-conditioned interior. Always nice on a typical 85 degree bay on the island.

I wouldn’t say that the familiar was a bad thing in this case. Fortunately it was probably one of the best food places we experienced on the island and one wouldn’t break the bank. The prices ran for 20-35 guilders an entrée ($12-20 US) and you definitely get your money’s worth.

Zoë would give this a 3 out of 5 and we agree!

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Jaanchies:

Then there are these times: the unexpected, the strange, and the unfamiliar. The twists in the road that take you unexpectedly to a place you probably wouldn’t have tried if you had made the choice but there you are, and there you find yourself enjoying the experience all the more for the unfamiliarity of it all.

Our place was Jaanchies.

We’d set out on our last day on the island, to drive to the far west point of the island (Westpunt), and have dinner at a place called Sol Food. Back in California it was the name of a most excellent Puerto Rican place not too far from our home in the town of San Rafael.

Since there were so many familiar names on the island (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz… Spanish influence anyone?) we decided to check out this place about 45 minutes from our home and enjoy a well deserved delicious meal as our final hurrah before departure.

But as mentioned before, the road dictates the adventure, and this one plan was not to be: the place was closed. So we shrugged off our disappointment, the place looked so good, and drove around in circles debating which of the island food shacks to visit.

Fortunately there was a place that we had seen on the way in called Jaanchies, that had a dutch flag flying outside, and a kitschy décor that beckoned even from the outside.

As we walked in we were beckoned to a table, next to a living, open aviary that surrounded the open walls. Most places on the island try to keep the many birds from the eateries, but this one made a show of it. There were bird feeders occupying the branches, and more “ducks” (as Z likes to call any feathered creature), fluttering about than we had seen during our entire stay. The best part was that the birds stayed away from the tables and eating only out of their trays. Man living in harmony with nature you could say.

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Z loves the birds.

Anyhow, the owner of the restaurant appeared after a while and delivered the menu orally, as there was only what they prepared that day available. We were given no prices, just the option to have goat stew, conch, iguana, fried or grilled fish (who knows what kind), and a few other things that I can’t recall. The choices between French fries (NOT AGAIN), or beans and rice, were offered as a side.

Jenny chose the goat stew, and I chose the fried fish. I went for safe, as I simply couldn’t be persuaded to be adventurous only a day before 24 hours of flights (see Jenny’s upcoming post tomorrow!).

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Goat Stew

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Fried Fishes

The food was good, nothing too spectacular, but good. And it came on a metal tray with the sides beside it. Z ate a lot of the food, she usually abstains from meat, and we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. It wasn’t spectacular, but once again, this island doesn’t do spectacular food. Or at least we never found it… This might be due to the fact that the island imports everything… except goats… and sun…

Finally they brought us out each a half of a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich (odd choice), drizzled in strawberry sauce.

Overall the ambiance was great, the service lackluster (it took 45 minutes for our food…) and the food generally interesting. I wish I could say I had tried the Iguana or the Conch, but the adventurer in me was a little less brave that day. I think Z would agree when we give this place 2.5 out of 5 thumbs. It was better than most of the places on the island, butfelt it could have done it all just a bit better with a little more effort. Especially with such an interesting locale…

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Until next time… Eat well.

Chad

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Curacao Part 2: The Beaches

I love the sun, I love the heat (preferably between 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit please) and I love beaches. Well, I should say that I love beaches for the most part, because sand annoys me to no end. Sand is an annoyance I put up with for the sun, water, and golden brown tan.

In Northern California, some say that we have beaches, but I like to call it the coast, as it is usually very cold and windy, it has rough rocky sand and the water is freezing, so to me it’s unswimmable. I never enjoyed going to the coast/beach, in fact I refused, until I realized that not all beaches are the same. There are amazing beautiful beaches in this world, and Curacao has some of them.

I am not going to rate the beaches, because each person has a different desire for their beach time. I just want to give you my opinion and the facts on the beaches we visited and you can decide for yourself.

(Just a side note here, all the prices I am going to give are in US dollars, which every place on the island are equipped to use, but I would highly suggest getting and using their currency, the guilder, because often times we had people give us change in guilders for our US Dollars and had some people try to give us the incorrect change or exchange rates. The exchange rate is 1.75 to $1.)

Mambo Beach (Officially Sea Aquarium Beach)

The Entrance to Mambo Beach

The Entrance to Mambo Beach

This was the beach that we most frequented. Located just a five minute drive from our house, and next to the Sea Aquarium, it had ample parking and many different amenities. The $3 charge for adults to use the beach and facilities was well worth it, in my opinion. There was also a way onto the beach that was free, just go through the shopping area that is currently under construction if you want to skip the entrance fee. This beach had everything and the prices were reasonable. They have covered beach beds ($9, can fit many people on one covered bed) and lounge chairs ($3 each) for rent, although most days no one came up to ask us for payment and we used the lounge chairs for free the whole day. There are four or five different colors of chairs and each color has a person that comes and collects the money, it is hard to know who to pay, unless they come up and ask you for the money, so I didn’t feel like we were cheating anyone.

There are plenty of shady areas for those that do not enjoy direct sunlight and sun filled areas for those that don’t mind a little color (which for me at first was a garish lovely shade of brick red).

There are public restrooms near the entrance that are clean and well supplied.

Now to the really important amenities, the bars and food. There are three bars along the beach (which are all about a 1 minute walk apart). As far as I could tell, all the drinks at each bar are the same prices, cocktails $7 and beers $3-4. I honestly do not know the prices of the non-alcoholic drinks, but they must be less than the alcoholic ones right? The first bar as you come in the entrance is a large hut that has a real hippie feel to it. The lady bartenders that work there are the nicest and most helpful on the beach. They also make one delicious long island iced tea. They also have snacks such as nachos (like just chips with nacho cheese on them-not our amazing northern California taqueria nachos, don’t be fooled!) and chips and such.

The next bar along the beach is a modern looking all white bar that is next to a shallow swimming pool (for those that don’t want to go in the ocean 10 feet away) and plays european house music loudly all day. They also have an espresso machine and food such as sandwiches, hamburgers, fries, etc. I did not try their food or drinks, as they always seemed very busy with the single crowd and it kind of felt like a meat market to me.

The last bar on the beach looks like it was just quickly put up with Polar beer aluminum signs as half-walls and is pretty bare bones. The one time I tried to get a drink there, there was a unhelpful jerk gentlemen that was obviously experiencing short mans complex a rough day and I didn’t go back again after being treated disdainfully for having too large a bill for him to give change for. Chad ended up going there when there were different bartenders and his experience was fine.

mambobeachbar

We found the cheapest, yummiest food on the island at this beach! The Aloha Beach Bar served hamburgers, sandwiches, amazing beef and chicken satay, and some Dutch favorites that I can’t remember the names of, but they were delicious!

This beach has sand that was fine and fun to play in and didn’t stick too badly so I wasn’t horribly annoyed by it. Zoë loved playing in the sand and water. It was nice and clean, so I didn’t worry much about her digging and playing in the sand. She is definitely a little beach bum.

Lions Dive and Beach Resort Private Beach

This was a stolen beach for us. We didn’t plan on going to this beach, but after our long walk and getting lost for a bit on our second day on the island, we decided just to go for it. When we tried walking from our house to the beach this is the resort on the very end of the street. I went and asked for directions and was told that we could go through their resort to Mambo beach. On our way to Mambo beach, we saw that they had a beach side restaurant called Hemingway. With Chad being a writer and all, we had to eat there, and although I think that Hemingway is a flowery and overly-descriptive writer, this restaurant was a nice straight forward little place to have a snack.

Anyways, we decided to have a dip in the water on their beach (which I guess you can pay a nominal fee to use too) without asking and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The beach was clean and quiet. If I was to go back to Curacao, I would consider staying at Lions Dive Resort because of their beautiful beach a few steps from the rooms.

Cas Abou Beach

Zoë Loves to be Buried in the Sand

Zoë Loves to be Buried in the Sand

This is a beach that needs to be driven to no matter where you are staying, and it is worth the drive. Cas Abou beach is a pristine white sand beach where the sand is literally as fine as flour. It is absolutely wonderful sand to play in, the texture of it begs to be touched (even by me!), until you try to get it off of you. This is the beach that Zoë discovered the fun of being buried in the sand, and although the sand stayed on her, I looked past it. How can you stop an adorable little girl from doing something that makes her laugh so much? Luckily this beach has showers that you can use, you can buy a token for it at the bar I think. We didn’t end up using them because there were a bunch of bees wanting the fresh water, and me being a wuss cautious person, ran screaming like a little girl before we could use them.

This exquisite beach is toward Westpunt, which is northwest of Willemstad, and is well worth the drive. It costs $6 a car for the day to use the beach and $3 per lounge chair. The beach is nice enough to just lay on with a towel though if you do not want to use a chair. There is a bar/snack bar on the beach, as well as very nice public restrooms. I did not get a drink or food here, but it was nice to have the option.

We played on this beach for half a day and loved it. I would recommend that you get there early to take advantage of the whole day on this little piece of paradise. Also, just a note, you are able to bring your own food/drinks onto this beach (most of the beaches that is a big no no) so live it up and bring some eats!

Jan Thiel Beach

Jan Thiel Beach

Jan Thiel Beach

This was one of my least favorite beaches, well if you could really even call it a beach. It was a cemented area covered with rocky sand that was dirty and busy. It cost $4 a person to enter the beach.

This was a sun-bathers paradise though, with numerous lounge chairs for rent ($3 per chair) and a couple of bars/restaurants available for your enjoyment, but it was over-priced and if you want to play on the beach, this beach is not for you. It has a very small little beach area that is rocky and over-crowded. There is very little area for children to play in the sand, as most of the area is cement with what looks and feels like kitty litter laid shallowly over it. There is a staircase into the deep part of the ocean a little over from the beach as it seems that all people do here are sunbathe or snorkel.

In all honesty, I do not snorkel or dive, so this may be a great destination for those that do. Or for a couple/person without children. But for me, who wanted to play with my daughter in the sand and water, this is not the beach for me. Not only that but it was $15 for an appetizer at the restaurant which I believe was called Zanzibar. It all comes back to the food for me. The drinks, not even worth trying because I began to feel as though I was being ripped off.

All in all, if you have money to spend and feel like getting a great tan and maybe snorkeling or diving, this “beach” is for you.

 Caracasbaai Beach

The Huge Machine Thing

The Huge Machine Thing

This beach was a local beach that was marred by a huge piece of transformer looking machinery very close to the beach. It did have a lovely little local eatery that I thoroughly enjoyed (ham and cheese sandwich was very good and not as expensive as other places), except for the smell of oil in the air. This beach was a bit rocky, but it was free to use and had some public restrooms and a few tables and shaded areas for you to use (if you get there early enough to save them).

The water looks beautiful, but does smell like petrol. We chose not to not go in the water, but many others did it seemed. The overall smell in the air turned our stomachs and made it a bit uninhabitable. It also was a bit rocky instead of sandy as far as the beach went. I probably wouldn’t recommend this beach unless your olfactory senses arent working, then it might be a pleasant time.

Playa Lagun

This beach was one that we actually didn’t get to partake in, but we did stop and check it out on our last day on the island. This beach, near the town of Lagun on the northern tip of the island, is a hidden gem. I wish that we would have found it earlier in our trip. Playa Lagun (which must be reached by car-I think a taxi would have been EXPENSIVE) is a little cove. The walls are petrified coral that is very cool to explore. I think it would be amazing to snorkel or dive off of this beach, if my claustrophobia would let me wear a snorkel. Yes, I am that weird person that cannot wear snorkel goggles, its embarrassing but I am working on it.

Playa Lagun has white sand and the water is warm. The beach is free to use and you can rent beach chairs for $2. There are a couple of huts that give shade if you need it. This is a very small and secluded beach but it has a stairway to a restaurant and bar that seemed cool, too. I really wish I could have spent more time here. If you have been here or end up going here please leave a comment because I would love to know more about it.

Chad and I did not visit every beach on the island (there are so many), but I wanted to let you know about the ones that we did. If you have been here and want to tell about a beach you have been to thats not listed here, please leave a comment! I am sure other travelers would love to know!

Curacao Part One: The Island

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Curacao is not what I had expected. I am not saying that in an entirely negative way, there are things that I have enjoyed and things that I wish I had known before coming here. Not much is written about this diverse and colorful island for the indie traveler. And that is why I write this blog, to not only keep in touch with all my family and friends throughout the world, but also to help fellow travelers along their journey.

There is not much written on Curacao as a vacation destination unless you are staying on a resort. Curacao is the largest island of the Dutch Antilles or the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). The islands were originally “discovered” by the Spanish (there was a group of natives called the Arawaks that were here first) in the 1500’s and by 1815 belonged to the Dutch. The Dutch settled the island and started plantations, and the port of Willemstad became a stopping point for ships from all countries on their way to deliver their wares. You can still see this with all the many cruise ships (one or two a day) that stop here to drop off their guests on land for the day.

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Cruise Ship in Willemstad Harbor

When we decided to go make this the first out of the USA stop on our long journey, it was because we were looking for beautiful beaches, good food, frosty drinks, and just an all around relaxing time. Also I love to be tan (yes, I do still use sunscreen, don’t worry) and wanted a fresh tan before we ventured on to Europe.

We felt there were three different choices for us: Curacao, Costa Rica, and Belize. Chad We looked at all the information available both online and in book form (I know, kicking it old school!). Our main desire was for beaches that were clean and accessible, where I could sunbathe and Chad and Zoë could swim and play in the water. I, of course, also looked into the food of the region, the shopping and other amenities (do you really want to see how long my underarm hair gets if I can’t get it waxed-not pretty to say the least).

We decided on Curacao, the beaches looked beautiful and easy to get to, the amenities and shopping all seemed good, as it looked like a resort-y sort of island. Belize was out because everything we read said their beaches weren’t really conducive to sunbathing or swimming. And Costa Rica was out because Chad had been there before and wanted to see somewhere new, and because the beach towns take buses to get to from the airport, and we just weren’t ready to put Zoë through long bus trips quite yet.

So we arrived at the tiny airport terminal in Curacao (finally! see my last post for story on flights) and were greeted by a taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it, it was very exciting, I felt like royalty. I know, it’s almost sad how easy it can be to make me excited. Our new landlord had arranged for a taxi for us. It was great, cost about $35 US dollars and gave us a chance to look around the island a little bit on our way to Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao, and the place we would be staying for the next couple weeks. I was enamored with the quaint little dutch colonial houses in all their bright colors, and was surprised to see, on the more inland area of Willemstad, huge oil refineries, with tall smoke stacks and oil tankers sitting in the bay. They don’t show you that in the tourism sites. It was visible but not too close to the main part of town though and was easy to forget about unless you were driving right past them.

We booked a house through airbnb.com, a two bedroom, one bathroom house with a full kitchen and a back yard area that looked, well…simply tropical. The house, owned by a local husband and wife team, was everything and more than we had imagined! Huge really, and clean and well stocked with linens and kitchen utensils. It had air-conditioning (only to be used through the night) and fans to keep us from getting too spoiled and to feel like real locals. And all of this for under $70 a night, I felt like we had won the lottery.

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Zoë Checking Out Our New Place

After arriving to the house from the airport, getting settled in and trying to get used to the heat, 86 degrees and about 80% humidity-not bad really but it does take some adjusting, we decided to find something to eat. Lucille, the lady renting us the house, told us about all the “American” food places in the area, including McDonalds, (insert very sarcastic hooray here) when we got to the house. We decided to try the old Applebee’s that was now called “Larry’s”  right down the street from our new home, and it turned out to be just that, an Applebee’s. Not exactly the most exciting food, but not the worst either. This was the first time that we noticed that the prices of food here are relatively the same as the prices in northern California, about $10-15 a person, plus drinks.

THE FOOD

Photo Taken by Chad R. Mitchell

Zoë Enjoying Some Stewed Fish at the Old Market            Photo Taken by Chad

(Are you surprised that I started with the food? I feel so predictable…oh well. )

I had thought from what I had read, that the food was going to be creole food, not one of my favorites, but something new and different so I was excited. This turned out to be hard to find. Local food for us foreigners is only easily available in the Old Market in the Punda area of Willemstad. Old Market is where locals and tourists can eat alike (although the tourists are charged much more, about $11 a plate). I fell in love with the stewed goat and stewed fish platters that included beans and rice, and savory plantains. Best food I have had on the island, hands down. There are many restaurants and eateries along the beaches and in town that offer other food, mostly Dutch, Chinese, or American dishes though. There are also a ton of rib places, one of them two doors down from our house, called The Rib Factory which we were very pleased to find out does have delicious ribs, tex-mex dishes, sides and cocktails.

Just a side note, there are many other restaurants that I have seen in the more locals areas, but for a tourist, there are not many that are accessible. So all in all, the food has been rather disappointing and expensive. Luckily we have our own kitchen, so we have been making most of our breakfasts and lunches at home. Which brings me to my next topic…shopping.

THE SHOPPING

There is much shopping to do here, and for someone just coming for a vacation and heading back home, it would be fun. But for us, who us continuing on after this and already have 75 pounds of luggage to handle, shopping is not really smart or feasible.

There is a huge contrast in shopping here, next door to the United Colors of Benetton store is a mom and pop shop filled with cheap souvenirs and bottles of every color of curacao liqueur known to man for sale. There is a Victorias Secret and the next block over is a shop selling lingerie with Victoria Secret Bags in the window, so I guess we will think that store is the real Victorias Secret (I saw through their clever ruse though). They seem to all buy their souvenir wears from the same manufacturer so you could pretty much go into any store and find the same knick knacks and post cards. The clothing stores look like they have some cute clothing actually (in normal sizes even) so if I was here on vacation I probably would have done some clothes shopping.

Pretty much, the only type of shopping I have done while here, is grocery shopping. I know, even on a tropical island, I lead a very routine exciting life. We have a supermarket a block away from our house here, called Best Buy, which I have grown to dislike immensely. It’s a large, dark warehouse that smells a little like rotting meat. They have all the normal wares (although I stopped buying their produce because it was always rotten inside when I got home) and it was convenient and buying food to make is much cheaper than eating out every meal. Every time I would go into the store though, the ladies that work there were so rude (I think it was because they don’t speak English and maybe were nervous?) that I gave up. I stopped shopping at their mildly disgusting fine establishment and now make Chad drive me to a supermarket about 15 minutes away in a suburb of Willemstad.

And that is a good segue to my next topic…

TRANSPORTATION

I truly love to use public transportation as much as possible. Wait… let me rephrase that- I truly love to use public transportation as much as possible, except in California (most people I know would agree with me, California’s public transportation is severely lacking). In every other country I have visited, the buses, trains, subways, etc. were a great way to get where you were going while rubbing elbows (sometimes literally) with the locals and seeing parts of a place that you probably wouldn’t unless someone else was driving you.

I also love to walk (city walk that is, I’m definitely not a hiker), in fact my mother and I used to walk miles around our town just to get some exercise and visit. This is why I thought that we should be able to walk everywhere from our house in Curacao. The landlord had said in her description of the house we were subletting, that the beach was 10 minutes away, and so Chad and I decided that we would walk to the closest beach our second day here. Well, she must have meant by car, because it took much longer than 10 minutes.

We were pushing Zoë in a city stroller, not an off-road stroller, and it was very hot outside. I love heat, but direct sunlight while walking on pavement mixed with the exhaust from cars passing by, make for an uncomfortable walk. Not only that, but there were no sidewalks and pushing the stroller with a 26 pound toddler and all of our bags, made for a difficult slow pace. We kept thinking the beach was just over the next hill and pressed on. The whole time I was worried that Zoë, now sound asleep, was going to get sunburnt and be miserable so I kept reapplying sunscreen to her exposed knees (we had a light blanket shading the rest of her) and praying that the beach was close. About an hour later, we arrived at a resort called the Lions Dive and Beach Resort and stole our way onto their beach after having a snack at their beachfront restaurant, Hemingway’s. We finally were able to go in the beautiful aquamarine water! All three of us had a great time!

When it was time for us to leave the stolen beach, we quickly decided to take a taxi anywhere else we were going that day. Lucky for us there was a taxi stand about a 10 minute walk from the resort. Taxi’s here on the island do not have meters, they all give a set price for the place you want to go, for example, from Lions Dive Resort to downtown Willemstad (Punda) was $15 US (you can use either Dutch Guilders or US dollars for everything here, the conversion is 1.75 Guilders= $1) and there is no negotiation on the prices. After walking around Punda for a bit, we decided that we would need to rent a car. It was a tough decision because we really didn’t want to spend another big chunk of money, but figured that after using taxis every day, we would be spending around the same amount. Our house was not in walking range of any beaches, such a bummer. My advice, look at the map closely when choosing a place to stay, don’t take the owners word for it.

We rented a car from a car rental agency down the street from our house, Boric Car Rental. We were able to negotiate the price with the helpful gentleman there and left the parking lot with a very small economy car that suited our needs perfectly. (For those with children needing car seats, most car rental agencies will rent them to you.)

Only after we rented the car, did we notice all the signs on the side of the road saying “Bushalte”. They were everywhere and we learned they were the bus stops. We could have taken a cheap bus around the island…oops. On the bright side, we were now able to explore the island on our own terms and hopefully find some amazing beaches, which we did! I want to devote a whole article to the beaches that we have visited here, there is just too much to write about in this one. So stay tuned for next weeks post!

LODGING

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Our Place in Curacao

We rented a roomy house off of airbnb.com that we love, although the location is a bit out of the way. There were other houses nearer the beach (I assume) that were far more expensive. We chose this one for the size and price. We are quite happy with the house itself and love the people renting it to us (you can see where we stayed by clicking here). There are many resorts on the island that have beach fronts and seemed much more expensive when we were planning this part of our trip. I now realize that we probably would have spent near the same amount money if we had just stayed on a resort, after having to rent a car and paying to get on beaches and such.

 FINAL THOUGHTS

So what are my thoughts on making Curacao a stop on your round the world trip? They are simply this: If you choose to come here, don’t try to be an indie traveler. Buy in, stay at a resort, and relax on a beach right outside your door. The island has some things to see outside of a resort, but there is not much in the way of cultural spots for a tourist to see that you can’t get to from a resort.

Also, make sure that your budget reflects that the prices here are similar, or sometimes more (they sell 7 ounce beers in restaurants here for $5!!!!) than they are in the some of the more expensive areas of the US.

All-in-all, I am happy that we have experienced the island of Curacao, mostly so that I can now share the information with all of you fellow travelers. And why not see every part of this amazing Earth we live on?

Stay tuned for next weeks post “Willemstad, Curacao Part Two-The Beaches!” You will want this information if you choose to come to Curacao!

Freaky Flights

We have been so blessed in so many ways so far this trip, except when it comes to our flights. We have flown 5 times in the last two weeks, and 3 out of those five have had something go amiss either during or before the flight. I have chalked it up to God testing our gumption to making this trip the best it can be and teaching me to trust Him and have been trying to find the silver lining in each situation. I know, for those of you that know me well, try not to faint, I have had a positive attitude! Well mostly anyways…

We left our hometown two Sundays ago, jumping on a quick flight to Los Angeles (LAX) at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am. We were then forced to land in San Jose because something was wrong with the nose wheel (not exactly what the pilot said but close enough). As the whole plane full of people crowded off the plane to get in line to rebook their flight, I decided it would be fantastic time to put Zoë in the stroller and because of this we were dead last. Yes, Chad and I and our tired and confused perfectly behaved and patient 21 month old daughter were forced to stand in line for an hour to rebook our flight. Then when we got to the desk to transfer our flight, we waited for another hour at the counter while our airline had to figure out the payment of our new flight. At last we were given the very last seats on a full Southwest flight two hours later. On a positive note, they did give us enough vouchers for a free breakfast and Peets coffee drinks (which made me very happy, it is almost like they knew I love to eat!).

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(The first photo of us on the plane to Disneyland. Photo Taken by Jenny)

Finally we made it to LAX, just a mere eternity four hours after our original flight was supposed to arrive. But we were glad we arrived safely and headed to Disneyland right away, which made every thing all better.

Disneyland was amazing all three days we went, both of my wonderful sisters came with us for one of the days and it was so special for Zoë to have time with her aunties and for me. It was a perfect send-off. Disneyland was not crowded at all really, the ride lines were all pretty short and the weather was amazing. It was a great start to our travels. I would definitely recommend going the second week of April folks, it was perfect!

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(Zoë with Auntie Nicole and Auntie Lisa at Disneyland. Photo Taken by Jennifer Mitchell)

Three days after our lovely time in San Jose (see I am being positive!), we had a marvelous flight from LAX to Austin, Texas. Zoë, as it turns out, is a champion flyer. She had a great time watching the “boo” (blue) sky out the windows and playing with me and Chad. She probably loves it because we have no choice but to sit and entertain her, lucky girl.

Austin, Texas is a vibrant city alive with things to do and see (I know it sounds cliché, but its true!). There is outdoor seating at almost every restaurant/bar (Chad made sure to comment on this a million several times a day), great shopping (any town with an H &M has my heart), and an awesome park, named Zilker Park, that Zoë enjoyed immensely (I’m sure that they have other parks, this one was just the closest to where we were staying). If we ever do come back to live in the good ole’ USA, this is a place I would definitely love to try out.

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(Austin, Texas Capitol Building. Photo Taken by Jenny)

After too few days (four days to be exact, I could have used another week really) in Austin, we left for our second awesome flight going first to Dallas then to Miami as our final destination for the day. The flight to Dallas was on time, not full and Zoë fell asleep in my lap as soon as we sat down. This is the first time that she has ever fallen asleep without some sort of cuddling or nursing, I was happy and thankful to say the least! She slept the whole way and even through the Dallas airport for a bit after we landed. What a great daughter I have! (Sorry about that, proud mommy moment.)

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(Chad and Zoë boarding the plane. Photo Taken by Jenny 

From there we were transferring to another flight in two hours headed to Miami. We settled in and had some crappy food at TGI Fridays in the airport and waited for our time to board. We finished eating and headed to our departure gate, somewhat lackadaisically because it was close by and we had a little time before we were to board . When we arrived at the gate, we realized that the gate had changed and boarding was already starting. (For anyone that has taken young infants and/or children on planes, you know that it is imperative that you get in line and board before all the other coach passengers, so you can get settled before the mad rush of business people and other people unencumbered by little ones.) So we ran to the gate (which was 23 gates away) and got there just in time (see…more positivity)! We boarded and were finally on our way to Miami. The flight was late in arriving, but we were in the balmy warm rain of the southernmost tip of America safely and I was happy with that.

When we finally arrived in our budget motel which was a good half an hour away from the airport, we decided just to relax, let Zoë run around the room a little and not do any sight seeing in Miami. Traveling days are hard and we really just planned on staying in Miami to break up the flights on our way to Curacao. Plus, the hotel that we chose seemed to be in one of the bad less touristy neighborhoods, and so we decided to just stay put for the night and head to the airport for our flight to curacao without really checking anything out.

We woke up the next day feeling rested and ready to go. I was so excited to be in Curacao relaxing on the beach, and also to be done with flying and airports for the next two weeks. I felt that we were becoming pro’s at travel and flying, I mean, Zoë was so great on all the flights, Chad and I had gone through many flight delays and problems without wanting to run back home and this was the last one for a bit. This plane ride would be a cinch. What is that saying again… oh yeah… pride comes before a fall.

We arrived at the Miami airport two and a half hours before we were to board. When we entered the airport it was chaos, and not structured chaos either. There were crowds of people, that I think were supposed to be lines, everywhere. I just figured it was a busy day, but when we went to the international check in area, we were told that the American Airlines computer system was down and would possibly be down all day. The self-serve kiosks were still working though and we were told to check in there. So we waited in line (Zoë was sleeping in her stroller peacefully, thank God!) and we attempted to check in. Since we were checking in with a lap infant, we could not use the kiosks, we were told to speak to a service attendant and when we did, the helpful woman told us that most likely we would not be able to get on our flight today, but to go stand in an extremely long line and hope that there was something that could be done. We went and we waited, patiently even, while Zoë continued to sleep and we researched what was happening using our phones. (How did we ever get along without smart phones? The American Airlines employees couldn’t give us any information, but our handy iPhones could)

April 16th must have been an incredibly expensive day for American Airlines, their whole system was down, from coast-to-coast. Stories were being told via the airlines Twitter and Facebook page about cancelled flights and people having to wait in a plane for over two hours only to have to disembark and wait for another flight. These stories reminded me that I should be thankful that we were still in the airport. Even though we were in a line the length of the Great Wall of China (that’s only a slight exaggeration), we were able to take turns and get food and coffee freely, and Zoë woke up and was able to walk around and play with us while we waited in line.

After waiting in line for over an hour (and having them move our line to the end of another very long line), their systems came back on, and we finally got up to the front! The whole time waiting, Chad and I were thanking God that we were not on a sitting plane and hoping that we would still make our flight. The really cranky helpful employee that called us up to her desk informed us that our flight had been cancelled and that she was getting us the last room available in the area and then would rebook our flight. We were put on stand-by for the next days flight and were given vouchers for a nearby Comfort Inn and dinner and lunch (by the way, American Airlines- $24 for dinner and $14 for breakfast for three people is almost impossible these days). I was bummed, I had so been looking forward to the beach, but I was so thankful that we got a free room and food. I heard later that many people had to sleep in the airport because they ran out of rooms to rent. That would have been horrible!

That night I called American Airlines and spoke with a wonderful guy named Cory, who informed me that the earliest flight that I could definitely get tickets for would be in two days, but that he would keep an eye on the schedule for the flight we were on stand-by for. If two seats opened up he would book them for us and give me a call and let me know.

Since we had one more day in Miami, we decided to splurge and take a taxi to South Beach and check it out. It was only 4 o’clock and we had plenty of sun left to enjoy it.

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(Chad and Zoë love the beach in Miami. Photo Taken by Jenny)

And enjoy it we did! The beach is beautiful and clean and the water was warm and pretty calm. Zoë fell in love with what she called the “puddle” and didn’t want to leave the water, but my hunger finally won and we walked around looking for a place to have a snack and a drink. We found outdoor seating at Bellini’s Italian Bistro and sat down to have an $8 cheese pizza and two-for-one cocktails. Just a side note here, we realized that it is very important to ask how much cocktails are when ordering, because these 2-for-1 cocktails cost $25 a piece! Granted they were equivalent to the size of 4 regular drinks, but still…

It turned out to be a great time, we talked to the host for quite some time who was really nice and told us all about how it is to live in Miami. It was fun to talk to a local and learn about what to see and do, we assumed that we wouldn’t be getting a flight for another day so were thinking on what we wanted to see. We left around 9 pm to go back to the hotel and get Zoë to bed and repack for our wait in the airport the next day for our stand-by flight. As soon as we got back into our room, I got a phone call from Cory at American and he said that he had booked us tickets on the 11:40 am flight the next day and we were all set to go! What a blessing and a surprise, God always provides!

The next day we packed up our stuff and headed to the airport. What a difference a day makes! We waited about 20 minutes in line, got our boarding passes and even got to go thru the handicapped line for the security checkpoint because we had a stroller. We got through security in about 10 minutes, it was amazing. The flight was slightly delayed, but after the previous days drama that was nothing.

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(The view from the plane on the way to Curacao. Photo Taken by Jenny)

Now we are in sunny, windy, humid and colorful Curacao. I am so excited to be here and plan on writing a full description of this interesting island next week.

Thankfully we have made it through all the trials so far and now can rest. God is good and I am thankful that we are safe and that all of the flight issues have been mostly administrative and not safety issues. Please pray for us that our flight to Portugal in a week and a half will go off without a hitch (that will be a 19 hour trip with 3 connections). Until then I am going to put airplanes and airports and anything else to do with that out of my mind and enjoy my lobsteresque sunburn burgeoning tan and time with my little family. Til next week family and friends! Feel free to leave a comment as it is a great way of asking questions or keeping in touch since we are technically phone-less now.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

What a Week!

Wow, what a week this has been! First of all, we had Zoë’s dedication last Sunday morning. I have wanted to have her dedicated at our church since we started attending regularly when she was 3 weeks old. Time flies by though and when Chad and I decided that we would definitely be traveling, one of the first things on my mind that I wanted to do before we left was have the ceremony to dedicate ourselves to raising Zoë in the Christian faith. For those of you that know me well, you know that I am not a person that enjoys or subscribes to anything that can be considered ceremonial (my dream wedding was going to the courthouse in jeans, a t-shirt, and converse all-stars). I have always felt that my faith is a personal relationship with God and that the pomp and circumstance of ceremonies are unnecessary. But I really felt that this was something I wanted to do, a public promise that we would be an example of faith in God for Zoë and pray that someday she too would believe for herself. We promised this in front of our family, our church family and our good friends. It was a great day!

Also on Sunday, we gave notice that our last day living in our home for the past three years will be March 31st. We have been truly blessed to have such a kind and responsible landlord. She is also a traveler and lives in Europe for most of the year and was very understanding.

The next day, 19 people from our church began having symptoms of the novo virus flu, as well as all the members of our family that attended, one of our friends and poor little Zoë. I have no idea how I came out unscathed, but I think God kept me healthy because I needed to take care of my very sick little girl. I have never seen such a horrible stomach flu. For four days and nights, Zoë was unable to keep anything down.  Luckily she didn’t become dehydrated and now is fully recovered. But boy, was I on the edge of my seat waiting to get sick too. I am so thankful that I was not affected.

Chad is leaving for a work trip to England (for two weeks) tomorrow and so we were in high gear starting on Friday, trying to decide where we are going to travel to. Yes, that’s right, we are leaving in 49 days and we had not decided where we were going yet. We hate to rush things obviously.  It’s just such a daunting decision, there are so many places, I had to keep telling myself that this will not be the last time we travel and the places that we don’t see this time around will still be there.

Our original plan was to go to Austin, Texas (in case we come back to the states, we might move here) and then Buenos Aires, Argentina. That was all we had until yesterday.

After what has seemed like hours and hours of discussion and research we finally have flights for the first leg of our trip! We are first heading to Disneyland (we have annual pass holders and this will be Zoë’s sixth time there, we are total disneyphiles), then to Austin, Texas and Miami, Florida. Then our international trip begins. We will be spending two weeks on the beautiful white sand beaches of Curacao, and then taking a 19 hour (4 stop!!!!) flight from there to Lisbon, Portugal! From there we are planning on seeing a bit more of Europe and then heading to Thailand and Taiwan.

Now that we have real plans set in motion, the real preparations can begin. I am going to be doing a bunch of packing and cleaning and paperwork for the next 49 days. The fun begins! I am so excited and feel so blessed that we have the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures, landscapes, and ofcourse, food! God is good!

I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:6