Willemstad waterfront in Curaçao.

The vividly painted architecture lining the Willemstad waterfront in Curaçao did not happen by design. The capital city developed after the Dutch claimed the island in 1634. The only materials available for construction, mismatched bricks scavenged from ship ballast, were finished with lime plaster made from crushed shells, which dried to a dazzling white facade in the intense Caribbean sun. Apparently a former governor of the island suffered from severe headaches and thought this was made worse by the sun’s brilliant reflections off the white buildings. He ordered that building exteriors be painted any color but white. Despite later discovery that the governor was a shareholder in the island’s only paint store, the tradition of painting in vivid colors has endured, making Willemstad’s Dutch and Spanish colonial style architecture a stunning Caribbean sight.

Willemstad, Curaçao, the last of the ABC islands to visit, was the final port of call on our Six week West Indies and American cruise. A cruise that had it’s ups and downs due to the start of Covid-19. Unfortunately although we could dock here, we didn’t get to go ashore. Another time, another cruise…!

Cartagena, Colombia.

Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, has squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. It was a South American stop on our Caribbean and American cruise. During the fabulous sail into port my head was full of Pablo Escobar and his drug charged career. This was soon forgotten when we hit the streets of the Cartagena, the Colombian capital. A riot of colour and noise filled the senses and left me reeling. The atmosphere was electric, the weather hot and sultry. My only regret for this beautiful and vibrant city was that I didn’t buy an emerald!

Cartagena port oasis.

Cartagena port oasis, the sustainable zoo, is located on the Cartagena cruise port grounds. It is a government initiative showcasing a variety of the country’s natural resources and Colombia’s desire for a sustainable environment. The animals are not ‘wild’ as such, but many- the monkeys and parrots- appear to be free to come and go. Entry is free- you just walk through the zoo out of the port. The Cartagena port oasis initiative won the Organisation of American States’ First America’s Maritime Award in the category of Sustainable Tourist Destination Port.

The port is fun and informative and a fabulous surprise.

Uvita Island, Limon Costa Rica.

Uvita Island, or Grape Island (English) is an uninhabited island off the coast of Limon in Costa Rica. Christopher Columbus anchored on the island during his final voyage to America in 1502.

We took a trip over to the island with TazMia Adventure Tours- find them on Facebook: TazMia Adventure Tours.

We paid $50 US per person for the whole trip. This included return taxi to the boat that would take us over- including a stop off at the supermarket, return boat trip and a tour guide to take us around the island. The tour guide- Larry- was fabulous. He walked us around telling us the island’s history and pointing out all the flora and fauna. The boat trip over took around fifteen minutes- a short journey down the river then hitting quite rough seas when we went over. Landing on the island was tricky but handled perfectly by the boat captain.

The whole afternoon was an adventure- exciting, informative and fun.

TazMia Adventure tours were amazing and 100% reliable- look for them around the port area- distinctive by their red t-shirts. One person will do the deal with you- agree a price and agenda, then pull everything all together for a brilliant trip- even found me a sloth!

Limon Sloth

Limon, Costa Rica.

For a real glimpse into the daily life and culture of Costa Rica go to Puerto Limón with its strong Afro Caribbean culture.

It is an important bustling port city and has a long and interesting history dating all the way back to 1502 when Columbus landed at this port while exploring the New World.

We had fun exploring the city and wandering the slightly run down streets before making our way over to Grape Island seen here from the port.

Aruba. Dutch Caribbean.

Oranjestad, Aruba was the next island on our Caribbean Island hopping travels. Here we hired an ATV to get around: Pardo Motorcycle Rental. $90 US for a half day. No website, but they hang around the port entrance in Aruba. Vehicle was a bit old and battered but it did the job.

We made our way over to the northwestern tip of the island, to Aruba’s California Dunes and Lighthouse- local name.Hudishibana

Coconuts at the Lighthouse

Moving away from the lighthouse we hit the dunes for a bit of off-roading- windswept with abandoned, albeit colourful, buildings scattered around, the dunes feel a bit wild and bleak.

California Dunes
No marked trails. Hike and off road to your hearts content.

Aruba is a beautiful little island boasting gorgeous weather, fabulous beaches and an ATV in the Outback was a fun way to spend an afternoon.

#InBonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Bonaire is one of the ABC Netherland Caribbean islands, the other two being Aruba and Curacao. One of the best and cheapest ways to see the island is by scooter. We hired ours through Scooters Bonaire in Kralendijk:

https://www.scootersbonaire.com/

Price was $50 US for a days hire, including a full tank of petrol and insurance. There were no hidden costs- special deals for cruise ships. Helmets are now compulsory in Bonaire.

All set, we hit the open road.

We covered the beaches, the salt ponds and slave huts, restaurants and shops. It is a fabulous island.

Kite Beach, Bonaire
Kite Beach
Salt ponds Bonaire
Slave Huts
Shops and restaurants

To quote George Ezra we were ‘riding shotgun in the hot sun’ seeing Bonaire in style. Ready now to move on to Aruba and Curacao.

Scarborough, Tobago.

Had a cruise stop at Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago a couple of weeks ago. We took an independent trip up to the Argyle Waterfall, a famous waterfall near Tobago with a 3-level drop of 54m into a series of pools surrounded by jungle.

It was a fabulous walk through the jungle up to the waterfall, then a climb up the different stages of the falls and a swim in the top two pools.

Jungle trekking
Wild swimming

https://www.visittobago.gov.tt/

Definitely one of a Top Ten Tobago must do. It was $10 US entry without a guide and a minibus cost approximately $120 US return. between ten of us.

Sugar Trade, Barbados.

MS Braemar was docked on Sugar Berth in Bridgetown. Sugar cane cultivation in Barbados began in the seventeenth century. Initially, rum was produced but by 1642, sugar was the focus of the industry. Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replaced the small holdings of the early English settlers as the wealthy planters pushed out the poorer.To work the plantations, black Africans were imported. After 1750 the plantations were owned by absentee landlords living in Britain and operated by hired managers. The slave trade ceased in 1807 and slaves were emancipated in 1834.

On the dock there is still the remains of the machinery used to load the sugar cane onto the ships for exporting.

Hello in Bridgetown.

Caught up with the Braemar and Funky Blue in Bridgetown, Barbados.

We had a fabulous, fun day filming for the Funky Blue promotional video and website on the Bridgetown Boardwalk, which runs east-west along the waterfront through the capital city.

The Waterfront, Bridgetown.

Filming finished we headed back to the ship on the dollar bus.

Guitarist Oscar

Back on ship the Braemar set off for a night sail to Tobbago.

Leaving Bridgetown port.