Exploring Curaçao with the MINI Convertible
It’s not difficult to experience the Netherlands in a completely different way. All you have to do is travel a good 8,200 kilometres southwest and you’re there: on Curaçao, the 444-square-kilometre Dutch island in the Caribbean, about 60 kilometres north of Venezuela. As one of the three ABC islands, the windward isle is perfect for exploring in a MINI Convertible. As it is too flat for “ascending” rain and is in the direct influence of the northeast trade wind, there is little rainfall.
The average temperature is 28 degrees – so if you don’t mind the sun, you can open the electric 3-in-1 textile roof in just 18 seconds before starting off. You can raise the top up to a speed of 30 km/h and then leave it open until you park it again in the evening. You will hardly need to use the additional sliding roof function for letting in a fresh breeze on this island. With the top down, the 160-litre luggage compartment can easily accommodate all the swimming and diving equipment you may need to enjoy the island’s countless fantastic beaches.
The only way to protect yourself from the Caribbean colour flash is to close your eyes – which is clearly not advisable. Because in addition to the island’s 150,000 friendly inhabitants, the great seafood dishes and the wide range of leisure activities, it is this variety of colours that drives away any remaining grey drabness of everyday life. Pretty much everything here is colourful – from the houses and the history to the fish. The MINI Convertible in Carribean Aqua fits in perfectly – especially since public transport won’t take you to every location you would want to get to.
It is best to start exploring “Little Holland” in the capital Willemstad with it centrally located Schottegat natural harbour, where the largest natural inner harbour in the western hemisphere is located. The city centre with its districts of Punda, Otrabanda, Scharloo and the Pietermaai café district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, partly because of the many historic buildings of Dutch colonial architecture. These include Fort Amsterdam, the Governor’s Palace and the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue.
While Punda will thrill you with its very narrow and straight streets, the beautifully restored villas in Scharloo and Pietermaii are truly impressive. Things then get really colourful in Otrabanda, where the compact MINI Convertible easily weaves its way through the labyrinth of winding alleys with their small colourful houses.
The city of Willemstad is divided by the Sint Annabaai, the link between the Caribbean and the Schottegat. Two bridges worth seeing connect the city districts: The Koningin Julianabrug handles the major share of traffic flow and is a real highlight. This is because the 500-metre-long trapezoidal frame bridge takes cars over the water at a height of 56.4 metres and gives you an unforgettable view of the old town. And then, for once, you should leave the MINI convertible behind, because further south lies the Koningin Emmabrug which you can only access on foot. The world’s unique “revolving old lady” was built in 1888 and is based on 16 floating pontoon boats. If necessary, it is moved by diesel engines so that large ships can pass. We recommend taking a stroll across it, especially at night: Then the houses are colourfully illuminated and make this unique place even more charming.
If you want to drive from Willemstad to the northeastern tip of the island, you don’t have a choice – only one road will take you there from the capital. This is where you can put the MINI Convertible through its paces, even if it is not advisable to exploit the car’s full potential. Firstly, you’re not allowed to drive too fast, and secondly, you would miss far too much worth seeing on your trip.
At a crossroads after Grote Berg, we decide to continue north on the south-eastern side of Curaçao – even though detours to the various beaches or smaller towns are possible on both sides. We opt for the Kaminda Monica Kapel-Matheeuw, which takes us to Soto. Once home to Curaçao’s largest salt producer, today the restored old buildings house a boutique hotel. Like almost everywhere else, you will of course find wonderful beaches for swimming, snorkelling or simply relaxing. Sometimes you have to pay a few Antillean guilders as an entrance fee, but it’s worth it.
Our northernmost stop is the Playa Knip Smoothies ice cream parlour on Grote Knip, a quiet white sandy beach with a lagoon in the north of the island near Westpunt. This is also where the inhabitants of Curaçao come to enjoy their barbeque, jump off rocks into the clear blue water or relax in the sun. On the way back along the northern edge of the island towards the capital, we visit Christoffelpark, a wonderful national park with the highest mountain on the island, the 375-metre-high Sint-Christoffelberg. Finally, don’t miss the Hato Caves near the international airport. Drawings from the second Indian settlement wave (around 1500 BC) will fascinate you.
And then, after parking the MINI Convertible for the night, of course, it’s time to try out the famous local liqueur. The spiritual drink named after the island is made from the peels of local bitter oranges. In the process, the pomeranian plant residues are soaked in alcohol, which releases the aroma and colouring substances. The liqueur is available either in clear form or in the colours red, orange, green and blue. Of course, the liqueur produced on the island is not even remotely comparable to the drink usually available in Europe as “Blue Curaçao”. It’s incomparable – like a tour in the MINI Convertible across the Caribbean island of Curaçao.
Best sleeping accommodations befitting this tour we’ve found at Van Lennep Verhuur run by Charlotte Van Lennep. For the racing lovers under you that named may sound familiar. She is in fact a cousin of 1971 Le Mans race winner Gijs van Lennep. Very befitting as an end to this wonderful tour.