A Klooster in Curacao!
Klooster means monastery in Dutch.
This wonderful yellow hotel, was once a monastery, so that adds an intriguing addition to my list of unusual accommodations!
Last July, Don and I had our first trip to Curacao. We arrived after dark and were given refreshing tea drinks to enjoy in the courtyard.
The monks who lived in this place for only about 50 years would have spent a lot of peaceful time in the cloisters, as they would have been called. In fact at least one monk or priest is spending an eternity in the cloisters... his grave seemed to be very near where we were sitting.
This is the lobby in morning light. Our desk clerk was a young intern who had just arrived from The Netherlands a week before. That means he knew nothing about the interesting hotel history.
He also had no clue about finding us soap, since our bathroom had none. (Some arrived next day) Our room happened the one with the blue doors, right next to the desk. I had a feeling that didn't mean we would be getting any extra special service.
A Red and White Room
Our room was nice, with lots red trim, which was a fun way to combine modern decor with the old style windows and shutters and tall ceilings.
The bathroom had shiny white tile with a line of red and boldly painted red floors.
The room had good air conditioning, which was a plus with the island's steamy air. But it was a cold, clammy shock every time we entered, since the body adjusts to the heat in most open air settings.
Rise and Shine on Sunday Morning!
At 5:30 am, I heard the bells of Cathedral Pietermaii, clanging next door.
The Fraters van Zwijsen, who built the monastery in 1932, enjoyed the convenience of strolling just a few steps to the Cathedral from the monastery.
It was a little too close for my (sleeping) comfort! You can see our room window, beneath the words, t' Klooster.
As the bells clanged, cars filled the street and happy worshipers began to congregate before mass, right outside our window!
The Colorful Chapel
We missed 6 am mass, but the hotel, had its very own little chapel!Curacao is known for color! The brightly painted Dutch Colonial buildings are what make this Caribbean Island my favorite of the ABC Islands!
The architecture of the monastery is different than most of the island buildings, but it's just as bright!
The chapel interior is actually white, but the stained glass and sunshine played a trick during the day. Beside changing color, the chapel was also transformed to another use. The only kind of service you find in the chapel today, is dining service. It's a restaurant, now.
Going to Chapel
We actually made better use of our chapel in the evening when it became a lounge.
The priests and monks left the Klooster in the 1980's. I wonder how sad they would be to see their chapel filled with purple lighting and bottles of liquor?
Then again, I think these Fraters, who arrived in 1886 to set up a school... knew pretty well how to balance their work and relaxation!
Karaoke Near the Chapel
The Fraters might even have joined in on some karaoke at the cafe beside the chapel. We managed to talk our very sweet bartender, Mary into giving it a try.
I'm glad I didn't have to wear long robes as I wandered our courtyard area. It was hot in August and there was little breeze.
We did have a small plunge pool, which helped. And I enjoyed my book in the hammock for a while!
Our stay at t' Klooster was fairly quiet, without much social interaction. But there was something bright and welcoming about the very building and courtyard!
It was a convenient and safe walk to the colorful waterfront with the "Swinging Lady" bridge and the floating market. A great way to be introduced to Colorful Curacao!
A Museum/Hotel on the Island of Curacao!
The island of Curacao is hard to explain and so is this unique hotel.
The location of Curacao in the Dutch Antilles, is a very appealing location, since it's in the Caribbean, below the hurricane belt. But the island's history as a major hub for slave trade, could make a tourist cringe.
I'm still trying to fathom how we ended up staying in such a unique hotel/museum combination!
Over 20 years ago, Jacob Gelt Dekker took a charming historical neighborhood and created a hotel complex and a museum. The whole complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which tells you something right off.
I had read good things about Dekker and his amazing dream to bring Curacao's horrifying history of Slave trade into the spotlight. But how do you combine that with a luxury hotel?
There was no one around when we arrived on an August afternoon. As we traveled up the cobblestone walkway, the only "people" we met, were these statues.
If this had been an American resort I would have winced. But I was ready to try to understand.
The Welcome Center
This palace style office was where we checked in. It felt more like some kind of Embassy than a hotel lobby.
We were introduced to our gracious bellman, who handed us cool drinks while we signed paperwork.
Where Was Everyone?
We wandered the 8 block village while our room was being prepared. We wondered what these 18th and 19th century Dutch Colonial buildings had looked like 20 years ago when Dekker found the crumbling, crime infested neighborhood.
At a glance there was a Disney World feel, but these buildings were real, not created. And there also didn't seem to be a tourist in sight!
As we explored, we found 2 lovely (and empty) pools.
This one had luxurious levels and waterfalls, rocks and lush growth. It also had a little excitement when a humongous palm frond plunged from a tall tree into the pool! Luckily there were no swimmers!
The Sunny Pool
We found a sunnier pool in a different area of the complex. This one wasn't empty. There was a speedy iguana zipping from 1 corner to the next.
I was a bit freaked out that this guy had fallen in and couldn't get out. I was also a little uncertain about the thought of sharing a pool with a critter like this. He did manage to escape.
Finding Our Room
The hotel complex was a maze of cobblestone roads with about 18 colorful buildings.
Our room didn't have quite the curb appeal of some, but our door was at the end of pleasant walkway. There were courtyards, little tables and fountains, flowers and statuary everywhere. It was all up for grabs.
Our room was ground level, although the slanted ceiling looked like an attic.
There were nice tile floors, a decorative area rug and cozy sitting and desk areas.
It's funny how I hardly noticed the green trim and painted design until I saw these photos later. The flash on my camera really lit up the space.
I must be getting old because I'm starting to take notice of hotel room lighting. Our room really was a bit on the dim side, which is funny since it had some pretty memorable light fixtures!
Not for the Tall!
Don did a nice replay for my camera. You'd think this bright, blue lamp would be hard to miss, but he crashed into it more than once!
We learned to leave the light on most of the time, so he could see to avoid it. I think Don matches the blue light, nicely!
Modern Bathroom... Modern Door
I hate it when historic buildings are too modernized. But I don't mind a little updating in the bathroom! Antique plumbing is not really a good thing, after all.
However, once again I found myself annoyed with the modern trend of using big glass panels in bathroom doors. No, I'm not panicking over privacy. I just don't want to wake my fellow traveler when I get up early to shower! Why should my bathroom light have to seep into the guest room?
This photo shows a blending of the hotel complex and the mural covered museum.
It felt strange to step from our colorful oasis, into the museum, but I was ready.
Art, Artifacts, History and Stories
It was sobering to wander through a maze of 15 buildings, on land that was once a former slave yard. There was much to absorb as we were reminded about those who suffered here for 200 years. It seems impossible that we were able to see instruments of torture and images of families being separated... and then later lounge by the pool or in the courtyard.
But there was something comforting and peaceful in the atmosphere, that allowed for time to ponder. Maybe if we had been surrounded by noisy tourists, I would have felt differently. But the quiet made it easy to sit and imagine and wonder about how all this could have really happened. Some would say, "I don't call that vacation!" But traveling is not all about playing and having fun. This was a good place to be and a good place to learn.
Don and I spent the night in a lovely hotel, on the land where lives were once lost and ruined. We've been "guilty tourists" before, when touring a lovely southern plantation, without any focus on the struggles that occurred outside the Big House.
But this was the first time we absorbed both... the luxury of being pampered tourists and the experience of learning about something as tragic as slave history. It was an odd combination, that I'll never forget.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!