Willemstad on Curacao
Willemstad - not only the capital of Curaçao, but also the only city on the island - has long been the island's economic and cultural center. Willemstad's two oldest neighborhoods - Punda ("the point") and Otrobanda ("the other side") - are separated by St. Anna Bay, a narrow channel leading to the busy Schottegat harbor. There used to be many small boats on both sides of the bay that transported people from Punda to Otrobanda; those who could not pay the fare were allowed to sit on the bow of the boat for free. (This gave rise to the Papiamento expression kabe'i boto, literally "head of the boat," slang for hitchhiking.)
Around 1880, an enterprising American businessman, Leonard B. Smith, built a floating pontoon bridge. The Queen Emma Bridge, affectionately called "the swinging old lady" by locals, swings open several times a day to let ships into the harbor. If you are lucky, you can see a cruise ship, an oil tanker or a container ship being piloted into the harbor. The port of Curaçao is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. At Christmas, the bridge is decorated with colorful lights that reflect in the water at night and have a magical attraction on a walker. When the bridge is open, a ferry takes one across for free. Watch for the horn that warns that the bridge is opening, and you are bound to see some daredevils who want to sprint across the bridge at the last minute anyway. From the floating bridge you also have a beautiful view of the Queen Juliana Bridge. This bridge towers high above the bay, with its span rising 56 meters above the canal in the middle.
Parking can be a problem in Willemstad, but you're sure to find a free spot at the large Waaigat parking lot in Scharloo, a short walk from the heart of Punda. But if you plan to stay until late at night, it can be a little less safe here. There are two city-run parking lots in Punda, and around Wilhelminaplein and the surrounding streets are a number of parking meters that cost NAfl. 0.50 per half hour. (Payment with American quarter dollars is also possible).