If you want beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and a cultural cornucopia of Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, English, with residuals of Portuguese, African and indigenous native Americans, set sail for Curaçao and the North Sea Jazz Festival before Labor Day about this time next year.
The venue allows you to be up close and personal at the indoor stages and within good sound and viewing range outdoors if you don't get to the front of the stage early. I kicked it down front with Kassav and sat on the floor in front of Dionne Warwick close enough to see her sweat. I wasn't fast enough to beat the crowd to Stevie Wonder, but I could see the stage, watch the flat screens, and hear him loud and clear everywhere in the World Trade Center. I had a nice side view of Sting and his backup singer.
I was impressed that every act began on time. Sound checks occurred for everyone, resulting in impeccable sounds. And I can't say enough about the cleanliness of the bathrooms, the reasonably-priced food, and events staff willing to help even when they didn't know the answer.
Next year the organizers should consider asking taxis to agree to fixed prices or arrange for shuttles. But these are minor and fixable details.
Before or afterwards, consider lingering for a few extra days; it will allow you to leisurely stroll the colorful streets of Punda, cross the swing bridge, or take the ferry across from Otrabanda. People are courteous and helpful and most locals are fluent in at least four languages.
Conservation is taking hold since water and electricity are expensive Curaçao gets it's water through desalinization --a timely and expensive process. Don't forget to have a meal by the sea at many of the restaurants that include Cuban, Italian, Middle Eastern, local, and Dutch European cuisines.
If you want to visit a little piece of a uniquely distinctive part of the African Diaspora, forget Aruba and head straight to La Bonita Isla de Curaçao in the newly independent Netherlands Antilles. And ...relax.
For more information-- http://www.curacaonorthseajazz.com/en/
Irma McClaurin is an anthropologist, writer and former President of Shaw University and Assoc VP at UMN.
(c) 2011 McClaurin Solutions