Star Travel guy in Curacao...New York crime down...Air Canada Vacations up
Star travel guy Adrian Brijbassi is down in the Caribbean, checking things out for future Star travel stories. Here's his report from Curacao, where he found some interesting candy and some folks thrilled to see more Canucks in town....
WILLEMSTAD, Curacao — Yflen Florentina says, “You’re from
When I tell her she’s wrong, her face lights up. “Oh, I like
Canadians. They are such lively people! You are all so joyful.”
Yflen is a guide at Kura Hulanda, a museum devoted to the
history of slavery on Curacao. Willemstad, the capital, was the main port used
for the slave trade for the Dutch West Indies Company. Today, tourism is the
island’s primary source of revenue. Located 65 kilometres from Venezuela, it’s
spot for scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea and a stop for cruise ships.
Many Canadians are on those cruises, but the island is eager
to get Canucks to come for longer than a few hours.
“We cater to sophisticated travellers, so we’re putting more
and more of our efforts into attracting the Canadian and Scandinavian markets,”
says Nina Dahmen (photographed here), a sales coordinator at the Avila Hotel, a
grand place that has hosted Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and will host
members of her family in October.
That’s when big changes come to the island. On October 10,
Curacao will officially become its own country, separating from the other four
islands that make up the Netherlands Antilles. Currently, Willemstad is the
seat of government for Curacao as well as Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba and St.
Maarten. Aruba, which is a half-hour flight from Curacao, separated from the
Netherlands Antilles’ government years ago. It will remain part of the Dutch
In Willemstad, there will be a ceremony on October 10 with
members of the Dutch royal family present.
Eveline van Arkel, a tour guide from the Netherlands who has
lived in Curacao for 26 years, says the change is a step toward true autonomy
from the Dutch. Like Yflen and Nina, she also had kind words about Canada; in
particular, Toronto, where she visited often in her previous work in the
“Canadians are a lot like the Dutch. Polite, welcoming,” she
says. “We would like to see more of them down here.”
Like just about everywhere in the Caribbean, the beaches are beautiful and the colours are warm and lively. The people are friendly and the cultural mix is unique, with Dutch, native Caribbean, British, Spanish and American influences. There are three flights daily from Amsterdam and the Dutch are the main visitors to the island. Even after Curacao becomes its own country that’s not likely to change.
But there’s no doubt the calling is out to Canada. In the floating market, which sells produce brought in from Venezuela, one of the most popular items is a chocolate-covered candy with a nut centre. It’s a Nestle product and the name is Toronto.
NEW YORK CRIME DROPS...CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITIES RISE
U.S. FBI stats show that New York City’s major crime rate fell 5.1 percent in 2009, and that its 471 murders represented an annual decline of 9.9 percent compared with the national average of 7.2 percent.
FBI crime data showed that of the 25 largest U.S. cities New York recorded 2,242 “index crimes” of murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft for every 100,000 residents, the mayor’s office said in a news release. San Jose, California, was ranked second with 2,746 such crimes per 100,000, and San Diego third, with 2,903 per 100,000.
Among 266 U.S. cities with populations larger than 100,000 the city’s crime rate placed it 248th, between Garden Grove, California and Sunnyvale, California. No other city with more than 262,000 people was deemed safer than New York, according to the office of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
There's good news there for California, too, I guess, and they could sure use it given the fiscal crisis in the state. I keep reading horror stories about the tuition costs for university students and how the system is in such bad shape, but that world university report that came out the other day lists FOUR California universities in the top 11 in the world (including, he said with a bit of surprise, my alma mater, UCLA, at #11).
Several thoughts come to mind: I adore UCLA and I absolutely loved my time there (a while ago, yes), but I find it hard to believe I was given a degree from a school that's better than all but 10 universities IN THE WORLD. I'm not that smart.
I also think this report is far too America-centric. And I don't see how they came up with their Canadian rankings, dropping Western and Queen's so far down the list of schools in Canada. I have a bias in that three of my kids went to or current attend Queen's, but still...
My final thought on the matter is that I'd gladly have UCLA drop to, say, #23 in the world in exchange for a couple wins for the embarrassingly bad football team.
While we're on the subject (well, we were a minute ago) of New York, I saw the other day that the website tripadvisor.com was listing FOUR different HKHotels as its readers four favourite hotels in the entire city. That's pretty remarkable. I checked today and, indeed, the top four hotels in the city according to tripadvisor are all HKHotels: Casablanca Hotel The Library, Hotel Giraffe and Hotel Elysee. Pretty amazing.
You might want to know that HKHotels is the group that's supposed to manage the new hotel at Exhibition Place, so that's probably good news for Toronto visitors.
AIR CANADA VACATIONS ON THE RISE
Air Canada Vacations has boosted its non-stop flights to sun destinations for this winter, and it feels like it's just in time given the nip in the air of late.
Air Canada and ACV are offering seven new, non-stop routings and 48 more flights a week to the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica. Check www.aircanada.com or www.aircanadavacations.com for more information.