In Curaçao, the C of the former Dutch colonial ABC Netherlands Antilles islands, there is a famous floating bridge from the Victorian era, known affectionately by locals as the Swinging Old Lady. Built in the 1880s, the bridge swings open numerous times daily to allow ships into the bay that divides the island's capital city, Willemstad. It also connects the city's two equally historic halves, Punda, settled in 1634, and Otrabanda ("the other side"), only about 50 years younger.
For much of the past century, though, the bridge's pedestrian traffic has been decidedly one-way: tourists from cruise ships docked in Otrabanda fleeing swiftly toward Punda's quaint, colorfully painted Dutch Caribbean cafes and upscale duty-free shopping. Though Otrabanda was once as commercially thriving as Punda and possibly even more picturesque - more open space allowed expansive buildings centered on kura, or courtyards - by the new millennium it had deteriorated into a slum of fallen-down buildings plagued with drug dealing, prostitution, and seemingly hopeless poverty.
Today, Otrabanda's harbor front hums with new construction. In just the past two years, three international hotel chains (Howard Johnson, Marriott, and Hilton) have opened major resorts around Otrabanda's main public square, Brionplein, and Hyatt is currently building. In the renovated ruins of an old fort is a 60-shop retail complex. Buildings that formerly made up an old monastery now house a new medical school. Throughout the quarter, crumbling private homes have been rebuilt, excitingly innovative individual artisan businesses have opened (example: Angelica's Kitchen, an interactive eatery where a local woman teaches diners to prepare their own Curaçaon meal), and, most miraculously, crime and squalor have been virtually banished from the streets.