Our annual Windsurfing Trip to
The SetupAfter learning our lesson last year, we made our reservations early for our 2015 visit to Bonaire. We decided to splurge just a bit and stay for three weeks this year, rather than our usual two weeks. Or, perhaps we are just getting more sensitive to the cold weather at home in winter.
In any case, we visited Bonaire in late January to early Feb. this year and it turned out that this timeframe matched up well with almost all of the friends we see in Bonaire.
Getting there and backWe used Delta Frequent Flyer miles to get us to Bonaire and back and we were able to get exit row seats, so the flights were reasonablt good. We had signed up for the Global Entry / Known Traveler program last year and this gets us both TSA Precheck on departure and expedited processing through Immigration and Customs upon returning to the US.
Because we were going to be gone for three weeks, it was more economical to hire a transportation service to get to and from the Atlanta airport so this also eliminated the hassels of parking your car and taking shuttles. The company we used, Transway Limousine, was on time, very professional and comfortable and I would not hesitate to use them again.
Leaving Atlanta: the weather was clear but cold. We wanted to get warm!
Where we stayed this time
The exterior of the Sonrisa.
The view off our balcony. Notice the Laurakeets in the palm tree.
One reason we have liked the Sonrisa is that it had screens on all windows, keeping out the numerous mosquitoes when we left the windows open for the nice breeze. However this time all the screens had been removed from our windows. We asked Roger, the owner who we have gotten to know well over the years, and he said the screens were in bad shape and they were in the process of replacing them. New screens had been ordered 3 months ago but had not arrived yet. This meant that we had to close the windows in the evening and run the AC to avoid having lots of mosquitoes in the apartment. We know one woman who has a condo in Bonaire and who waited two years to get some screens replaced before giving up; I hope Roger has better luck than she did. Over the years Roger has made numerous small but significant improvements to the Sonrisa. Things like paving the parking area and bricking a walkway, and adding a new deck and palapa, in a corner of the grounds. There are some changes Roger did not have anything to do with, including the two Caribbean Parakeets (commonly referred to as "Laura-Keets") who have made their home at the Sonrisa. Their chattering and frequent antics are very entertaining.
In general, housekeeping at the Sonrisa was very good, with the normal Caribbean shortage of some kinds of towels and lack of what we would call a wash cloth or face cloth. Daily maid service (except Sunday) took care of the bed and bath and towels and any needed kitchen cleanup. The one shortcoming in housekeeping may have been partially due to the missing screens; there was more fine dust than usual on the floors. Screens may have kept some of it out previously, but in any case, more frequent floor cleaning/mopping would have improved things somewhat.
Restaurants we visitedWith three weeks on the island, we had more time to visit our favorite restraunts and try some new ones.
Cuba CompagnieCuba Compagnie has been open a little over a year and seemed to be doing a good business. One day we had a large lunch only wanted a light dinner, so we ended up at Cuba Compagnie and ordered an appitizer (fried calamari) and split a dinner salad. Both items were good, service was reasonable, and we had a good table overlooking the town square. This continues to be our primary "fall-back" restaurant when one of our regular favorites is not available. .
Capriccio restaurant across from the waterfront.
Grill House EmanualWe visited Emanual's Grill House last year and had a nice, reasonably priced, meal. This time we were the only customers when we arrived and only two other tables were occupied when we left. I ordered the mixed grill knowing that it would not be great, but wanted some leftovers to take with us. It came with French Fries so I asked for some ketchup. He brought a bottle that had been inverted for a while so the ketchup had run down to the top/opening end. What I didn't know is that it had been out of the cooler for a while, the air inside had warmed up and the bottle was now pressurized. When I snapped the lid open ketchup went everywhere, including all over me. Barely an "I'm sorry" and certainly no offer to help clean the shirt. When finished, I asked the remaining ribs, beef and hunk of port be put in a to-go box. When I got the box, the pork was missing. I mentioned it to the waiter and about 10 minutes later he returned with the pork added to the box. At least, I think it was my pork. I suspect Emanuals will be crossed off our list for future visits.
Sebastian'sWe stopped at Sebastian's one of our first nights on the island. I had a Wahoo dish and Susan had a rather "fancy" shrimp meal. They were both good, but my Wahoo could have used some kind of sauce or perhaps less cooking as it was a little dry. Our overall thought of Sebastian's was the same as several other people we talked to afterwards: it was good, but rather pricy for what you get. Now, if you are feeling romantic, you could reserve the single table out on the dock for a special evening.
Sebastians at sunset. The table on the dock is visible to the right.
At SeaAt Sea has become one of the "in places" in Bonaire, and with some good reason. The offer some very interesting dishes with rather different accompaniments and presentation. Included with the meals are several "pre-appetizers" that are basically just one mouthful of some rather different tidbits. We met a couple of our windsurfing friends, Tim and Peter, there and did have a very nice meal. All the entrees were good, properly cooked and well plated. The main problem is that the plates had several little "dabs" of various things that had probably been mentioned in the menu, but which we could not identify. We almost needed a map of what was on our plates so we could fully appreciate it. The dim lighting does not help in identifying the various items on th eplates. The wine list is a little short for such a nice restaurant, but the selections they did have were well chosen.
La GuernicaLe Guernica is known for their tapas but the entrees are good also, so we compromise by sharing several, like 3, tapas and then sharing an entrée. We stopped by fairly early one evening with no reservation and got one of the favored tables (outside, on the upper level). The view of the water/harbor is pretty, service was good, price is reasonable. Good combination.
La Guernica; the best tables are on the upper level, outside.
Wil's GrillAs usual Wil's was very good. We popped in without a reservation and were able to get a table (when we tried this on a latter visit they were full). Sue, Wil's wife and hostess, was not there as she was running a booth at a special event in the square. I though the service was not quite as sharp without Sue, but still reasonable and the food, as usual, was good. We shared a salad appetizer and both had fish meals (well, I had fish and Susan had shrimp) and they had Wil's usual little extra added seasoning touch. Wil's stays as one of the top restaurants on our list.
Wil's Grill building in the evening.
UnbelieveableWe used to go to Unbelievable when we could not find anywhere else of interest with an available table, but now it is on our "mainline" list. Service is good, food is good and just a bit different (the potatoes au gratin are a little different from the norm and good). Wine list is limited but decent quality. We had a table right at the edge of the rooftop patio with a good view and nice breeze.
Bobbejan'sWe usually hig Bobejan's at least once and we usually get the Bobbejan's special (chicken, ribs, satay) so that we have leftovers for lunch the following day or two. On this visit we arived just before the rush period and got a table and ordered quickly. By the time we were done things were more busy and getting then paying the check took a while, but the food was good and plentiful and you can't beat the prices.
PatagoniaWe wanted to have some beef to make some steak sandwiches, so we paid a visit to Patagonia. We both like the taste of sirloin so we had their Patagonia special that included a baked potato. The steak was properly cooked, and very tasty. The service was good although, as has happened on previous visits, a large group came in after us and tended to dominate the servers attention. Oh, and the steak sandwiches the next day were excellent.
Gio's GelatoThis would not be complete without a mention of Gio's Gelato in downttown. If we had a light meal or just wanted to splurge a bit, we would stop by Gio's and have a single dip of gelato and coffee. Every gelato flavor we tried was excellent and the coffee was not just "coffee". Along with the coffee was a very small "thimble" of gelato, a small dish of wipped cream, and a small glass of water. It just made for a perfect combination.
WindsurfingAs usual, we windsurfed out of Bonaire Windsurf Place, mainly because we know so many of the people, both the guys who work at BWP and all the windsurfers who come there. Much of the the fun we have is visiting with all the other windsurfers, and this time just about everyone was there. The "New England" crew of Ellen and Jack, with Cheryl and Heidi were there and also staying at the Son Risa, so we saw them a lot. Our breakfasts at Sonrisa were always fun and entertaining. Sometimes I suspect the other guests there wondered just what was going on.
The German brothers, Heinz and Werner with ther friend Wolfgang were there much of the time. Heinz had surgery two days before their flight to Bonaire but he was there and windsurfing about 3 days after arriving. You could tell he was not feeling quite a good and jovial as usual, but we thought he did great. Michael, another German, was back again and this time he had brougth his own windsurf gear with him.
Parttime Bonaire residents Caprice and Christoph were there, although Christoph was having some health problems. We were glad to see him almost back to normal the last couple of days we were there. Their friends from Michigan, Wayne and Jen were also there, as usual.
Some of our friends on the BWP deck: Janet, Sue, ian, Heinz, Ron, Joyce, and Susan.
A couple of our favorite Canadians, Tim and Peter with their friend Andy, were there again. This time we exchanged some of my "Hammock Flaming Gator" pepper sauce for some of Tim's homemade 100% pure Maple syrup. We enjoyed an evening with Tim, Peter and Andy at "At Sea" for dinner and exchanged even more stories over a few glasses of wine. Our friends from Guernsey (Channel Islands), Sue and Ian were back and offered both Susan and I some good windsurfing tips and we enjoyed a meal at Capriccio with them.
There are just too many friends to mention, like Janet from Florida (she is the one who tried to hae a screen replaced in her Bonaire condo for two years). Then there is Norm and his wife Effie, Al and wife Joyce, To make things a little confusing, there is also Ron and his wife Joyce. We also had a good visit with another part-time Bonaire resident, Walter, who also claims to be the local expert on "Night Train".
Although there were still numerous cruise ships visiting Bonaire, they did not seem to be as much of a problem this year. The cruisers visiting the beach at Lac Bay were not as intrusive and seemed to be a bit more careful where they went. I understand that the ship that had been one of the problems at Lac Bay had been "un-invited" from visiting Bonaire because of problems some of those cruisers caused in town.
Fishing dock that we walked by: Some boats never seemed to move.
Other ActivitiesOn a couple of days off from windsurfing, we went snprkeling a couple of times. One place we "discovered" was just across the road from the airport, between the small tanker dock and Port Bonaire. There is a small sandy beach, just large enough for comfortable entry/exit and some very interesting coral and fish. A side benefit is that there is usually a food truck there from about noon through late int the day that serves very good sandwiches, wraps and such.
A school of fish at snorkle site across road from airport.
Of course we took the usual tour around the souuthern end of the island, by the salt pans and salt "mountains", the slave huts, and the old lighthouse. We didn't take the northern tour by Rincon this year though.
Someone had apparently lost a windsurfer fin on the coral heads in Lac Bay.
Some Pictures around Bonaire
A view of the harbor with some of the sailboats.
Some of the new constructions in town. Lots of building going on here.
Even some locals came down to the dock to see the Windstar sailing cruise ship.
Some of the pink salt pans and the mountains of sea salt awaiting export.
The lighthouse has been cleaned up and looks nice, even if no longer used.
Some more windsurfing pictures
Al is up and flying. He is one of a couple of windsurfers who prefer the old ProTech boards.
Cheryl is going left while Heid heads the other direction behind her.
And to prove Heidi can go the other direction also....
Jen is working hard to avoid the cold Michigian winter back home.
Heinz is out and sailing just 5 days after surgery in Germany. (Don't tell his doctor.)
Peter is coming in after an obviously enjoyable sail while Janet heads out.
Sue is one of those people who just makes it look easy.
Tim seems to be enjoying himself. He is on one of the new boards BWP had this year.
Walter probably windsurfs better than he tells his "Joke of the day".
Werner is another windsurfer who always seems to be smiling when on the water.
Wolfgang has the difficult task of trying to keep brothers Heinz and Werner under control.
Sunest falls on another delightful visit to Bonaire.