Three weeks of warmth and Windsurfing
Jan - Feb 2016
The Set-UpWe had decided early in 2015 that we wanted to miss as much of the coldest weather in Atlanta as possible, so we set aside Jan 17 – Feb 7 for our 2016 trip to Bonaire. We made reservations well in advance this time and coordinated somewhat with some of our friends we meet there, although that turned out to be not entirely successful. Not a lot has changed in Bonaire, so this will be a fairly short report, primarily pointing out the changes from prior visits.
Getting there and backDelta is very proud of their non-stop flights from Atlanta to Bonaire and prices them accordingly. We got around this somewhat by using Frequent Flyer miles on a Sunday – Sunday schedule. The flights both ways were on time and reasonably comfortable with minimal delays in customs and waiting for luggage. We again used Transway limousine services to get to and from the Atlanta airport and they provided very good service. We made our Bonaire arrangements through Ann Phelan (Caribbean Wind and Sun Vacations) and she arranged the Budget rental car and our apartment at the Sonrisa. Ann ended up having to get involved when Budget caused several problems, including having the wrong car for us initially and then overcharging us at the end of the rental period. Ann was able to quickly resolve both issues because of her contacts on the island. Budget ended up making everything right and seems to be making some changes that should avoid some of the problems in the future.
The Bonaire Flamingo airport terminal is to be replaced.
Staying at the SonrisaThis was probably about our 8th or 9th time staying at Sonrisa and, based on this visit, we will return again. The rooms and furnishings are modern and comfortable, the beds are very sleepable, the grounds are well maintained (by Roger, the owner/gardener) and the pool area is delightful to relax in and around after a day of windsurfing, snorkeling, or especially biking.
View of the Sonrisa pool area from our balcony
Having breakfastt under the palapa at the Sonrisa
Windsurfing (and socializing)We go to Bonaire mainly for the great windsurfing in Lac Bay. Unfortunately, we had an unusual number of low-wind days this trip. Of the 20 possible days to sail, we did not even get on a board seven days, including the first 3 days we were on the island. This did give us the opportunity to do other activities, including some that we had not done before, as well as some repeats. But we did windsurf! The Windsurf Place had some new boards and sails to try, the water was warm, the sun was warmer, and the wind was wonderful, even when it was not blowing hard. What more is there to like?? The Windsurfplace crew did a great job and they, especially Ro and Kenneth, know what size sails we need better than we do.
Looking out from the Windsurf Place deck over the watter.
Typical view on the Windsurf Place deck, with the chatty windsurfers.
The german brothers: Werner on left, Heinz on right.
We also made some new friends that I hope we see again. John had not been windsurfing long and had come from Sacramento to try to get better. He was staying at the Sonrisa and we gave him rides to/from Lac Bay a couple of times. Another guest at the Sonrisa was a young man, Antanas, all the way from Lithuania. He had windsurfed one time on a vacation and decided he wanted to try to get better at it and heard that Lac Bay was the place to go. The fact that Bonaire is just a bit warmer than Lithuania in winter might have had a little to do with it. Antanas practiced every day, taking lessons at key points and progressed from almost a pure beginner to sailing a short board, using the harness and getting up and planeing in just a little over a week: great job Antanas! We hope to see John and Antanas on future trips.
A Photo / Camera problemIf you look closely at the photos with this report you might notice that there are no photos from the first couple of weeks, such as no photos of John, mentioned above. I went out to take some photos one day, including some of John, using my normal Velcro arm strap with a pocket for the camera. I took some photos then put the camera in the little pocket and windsurfed for a while. When I got in I went to rinse the salt off the camera and… no camera! Apparently the pocket had come open and the camera escaped somewhere out in Lac Bay. I reported the problem to the Windsurfplace staff and some other windsurfers, but as expected, it never showed up. Perhaps a Bonaire turtle is taking pictures of his friends.
So the problem became: How to replace the camera so I could still get some photos. We checked some places in Bonaire but no one had small waterproof digital cameras. It was about this time that the NE crew (Ellen, Jack, Cheryl, Heidi) had their flight cancelled and Ellen and Jack were able to reschedule fairly quickly, so I figured their misfortune might be to my benefit. With Ellen and Jack’s agreement, I ordered (via Amazon) a new camera, memory card and two high-visibility floating straps. When Ellen and Jack arrived, so did my new camera that I used for the last week of our visit.
BikingAs mentioned, there were a number of days with not enough wind to windsurf. What to do?? We were considering renting bikes from a downtown shop when Viktor mentioned that he had some bikes to rent. Turns out the bikes were part of a school project for his daughters in which they were to start some kind of business. At $10 per bike per day, it was a good deal.... almost! The problem was that the bikes were all the same "average size" and neither Susan nor I are "average size". as Susan is small/short (no offense Susan!!) and I am a bit tall. So the bikes really didn’t fit either of us very well. But we could use some exercise so we figured "why not?".
The salt "mountains" and pink salt pans on our bike ride
The "Yellow Slave Huts" along the southernmost coastline.
The lighthouse at the easternmost point: one of several on Bonaire.
SnorkelingWith the days of light wind, we had several opportunities to go snorkeling. On one of the first light-wind days we took our snorkel gear out to Lac Bay and waded out to the inside of the reef where we have snorkeled numerous times. The water was clear and most of the coral seemed healthy, but we commented afterwards that we did not see as many fish, especially the larger fish like Parrot fish, as we previously saw. Perhaps it was the time of day or tide or something such. This was before I lost my camera, so although I took several photos, none of them "survived".
Dee up front briefing everyone on the snorkeling trip.
The water was so clear, it was like swimming in a fish bowl .
The Woodwind provided drinks before the first stop, refreshments between stops, and a nice tasty lunch on the way back to the dock after the second stop. Dee, the "hostess" and lead guide, has been doing this for quite a while on the Woodwind and the crew provides a very good snorkel experience.
One of the turtles spotted during the trip.
We went to a lot of our favorites on Bonaire and tried some new/different places. I’ll cover the normal places first, then describe some changes in the dining scene.
CapriccioIn our three weeks on Bonaire, we managed to get to Capriccio for dinner four times, plus another night when we got a take-out pizza. Obviously, we continue to like Capriccio very much. The pasta (fresh made pasta) dishes are wonderful, the fish is consistently great and the pizza is about the closest thing I’ve had to true Italian pizza outside of Italy. And, of course, the wine list is special. One evening when I asked our server for the wine list, she jokingly said "well, it is more like a wine book." and she is absolutely correct. Although their specialty is Italian wines, they do have wines of all types from around the world. If you are unsure about what wine goes with your meal, Lola, the owner/hostess, can provide excellent suggestions.
One of two "wine walls" inside Capriccio.
Wil's GrillWe always enjoy Wil’s Grill for the different touches Wil is always coming up with and this visit was no exception. We had started for a different restaurant that evening, but it was closed, so we headed for Wil’s instead. It was fairly early on a Monday evening and Sue was able to seat us at a nice table for two. We both ordered the fish special of the day and also a Caesar salad to share. As usual, the salad was unique and very good. Wil took a whole head of Romaine lettuce, wrapped some prosciutto ham around that, put some thin sliced parmesan cheese on top with a light Caesar dressing, and it was both different and very good. The fish was a bit more “traditional” but very good. With Sue and her helper looking after things, service was friendly and attentive and of course Wil came around to make sure everything was good. Another successful visit!
Joe's Grillhouse in the evening
N-JoyWe visited N-Joy (formerly Four Seasons and Bambu before that) fairly early in our 3 week stay and had a nice meal. Seafood was good and we had a table in front which enabled us to watch all the activity around a cruise ship with a relatively late departure time. Service was friendly and attentive.
Apparently it is a good thing we visited when we did, as a couple of nights after our visit, the "Closed" sign went out and they did not reopen the remainder of our visit (about 10 days). I hope they return as it was enjoyable, but things were not looking good.
At SeaWe visited At Sea with Peter and Tim and found it to be generally excellent, as always. Susan and I both had fish specials (I had Barracuda and she had Wahoo, I believe) and both were very good. At Sea specializes in little "teasers": small "just a taste" size complimentary appetizers. Then the entrée is plated with multiple small items that were mentioned on the menu, but which we could not fully identify. It is almost like a guessing game. We had a very nice meal made even better by a nice conversation with Tim and Peter over a couple of bottles of wine. You cannot ask for much more than that.
PatagoniaWe wanted some beef and some leftovers for sandwiches, so we visited Patagonia late in our first week. We both got the sirloin and they were both slightly less done than we had ordered and a bit tough, even for sirloin, but still very tasty. Sandwiches the next day were good.
About a week later we met Ian and Sue at Patagonia for dinner and this time the sirloins were just slightly over-cooked, but more tender. The rest of the meal was good, the wine (an Argentine Malbec, of course) was excellent, and the conversation with Sue and Ian even better. Patagonia is still the "go-to" place for beef in Bonaire.
La Guernica, just across the road from the water.
Cuba CompagniaI still do not understand the name as they do not have any real Cuban or Spanish style foods, but what they do have is good. One evening we just wanted something light, so we ordered a couple of appetizers and a large salad and it worked very well.
Bobbyjan'sA couple of orders of the Bobbejan special (ribs, chicken, chicken satay) and we had both a good, tasty, filling meal and plenty of leftovers for the next couple of days lunch. Food is fresh, reasonably priced, and service is good. Only open on Fri. - Sun. and if you want a seat (rather than take-out) you better go early.
Gio's in the downtown, was always busy.
And now the changes:
Blue Garden Brazilian grill and Pizza GormetThe Blue Garden opened a month or two before we arrived in the building that used to be occupied by the Casablanca restaurant. We felt like pizza the night we stopped by and they have Brazilian style pizza so we had a large salad (very good) and one of the pizzas. Apparently Brazilian style pizza tends to go heavy on the toppings compared to Italian or even US style pizzas. It was very good (including the leftovers next day for lunch) but we could not quite agree with the server/host that it is the best pizza on the island: good: yes, different: yes, but best? Not quite ready to say that. I do understand that their mixed grill is very good also, but we did not get back to check that out.
UnbelieveableThe Unbelievable restaurant was closed while we were there with some construction work apparent. The local paper (The Reporter) and rumors were saying that it had been bought by a Chinese company/family and would he renovated and opened as a "up-scale Chinese restaurant (think Peking duck)".
The Barrel (Wine Bar)The Barrel is not really a restaurant, but is a true wine bar, with a full "wine Cellar" with about 150 different wines available, some by the glass and all by the bottle. The Barrel just opened up about the time we arrived on-island for a three week visit and we got to know the people there through several visits. The Barrel is connected to the primary wine distributor in the island so their wine selection and availability is somewhat tied to that distributor. The young proprietor, Rajiv, is fresh out of college in Holland followed by 6 months studying wine in France. We like the idea of a reasonably priced wine bar and hope Barrel is successful. They were definitely going through a bit of a learning curve but seemed to be catching on quickly.
The patio area behind the Barrel.
Susan is about to get her next wine at the tasting from Rajiv.
Overall we felt it is an excellent addition to the food and drink of Bonaire and wish them good success: we want to be able to go back on our next visit to Bonaire.
Wrap-UpOverall it was a very enjoyable three weeks in Bonaire. I’m not sure what part of it we enjoy the most, the windsurfing, the dining, all the great friends we see, or the relaxation. I guess it is "all of the above" as we were already considering how we could get back again soon.
Look carefully and you can see the sails and windsurfer wakes on Lac Bay.
I will include a few additional windsurfing photos below.
Some windsurfing photos
Heidi sails in a relatively agressive style and is quite good at it.
Wolfgang is out enjoying a nice day on the water.
Ellen is a very good windsurfer and demonstrates a classic position and style.
Unfortunately, Cheryl bruised or cracked a couple of ribs soon after this was taken, keeping her off the water the rest of her stay..
Werner is almost always smiling when windsurfing: think he enjoys it?.
Heinz is not quite as flamboyant as brother Werner, but very good.
Natalie was a frequent visitor on Lac Bay but husband Pat pulled a muscle and was sidelined.
Susan improved her windsurfing and was moving along quite well.
As usual, I had to get a picture of myself in here.