Another Windsurfing Trip To
Setting the StageThis year our trip to Bonaire was arranged on a last-minute basis and this had several impacts. The last-minute requirement was caused by a couple of grandchildren. Well, actually the birth of a couple of grandchildren (twins). We delayed making plans until they had arrived (a little ahead of schedule) and we knew all was well and we would not be needed for a while. Although the last-minute planning did cause some changes to our usual travel routes, everything ended up working out well.
It was raining as we left Atlanta: a good time to leave.
As before, Ann Phelan, Caribbean Wind and Sun Vacations took care of the details (hotel and windsurfing) in Bonaire. Considering that we started making arrangements less than 2 weeks before our departure, everything worked out well.
Getting there and backIn previous years we had taken the Saturday non-stop direct from Atlanta to Bonaire. Because of the last minute plans, the Delta fare was almost $1400 per person; just a bit too high to stomach. So, I did some research and found that there was a Delta non-stop to Aruba for $376 and we could get from Aruba to Bonaire (and back again) on Insel Air, a somewhat regional airline. Both the Aruba to Bonaire and Bonaire to Aruba legs actually required a stop in Curacao, Insel’s “hub”. Unfortunately, Insel does not have a great reputation for completing flights on time (or at all), so I was a bit nervous and had my fingers crossed that we would actually complete the trips as scheduled. Fortunately, Insel came through for us and all our trips were within a very few minutes of being on time and we made all our connections with no problems.
Bonaire's Flamingo Airport as we are arriving.
This year we ended up renting from Budget Car Rental. Apparently there have been a number of rental car thefts in Bonaire and some car rental outfits were requiring CDW (at additional $11/day) to make sure a theft was covered. Between our auto policy at home and coverage via our credit card, we did not need the CDW and Budget was one of the few not requiring it, and therefore less expensive. Even so, almost $40 a day for a Toyota Versa seems rather expensive over a 16 day stay.
Our return flights called for a long (3 hour) layover in Aruba prior to our Delta flight home. US citizens clear US customs in Aruba, so we did not have to worry about that after arriving in Atlanta.
Waiting for our return flight in Aruba on the way home.
Where we stayedWe again stayed at the Sonrisa Boutique Hotel. We like it because of its modern features and convenient location. We only took the car to drive to dinner one evening, walking from the Sonrisa to our other meals. On about our 2nd or 3rd night at the Sonrisa, another couple staying there had their truck stolen from the parking area. Our car, sitting right next to their truck, was not touched. The police told this couple that between 10 and 15 vehicles were stolen that night. We thought it hard to believe that such a level of car theft could exist on such a small island with only 14,000 population. Something strange going on here….. As before, Jacqueline was a wonderful hostess and Sonja kept the room and facilities in excellent shape.
The landscaping has grown up quite a lot at the Sonrisa.
As usual, we took a few items of food with us, mainly to have as snacks around the Sonrisa pool after windsurfing each day. We purchased wine, cheese and miscellaneous items at a nearby little store (Sunshine Market) and relaxed for a while each day; a most pleasant way to vacation.
Like previous visits, we would save some of the abundant (included) breakfast and have it for lunch, typically enhanced with additional cheese or leftovers from our evening meals. The breakfasts were very good, with simple sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, cake, and other goodies. The only problem is that after two weeks of essentially the same breakfast, it does get a little old.
Although we had seen the Lora Parrots on previous visits, it seemed as though they were more obvious this time, and more entertaining. They make quite a fuss with a squawking king of noise. It appeared that there were 4 or 6 in the area of Sonrisa and two of them had taken up residence there. They frequently would go up under the roof tiles where they had cleared out an area for a nest. They were almost always cute, but they were especially cute when peeking out from under the roof.
The Lora Parrots peeking out from their nesting place under the roof.
Windsurfing commentsAs before, we sailed out of Bonaire Windsurf Place. The wind was reasonably good most of the 15 days we were there and we (or at least one of us) sailed 12 of the 14 possible days. Winds were generally a little light, typically about 15 – 17 knots and I spent more time than I like with an 8.0m or larger sail, but the water was warm, the sun was bright, and I certainly would not complain.
For the first week or so there were very few sailors around the Windsurf Place and we were beginning to wonder if something was wrong. Actually, we knew that some of our friends would be showing up the 2nd week, but we were still puzzled at the relatively empty deck at Windsurf Place. Our friends from the Channel Islands, Ian and Sue, were sailing out of Jibe City this year, so we didn’t see them much except on the water. Our friends, Caprice and Christoph, who have a house on Bonaire, were working on their house while the wind was low, so we didn’t see them very much. Then everyone appeared, almost at once. Janet, from Florida, who also has a condo on Bonaire came out to play (windsurf). Then Cheryl and Heidi (from the NE US) arrived, also staying at the Sonrisa. Wayne and Jen, from Michigan, arrived on the same flight as Cheryl and Heidi. German brothers Heinz and Werner and their friend Wolfgang arrived about the same time and Norm and his wife Elfie appeared. About this time Caprice and Christoph finished their work and started sailing, so we had a full house. Walter showed up for a couple of days of sailing also. We also met a new friend, Michael and his wife, Doris, from Germany. Michael was a dedicated sailor and was the first person on the water from Windsurf Place almost every day.
As usual, we laughed at the stories of the German brothers and all the others. One of the best things about our windsurfing trips is meeting up with our friends, visiting with them and exchanging stories.
The guys at Bonaire Windsurf Place were much the same, with Roger, Elvis, and Patun running the place while Raimy, Kevin, and Ro took care of the sails and such. Kenneth had suffered a bad broken leg/ankle a couple of months ago (falling off a horse!) and was still recuperating, but came by to say “Hello” one day with his very new baby son.
We do find it interesting that the short road into the Sorobon beach area (including both windsurf shops, the Sorobon resort, and some public beach and fishing docks) has never been significantly smoothed out or paved and, as a result, is very bumpy and a bit of a challenge to navigate in a car. A local mechanic who came out to change a flat on our car (that is another story) said he thinks the road is left that way on purpose so the visitors on the cruise ships feel that they are really in the wilderness, making it more of an “adventure”. Considering the little effort it would take to smooth out 100 yards of roadway, I think he may be right. I'll include a bunch of windsurfing photos at the end of this report.
The Cruise Ships are still in BonaireThe cruise ships are still visiting Bonaire and we hade a couple of “unusual” ships visit this year. The most unusual was “The World”, a former cruise ship converted into a floating, moving, condominium. Units (cabins) start at about $700K and go to around $12M, plus a very hefty monthly fee. With only 200 units and probably less than 400 residents, they had little impact on the beach the two days it was docked.
The condo/cruise ship “The World”.
The Queen Elizebeth II (QE2) in port.
Things get crowded with two ships in port.
Most of these cruise people were obeying the signs.
Restaurants we visitedWe returned to many of our favorite restaurants this year. A couple of nights we ended up eating with friends or just having heavy snacks, so we didn’t eat quite as many meals out, but here are my comments that I recorded about where we did go. We had heard that it was very difficult to get seated at Capriccio or At Sea without a reservation, but we prefer to decide where to eat at the last minute, so it was a bit of an adventure.
CapriccioFor our first visit, we stopped by Capriccio at 6:00 (they open at 6:30) and asked if they had any opening that evening. They said there was one table available at 6:30, so we took a short walk, came back, and were seated promptly. We both had pasta and a Merlot/Sangiovese blend bottle of wine. The pasta was good, but felt service a little slow, but place was full/busy. We were seated outside, and mosquito repellent was required.
The outside of the new Capriccio in the evening.
At SeaAt Sea has become very popular and we did not expect to be able to get in when we stopped by one evening at 6:00 (their opening time). We had been told they were full and we were starting to leave when a hostess rushed up and said they had had a cancellation and could seat us if we were ready to eat then. Of course we were ready! At Sea brings you several very small, but tasty, appetizers before your normal meal starts. I’m not sure what they all were, but they were very good and kept us entertained until our meals arrived. The entrées were both very good. Service was attentive and very prompt, even when they got busy. We have heard some comments that portions tended to be small, but we thought that, although the unordered “extras” were small portions, the entrees were a very reasonable size.
Bistro de ParisThe Bistro had moved to a new location in harbor marina with a nice facility and better view than previous facility, but the view was better before the “Cow” (taxi boat to Kline Bonaire) tied up alongside the restaurant and the crew did their housekeeping. We both had fish entrees and both were good, but there were some problems with the details and service. They brought rolls and butter, but we had no bread plates, so after taking a roll, you either hold it until you are done, or put it on the tablecloth. The tableware was surprisingly cheap; I think the tableware at BobbyJan’s was a better quality. We observed several service problems at adjacent tables (mistimed delivery of meals, incorrect items delivered, etc.). Overall, they need to work on the service and details if they want to remain one of the top Bonaire restaurants.
Bobbejan'sWe needed some “leftovers” to reinforce our lunches, so we had the Bobbyjan special and took enough with us to provide lunch for 2 days. Nothing fancy, but good. For those not familiar with island “Barb-B-Q”, what they call BBQ is what we would call “grilled”. It is cooked slowly over a flame, but there is no BBQ sauce as we would know it.
PatagoniaPatagonia had moved and is now in a building at the northern edge of Kralendijk so was within walking distance of the Sonrisa. They are now inside a simple building, so the view/ambiance is not as nice as the old location, but the food and service was excellent. I had a delicious sirloin and Susan had a special that night, Paella, and it was both very good and a large serving. Toward the end of our meal a lagre group (12) came in and was seated. The server became a bit preoccupied with this large group and somewhat forgot about us, stretching out our departure, but I guess that was somewhat understandable.
La GuernicaLa Guernica is known for their Tapas, so we decided to take advantage of that and ordered a selection of 5 tapas dishes for us. Everything was delicious and well presented. The 5 tapas provided a complete meal for the two of us. The one thing I would have liked to be different is that I would have preferred to have the delivery of the tapas spread out, rather than all arrive at one time, so that they remain “fresh” while we focus on them one or two at a time. We probably should have asked for this when ordering. The streetside and waterfront location makes it a good place t sit and watch the world go by, but I suggest either a reservation or early arrival to secure a table on the upper level, rather than on the lower, street level, within a couple of feet of the cars going past.
La Gernica at night.
Wil's GrillGood, as usual. Wil was a little upset because he had planned a Wahoo dish for his fish entrée but then couldn’t get any fresh fish that day. So Susan had Coconut Shrimp and I had a pasta dish. Both were very good. Good service and good food is hard to beat
UnbelieveableWe made two visits to Unbelievable this trip. On our first night, after a late arrival, we made the quick walk from Sonrisa to Unbelievable for a light meal. Some salads and a shared appetizer worked very well. On another visit we had a standard meal and Susan and I had different seafood variations. Unbelievable continues to be a solid good, if not spectacular, choice for a good meal.
4 SeasonsOn our last evening in Bonaire we tried another new restaurant, 4 Seasons. I can’t think of anything especially memorable about it, but it was good and service was prompt and friendly. We would return.
Gio's GelateriaAlthough not a regular restaurant, I do have to mention Gio’s Gelateria. We stopped a couple of times for the very tasty Gelato. It is especially good and refreshing on a warm afternoon or evening.
General CommentsWe took a couple of days off sailing, partly due to light winds and partly due to a pretty severely bruised knee of Susan’s (due to a windsurf board “collision”). We did quite a bit of walking and also did our normal “island tour” up around Goto Meer (Lake Goto) and Rincon and up to Saru Largu, the highest point on the southern part of Bonaire.
There seemed to be quite a bit of local disenchantment with the current political position of Bonaire, as a “Special Municipality of the Netherlands”. Many local people feel the taxes are not fair and the interests of the island are underrepresented. On the other hand, others think that Bonaire is getting a lot of support and assistance, so it will be interesting to see how the relatively new government works out over the next couple of years.
Some windsurfing photos
Susan, before she bruised her knee pretty bad.
Heinz seems to be enjoying himself!
Jan has her 6 M sail flying and is headed out.
Cheryl getting off to a good start on a run across Lac Bay.
Caprice (with Cristoph) is one of the "regulars" that we enjoy visiting with.
Christoph seems to just settle into his stance and nothing can disturb him.
Michael was always one of the first people on the water.
Heidi is showing good form as she sails across the bay.
Werner is all smiles today.
Wayne is resting his bad sholder again.
Norm is out practicing his various types of jibes.
Sue is coming over to say hello out on the water.
Ian is sailing in his usual relaxed style.
I had to get one picture of me in here...