I am too tired writing to upload an entry but I have finally uploaded pics of my trip. You can see them at http://flickr.com/photos/globewriter Enjoy!
Well after a delayed ( and a long delay at that) return flight on Surname Airways and a ridiculous immigration line in Trinidad I am back on the ground and dealing with all that means. Peter P met me and he let me use his car to get home from his place and since my car is not fully serviced I am still using it. It was weird driving on the “right side” again but I managed at 1:30am when I was supposed to be back at 8:15pm the previous day. Cascade was normal looking until I rounded the curve and saw that the flood damage had affected my area. The security gates are stuck in the open position, all the vegetation was washed away and there were piles of mud everywhere.
My place is up on a hill so there was no damage in my living space but it was weird having to pass all the damage. I stayed at home on Friday as i had a lot of laundry and cleaning to do and did a quick trip to the grocery but that was the extent of my outings for the day. The mud on the main road has now turned to dust so Cascade feels like the place that the ABCs are normally. The irony is not lost on me.
I produced and anchored news on Saturday and just produced on Sunday so Giselle could do a perfect job of anchoring. Watching her read after 2 weeks was a great experience as I see how far she has come. I pray the Beeb does not snatch her from us as she is close to a perfect news reader now.
I still have to research Tobago and also Trinidad as despite living here much of the time there is a lot I have to get right as Fodor’s does not accept poor information and least of all my editors. This should be fun…I imagine my days will be very long between ieTV and Fodor’s for the next little while. Fun? What is that?
I will say, though, after this many years of doing this I really miss my friends on the ABC islands including Susan at Bucuti, Ricardo and Monique, Rolando, Anabela and Bobby from the wonderful Pinchos in Aruba, Stephen in Curacao ( what a revelation he was) , Delno Tromp from Bonaire and Curacao..so many great people. I am truly a lucky guy to have crossed paths with such wonderful people and I am hoping to do so again next year. Traveling is a revelation as you realize that we are all very similar and that goodness and generosity of heart transcend national boundaries.Though Susan is now back in Miami I think I miss her the most as we have an intellectual connection and I consider her a friend par excellence…they don’t come along that often …I wish her the best as she pursues her dreams and I hope she knows that.
Tomorrow I hope to get the hearse back and I will commence my interviews here on Tuesday. Fodor’s T&T will slip in somewhere in between the ABC writing. It will all come together. Having traveled on islands that have no natural drinking water but have managed I am dealing with the fact my condo, on an island full of fresh water, has no water at, all with a rather circumspect approach. If I say I am on vacation it all seems amusing and somehow better. Bucket bath anyone?
Sitting in the lobby area of Breezes on my last night in Curacao for this year though I will definitely be back for work and pleasure. The sad thing with these trips is that by the end, no matter how wonderful the island, I am totally overdosed on site inspections and driving around. It is a pity because Curacao deserves so much more of my attention but Stephen has been a trooper and we have had a great time despite the schedule. Today was another litany of visits but since it is his daughter’s birthday we arranged things so i could be back at the hotel by mid-afternoon – and not a moment too soon I would have hurled if I saw another great property.
I often find myself faced with dilemmas during these assignments. The hotel here is proving to be one at this point. My room is good and the staff have been excellent but for the second night in a row I have seen large rats running around the beach restaurant which is closed at night. I know there are hazards to having a place on the beach but these are huge ( 5+ inches excluding the tail) and the beach hut is awfully close to the main pool and restaurants. I told a manager and he seemed most concerned and vowed to call the exterminator but how long have these creatures been there? It doesn’t look like they just showed up fully grown…and last night I saw at least five of them.I will consult my editor as to the proper course of action. Editors always know…I am one of them and I always do.
Tomorrow we will have a few more inspections before I head off to catch Surinam Airways for Port of Spain. The flood damage there yesterday was awful so I am dying to see what it looks like when I arrive. My bright spot tomorrow…Stephen has promised to take me to the old market for local food..I am happy already.
I could not resist the Seinfeld reference but seriously it was a really long day today of inspections and reviews. I started at 7:45 am and was dropped back at my new home Breezes Curacao at 9:45pm. Glamorous life of a travel writer ….yeah…sure.
At least I had a great dinner at the Marriott with the lovely woman from marketing who hails from New Zealand. Now that would be a great place to visit. The rack of lamb was also quite amazing.
Off now to have a quick Pernod poolside so I can face another day of this tomorrow. At this point on the trip I don’t know if I am coming or going. I also note with alarm that rains in Trinidad have turned the area of my condo into a disaster area..a fact verified by Alvin who was spending the night at my place and is now stuck.
This is such a beautiful island and it screams to be photographed. Today was just the usual flurry of Stephen and I running around to various properties. Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it truly deserves the nomenclature. It is like a strange slice of Europe in the Caribbean. Cobblestones, magnificent architecture, lovely small shops…all here and all delightful.
Had dinner at Fort Nassau high above the city and actually enjoyed it though the portions were too big for me. Perfect carpaccio, tender ultra rare steak and an incredible view. Not bad though Fort Nassau is not exactly an affordable place.
I think I may need to take advantage of my EU passport and move here and open an affordable restaurant based on true Caribbean fusion. I can do it and it would put me in a place that I love and that is close to Bonaire ( the place I love for no rational reason) and Aruba where I have friends.
This might be a life changing trip..and practical too..I could save a fortune on airfare every year if I lived here. Interestingly, before my first trip to Curacao I had a very vivid dream in which I was in a church yard and was walking around looking at a peculiar above ground cemetery and exploring the grounds. When I arrived in Curacao I was being driven around and the actual church in my dream came into view. I screamed..STOP!! And I walked around the property and it was exactly what I saw in my dream and explained why I was puzzled by the architecture in my dream. Curacao architecture is unique so small wonder I could not place it. Since that time I have felt an affinity for Curacao. Stephen kindly stopped at the church today for me to see it and I was reminded of why I have a bond with this island. My dreams told me about it before i ever arrived.
Today was the day I said another said farewell to perfect little Bonaire and, it being my last day, naturally storm clouds rolled in. I puttered around my room and eventually ended up at the restaurant for a quick sandwich and some welcome WiFi surfing before Rolando arrived to take me to Flamingo Airport. I bid farewell to the lovely Rolando and eventually made my way onto the wretched 14 seater Insel plane I have come to loathe so much. I don’t like small planes and I especially don’t like small planes in bad weather. It was, predictably, a rough 20 minutes in the air before I was finally able to release my grasp on the bottom of my seat and unclench my jaw on arrival at Hato in Curacao.
Stephen was there to meet me as arranged and we basically it hit off right away as he is quite the great conversationalist. We arrived at my first Hotel the Kura Hulanda which I have always known to be an exceptional property but have never stayed in it. It is not a normal hotel in fact it is as far from a normal hotel as can be imagined.It is essentially a village in Willemstad that had a number of fine 18th and 19th century buildings that a Dutch billionaire bought up as a ruin and then restored with attention to every detail. It is now an 80 room luxury hotel in the form of a village and I don’t mean theme park here…it is completely authentic. You walk through a maze of cobblestone streets and lush landscaping to your room in one of the original homes in the area. My suite is so unbelievably beautiful and luxurious I was almost taken aback when the bellhop showed me around.
Picture 2 king beds, antiques galore, a lovely sitting area, a writing area, a small dining area and a step-up bath and you get the picture. I can’t imagine a more atmospheric and spacious room anywhere. Now it is not a cheap room ( about $700 US a night) but honestly it is as romantic as all get out.The hardest part of this trip will be leaving the room.
I also had a chance to chat with Delno at Kura Hulanda’s sister property on the other side of the island. He suggested I stay with him for the rest of the trip and I am trying to figure out if that will be possible given the 45 minute drive from Willemstad. Still, he is one of the funniest and warmest people I know so I will try to make it work as I know we would have a blast. In any case I have decided I will come and visit him on vacation just for the pleasure of his company. We will discuss the logistics of this trip over breakfast tomorrow.
Now if you will excuse me I am going to sit in my antique dining area and admire my room.
It was a nice slow day today here in Bonaire, which is not to suggest that any day here is exactly fast paced, but it was not a flurry of site inspections. I begged off breakfast at Eddys since my idea of breakfast is 4 cups of muddy coffee and 5 cigarettes and then Rolando picked me up for a quick drive around the starkly beautiful South side of the island.
It rained heavily early this morning so our next stop at the mangrove centre involved quite a bit of mud. Then I hopped onto a kayak for a 1 hour tour of the mangroves. Since I took the 2 hr tour on a previous visit I felt something of a veteran and paddled and pulled my way through the mangrove forest with gazelle-like grace. It was hard to feel especially intrepid or daring as the water is generally only about 4 feet deep so drowning was not really a possibility unless I really put my mind to it.
Wilderness exploration. Check. Time then to go to my favourite eatery on Bonaire which is in the Bonaire equivalent of the Outback. Maiky’s Snack is a local favourite and serves none of that tasteless muck favoured by tourists. It is down home cooking at its best and I naturally ordered the goat stew which is essentially the national dish of Bonaire. As I sat on an ersatz Rubbermaid chair in the eating shed I must say it was somewhat bizarre eating my meal while watching its relatives wandering about the property. The circle of life I guess. I hope they felt better knowing that I thought their family tasted delicious.
After that I checked into the chicly decorated Den Laman Condominiums which is to be my home on my last night in Bonaire. Naturally, the fates conspired to place me on the side of the property which is not getting WiFi reception at the moment. I dropped my bags, grabbed some snorkeling equipment at the excellent Bonaire Dive & Adventure on the property and then hopped off the pier to visit or piscine friends below the surface. It was fun as I swam about inspecting all the fish that, like me, were lazy enough to hang around the immediate vicinity of the hotel. This being Bonaire there was actually a surprising variety of finned creatures. Sadly, being a city boy I found them slightly less mesmerizing than the BBC’s Top Gear or Google news so I came back in after 40 minutes.
After showering it was over to get a bottle of wine across the road and then to say hi to Mike at Chat n Browse – a cyber cafe. Mike is an institution on the island and I have seen him every year I have visited. He heard my WiFi woes and immediately gave me free 48 hour access to his network. Sweet of him really. A check of my email indicated that my pal Delno Tromp ,who was my first guide on Bonaire but is now running one of the Kura Hulanda properties in Curacao , had received my email and I will be able to have “breakfast lunch or dinner or all of the above “ with him when I get there. This should be fun as Delno is quite the character and, as he is quick to point out, stunningly attractive and intelligent ( the preceding was paid for by Delno).
I am now waiting for Rolando to pick me up so we can have dinner at a new restaurant called unbelievable. I kid you not..it really is called that. We shall see what that is like. I am typing this entry offline and will either just upload it when I get back by walking to the back of the hotel or maybe even add a quick take on the restaurant.
Back from Unbelievable. Well it was pretty good but I didn’t have a hard time believing it. After speaking to the owner he said the name comes from the fact that after working as a waiter for 2 decades he actually built his own restaurant and I mean including the construction of the building. It is quite large by Bonaire standards and nicely done though it needs more soft furnishings as we had to eat inside because it started to rain on the roof terrace and the noise level downstairs was quite alarming. Tile floors, lots of glass, large expanses of walls and at least 30 diners many of whom were kids can be murder on the ear. Still good food and kept quite simple for reasonable prices make for a not bad restaurant choice.
I am keeping it short today as it is late ..well..by Bonaire standards it is. Rolando and I drove around as usual today allowing me to revisit familiar places including Yenny’s Art. After our expedition I told Rolando that I could walk back to The Plaza from Kralendijk as I needed to burn off a few calories with my sybarite lifestyle of late.
It was a pleasure walking the streets of the city and then making my way along the route back to my hotel. Bonaire is actually prettier from a walking perspective than it is from the seat of a van. Mind you by the time got back to The Plaza I was coated with 6 inches of dust but that was fine as I enjoyed the experience. I had a wonderful dinner at Sunset Bar & Grill which is managed by Kirk from Lions Den so naturally the meal was excellent and the ambiance great.
After dinner we stopped briefly at Bistro de Paris to see my old pal Patrice Rannou. It is still the best restaurant in town in my humble estimation and it really was wonderful seeing Patrice again. I had a quick Pernod and now I am back at the hotel I will be checking out of here tomorrow to check in to Den Laman which is a lovely spot and after that it will be kayaking in the mangrove. I enjoyed that a lot the last time and it should virtually guarantee my tan gets darker.
I am going to be so depressed when I have to leave Bonaire on Sunday.
It has been another day of running about inspecting properties on Bonaire and I have to say the quality of some of them is quite extraordinary for reasonable prices. I have also been dining heartily at both lunch and dinner times in order to let the hosts of the various establishments know that I am enjoying the fare. This cannot be the healthiest lifestyle. I think I may have gained a few pounds already that Clyphil at the gym will have to address when I get home.
Generally the quality of food on Bonaire has been passable and better which is no mean feat on an island that has to import all food it uses thus making market shopping a challenge. The prices can be steep as a result but given the situation that makes perfect sense. Food here is imported from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador( there is a KLM flight that continues to Ecuador from here) and Holland ( of course).
This evening we dined at “It Rains Fishes” and I was amazed by the quality of the food and more so by the efficiency and service. It is a waterfront restaurant on kaya Grandi and it is fairly large with at least 25 tables. Despite that, and the fact they had tables turning over as we sat there, the staff seemed to have been programmed by Tissot to run like clockwork. Service was swift and attentive without being overbearing which is always a relief.Is there anything worse that every member of staff asking you how your meal was? I think not. Well…maybe Rachel Ray opening her mouth.
My appetizer was a superb Japanese salad of sushi quality raw tuna, field greens and thinly sliced avocado served in a baked wanton skin ( I think). It could have been a meal by itself. The main course was skewers of shrimp and fish in a presentation that almost made me cry it was so beautiful. It was served with separate side of rice and a side of tomato and red onion salad..which i never got to I was so full. This place is a definite “recommended” as it could easily do well in any major city.
Off to my room now where I get no over-priced WiFi reception so I can pack up for tomorrow…there seems to be some confusion as to where I am staying. Needless to say, it is Bonaire and I am not the least worried.
My last day in Aruba was a bit of a blur. I went on a submarine to a depth of 130 feet along with a batch of other tourists and can’t say I would want to do that again. I can only take a guide making Sponge bob jokes that much before I reach my breaking point and escape was impossible. After that Ricardo had a clever idea that he and Monique would join me at the Marriott for a glass of wine in my room. It seemed a good idea at the time.
I wandered about Oranjestad for a bit and bought myself a newer version of my mobile phone for a ridiculous sum of US$. I am such a sucker for a nice salesguy. They must see me as victim on the hoof as I enter the store. Anyhow I now have a phone that has a good enough screen that I can actually see what I am typing as I am almost certain the store in Trinidad has not and will not ever repair my previous one. After that I hopped to a nearby supermarket to get the wine and saw they also sold Absinthe. Naturally I was thrilled as visions of Oscar Wilde on the Rive Gauche popped into my head. I should have remembered that my flight for Bonaire was leaving at 7:15am and I had to be at the airport for 6…but why bring reality into it.
Basically Ricardo and I polished off a bottle of absinthe and the three of us also downed a lovely pinotage from South Africa. Ricardo and I were drunk as skunks but I still managed to pack my stuff for the morning when Ricardo was going to pick me up at 5:45. It was not to be. I woke up groggy and managed to get myself down to the lobby after showering and retrieving his cell that he left in my room. I checked out, looked at the clock, and realized Ricardo was most likely sleeping off the effects of our excess the night before. Thank heavens for my Irish blood that has that wonderful resilience when faced with combustible liquids. I called a cab and made my way to the airport in time to get on my Bonaire flight via Curacao.
I must also say that as much as I am not a fan of big high-rise hotels the Marriott in Aruba is quite an excellent place to stay. There is much to be said for American hotels that believe in little bottles of toiletries rather than push buttons in the shower and ,environmental concerns aside, scorching hot water and water pressure that knocks you off your balance are good things.
So now I am in beautiful Bonaire under the watchful eye of Rolandoo my TCB minder and as efficient as a Swiss watch. Within 15 minutes of disembarking I was chatting with the GM of the Divi Flamingo and saw another 4 properties before lunch. City Cafe’s lunch was good as always and after a few more property inspections I was dropped back to the sprawling compound that is the Plaza Resort. I am typing this now and will upload it later before I head to dinner at Papaya Moon. With internet access costing $20US for 6 hours I plan to be rather circumspect in how I use it.
Looking forward to another great day in Bonaire tomorrow.