Living With Locals in Bonaire

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On our third day exploring all that Bonaire has to offer, we left the luxury of Buddy Dive Resort to check in to the Airbnb we had booked after much research into affordable accommodations.

We had never before stayed in someone’s home with them- we have always preferred to rent an entire apartment, but the reviews for Joop and Carine’s Airbnb drew us in and we decided their home seemed like the perfect place to test the waters of staying in a private room. Correspondence with our hosts had always been quick and friendly, and they were expecting our arrival. They were immediately warm and inviting, and their home was beautiful. Any lingering worries about the arrangement quickly melted away as we got a tour and then settled into our room.

As lovely as it was there, we didn’t stay long. We had plans to continue exploring the island! Joop and Carine’s home is in the neighbourhood of Belnam, which is towards the South end of the island. From there, we continued heading further South. Along this breathtaking route we made many stops. Here’s some of the highlights:

Salt Pans



White Slave Huts


Kite Boarders


Yellow Slave Huts

I was thrilled that on this very short drive we had already checked off many of the items that I had wanted to see in person and photograph. This included these slave huts from the 1800’s. Here, slaves would stay during the week while they worked at the salt mines and used small boats to haul mounds of salt from the island to the awaiting ships. Most of the men walked from the other end of the island each week, and would walk back home on the weekend if they had enough time.

As we continued on after taking some time to learn about and appreciate the history of the island and the people that made Bonaire what it is today, we drove toward what I had most eagerly been awaiting… just around the corner at the southernmost tip of the island…


Flamingos! We hit it pretty big when we drove up to the flamingo sanctuary at Pekelmeer lake and saw a couple of decent-sized flocks.


After admiring the flamingos from afar, and invading their privacy only through the use of our zoom lens, we continues on to Sorobon Beach area, and checked out the famous Jibe City bar, restaurant, and kite-surfing spot.





We spent some time here, enjoyed a bucket of beer, and walked along the beach until we found this beautiful abandoned lifeguard stand. My favourite travel blogger had posted some pictures at this stand which was part of what made me fall in love with Bonaire, so I was pretty excited to have stumbled upon it!


We whiled away the last of the sunshine hours here at the beach, and then headed back into Kralendijk to find a spot for dinner. Again, many places were already full or booked up, but we did find a table at Tasty Bar and Steakhouse. We ordered a combination-for two dinner. It was excellent, and it looked like this:


One day above water was enough for us. We were ready to get back underwater, and were so excited to dive with VIP Dive.






The next day brought another exciting opportunity for Scuba Diving. We had booked a Boat Dive with East Side Divers through VIP Diving, a convenient system that the two dive operations have worked out to support their clients. The reason the two outfits work together, is that no other dive company dives on the East side of Bonaire. Dive sites are only accessible by boats, and East Side Divers are the only company set up for this.

After a light breakfast with our Airbnb hosts, we headed to the Sorobon area to meet our boat captain and dive master at Fisherman’s Pier. After making our payments for the dive, and an on-deck boat briefing, we were headed out on the zodiac dive boat. As we were listening to the in-depth dive briefing, I was devastated to discover that our dive camera would not turn on! It was such a disappointing feeling, and I was desperately wishing I had checked the camera’s operation before we had left home in the morning. Trying to swallow my disappointment, I shifted my complete focus on not feeling sick on the mildly choppy ride. Luckily, we were only on the boat for about 40 minutes before it was time to get on our gear and drop (roll!) into the water.

The dive was quite spectacular- we saw 7 turtles and several of them were happy to lay around and let us look upon them in awe. It was a spectacular dive and I found myself gaining comfort and confidence in being able to slow down, take my time, and really take in my surroundings. I got a bit of a thrill each time I discovered a little creature on my own- eels, lion fish, and turtles included.

Due to the depth of our dive, we were required to do a 3 minute safety-stop a few metres below the surface, before it was safe to surface. Unfortunately, the sea can get quite rough at this depth, and today was no exception. Occasionally, this stop can leave me feeling disoriented, dizzy, and nauseous. The week before, while diving on Curacao, I barely made it back on the boat before I got sick over the edge of the boat. As I waited for my turn to climb back on the zodiac I tried to hold it together, and once back on the boat the captain told both Travis and I to focus on the horizon we could see in the distance. Only a few minutes passed before Travis was getting sick over the side of the little boat, so at that point I made my mind up that we both couldn’t get sick on the same dive! I continued to focus on the horizon as we headed back to the dock to swap out our air tanks for the second dive.

Once we got to the dock we made the very difficult decision to back out of our second dive. It was a heart-breaker as the second dive site, “Turtle City” was guaranteed to be an amazing dive filled with all kinds of sea life. Nevertheless, as we were currently still dealing with our sea-sickness, we couldn’t imagine getting back on the zodiac for a further and rougher ride this time, and the possibility of having the same situation happen as we surfaced from the second dive helped us to make our decision.

Although we drove away from Sorobon filled with disappointment, we had just experienced one amazing dive, and were comforted by the thought that after a little bit of rest we would soon be feeling better.

Rest is what we did. We pulled up in the comfortable chairs next to the pool at our much-loved AirBnb until we were both feeling ready to head back out and explore some more of the island.

The problem was, we felt really disappointed at the thought of being finished exploring the underwater world of Bonaire. Seeing as we still had our rental gear until the end of the day, we stopped in at VIP for some advice on how we should spend the few hours we had left with our rented dive gear. As has been our previous experience there, the staff were incredible and recommended that we keep it very simple and dive their house reef, which was only a short walk away from the shop.

I will admit that when I was looking into shore diving on Bonaire, I didn’t think I would like it very much due to the fact that you have to lug around your air tank. I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn’t that difficult, even when you emerge from the sea water-logged. Instead, I was completely sold on shore diving.


The shore entry to VIP Diving’s house reef

Months later, I still lament over the loss of what surely would have been our best dive pictures to date. This self-guided dive along the VIP house reef had us giddily pulling at each other to point out all of the creatures that we were now so able to locate on our own. A highlight was the little cow fish that camouflaged right in front of our eyes as it rose from the coral and changed to match the colour of the sea. We were mesmerized with this and could see the excitement in each others’ eyes. As we emerged from the water we could hardly wait to talk about all that we had seen, and the short walk back to the dive shop went by quickly as we listed off all of the critters the dive site had shared with us.

After sadly returning our gear to VIP, aware of the fact that this would be our last dive for an unknown amount of time, we returned back “home” to get ourselves ready to head back into town. We decided on dinner at Diver’s Diner which we had noticed on an earlier walk along the ocean front, but it had been quite full. This time, we were early and had our choice on seats at the outdoor restaurant. We enjoyed the quick and friendly service, the Happy Hour drinks, mushroom triangle appetizers, and the fish tacos and steak as our two mains. We strolled around a bit before heading back home, where we enjoyed a couple of lovely drinks with our hosts.


The following morning we slept in a bit longer as we had no early diving plans. We enjoyed breakfast with our hosts (including bread with sprinkles– a regular at the Dutch breakfast table!) before setting out to Spice Beach where we planned to catch the Caribe Watersports water taxi to Klein Bonaire.


Bread with Sprinkles!

Dutch for “Little Bonaire”, Klein Bonaire is a small and uninhabited islet that sits just half a mile from Bonaire itself. There is nothing on the island except one small open shelter to provide shade to tourists. The water taxi dropped us off at the beach and then allowed us to get back on the taxi so it could drive us back to one end of the island where it dropped us off. We literally plunged off the end of the boat into the ocean, and began our snorkel back to the main beach area. We spent about 40 minutes leisurely floating along the top of the reef. We saw a bit of sea life here, but to be honest after our amazing diving experiences on Bonaire, being at the surface of the water wasn’t quite as satisfying. Some families has snorkelled back in the more shallow water, where a couple of sea turtles were spotted.


Our curious friends


Once we got back to the main beach, we had nothing left to do but laze around and enjoy the sun, sand, breeze, and views!



The views on Klein Bonaire

After about an hour on the beach, the Caribe water taxi was back with their second load of beach-goers. We hoped on and headed back to the main island and tried to hit up the Cactus Blue food truck for a lion fish burger. For the second time, we were too late in the day and the lion fish burgers were already sold out. We settled on some non-lion fish-fair and settled into enjoy more of the beautiful views while we waited for our lunch.


After another quick stop and change at Joop and Carine’s, we were back on the road. This time, heading north toward the small town of Rincon, which is the only other town on the island of Bonaire, aside from Kralendijk. What attracted us here was the Cadushy Distillery, Bonaire’s very own distillery which specializes in their signature green liqueur made out of cactus. We had a fun time learning about the process of how they make their liqueurs and alcohol, and of course having a few samples!


After the short tour, we enjoyed a drink and a snack, and continued our northbound route towards Goto Meer, the famous hangout spot for flamingos on Bonaire. It didn’t disappoint, although I let myself down by forgetting my zoom lens back at Joop and Carine’s! Here are some of the photos I got that afternoon, as well as some of the other interesting wild life of Bonaire that we spotted on our way back:





After our day of exploring the island from below and above water, we joined Joop and Carine once more on their back deck for some special before-dinner drinks. We had made reservations at Donna and Georgio’s, an Italian restaurant that Joop and Carine raved about. It did not disappoint, and we left very satisfied.

On our final day on the island, we were lucky to have most of the day to do “last-minute” things. We left our things at our Airbnb and set off for the day- driving back to Goto Meer, this time with our zoom lens. I could have spent the whole morning watching and snapping photos of the flamingos, but we had more on our list!


We drove back through Kralendijk, stopping for one last gelato and so that I could finally stop into an adorable shop whose windows I had peered in many times, but we had never been able to make it in during their opening hours. With a few extra souvenirs and our sweet tooth satisfied, we rounded back around to the other end of the island to enjoy the sunshine at Jibe City. We enjoyed lunch there, but mostly just soaked up the sun in their colourful beach chairs.

IMG_5007 2

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts and this beautiful island. We were so grateful for the experience of living and learning from locals who have called Bonaire home for many years. Staying in a “private room” Airbnb had proven to be a huge success on this trip.

We returned out rental car and were dropped off at the airport. It felt like we were leaving a piece of our hearts behind, but this was one place that we were sure we would return to one day!




One Week in Istanbul, Turkey

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This is a blog post that I wrote in 2013 after first moving to Kiev, Ukraine. We had a break from work near the end of October and decided to go to Istanbul for the week. This was basically my first time going on a trip outside of Canada and the US, and my first time traveling without any family. Luckily, Britt had a little bit of experience traveling around Europe, but for the most part this was a very new experience.

Britt and I arrived in Istanbul on Sunday, October 20th. We had an early morning flight from Kiev which went pretty well considering we are both pretty big babies when it comes to flying. We maneuvered our way from the airport to our hostel quite easily using the metro, with only one setback as we missed our first stop and had to get off, go back, and correct ourselves. It was no big deal though, it just gave us something to laugh about! We made it to our hostel which was right near the metro and next door to a Starbucks, which was pretty exciting for Britt as we don’t have a Starbucks in Kiev.

This was my first hostel experience, and while I won’t say it will be my last, I am not so sure it will be something I am eager to do again. I think our hostel was clean, but it was very old and kind of gave me the heeby geebies. I am all up for roughing it, but more so in a tent with my own sleeping bags and pillows than in an uncomfortable old bed that we have to ask to have the sheets changed on because we’re not convinced they are clean. Anyways, we decided we were comfortable enough that we would stay, and we set off with our map in the general direction of Taxim Square where we were promised lots of shops and interesting sights along the way.

Just a few flights of winding stairs up to our floor at the hostel

Our room in the hostel

It was so refreshing to get to the sea line and be able to look out across the water. In Kiev, I’ve begun to feel a bit chlosterphobic out among the tall, tall buildings. It’s kind of like after being in BC for awhile. It is so beautiful and I absolutely love the trees and mountains, but after awhile I just want to be able to SEE! I guess I am just a true Saskatchewan girl, and I really do want to watch my dog run away for days and days.

 We walked across a bridge filled with people fishing over the side, we ate lunch in a Turkish restaurant, and we wandered up and down cobblestone streets.

One thing that we immediately noticed was all of the cats! They are literally everywhere! There are obviously stray cats and dogs in Kiev, but not like this! We could not believe how many there were, and how tame they were. Cats were everywhere, including hanging around the tables outside of restaurants. This is a good time to mention that Britt is actually afraid of cats, so needless to say we mostly spent the rest of the week dining indoors! We had to Google it when we got back to our hostel the first night, because it was just so strange to see so many cats. Turns out cats are highly tolerated and even respected within Islamic societies because of the prophet Mohammad’s love of them. It has kind of become folklore the way people will tell stories about Mohammed and cats. Most of the cats we saw were well taken care of, you can see many shops that have little food and water dishes out front for them. We read a saying, “if you kill a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.” It’s pretty cool to see how the city kind of networks together to take care of its collection of cats.


Anyways, we enjoyed walking down the long cobblestone street that is lined with all types of shops, including some we’ve been deprived of, like The Body Shop and Sephora. It was a very long walk, I think over an hour there, and well over an hour back because of all the shopping. We went back to our neighbourhood for a delicious dinner of hummus, pita bread, chicken curry and more. Then we headed back to our hostel. We were exhausted and ready for an early night!


The next morning we decided to get all of our shopping out of our system, so we headed to a mall! It was huge, with some of the highlights being H&M, IKEA, Zara, and Mudo. Again, we came home played out after a long and successful day in the mall.


We decided to hang out at the hostel for a bit, and then had a place in mind for dinner and were looking forward to another early night in. Because there are SO many restaurants everywhere, the waiters stand on the sidewalk and try to entice you to come in by being charming and adorable (sidetrack- if Ukraine has the most beautiful women, then Turkey has the most gorgeous men!) but it’s a lot to handle, especially for two Canadians who would never want to offend anyone, so we literally walked up the streets saying, “hi, hi, hi, hi, no thank you, hi…” Totally Night at the Roxbury.

So that night when we left the hostel I said to Britt, “get your game face on,” the plan was made, we were just going to go straight to our destination and not be swayed. About ten steps out of our hostel Brittany was having a full conversation with a local. He totally sucked us in with the line, “are you lost?” A special note here, this was not exactly a young man, and not one of the better looking ones, either.

Okay, Mom, Grandma, and any aunties, etc, you should probably stop reading now. Just a warning! But I know you won’t now, so get ready! This man told us he could recommend a restaurant to us. A really great restaurant that is was near the Blue Mosque, only two minutes away from where we were. For some reason our game plan went out the window and before I knew it we were wandering around with Omar, who was almost acting as a tour guide. Eventually we learned that he is a shop owner in a nearby market. So, naturally we ended up in the market checking out his carpets. Then, it turned out he was coming with us to dinner, not just showing us a place. I do not know why we continued to go along with this. I just kept looking at Brittany but she seemed totally fine, so I thought I’d just go along with it as well.

We found ourselves in this tiny little deserted restaurant sitting with this strange man and not really trying to make conversation. Brittany didn’t take my bate when I threw out my secret code words, “Britt, are you feeling okay?” So we stuck with it and picked something off the not-so-appealing menu. I think he lost hope in us when we wouldn’t order a drink and then said we also weren’t interested in smoking the water pipe after dinner with him. Luckily he ended up leaving without even finishing his beer. So Britt and I were left waiting for our food, and it ended up that he didn’t even order Britt what she wanted, but got her the most expensive thing on the menu.

Nothing like drumming up a bit of business for your buddies! Anyways, we ate super fast and got out of there as quickly as we could! So, being kind of kidnapped was a fun experience on our second day in Istanbul. Just kidding. Obviously, if Britt or I had ever felt like there was a real risk to our safety, we would not have gone along with it. We realize that it was still not the best choice, and after that definitely became a little more hardened to any advances that men would make at us. And we were always looking over our shoulder for Omar! Lesson learned.

To end off the night on a better note, we stopped at McDonalds to get ice cream, and were very excited to see that they served Smarties (Bonibon) McFlurry’s, which they don’t in Kiev.

Tuesday we had a really low-key and lovely day. Our motivation to leave our room was pretty much that the free breakfast ended at 10:30 and we wanted to get up to the rooftop before it was gone. The main office and lounge is at the top of a five story building, and the rooftop breakfast area has a gorgeous view overlooking the sea. It was so nice to sit up there at any time of the day, especially with the sun was shining down on us.

After breakfast we headed down to the seawall for a beautiful run along the water. The sun shone on us the whole time, so it was a really awesome run.

When we got back we took our time getting ready, then headed out towards the Grand Bizzare. We had lunch before going in, which was probably the best lunch of the trip…I had pizza and Britt had some kind of a wrap thing. Very good, anyways! The Grand Bizzare was absolutely huge, and we kind of just wandered around for a bit and then found our way out again. Britt decided she wanted to have a nap, so I went up to the rooftop of our hostel and she went back to the room. After a couple of hours I decided I should maybe go and check on her, since the plan was to only have a 20 minute nap. It was fine though, she just had a much longer nap which was obviously needed. We headed back out and did a bit of shopping and then found a great restaurant to have dinner. We sat on low couches with tons of cushions and ate our salads and our dip plate with flatbread. We also decided to carve out a plan for the rest of the week to ensure we didn’t miss anything that we were really wanting to do.

Our coworker and friend, Sean (also a Canadian) and his bf who was visiting from Toronto flew into Istanbul on Tuesday, so Wednesday we were excited to meet up and spend most of the day together. It was a pretty packed day. We went to the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace Museum, and to the Spice Market. These places were really beautiful and I still have  a hard time comprehending just how old things in Europe really are. The grandness and beauty of such places really takes your breath away, along with standing amongst things that people hundreds and hundreds of years ago built together themselves.

Britt and I did some more shopping later that afternoon, and then hung out at Starbucks in the early evening. We met up with the guys later in the evening and went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant the guys had come across. It was a really great meal. I had fried bananas and ice cream for dessert, which was so amazing! We laughed away the night, while sipping (or maybe chugging) back bottles of wine until we all decided we better make our way home.

We had a bit of a slow start on Thursday morning, which may have had something to do with the aforementioned wine. Despite this we still had a productive day. We went to the brilliant Haiga Sofia Museum which has a really rich history of being turned from a Greek Orthodox church to a mosque and now to a museum. It’s construction started in 537 and lasted several years,at which time it was opened as a church. In 1453 the area was conquered by the Ottoman Turks who then turned it into a mosque. All Christian relics were removed and any of the mosaics depicting Jesus, Mary, Saints, or angels were removed or plastered over. Islamic features took their places. It stayed this way until1931 when it was closed from public use. It re-opened four years later as a museum. Some of the original tile has been scrapped clean and you can see some of the original Christian mosaics coming through again. The tile work and grandness of this building left us in awe.


For the afternoon, we took a ferry across the straight to the side of Istanbul which is on the Asian continent. We pretty much just ate and hung out at Starbucks over there, but now I can say I’ve been to three continents, so that’s cool. I guess Istanbul is like the Lloydminister of Turkey! We also got to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the ferry ride back over to Europe. Well, I did anyways. Britt took a nap! Sensing a theme?


I think we absolutely saved the best for last. Friday, we got up just in time to get the continental breakfast, went for a gorgeous run through a small park and along the sea wall, and then went to a hamam.

I have to admit, when I first read about Turkish baths in the guidebook my reaction was, oh hell no! But the more we talked about it the more I thought it would be worth a try. So that afternoon we headed down the street to the nearest bath.

It was this super old building, and once inside, you go and change and then walk into this amazing sauna-like room with the highest ceilings and tonnes of little tiny round windows in the curved ceiling. In the center of the room was a big marble slab, and that’s where you laid down to relax and eventually be bathed. You just lay there and sweat until it is your turn, and one of the women call you over. Basically it’s like a massage, but with an exfoliater glove and lots of bubbles! When you are done you have to sit by a little sink and they dump water over you and wash your hair. Then you get to go sit in a jacuzzi.

At this point, a lady came to get me to take me to get a pedicure. After the pedi I went for my oil massage. Up until this point I was able to get away with keeping my two-piece bathing suit on, unlike all the other woman who changed into the black bottoms they supply you with, and nothing else. However, when I got to the massage table the woman pointed at my top and before I could even say “no” she undid the halter and yanked my top down around my waist. Eep! I don’t think it was hard for anyone to tell that there were two North Americans in amongst the Europeans that day! Even in the buff, it was a truly relaxing and renewing experience, and we left feeling pampered and refreshed.

Back to food… I wanted to have one more pizza before we left, so we went back to the restaurant we had eaten at the first night and had a late lunch. We spent the next few hours lounging about, Britt in our room and me up on the rooftop. The hostel owner is a really cool older Turkish man, who is very kind, funny, and easy going. He was fun to sit around and visit with, and he liked to talk about Turkey and tell us cool things about it. His name was Dodo and he kept us quite entertained!


The pizza I had for lunch hadn’t been what I was hoping for, so later that evening when we went to a restaurant that had been recommended to us by coworkers, I tried the pizza from there, and it was SO good! It’s a place we probably should have gone to earlier in the week, because the owner is really cool and we had a lot of fun there.

I even got to try Raki that night, which is a Turkish unsweetened, anise flavoured alcoholic drink that’s really popular in Turkey as a before-meal drink. It smelt like black liquorice and reminded me of zambooka. It is the national drink of Turkey and you either chase it with water or pour water into it and it turns milky. It was so gross!


As we got our bags all packed up that night, I felt like I had done pretty much all I had wanted to do while in Istanbul. We had a busy but relaxing week in a beautiful city filled with history, culture, and beauty. I will miss the friendliness of the people, the sea and the sunshine, the beautiful call to prayer that rang out over the city several times a day from the mosques, the laid back lifestyle, the food, and the cats! What an amazing week.