Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Bahamas, 700 Islands In The Sun

Map picture
I have been told that 1962 was a “Good Year” in The Bahamas. Although a rum and tequila man myself, the years since have been like a fine bottle of wine.

Most visitors first introduction to The Bahamas is at Nassau International Airport.
If  you are lucky enough you will be welcomed with the sounds of steel drums from a local band. Be careful your hips may start “whining”.

The norm here is a slow and relaxing way of doing things and this is true where ever you find Bahamians. I think we invented being “fashionably late”. As a kid, it was often joked that Bahamians would be late for their own funerals. I am counting on this to complete the challenge before me.



For tourist, the immigration and customs process is straight forward.





However, it can be interesting to watch returning residents engage with customs officials about their many purchases from abroad.

soda_goombay_can Exiting customs, walk over to the nearby convenience store and purchase a cold “Goombay Punch” or “Junkanoo Punch” along with a “Coconut or Bennie Cake”. All loaded with sugar... but refreshing and yummy.
Tour companies and rental car agencies are also available in this area with no special requirement for car rentals. Just switch your brain around to drive on the left and you will be okay.



Don't expect your car to be there if you are late during a busy period as it becomes first come first serve even if you had a reservation. Calling ahead may help but message are not handled well. Have a hard copy of your reservation and eventually you'll be taken care of. “Don't Worry, Be Happy”.



View From Caves





The normal route to your hotel will be along the western beaches of Nassau. Ask your drive to make a quick at “The Caves” where you can explore and dip your toes in the warm turquoise waters of the beach nearby.

For a more local scenery route, surprise your driver and ask to be taken to “Dirties” in Bain Town. If your driver does not know about “Dirties” jump out of the cab, you have an imposter!


Located on the corner of Nassau and Meadow Street, Rosalies aka Dirities serves without a doubt the best “Crack Conch” in Nassau. This is a dish you must have for a true Bahamian experience. It is first place stop when visiting my birthplace.



While waiting for your order, “Snack or Dinner” ($8-10) walk over to nearby liquor store and grab the “Kalik or Bacardi And Rum Special”. Kalik, The Bahamian Beer is full flavored and not as weak as most American beers. Wrapped in a brown paper bag, you can secretly .. wink, wink start enjoying your “Kalik” without delay. Except for drinking and driving, the alcohol laws are relaxed here and the brown bag ritual goes back as long as I can remember.


For a sit down local dining experience, visit “The Shoal” restaurant just down the street from “Dirties” but don't be in a hurry the food is worth the island style service.



Primarily a resort type island, inexpensive nice accommodations can be hard to find. Start at Junkanoo Beach, Downtown Nassau, Cable Beach or if you have a huge trust fund .. send some of it to me before you check in at Atlantis.



371257413_bf7a7b2131  ATLANTIS






If you happen to stay at Cable Beach or ride “The Jitney” - local bus out there for the day, you can enjoy a fresh Bahamian smoothie just outside the local straw market across from the hotels. Add some local rum for that extra kick.










Once on Cable Beach itself, meet one of the original members of The Bahamian Witness Protection Program. “Cage” aka “Coffin” aka “Smoky” aka “Candy Man” aka “Action”. . Born as Renwick, he is a childhood friend of mine that runs “Action Water Sports”.


Ask him about his “Dilly Tree Wasp Experience” while you bargain for a Jet Ski, Para-sailing or Banana Boat Ride.




Atlantis is a very beautiful resort where life styles of the rich and famous can be seen on a daily basis. However, it lacks a true Bahamian experience and island feeling. Although the free aquarium is worth the visit.



Stroll across the bridge that leads back to Nassau and after taking in the views make a u-turn at the bottom. Here you can get a unique Bahamian experience. Buy fresh fish, sample “pig feet souse” from a mobile mostly “mom” kitchen or join a game of checkers or dominoes if you dare.



You are at Potter Cay Dock a bustling area for local marine transactions. Here you can board Bahamas Ferries for quick day trips to The Exumas, Eleuthera or other out islands. For shopping, sightseeing and free rum samples, stroll from Potter Cay west towards Bay Street.


Rawson Square is the center of downtown and many local attractions are nearby.

The Queen's Staircase within walking distance of downtown leads to another great view of Nassau. From there you can easily stroll to the pink and white Government House.

Down Blue Hill Street and you are at The Hilton Hotel formerly British Colonial, the back drops of many James Bond 007 movies.





Just outside The Hilton hop a “Jitney” west to “Fish Fry” a local and tourist hangout for fresh Bahamian food. Goldie's is my favorite here for conch fritters, a cold Kalik and fresh conch salad that can be made so hot it makes your head sweat. Be careful how you order it!






If you are fortunate to visit Nassau between Christmas and New Year's Day, make every effort to participate in Junkanoo a carnival type parade that takes place on Boxing Day and New Year's Day except when they fall on a Sunday.



Junkanoo Drummer




Your participation requires only a little sense of adventure. If you can blow a whistle or shake a “cowbell”, you are good to go. Bring an old pair of jeans and shirt then find a local to help you “paste” a costume which is not difficult.


This will allow you to walk the main street as the parade is going on and you will get the opportunity to rush scrap.



Junkanoo is a celebration, street filled event that depending on your level of participation starts from 9 in the evening until noon the next day.

Large groups compete with music, dance and costumes for not only a prize pool but more importantly bragging rights. Fans in the stand shout their favorites groups as they go by …..

“Saxons”, “Saxons”... “The Valley Boys”, “The Valley Boys”.


Done right, Junkanoo is a fun filled exhausting event that ends with heavy eye lids, a breakfast of boil fish and johnny cake or if you are lucky enough crack conch from “Dirties”.




A folk song ask the question... “If The Good Lord Never Went On Holiday, Then Tell Me Why He Made The Bahamas?”



I hope someday you will get the opportunity to ask the same question about my birthplace. Only one of the 700 Islands In The Sun.

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