Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be a member of the crew on the second season of The Bachelor Canada — which, in the fourth episode, took us to Nassau, Bahamas.
I’ve never had any immediate desire to travel to the Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong, when I found out we were going to the Bahamas I was ecstatic. But of all the countries on my bucket list,* the 30 or so islands making up that freckled piece of watery globe sat closer to the bottom. I blame “An Embarrassment of Mangoes.” A brilliant book of travel narrative, no doubt, but the writers spoke so convincingly of their middle-aged sailboat adventure from the icy waters of Canada all the way to the tip of Trinidad and Tobago, they had me certain I didn’t need to follow their steps until well into my late 50s.
*Every single one. Twice. Minus Albania. (Don’t ask.)
Now, of course, my mind has changed and I would go back at any given moment.
We flew to the Bahamas over two arduous stopovers en route from Cabo. (I know; woe is me.) Los Cabos are beautiful: heat, still and dry like the circulated air on our flights, with cacti and golden brown soil to match. But the tropics they are not. A desert life is not the life for me, so stepping off the plane and into the soupy warm of Nassau, sweat immediately sprouting on my skin, I felt at home.
The puddle jumper from Miami was a touch rough, but what do you expect on a miniature plane packed with 80+ pieces of film gear? Film gear that didn’t all make it, natch. (Again, miniature plane.) No matter. A sing-a-long passed the time as we waited — fruitlessly — for word on our items. Eventually we learned they’d be on their way first thing tomorrow and on our way through customs and off to the resort we went.
Three days later… After a super early airport drop off and a quick nap, my only day off kicked into action. Everyone else was content downing Mai Thais and Pina Coladas in the pool, but I wasn’t about to let the Bahamas pass me by, so I took my haphazardly folded map and my 20 megabites of wifi (Traveling is so easy these days, isn’t it?) and sauntered off the resort.
I started out with “Old Town” but quickly realized it was a bust — so I turned around and hopped back on one of the local buses. Like the Brits who colonized them (truth? lie? I’m typing this with no internet access so choose your own history adventure), Bahamians drive on the left side of the road. A bus ride into town cost a $1.50 (in the local currency or American dollars — the two are interchangeable) and was filled mainly with locals. I chatted with the driver and got a few tips on where to go and what to see.
Downtown Nassau is a stunning array of brightly coloured buildings, cobblestone streets and hack-y tourist shops. I strolled through the parliament building and up and down a few streets before realizing I couldn’t wait any longer to visit… the Pirate Museum*!!
New Providence Island, Bahamas was a MASSIVE hub for pirates back in the 1600 and 1700 hundreds. Treasure hunters still visit consistently and the attitude of piracy is kept alive with the island’s many international banks with loose legalities.
*Pictures not included. But, yes, there was a ship and era-appropirate** streets built inside the museum. And, yes, I was the only one walking around. And, yes, they played sound effects over the loud speaker and I got a little bit scared. (What!? It was dark!!)
**Unintentional spelling mistake. Leaving it.
After the museum I decided to wander further… I’d Googled places to check out in Nassau and every list included the Queen’s Staircase. I wandered out of the downtown core, passing many more vibrant buildings and homes… and some eroding, dilapitated ones as well. Similar to Cabo, there is so much beauty and colour, but at any given moment, poverty is right around the corner. That being said, at no point did I feel unsafe. There is a happy buzz in the air, one reflecting the cheerful hues — or maybe just indicative of all the American money filtered through the country.
Named after Queen Victoria, the staircase was built between 1793 and 1794 as a direct route to Fort Fincastle. There was a cheerful man at the bottom who spent about 15 minutes telling me and a few other tourists all about the history of the place. It was a beautiful, peaceful spot, not too overwhelmed by tourists, and filled with stunning flora — like, finger roots!!
Stay tuned for Part 2… including a drink recipe for a dangerously delicious Bahamian cocktail!