Nassau in The Bahamas

If you like this excerpt then you can buy the book containing this story here

The Straw Market, now in a permanent building again, was full of people looking for souvenirs of their visit. The main purchases appeared to be bags, t-shirts, and objets d’art such as carved statues and gaudy paintings. Some straw items are still sold such as hats and shopping bags, but now The Straw Market is a general market that sells souvenirs. It’s also a good place to shelter for a few minutes if there’s a tropical downpour.

 

Other sights worth visiting include Fort Charlotte – 15 minutes’ walk due west of the British Colonial Hilton hotel – with its guns pointing menacingly towards the cricket pitch and the cruise ship terminal. The entrance fee is 1 dollar and the information provided gives an accurate appraisal of the history of the fort. From the ramparts you can see the beach cabins on Arawak Cay, where everyone should eat at least one meal during their stay and try the gin and coconut milk combination called a ‘Sky Juice’.

 

Head east along Bay Street and then up Elizabeth Avenue to see Nassau’s most interesting sight. The Queen’s staircase is in a gorge that was hollowed out of the ground by 6,000 slaves using six-inch long chisels, just to provide a potential escape route for the governor in case of surprise attack. This is the story that the local guides will tell you at least; whether it’s true is another matter. It’s entertaining to listen to their stories and I did have to admit that in places the sides of the gorge do show marks similar to those made by chisels. 64 steps make up the staircase, one for each year of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Nassau in the Bahamas

An extract from the book Scottish Highlands, Caribbean Islands, and more

Head east along Bay Street and then up Elizabeth Avenue to see Nassau’s most interesting sight. The Queen’s staircase is in a gorge that was hollowed out of the ground by 6,000 slaves using six-inch long chisels, just to provide a potential escape route for the governor in case of surprise attack. This is the story that the local guides will tell you at least; whether it’s true is another matter. It’s entertaining to listen to their stories and I did have to admit that in places the sides of the gorge do show marks similar to those made by chisels. 64 steps make up the staircase, one for each year of Queen Victoria’s reign.

At the top of the staircase I found myself close to the Water Tower and Fort Fincastle with lovely views over the harbour. Then I headed along East Hill Street, Duke Street, and West Hill Street passing good examples of the local architecture such as Jacaranda House, Dunmore House, and Graycliff. My destination was the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas with its collection of paintings, sculpture, textiles, ceramics and photos.

Along West Street almost opposite the gallery is the St Francis Xavier Cathedral dating from 1885. Outside in a small garden area, I saw an all-white statue of a lady teaching two children, which I found surprisingly tender. The only puzzle for me regarding the cathedral was that this particular St Francis never came anywhere near the Caribbean, spending most of his life in the orient. There must be a catholic saint who was more local that the cathedral could have been named after? Further down the street I found a Greek Orthodox Church that was beautifully painted in blue and white and wasn’t named after anyone at all.

Nassau became a city in 1684 when Christ Church Cathedral was built. This is the fourth incarnation of the building, the previous three having been destroyed by fire, Spaniards, and termites in that order. Services are still held here.

The public buildings in and around Parliament Square are all a delicate shade of pink. Billboards in front of the Parliament building outline the important roles played by various politicians such as Sir Lynden Pindling and Sir Randol Fawkes. Two excellent places to eat stand out in the vicinity. One is the breakfast and lunch place T’s Bistro, which you have to be buzzed into for some reason and has its own reliable wi-fi. The other is the Cafe Matisse, where romantic dinners can be eaten in the open courtyard. The waiters at the cafe are all local and the theme is mainly Italian food.


Nassau is a fascinating place to visit simply mass tourism and virtually no tourism co-exist at such close quarters. Bay Street can be full of duty-free shoppers and yet one block further north the street will be almost devoid of people

Great Exuma International Airport, Georgetown, Bahamas

Should you be leaving Great Exuma for either the USA or Canada then please be aware that there is no duty free shopping at the airport on the island. The departures area has about 140 plastic seats and two kiosks in opposite corners selling mementoes of the Bahamas, If you were hoping for some alcohol, cigarettes, or perfume then you should pay a visit to Nassau, which is forty minutes away by plane.

There are two departure gates ‘E’ and ‘I’ with American flights leaving from Gate I and the Air Canada flights leaving from Gate E. The jets that are able to land here are the Brazilian Embraer aeroplanes. On the Air Canada flight to Toronto, there were amazing views over the Exuma Cays, Eleuthera, and Abaco. You also gain a high-level view of Niagara Falls as you head into Pearson airport in Toronto.

Bahamas – entering the country

The Customs officers in The Bahamas were deeply suspicious of my motives for visiting their country on two separate occasions within one week. My itinerary was taking me from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay and then on to Nassau, before heading over to the Turks and Caicos Islands. I was returning from Providenciales to Nassau and then flying to Great Exuma from where I was returning to Vancouver via Toronto.

I was travelling on my own throughout the whole trip. When I arrived in Nassau the first time, there was an absolutely massive queue of people as three international flights had arrived almost at the same time and there were only three customs officers to look after all these people. After 55 minutes it was my turn. The customs officer asked me where I had come from and how long I was spending in Nassau. After I answered he asked me what my line of work was and who I worked for. When I replied that I worked for a credit union, he asked whether we were affiliated with any credit unions in The Bahamas and whether I was going to be contacting them. I wasn’t of course because I was on holiday. He reluctantly stamped my passport and let me through.

When I returned from Providenciales I was asked the same questions by a different customs official and then I was asked where my final destination was. I replied that I was staying in Great Exuma and then the officer asked who I was meeting at my hotel. I indicated nobody and the officer asked me to come with her while they conducted some secondary checks on me. This took about 15 minutes and the customs people had my passport and itinerary behind a secure door all this time, whilst I sat outside. During this time, the officer who stamped my passport on my first visit came out to me and he remembered I worked for a credit union and he assured me there was ‘no problem’. Luckily, I had a four hour wait for my next flight so there was no hurry.

Eventually, my passport was returned to me and I was sent on my way, but I was so pleased that I was heading out of The Bahamas from Great Exuma as I didn’t feel like visiting Nassau again for some reason.

 

Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas

Today I caught the ferry boat from downtown Nassau to Paradise Island. If you decide to head over there, ensure you have a map as there are few maps on the island and there are restrictions where visitors can wander.

On Paradise Island you will find many hotels including the Atlantis Resort, with its 2239 rooms catering to the wealthier end of the tourist market. There is also the One and Only Ocean Club an exclusive hotel where some of the opening scenes from the James Bond film Casino Royale were filmed. On this hotel’s land and accessible by visitors are the Versailles Gardens and The Cloisters, part of a genuine 14th-century French Augustinian monastery once bought by William Randolph Hearst and transported to the USA. Hearst couldn’t find room for them at his Californian castle and sold the ruins to a Bahamian hotelier who erected them where the visitor seems them today.

Visitors can access few parts of the Atlantis resort without a day pass, but you can enter the casino and see people playing slot machines, roulette, and blackjack even at midday. Smoking is permitted inside and there are no clocks.

The ferry ride takes about 12 minutes from Nassau. Passengers get a close view of the cruise ship dock and the western end of Paradise Island, where wealthier celebrities keep homes. However, even wealthier celebrities have homes at the eastern end of the island.

Nassau, The Bahamas

Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas and is found on the island of New Providence.

Today, April 25th 2014 there were five large cruise ships in the harbour and the main shopping thoroughfare, Bay Street, was packed with passengers looking for bargains in the various duty free shops on this street. Once you moved from the main shopping street there was hardly anyone around. I wonder what these cruise passengers see on their journeys other than air-conditioned interiors of duty-free shops?

The Straw Market, now in a permanent building again, was full of people looking for souvenirs of their visit. The main purchases appeared to be bags, t-shirts, and objets d’art such as carved statues and gaudy paintings. Some straw items are still sold such as hats and shopping bags, but now The Straw Market is a general market that sells souvenirs. It’s also a good place to shelter should there be a tropical downpour for a few minutes.

Other sights worth visiting include Fort Charlotte – 15 minutes walk due west of the British Colonial Hilton hotel – with its guns pointing menacingly towards the cricket pitch and the cruise ship terminal. The entrance fee is 1 dollar and the information provided gives an accurate appraisal of the history of the fort. From the ramparts you can see the beach cabins on Arawak Cay, where everyone should eat at least one meal during their stay. Try the gin and coconut milk combination called a ‘Sky Juice’ while you are there.

The most amazing sight is the Queen’s staircase, which is in a gorge that was hollowed out of the ground by 6,000 slaves using six-inch long chisels, just to provide a potential escape route for the governor in case of surprise attack. This is the story that the local guides will tell you at least; whether it’s true is another matter.

Nassau became a city in 1684 when Christ Church Cathedral was built. This is the fourth incarnation of the building, the previous three having been destroyed by fire, Spaniards, and termites. Services are still held here.

The public buildings in and around Parliament Square are all a delicate shade of pink. There are posters in the area in front of the Parliament building outlining the important roles played by various politicians such as Sir Lynden Pindling and Sir Randol Fawkes. Round here are two places to eat. One is the breakfast and lunch place T’s Bistro, which has its own wi-fi and the other is the Cafe Matisse, an Italian restaurant (with non-Italian waiters) where romantic dinners can be had in the open courtyard.

 

The Bahamas – Escape from the Winter Weather

If you are fed up with the winter weather then consider taking a trip to The Bahamas.

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/americas/bahamas-postcards-from-the-western-atlantic-9036510.html

I hope to head down there later this year.