Jul 14, 2011

Blogging the Bahamas Beaches: Onshore in Freeport & Nassau

Lucaya Beach, Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island. Monday, June 6, 2011
Western Esplanade Beach, Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas. Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A few weeks ago Babs and I were talking about what type of lifestyle defines us.  Babs is an unabashed city girl—born in one of the great American cities, Cincinnati—and ever after enamored with urban life.  If she had her way (and we had the money to afford it) we’d been living in a townhouse in the Short North, frequenting galleries and cafes and our son living a like someone on Sesame Street minus the muppets.  The conversation started as we were driving through a quaint little  town on our way to the Allegheny West Campground located about 45 minutes southeast of our home in New Albany.  We noted the charm of the little village, and acknowledged the appeal of living in a small town like that.  Indeed, I know there are those that find the prospect of living out their lives in small-town America to be utterly romantic.  But Babs and I agreed, that wasn’t our style.  Likewise, we drove through beautiful farmland, and mused over the idea of living a rural lifestyle.  Again, we could see the appeal of such a life but recognized it wasn’t for us.
So Babs asked me, where would you want to live?
To be honest, I can be happy just about anywhere.  I think I could find the beauty and joy in country living, residing in a small town, or a big city.  I have found much to enjoy and appreciate living in an upscale suburban area.  But none of those places define me.   After some thought, it came to me—something I guess I’ve known for a long time—when all is said and done I’m an island boy.  The island life is the life for me.  The laid-back life, all-warm-weather climate, the sand and the sea, the eclectic mix of local islanders and ex-patriates—that is me.
And so it was a joy to return to the islands at the beginning of June, 2011.  Granted they were islands I’d never seen before, but I’m realizing that tropical islands of any kind fit the bill.  When I’m there, even if it’s my first time visiting I feel totally at home.

Where I belong.

Our first port of call was on Monday morning, June 6, 2011, just over 15 hours after we left Florida, at Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. 
A tranquil corner of the Lucaya tourist district in Freeport

  The port on Grand Bahama island was about 20 minutes drive from anything of note and we ended up spending $90 round trip on taxi fare just to get into town.  The island, though much larger than New Providence, reminded me a great deal of Tinian, Saipan's smaller neighbor to the south with its quiet roads, the langorous pace, and the mostly flat landscape.  We had the taxi drop us off at Lucaya, the main tourist district in Freeport.  This place reminded me of Garapan, Saipan's tourist district--full of shops stocked with touristy knick-knacks, sunglasses, sarongs, and souvinirs, a few resorts dominating the beachside, and a noticeable lack of people.  The Lucaya district had that same eerie since I noticed in Garapan--the sense that the place was built to accomodate more people than were there.
The national flag of the Bahamas flies over a building near the Lucaya tourist district in Freeport

The kids browsed the shops but weren't quick to buy.  I bought a Malta, enjoying the cold beverage until an errant bee flew into the bottle, drowned itself in the brew, and I was forced to discard the rest.

"YoungMoney" jams with a local musician at an open square in the Lucaya District.  This one-man band was another familiar island staple reminiscent of Saipan.  This guy put on quite an energetic show despite virtually no audience and the broiling midday sun.  In addition to our temporary additions to his show, another school group of fifth and sixth grade boys--also traveling on the Sensation--stopped by and struck up an impressive impromptu dance number.
After some window-shopping we ambled down to the beach for a little bit of sun, sand, and sea before we had to meet our driver to return to the ship.

It's hard to beat the graceful beauty and island charm of coconut palms
Lucaya district, Freeport, Bahamas

The Freeport visit was hardly what I'd call exciting, but it was relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable.  For me just being on the island was pleasure enough.

The line to reboard the Sensation.  We set sail from Freeport at 5:00 P.M. on Monday, June 6, the same day we arrived.  Our next destination: Nassau


Nassau in contrast to Freeport was a bustling hive of activity.  Its sister island in the Marianas would be Guam.  The tourist activities began virtually the moment you got off the ship--shopping, a beach in walking distance, restaurants, and historical sights were all close at hand.

We pulled into port early Tuesday  morning, June 7, and were picked up at the port around 9:00 A.M. by Anthony  Burrows (above), principal of the Bahamas Academy of Seventh-day Adventists. He and one of the teachers from the school took care of us for the morning beginning with a tour of the school's brand new campus under construction.
One of the classrooms at the current and soon-to-be former campus of Bahamas Academy of Seventh-day Adventists
 After a stop at the conference office,  we were taken to the old campus for a tour where we were treated to cold drinks and pizza. 

The interior of Fort Charlotte, an old British garrison in the heart of Nassau

After a pleasant morning touring our sister Adventist institutions we were dropped off at Ft. Charlotte, an old colonial-era fort not far from the port.  A big thank you to Principal Burrows and the staff at Bahamas Academy for your generous hospitality and the gift your time and effort to provide us with a comprehensive tour of the Adventist landmarks in Nassau.

At our next destination, we spent more time shopping at the cluster of vendors outside the fort than we did inside.  The guided tour was delivered in a bored monotone and was over in about 15 minutes.  It wasn't worth the $3.00 a piece that we paid to get inside and certainly not worthy of the tip we were encouraged to (but stubbornly did not) leave behind.  The fort itself was small and somewhat interesting.  It reminded me of the forts we used to visit when I was a kid living in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands though those were better maintained as I recall.  Needless to say this was not the highlight of our trip. 

A view from Ft. Charlotte.  You can see our ship in the distance, and beyond that the towers of the  famed Atlantis resort.
  From Fort Charlotte, we shelled out a few more dollars and got a ride back to the ship, where we ate late lunch and resupplied for a late afternoon foray to the souvenir vendors and the beach.
Throughout our time onshore in the Bahamas there were familiar notes of the island life:

The flame trees
They go by a different name in the Bahamas, but to me they are still flame trees.  Their fiery blossoms were a welcome and familiar site

The beach, of course
Yet another beach shot, this one from our time in Nassau. Our ship, the Sensation, is the one on the left.

 and the tourist racket. . .
The Nassau Straw Market.  We did most of our souvenir shopping here, barganing with the vendors in the hopes of brining home a bargain.  It's not rocket science, really, to live in a place everyone wants to visit and make a living selling what you get for free. (I didn't take any photos of the Straw Market myself--this photo is from About.com)

Let others have the sophisticated cities, the friendly small towns, the bucolic countryside.  I'll take the island life any day!

Just had to throw these two photos in:

While driving us around Nassau, Mr. Burrows pointed this scene out to us:  three guys painting one traffic signal.  Many hands make light work, I guess, though I couldn't help being reminded of the bloated government waste that was one of the downsides of life in Saipan. 
And how could I not take a photo of Columbus House?


synapseaxion said...

ahhh, I see it's in the genes. I think we must make a trip to Trinidad and Tobago someday. You will realize that my roots are also your roots. Yes, island life is for me, too. Some of the best days of my growing-up life! - Mom

Mai said...

Completely agree - I'm an Island Girl all the way! and not too big of an island, otherwise I forget I'm on an island!

This was a great post - I really liked how you compared all the different spots to places in or around Saipan!

Ella Mitchell said...

Nice picture you have here. I visited Bahamas during my vacation. I remember all the amazing experiences with being able to spend the whole week with my parents for the first time. Thanks to Portico Club who facilitate our vacation.