My brother and I went to the Bahamas for the first time a week ago, January 19-24. Here are a few of the photos I took...
The Atlantis hotel, on Paradise Island - built in a year at a cost of $850m by a rich South African resort owner. The "bridge" between the two structures is actually a suite - the Michael Jackson suite. It goes for $25k a night.
To get to Paradise Island, you've got to take a ferry from Nassau, on New Providence Island. Paradise Island was actually first "settled" by Club Med - who renamed the island from the original name of Hogs Island. Oddly, they felt the new name would probably help business. Go figure.
Most of the time we were on Paradise Island, we were gently baking under the sun on Cabbage Beach. Despite the odd name, it really is a nice beach - several miles long, and a mix of private and public areas. The beach behind the Atlantis, for instance, is private and requires paying admission.
The crowds on Cabbage Beach seemed to be mainly middle-aged families and younger couples. You could count the number of 20- and 30-something women who weren't attached to a guy on one-hand. It was too bad, sort of puts the lie to all of the ads about the Bahamas. Seems to be a better place to bring a girlfriend than a place to find one (or even just to meet other singles).
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There were a lot of people doing water sports - kite-surfing and para-sailing and jet-skiing and all sorts of things. At times packs of jet-skiiers would go zipping past the beach.
One thing you can't help but notice about the natives is how eager they are to sell you something. The main industry in the Bahamas is tourism, and that becomes very apparent once you arrive. Whether it's "Mr. Feelgood" trying to sell you "cocktails in a co-co" or the unending sets of jet-ski renters camped on the beach, you can't walk five feet without being propositioned for something. After dark, the offers change from water-sports and pina coladas to drugs and other less savory things - such as the night "Ice" tried to hook us up with some blow and got quite upset when we wouldn't even let him unload some pot on us. Thanks, but no thanks.
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So, the local people are all trying to make you part with your cash and the tourists are mostly flabby or attached, so what's left? Well, the beaches - and complain as much as I might about the rest, I can't complain about the beaches. The sand was nice, clean, and the water was a gorgeous array of blues and greens. The weather was perfect, too - highs in the 70's and lows in the 60's the entire time we were there. The skies were as clear and blue as you can imagine. The worst we ever saw was a little wind and clouds.
New Providence Island
West Bay road runs through the city of Nassau and along the edge of New Providence island. It hosts both the Hilton, the oldest hotel in the Bahamas, and one of the local McDonald's.
Nassau is completely oriented towards tourists. It has a freakin' Sbarro's, for chrissakes. But it's got some pretty parts, in-between the Gucci stores and Duty-Free Liquor stores.
Christmas in the Bahamas is just like Christmas here - except with palm trees.
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Fish and conch. That's what they eat down there. (Ok, a little chicken, too.) While we were there, we sampled conch prepared at least a half-dozen ways: conch fritters, raw in conch salad or scorch conch (basically just conch salad with fewer ingredients, as far as we could tell), boiled into a sort of stew in grill conch, or stewed in stew conch. We also tried some fish (grouper fingers, for instance) and other things (crab salad, chicken souse, corned beef and johnny cakes, etc.). My general guideline towards picking a restaurant were simple: if there were any white people in there, we weren't eating there.
We spent most of our time eating at the fish fry, aka Arawak Cey. It's basically a loose collection of restaurants and bars, all a little divey (some very divey), all serving local food and cheap beer. After we found it, we ate almost every meal at the fish fry. One thing that surprised me was how expensive the food was down there - almost every meal we had, even excluding drinks, was over $10 a head. The only exceptions were breakfast (although that went over as well sometimes) and one meal where we ended up just sharing an entree. Fortunately, the beer and booze was fairly cheap - $3-4 for a beer, a buck or two more for a mixed drink. One note: the Guinness in the Bahamas is not brewed to the same specs as in the US - it's brewed locally and is stronger (in alcohol) and richer (in flavor) - and overall is much better than the US version. I refuse to drink it in the US, but I had a couple in the Bahamas.
Well, that basically wraps it up. Hopefully you enjoyed the pics. The rest are here: