Suppose you could create the perfect holiday spot? Begin with an island no, not one, but more than seven hundred, stretching across the warm Atlantic. Surrounded each with silver sand, lapped by turquoise waters. Scatter your perfect landscape with two thousand cays (small islands) some hardly dots on a map, many uninhabited. Now put yourself in the picture, at your Breezes Bahamas resort. Who could ask for more?
The Bahamas, a group of 700 islands, beginning sixty miles east of the Florida coast, is dazzling in its diversity. Its 100,000 square mile archipelago extends over 500 miles and is said to have the clearest water in the world. Despite the closeness of the islands, each island has its own diversity that continues beyond geography to the Bahamian heritage. Its rich culture and customs constantly reminds travelers of the Bahamian love for celebration and community. The official language of the Bahamas is English, which makes it easy for the visitor to get around.
The island of New Providence is divided into three main tourist areas: Nassau, Paradise Island, and Cable Beach.
Hotel complexes dominate expansive Cable Beach, which underwent a recent facelift, transforming it to a mecca for visitors who prefer beachcombing with options for exercise and lively entertainment nearby. Here visitors can enjoy gourmet food, world-class entertainment, sports facilities (including a golf course) and some large casinos never more than a few steps away.
Nassau, the capital, adds a grand British undertone to island life. Pink government buildings at Rawson Square (actually a circle) face cruise ships whose passengers are drawn to a day of duty-free shopping downtown. A new museum interpreting the colorful Junkanoo tradition is tucked at wharf side in the ships’ shadows. Tiny pubs and restaurants dot Nassau’s narrow side streets. And a bustling straw market houses hundreds of vendors ready to bargain with souvenir merchandise. You can even catch a ride on a horse drawn carriage.
Cross the bridge to Paradise Island and find more beautiful beaches, activities, entertainment, and dining.
With so may islets, cays and hidden bays, these once sleepy little islands were a favorite haunt of pirates who were ensured of snug hideaways between onslaughts on merchant vessels. Christopher Columbus, certain he had found India, claimed the land for Spain. Spanish settlers were later brought in to establish farms on this new territory claimed by Columbus. They soon gave up in disgust, nobody knows why. Perhaps the European methods of cultivation werent suitable to tropical soil. And added to that there was certain unease when vessels sailing the Jolly Roger the skull-and-crossbones insignia of Piracy appeared on the horizon. In those days the sea was simply used for transport, not for swimming or diving. The pirates were happy to see these first settlers hurry back home.
The French were the next to try to establish a colony, with equally miserable results. A century passed, the French “settlement” had long since become a ghost town. The “treasures of India” were simply not to be found.
But the story takes an interesting twist. A Spanish treasure ship sank in the Bahamian waters: divers recovered almost three million pounds in treasure trove. Perhaps Columbus had been right all along!
The Bahamas, having changed hands so many times has a cosmopolitan air with emphasis on all things English. At one time, it was even settled by Americans who, after the war with Britain, decided they wanted to retain British citizenship. The British King therefore granted a parcel of land to “loyalists” from South Carolina.
The story goes too that the Bahamas might have become an American colony if its Governor changed his trousers! Apparently, George Washington, who had visited the lovely islands, sent out an American navel vessel to invite The Bahamas to become a member of the newly formed United States, hoping for a friendly welcome. Instead, the British Governor, wakened in his nightshirt, ordered his troops to hold fire until he was properly dressed to lead the defense of the colony. While he was changing into respectable uniform the American troops arrived unopposed but broke into the rum stores and liberally sampled the merchandise therein. When they staggered back to their ships in the morning they were easily overcome by passing British vessels. And the Bahamas remained British; today, the lovely islands are independent, as a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth.
There is nothing so tied-by-tradition in The Bahamas of today. After dark cabarets, casinos and nightclubs begin revelry that will end just in time for sun up.
Talk The Talk
When your new Bahamian friend tells you “Bush crack man gone” he is telling you that a runaway has disappeared into the jungle and is not to be found. If he doesnt want to mention names, he may add, “Tingum in bush ain got no name! Surprise your friend with a few local phrases.