Saturday morning, we got up and walked downtown. We got coffee, and since breakfast food is hard to find, we stopped into the supermarket. I got a banana and some apple-and-sultana-filled crackers called ‘Go Ahead’ that I ended up buying a ton more of and bringing home. YUM.
We braved the straw market, which even without a hundred tourists inside was chaotically crowded. It was the typical souvenir schlock, but there’s always something charming about the constant pestering to stop and look, the ‘baby’, ‘honey’, and ‘beautiful’. I found a big straw bag to tote my hoodie and travel guide around in, and offered the boothkeeper $8 for it. I didn’t realize til later what an awesome beach bag it is, too.
carving a parrot
We shopped up and down Bay Street, then walked all the way down to East Bay, about a mile from downtown. We went down under the Paradise Island bridge to Potter’s Cay, a market made up of booths selling seafood and produce. The mail boats make their deliveries down at the end of the dock, so the items for sale at the market are truly fresh off the boat. Apparently, most of the restaurants buy their supplies there.
fresh conch: this guy asked for a hug for this photo
Their most popular item is conch. You can get conch in endless forms everywhere in Nassau, and several of the booths were serving it at picnic tables out front. We looked at all the booths and headed towards the East Bay side of the bridge, looking at the harbor.
this thing goes in the ocean?
A couple blocks down, we reached our destination: the Poop Deck. Yes, we totally went there because the name made us laugh every time we said it. And also because it got good ratings in the travel guide.
the poop deck
We got there at 11:40, and the guy there told us they didn’t serve lunch til noon. We asked if we could hang out, so we ordered drinks and waited. The restaurant looked out on the harbor and Paradise Island.
kalik: the beer of the bahamas
We ate a small lunch, because there wasn’t much on the menu that wasn’t seafood. I had a coffee with rum, because I’m still nostalgic about comfort coffee in Prague. We left the place giggling and headed back towards the bridge. Because we’re hardcore, we had decided to cross to Paradise Island (PI, for those in the know) on foot.
look hard at this photo to see a sunken ship, a sinking ship, and a bunch of cruise ships docked at port.
paradise island bridge with the famous mail boat
paradise island from the bridge
We headed east on Paradise Island, towards the portion that was not part of Atlantis. I was glad that the map’s scale was a little off, or we wouldn’t have walked it in the heat; it was quite a ways further to our destination than I expected. We passed the entrance to the only public beach on the little island, and headed up towards the One & Only Resort, which hosts the Versailles Gardens.
At the top of the hill at the south end of the gardens lies the Cloister. It was imported piece by piece from France in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst, but not reassembled until it was purchased by the A&P heir and placed on that site. They didn’t have any instructions for putting it back together, so they guessed.
It was a remarkably serene and beautiful place, and seemed so in a more authentic way than the rest of the island. Everything else there is so manicured and well-maintained, it has an air of unnaturalness to it. Some people enjoy the luxury and exlusiveness of those fancy resorts, but I am not one of them. I like authenticity.
harbor from the cloister
We walked down through the Versailles gardens, which reminded me a lot of some of the gardens near Lake Harriet, only much more over-the-top. Some of the statues were beautiful, and they were all very different from one another.
in versailles gardens
versailles gardens with cloister
We tried to cut through the One & Only Resort, but were denied. We went back to the main road, and turned at the public beach sign. Near the entrance was a neverending line of taxis, and a woman directing us to the beach. The path was lined with cotton trees, covered in puffs of cotton.
public beach on paradise island
We didn’t have our beach stuff with us, so we didn’t spend much time there. The waves were even higher than they were the previous day on Rose Island. There was a huge crowd of college kids sitting on the steps to the beach bar.
We walked over to Atlantis, this time to actually see the resort, since everyone makes such a big deal of it. It’s very much like one of the fancier Vegas casinos, Caesar’s Palace or the Bellagio. I wanted to get a peek at the beach there, but it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere on the beach side of the complex without proof you’re a guest. We had the sense that we’d be thrown in the brig if we tried to slip past security.
yachts parked in the marina
We went back down to Marina Village to cool off and relax. We had been in the sun for several hours, and were feeling it. Stephanie got ice cream, and I got iced coffee. We sat outside on the wall and watched the passers-by, gawking at the insanely hootchie outfits on some of the women. Again, I was reminded of how much Atlantis is like a Disney property: it’s totally perfect and clean. Bright colors, friendly staff, the smell of a lot of money. Considering the conditions in Nassau, it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s like it’s there to shelter people from the reality of a poor place.
We walked around the outside of the building, and ended up back in the casino. We headed out the other side towards the beach. Finally, we saw it. They had a huge complex set up, but of course it was just for guests. The rest of us could walk along the balcony and peer at it, however.
the lagoon at atlantis
While we were standing there taking photos, a woman came up and poked at my arm. She asked, “Are those yours or henna?” I said they were mine. She launched into a monologue about all the great tattoos she’d seen there on the island. She was drunk off her ass, and amusing as hell, as was her husband, Curtis.
We were expressing some frustration over not being able to get nearer to see the beach, so they assured us that there was a way to do it if you knew how. They had managed to sneak onto the beach earlier in the day. They set off with us in tow, following the balcony towards the far end. Along the way, we saw a guy feeding the huge fish in one of their several aquariums.
atlantis: the bridge-like room costs $2,500/night. minimum 4-night stay.
It soon became apparent that Curtis and Jess really had no idea where they were going (even though they were convinced they knew). We didn’t mind, because they were fun to talk to. We walked up and down, and finally it occurred to them that they had probably come into Atlantis from the beach itself, walking down from the public area. It was time for them to head back to their cruise ship, so we said goodbye.
We wandered around Atlantis a while longer, then decided to catch the ferry back to Nassau so we didn’t have to pay for a cab again. The ferry only costs $3 each way, and it’s awesome to be out in the harbor with the cruise ships.
They crowded as many people on the little ferry as possible, and everything seemed a little rickety. I had the seat closest to the back (the stern, duh) so I could take photos as we left. I leaned back against the railing to turn around, and it gave. It was held onto a post by twine. Thankfully, I did not fall off a ferry boat into the ocean.
straw market with cruise-people
The big cruise ship days in Nassau are Tuesday and Saturday, so the straw market was mobbed when we reached the dock. As we had several times already, we walked past Señor Frog’s, the notorious spring break bar originally from Mexico, and I asked Stephanie jokingly if we were going there for dinner. She yelled NO again, as always.
We walked back to the hotel and got our beach-stuff so we could enjoy the last bit of sun before the clouds came in. We sat on the beach across the street from our hotel and watched cruise ships leaving port. We gaped in disbelief as this monster of a ship backed out and did a 180 in what seemed to be a way-too-small harbor. It followed the pilot boat out into the ocean, and was on its way. We decided we really needed to take a short cruise sometime, because places like the Bahamas seem especially geared towards that kind of vacation. The hair-braiding woman came over to offer her services just like she’d already done four times since we arrived. We again declined. Someone tried to sell us timeshares, just like they’d already done. We got out of it by telling him we were leaving the next day.
We went back to the hotel and perused our guide, looking for dinner options. We didn’t really want to take a taxi again, lest we encounter Gilbert, nor did we want to pay the $20 to get to PI and back, since we’d just come from there. The British Colonial Hilton was nice but boring, and the several restaurants along Bay Street were primarily seafood or take-out. I said, “So, it’s Señor Frog’s, then?” She didn’t think I was serious. She should’ve known better, since we have a longtime history with this kind of thing: ‘Want to go to THAT tacky tourist restaurant?’ Joke about it 50 times, and all of a sudden you HAVE to go, just because you’ve talked about it so damn much.
we know how to party.
Oh, we made the most of our visit to Señor Frog’s. We ordered normal-sized drinks, but they arrived in yards anyway. We watched a bunch of drunk 19-year-olds dancing on tables near the bar, and girls with the worst voices ever singing karaoke just to get free shots. We ate bad Mexican food that somehow tasted really good. I went to the bathroom at least three times, and the last time I opened the stall door to find the janitor standing there with a mop and bucket. He said, “Oh, sorry, baby.” No problem, dude. I’m kicking it tacky-tourist-style at Señor Frog’s!
We laughed our way out of the place, me clutching most of my second yard of whatever it was. We walked back to the hotel, and met a guy along the way who asked us the usual questions. I suppose I felt some apprehension for a minute: drunk American chicks walking alone along a beach in Nassau. But he was friendly and wished us a good trip home. My drink went into the trash can in the hotel untouched, although I offered it to Stephanie (from the trash can) several times and SHE WOULDN’T DRINK IT. I loudly proclaimed from the bathroom that I was having the best pee of my life, and then I very soon after collapsed into bed.