Nassau More than Walk in a Park

NASSAU, Bahamas — As concierges go, Ana Maria Telea is high on our list. She works on the water (Norwegian Sky), but she knows a lot about walking.

Probably not on water.

Faced with the prospect of snuba diving, scuba diving, even snorkeling, off-roading or deep-sea fishing from this Bahamian port, we chose walking. Ana Maria gave us a two-page, printed walking tour that was even better than she said it would be. In fact, it was so good, it’s going to take two blogs!

Once we ran the gamut of aggressive vendors and tour sellers around the pier, we began our “two-hour” self-guided tour. It began slowly, probably a good idea. A glimpse of period buildings that were or are occupied by various government people led us to the local courthouse. As it happened, many people were standing around the periphery of the area, with a bus surrounded by armed guards. For a coupe of ambulance chasers like us, this was too good to pass up.

It turns out the bus was taking prisoners from court to jail, and the people watching were their families. Now we wouldn’t go so far as to say they seem a little loose on justice in Nassau, just a little different. If you look closely at the young man leaning on the fence, you’ll see something in his mouth that is not his tongue. But hey, it’s not lit… and maybe we’re old-fashioned. As for the sign on the building wall, no comment necessary.

We did visit a jail (or gaol, as it used to be called) — yes, we did say VISIT — because it’s now the public library. But 125 years ago, people were booked in it…today they read books in it. What followed was a collection of interesting sights:
• a “showcase parking lot” where the Royal Victoria Hotel stood until it was leveled by fire in 1971;
• the Queen’s Staircase, 66 steps built by slaves in 1793 to what is now a marketplace for vendors;
• an old fort called Fincastle, needed to watch for marauding pirates who never came and with a defense that included an authentic “howitzer” — okay, have YOU ever seen a real howitzer?
• a street that used to be the dividing line between rich and poor, with the mansions on the right and shanties on the left (a twist of irony here: the mansions are now occupied by banks and investment firms).

The highlight of the walking tour…can you wait until tomorrow, right here?

Time being of the essence and Atlantis still on the horizon, we were forced to abort our two-hour stroll through Nassau and board a water taxi. In Nassau, some motorists drive on the right side, some on the left. Water taxi operators drive wherever and whenever they want, in boats so shaky they invoke dark humor because there is some doubt whether Atlantis will ever be anywhere BUT on the horizon.

To the surprise of some passengers, we make it across the open water to Paradise Island with nothing more annoying than a self-imposed tour guide who blatantly asks for tips by shouting: ‘What’s the best nation in the word…it’s doh-nation, what you just gave me!”

Atlantis, if you haven’t heard, is a posh resort. You don’t have to see the rooms to know…the bridge over placid water that houses an apartment allegedly once the property of Michael Jackson is the tip-off. And the million-dollar yachts in the harbor are the tip-off. And the biggest aquarium we’ve ever seen, in the lobby of the hotel. And the exclusive shops along the path that takes 10 minutes to walk from the $500 (maybe) water taxi to the $500,000 yachts. And the magnificent lobby and casino that all visitors must pass through on the way to the aquarium.

It’s an amazing and opulent complex but we found a place, equally expensive, more to our liking. We’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

We’re giving our Canadian colleague Phil Reimer a break and, starting tomorrow, writing about the Epic on his blog for the next week. If you’d like to check them out, click on PortsAnd Bows.

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