Wringing myself out as best I could—I did have a swimsuit on under clothing—we caught the #10 jitney back towards town. We alternately rode along with the passenger door wide open or shut tight against downpour. Rainbows played along the shore and we all gently steamed in the hot little bus.
The driver let us off at the foot of the hill that bears Fort Charlotte, named, as is Charlottesville VA for George III’s queen. We squeezed out of the bus at a seawall and bravely crossed the road. On the sidewalk was a large fresh puddle from the rain and we washed our feet. Even better, at the end of the sidewalk there was a community spigot, serving a neighborhood of green painted bungalows. We removed our shoes and washed; the gritty sand of the Bahamas combined with sweat and rain had raised blisters on both of us by then, even in well-broken-in shoes.
Not much of a hill by our standards, it is the tallest spot over the harbor and thus perfect for defense. The fort is built on white limestone bedrock and the moat was actually carved out of the stone to deepen it. A typical mid-1800s harbor fort, with projecting towers and gun emplacements, it also has a forward battery on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the polo grounds and the cricket pitch. Fort Charlotte never fired a shot in anger and must have been a sought-after posting, as was Cyprus, for the Brits.
We paused on the way up to use the restroom [air conditioned so cold, it was almost painful after the steamy outdoors]. Then we ran the gauntlet of the merchants in nice little booths that reminded us of Egypt. There were few there; we thought few tourists must make it up to the fort. We bought a splendid conch shell from Charlie. He really wanted me to buy his $30 shell, but I liked the $20 one as well. He showed me where they put a hole in the shell to ease the conch out—about which more below.
I also bargained fiercely with a lady vending cheap smocked rayon dresses and beach wraps. Since she had a lot of stuff and I didn’t really care—and her daughter was very grumpy because she wasn’t allowed to go out with her boyfriend—I got a dress for $30, 6Xwhat it was worth, but half what I would pay elsewhere.
On up to the fort, with Ron carrying the heavy shell—plus my beach-combings—in his backpack. The reason the vendors were few was the fort was closing. Good news: we got in for free. Bad news: we didn’t see much. But enough for some great views of the ships in harbor and to confirm what a typical fort it was. There seemed to be some dog burials at the first gate [as in Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, and Fort Monroe VA] but the guide didn’t know for sure. But a beautifully carved stone “Patriot” seemed to be neither a soldier or graffiti.
At this point I remembered the funny bands I had brought to give to children. Previously, I have taken postcards to share, but the smaller children in foreign parts didn’t seem to “get” what they were. So I hit upon the shaped rubber bands that are so popular here; kids wear them from wrist to elbow and crave more. When relaxed, the ones I took were animal shapes. There are no beggars in the Bahamas, so accosted children as I saw them. Of all I gave, only one child had ever seen the like before. So they bands were a big hit.
Reluctant to stand at the seawall at the road and risk being killed, we walked along through a park to a lovely half-moon bay, where we sat on the continuation of our friend, the seawall, and rested.
We caught the bus and slogged back to the ship, sandy and footsore. Cleaned up for dinner, we enjoyed steak and eggplant the cutest dessert ever. A round of pumpkin cheesecake was topped by a baked dough ghost, whose head was made of marzipan with cloves for eyes. I guess you had to be there….
Morning saw us back in Nassau on a walking tour. We passed through Providence House [government offices, surrounded by a wonderful garden]. One of the armed guards popped out of his office to stop traffic, so I could cross the road. Our goal was Greycliff, a colonial era British hotel. Surrounded by a spacious and gracious verandah, the inside rooms are cool and shaded. There are several public rooms—a smoking room with masculine décor [think Winston Churchill], a dining room with elegant appointments [picture the Duke and Duchess of Windsor]—and a gift shop. We bought Ron a hat for his collection and admired the truly upscale goods. The desk clerk told us where to go for a true island lunch when we asked her where she would eat.
On our way to the recommended Twin Brothers café, we stopped in to Christchurch Cathedral, where I thanked God for the beauty of this earth and our safe travels. Then we hopped the #10 bus to Arawak Cay.
Twin Brothers is in a row of beach shacks, all brightly painted with large outdoor patios. We preferred a bit of air conditioning at high noon and were seated at the back of the restaurant, with a wonderful view of a canal, where young men were busily pulling up roped-together conches [pronounced “conks”]. We ordered conch chowder [very spicy], conch fritters [just spicy] and dirty rice. The waitress told us we would have to wait for our conch salad, as it was our salad chef out there harvesting the conches! We were delighted and downed a number of cold diet cokes and Kalik beer [Gold tasted like beer, Silver tasted like Coors]. Kalik is the noise the cow bells make during the Junkanoo carnival.
In between bites to eat, I went out to watch the conch harvest. Our chef was hauling in conches, about 6-7 roped together. I don’t understand this; perhaps they attach them when they’re young and bring them into the canal. When I tried to ask, he spewed a sentence of unintelligible syllables-- to which I replied, “What?!?” This caused enormous merriment among all the young men. So I continued to take photos. After the conches were pulled in, another man whacked the back with the prongs on the back of a hammer and he could push the little beast out.
When our salad arrived, we were blown away—raw chopped conch and chunks of tomato, drizzled with orange and lime juice. Suberb! I want to try it made with little shrimp [cooked[.
We strolled to Arawak Cay beach where I played my favorite game of beachcombing. Initially amazed at the amount of beach glass, I quickly realized by the number of bottles lying about that the supply must be replenished nightly, so that beach glass is always being produced. I also found great chunks of coral.
We made our way back to the seawall, where we found the beach of yesterday underwater at high tide. While waiting for the bus, a gentleman showed us how to eat sea grapes off a huge tree we stood under. Very tasty, but mostly pit.
Back on the ship, we resumed “our” lounge chairs in the shade of the upper deck, drinking diet cokes, eating pizza and carrot cake [all the food groups]. Ron drowsed to his iPod and I did some watercolor sketches, trying to mix the right paint to get “Caribbean Blue” as ref’d in Enya.
After a dinner of seafood, we went to the Colors Lounge to listen to Brian Scott, whom we had come to much admire [a Randy Travis kind of voice]. We closed the evening with a romantic dance to “Sometimes [all I need is the air that I breathe and to love you]”
N4 33 Bahamas edition, part 2
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