Thursday, March 23rd
Weather: mostly sunny, 80F, not as breezy and a bit more humid
Route: walk to Fort Charlotte, then to Downtown Nassau, catch the #19 Bus to Fort Montagu, walk to Nassau Stadium for lunch, walk to The Retreat, take the #19 Bus back to Nassau and the #10 Bus home.
- touring Fort Charlotte without crowds
- having a Bahamian Policeman, in his white jacketed uniform, escort us through town to the #19 Bus stop
- because it was so small, not being too disappointed that Fort Montagu was closed
- being directed to a local restaurant, Nassau Stadium, since the Sunnyside Restaurant we planned to eat lunch at was closed for renovations
- seeing a very wealthy section of the island during our walk to The Retreat
- enjoying a shady, traffic-free stroll around the gardens of The Retreat and a short chat with workers there
- seeing several neighbourhoods in the Central eastern section of the island along the 30-minute bus ride back to town
- recouping for a few minutes at Rhonda's before taking an evening stroll on Saunders Beach
Breakfast today was Greek Yoghurt with cold cereal and nuts, Green Macha tea and the last piece of Banana Nut Bread from home. Without rushing we were on our way to Fort Charlotte by 9:00. Using the map, we walked quiet neighbourhood streets instead of West Bay Street, only having to ask for directions once. As we walked past the Security Gateway we chatted with one of the fellows there. He was more than happy to tell us some of the history of The Bahamas as we walked up the driveway and the path to the Entrance Kiosk.
We paid our $2.08 each but declined the offer of a guided tour. It was a good decision, since there was an abundance of informative displays to read at our own pace (which is faster for Hubby than for me). Remember crazy Lord Dunmore, who built Fort Fincastle? He also built Fort Charlotte, beginning in 1787 when he was appointed Governor. The fort was actually built in three stages, with the Fort Stanley (central) and then Fort D'Arcy (western) sections finally being completed in 1819. The fort had a moat, draw bridges, thick walls with holes for cannons and passageways, stairs and dungeons carved out of solid limestone -- everything a fairy tale fort was supposed to have.
After the Fort Charlotte section was built London sent out the Royal Engineer, John D'Arcy to finish building the complex "without bankrupting the British Empire". He and Governor Dunmore had several disagreements during the construction. The Engineer considered the fort a military monstrosity. To annoy him for eternity the Governor named the final section of the fort after the Engineer.
The fort was handicapped accessible and had clean bathrooms. Hubby took in the view of Arawak Cay and the ocean while waiting patiently for me to finish reading the displays.
As we walked down the front driveway (not the back one where we entered) Hubby realized we were so close to downtown Nassau that it was not worth riding the #10 Bus. When we asked a bus driver which bus to take to Fort Montagu he explained that it would be the #19 Bus, then asked a passing Policeman to walk us there. We protested that we could find it but both men insisted so we dutifully followed the tall, patient, white-jacked Bahamian symbol through the crowds of cruise ship passengers, waiting while he posed for photos.
Along the bus route east I looked for the restaurant we had picked for our lunch stop, Sunnyside, seeing a 'closed for renovations sign instead. Fort Montagu had tour buses in the parking area but the Fort was closed to tours today. We walked around the outside of the small ruin and out to its ocean promontory. Built by Governor Tinker in 1742 to guard the eastern end of Nassau Harbour, the fort sits on the site of an earlier fort from the 1720s. Fort Montagu only had small cannons -- 18- 9- and 6 pound guns. Had we been able to go inside we would have seen a powder magazine, a guardroom and a water cistern. More interestingly, the fort was seized during the American Civil War by a raiding party which included John Paul Jones.
We couldn't find any nearby restaurants listed on Google Maps so we asked some nearby workers for a local Bahamian lunch recommendation. They suggested the Nassau Stadium, about 1/2 a mile away and gave us helpful directions to find it. It turned out to be a small, local sports-themed place, but they offered Red Snapper today so we stayed. The small Snapper came in a bowl of gravy with a side of Johnny Cake. We had never tried Snapper this way before. It was not one of our favourite ways and we thought the $14.00/plate charge was a little pricey for what we ate. Still, it was another glimpse into local life here, which is what we were looking for.
Hubby was a little unsure of walking a short cut away from the main road and through the neighbourhood, after being warned about getting off the beaten track. What a surprise to be walking past large, well-manicured properties with gated driveways on our meander to Village Road. The Retreat used to be one of those private estates until it was donated to the Bahamas National Trust. The $10.00/person admission was a bit of a shock but we had come all this way to see it and hoped the fees would, as we were told, be used only for the garden's maintenance. Strolling along the pathways of the garden sections was a peaceful respite from the traffic and sun. We saw a hummingbird sipping from the one flower left on a drought-stricken tree we thought might be a Hawaiian Ohia Lehua, then had a pleasant chat with a lady working in the small kitchen. On the advice of the lady we caught the #19 Bus rather than the #14A that we thought would take the fastest route to town. At the bus stop we heard about the future dreams of a young, enthusiastic gardener/student who did not plan to be a laborer all his life. The bus that came was new, with working air conditioning, plastic seat protectors and a very loud sound system. It drove us on a scenic tour of several neighborhoods before arriving downtown. We were glad to be back on the old rickety but quieter #10 Bus again. Rush hour traffic was building. Bus rides set us back $7.50 today.
Rhonda's was quiet. All the little imperfections of the place now feel like home. We put our feet up, drank some tea, ate some chocolate and read the news via wi-fi. By 16:00 we had perked up enough to take a short walk along Saunders Beach, to at least feel the water temperature and dabble our feet. I found a lovely pink Sunrise Tellin shell to add to my global collection at home. I read that the granules of these abundant shells create the pink sand on Eleuthera.
Dinner was a bowl of canned vegetable soup with red pepper, cheese and crackers. Dessert was a grapefruit. We can't decide whether to just chill tomorrow or try to get to another National Park south of us. How Bahamian of us!