Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Bahamas

Our intent was to visit The Bahamas last year as a part of our Key West trip.  However, that plan got sidetracked when I had to have emergency eye surgery.  We still wanted to visit the land of Trae (our one and only Bahamian friend) so we traded for a week in Freeport and off we went.

Our first stop was in Cordele, Georgia at an inexpensive hotel.  We had read the reviews about the train noise, but since we both grew up near train tracks we assumed that wouldn't be a problem for us.  Wrong!  Apparently, the hotel was near a crossing which required the trains to blow their horns for a mile or two, loud….piercing….horns.  And the trains kept coming and coming.  I lost count how many trains went by.  Or maybe it was just one train going round in circles just to keep us awake….regardless, we didn't get much sleep that night!

Next morning we hit the road, only an eight hour drive to Ft. Lauderdale.  Unfortunately there was a storm system centered along our entire route.  It rained virtually the entire time, with the heaviest rains during the last four hours, when Mona was driving.  Lots of construction and busy roads made the last part of the drive pretty harrowing and we were both glad to finally get to our hotel.

Our Bahamas Beach
Unbelievably, the rain continued to pour down and we literally waded to the restaurant adjoining the hotel.  The front of the restaurant was flooded too.  Luckily, the back was still high and dry.  We quickly ate our shrimp dinner and waded back to our room…..just glad we didn't have to swim!

Next morning it was time to catch our flight to Freeport.  It was only a 35 minute flight.  A short taxi ride took us to our resort and within minutes we were there.  First on our agenda was food.  We took the shuttle to Port Lucaya and found a restaurant serving local food.  Our objective was conch fritters, cracked conch, and peas and rice…as recommended by Trae.  All were awesome and as it turned out, this was the food we ate most of our trip.

Rum Runners:Where mixing a drink requires
a machete! 
After lunch we wandered around the marketplace and found one of our two favorite spots on the island…Rum Runners.  This is a great place to meet people from all over the world while enjoying a drink (or two) and they have the best free WiFi on the island.  (You know how Mona gets when she’s not connected!)  The bartenders here are hilarious and it’s amazing how they chop the coconuts with machetes without losing hardly any fingers!
Our first view of Bernie's

We caught the shuttle back to our resort and hit the beach.  Soon we found our next favorite spot on the island: Bernies.  Bernies is hard to describe….it’s a restaurant…kind of.  It’s a gathering place…kind of.  What it is….is an awning under which Chef Bernie has a small counter and a grill.  In front of the awning is a bar made of rough-hewed boards….and then “outside” are four or five picnic tables made of the same boards.  As it turned out, we spent more time here than anywhere else on the island. 

Chef Bernie at work
Chef Bernie takes your order and then prepares it and cooks it. (Our order was conch fritters with grilled fresh-caught lobster.)  Since each order is done individually it takes a while so you pass the time by sipping on a Bahama Mama and talking with other diners.  As it turns out…people from all over the world come here year after year for Bernie’s food.  We met people from Iceland, Peru, Romania, Great Britain, Canada, and of course the US.  Most of these people were like us and came to Bernie’s several times over the week.  The food here is wonderful, but it’s the beach atmosphere and the new people you meet that makes it amazing!
Evening view from Bernie's

That first day set the tone of our trip.  Visit the port, go to Rum Runner’s, enjoy the beach, go to Bernie’s….and repeat.  We geocached of course, and I'll write about that in my geoblog.  We also hit a couple other “restaurants” of note.  One was the conch shack, just large enough for the cook inside.  Outside, they brought the fresh-caught conch to be cleaned them while you watch.  The conch is then handed up to the chef and cooked immediately.  (Or chopped up raw for conch salad...which is wonderful!)  While cleaning the conch they offer you the raw conch spine which is known locally as an aphrodisiac.  (Tastes like al dente spaghetti ..only saltier. You'll have to try them yourself to see if they have any other impact!)  We also ate at a jerk shack on the beach….great jerk chicken and pork!

On our last night Bernie had a bonfire on the beach.  He cooked ribs and corn on the cob for about thirty of us.  Lots of visiting, trading of email addresses, and photos.  What a great way to end the trip!