One of the best choices we made when planning our trip to Paradise Island in the Bahamas, was to use the services of Cheryl’s Bahamas Taxi and Tours. They offer an all day tour (aprox 9:00 – 5:00) of the best tourist sites on the main island of New Providence and the city of Nassau.
Our guide Dwayne arrived in a clean air-conditioned van and the four of us (three adults and one child) piled in to the comfortable seats, excited about the places we would be visiting during the all day tour of New Providence Island which is where the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau, is located. Shortly, we were driving over the bridge that connects Paradise Island to New Providence Island heading for our full day adventure.
After having been burned to the ground by the Spanish in 1684, the small settlement of 900 originally called Charles Town was rebuilt by the English. It was renamed Nassau in 1695 by Nicholas Trott, who had been appointed Lord Proprietor. He named the town in honor of the Prince of Orange-Nassau who became King William III of England. The modern Bahamian Government is headquartered on New Providence and the island is home to a cruise port, bustling downtown shops and restaurants and a number of historic sites and island activities.
Our first stop was at the smallest historic fort on the island. Ft. Montague is a tiny fortress and is the oldest of the island’s three forts. It was built in 1741 to defend the island from attack by Spanish invaders and it faces the eastern end of the harbor.
When the fort was built, it contained barracks for officers and soldiers, a guard room, and bomb proof powder magazine which could hold ninety-five barrels of powder and 17 mounted cannons. Normally the fortress is open for visitors to walk up onto the ramparts, but for some unknown reason, was closed the morning we were there, so we marveled at its petite size and headed on to our next destination.
The fisherman deftly chopped the conch and handed it over to the chef who added onions, peppers and mango creating the most delicious fresh conch salad we had ever tasted. I was not a conch fan but even I enjoyed the way it tasted and I realized the difference between absolutely fresh conch and that which most restaurants serve.
The Queen's Staircase, commonly referred to as The 66 steps, was hewn out of solid limestone rock by slaves between 1793 and 1794 to provide a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City. I could imagine how awful the conditions must have been for the slaves forced to carve the giant channel from the unyielding stone day after hot humid day, for months. Standing at the bottom, the height and width of huge space dug by the slaves is stunning.
The steps were later named in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned in Britain for 64 years from 1837 to 1901. There are only 65 steps visible because the pathway that leads to the steps was paved and the bottom step is buried under the asphalt.
Interestingly, the fort served as a lighthouse until 1817 when a lighthouse was built on the point of Hog Island (now Paradise Island).
The historic Estate, founded in 1789 overlooks the harbor. Set on more than two acres of gardens and olive trees, the Buena Vista Estate once served as the residence of royal governors and chief justices.
Very little is known about the buccaneer John Watling who gave his name to Watling Island in The Bahamas (now San Salvadore Island) except that he was an English pirate and privateer who fled from Watling Island to Rum Cay from where he picked up supplies, and then with other pirates, plundered throughout Central America, South America and the South Sea Islands until his death in 1861.
The Watling’s Rum legend states that “While every bottle of his namesake rum is considered liquid gold, it is rumored that Watling’s treasure remains undisturbed at Fortune Hill in San Salvador”. The tour includes a brief instruction about the aging techniques used to create the distinct flavors and depths in each batch of rum. Of course, we had to taste some of this “liquid gold” and after the very interesting tour, headed to the tasting room!
The fort includes a water-less moat, draw-bridge, underground passageways and dungeons, ramparts and 42 cannons. The middle bastion called Fort Stanley and the western portion, Ft. D'Arcy were added later. The fort houses a very interesting museum portraying the daily life and service of the soldiers who would have manned the fort during the 18th and 19th century and compliments the tour-guide who leads you through the fortress museum. Interestingly, none of the three forts on New Providence saw any actual action against the enemies they were built to repel.
Another installation of rough-hewn chairs facing out to sea, referencing the religious experience of the slaves who gathered together remembering their home on the other side of the ocean.
They do not exaggerate! It was obvious that Oh Andros was a local favorite because it was packed, so be prepared to wait, but the wait is well worth it. The heaping mounds of grouper, lobster and shrimp, chicken, spicy rice, mac and cheese, and plantains were absolutely delicious.
After working up a thirst from exploring the many shops in Nassau, a drink while taking in a view of the sparkling harbor and busy cruise port is definitely called for and there are a number of restaurants and bars to pick from. Find one on the second floor for the fun view!
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