Life in the Foreign Service is fairly unpredictable. Like the old saying goes, change is the only constant in life. And in the FS, that fact is ever more prominent. So here we are now, barely 10 months in to our posting in Nassau, and the winds of change have once again shifted. In less than a month we will pick up anchor and the dog, and sail for DC. This will be the first time in nearly 2 decades we have lived in the US and while some see it as “going home” it will be as foreign to us as anywhere they could send us. However that is a story for another time.
When you start a new posting, you think you have time to see and experience everything. In a place like Nassau, New Providence Island – an island only HALF the size of Tulsa OK! – you run the danger of exploring it all way too soon. There were many things on my to do list – one of them exploring Bonefish Pond by kayak or paddle board. Fortunately we did get to see what little you can by foot.
Bonefish Pond National Park, nestled in the middle of New Providence’s southern coast, is 1235 acres of coastal wetland.
Established in 2002, it acts as a buffer from dangerous storm surge for communities in the south and provides a safe habitat for young marine and bird life.
Bonefish Pond is one of the last remaining mangrove areas on the island and is home to several species of the plant.
The Bahamas National Trust conducts many programs with local schools and organizations to convey the importance of protecting native habitats such as this and encourage more to enjoy what the natural environment has to offer while safeguarding its future for subsequent generations.
Though it is off the beaten path for many of my peers, it is well worth a visit. Go stroll along the boardwalk, look for fish in the rising or receding tides, and do a bit of bird watching in hopes of catching a glimpse of the many birds listed on the informational boards.
Or you could just spend a little time sitting on the steps of the gazebo, with your feet dangling in the water and meditating on what you would like the world to look like when you return to real life.
Honestly just looking at the sky is reason enough to spend some time in Bonefish Pond National Park.
It’s a great place to take a breath when the winds of change suddenly uproot your newly planted life.
Manuel the Mollusk that hangs around under the neighbor’s dock.
The baby pineapple that is growing just outside my front door.
Last weekend I had the most heavenly lunch in downtown Nassau! Eschewing the cruise ship crowds at the more touristy restaurants by the water, we opted for the Halcyon. My husband had eaten there before and knew that the building would appeal to my love of historic architectural charm. You could tell that the old home was quite something in its day and it was apparent that the current owner is working hard to bring that grandeur back to life inside those old walls.
At first glance I fell in love with the place with its old world terraces and balconies. It was tempting to choose a table outside, but my temperament that day took us inside where we were greeted warmly by the bartender and Stafford, our waiter. The dining room is simple, but cozy, and the walls are adorned with gorgeous paintings by local artists (for sale to those with big wallets!). There are plenty of tables without being crowded and a dining room and lounge on the second floor is available as well. The music from the bar was lively but the sound was just perfect to be able to enjoy it while still having a conversation with your dinner partner (a fact that informs most of our dining decisions more and more these days).
But the real highlight was, of course, the food. The everyday menu is short, but sweet, and my husband recommends the Alfredo pasta. But this time we chose to order off menu, and go with the specials listed off for us by Stafford. I chose the snapper with pineapple salsa, rice and coleslaw, while my significant other chose the beef ribs with mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies.
My husband also ordered the mac and cheese topped with pulled pork as an appetizer. My thought? Have fun with that. I hate mac and cheese – even your mom’s “gourmet” mac and cheese. So I put it out of my mind and went on one of my photo expeditions around the restaurant. When I got back my husband insisted I try it and I grudgingly agreed. After the first bite, I found myself braving burns from the container to shovel as much of it as I could onto my plate. OMG! I have never tasted such divine mac and cheese in my life. I’m planning to return just for beer and mac and cheese sometime in the near future.
Then our main dishes arrived… My snapper was expertly cooked with a little bit of kick from the spices coating the filet and all melded nicely with the pineapple salsa on top. The coleslaw was a nice cool and creamy accompaniment to the slightly spicy fish. Still on a rather spiritual high from my mac and cheese experience I dug in to my dish, focusing on each and every bite as mindfully as I could – my concentration broken only by my husband’s prompting to try his braised beef ribs. And those did not disappoint either! Everything was amazing from the ribs to the sides. At the end of the meal, we agreed that our meal was one of the few we’ve had in recent years that was well worth every penny.
And of course the care, kindness, and professionalism of our waiter, Stafford, added to our enjoyment of the afternoon, ensuring that the Halcyon is now on our list of restaurants to return to and to recommend to all our friends and colleagues. So please if you live in Nassau, or visit from abroad – choose the Halcyon for lunch or dinner!
The Halcyon is located on Charlotte Street – not too many steps from the main drag of East Bay Street. Look for Blanc de Noel (the seaside clothing store for skinny Europeans – you can’t miss it. Every item of clothing is sheer and white), and head up the hill towards the Halcyon instead of down towards the water to the Hard Rock!
“Halcyon is a ‘stage’ where Bahamian life plays out; a stage where art, food and music will ultimately merge to create the ideal environment, a ‘home away from home’ according to Bradley Watson Jr, operator of the newest entrant to Nassau’s food and dining scene.”
For your convenience, and for further information here is Halcyon’s Facebook Page.
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Last weekend we were in need of an escape from everything, and found the perfect spot at Mangrove Cay Sea View Villas on Mangrove Cay – part of the archipelago that makes up Andros Island located about a 20 minute plane ride west of New Providence. Mangrove Cay is the smallest of Andros’ 3 main islands, sandwiched between the much larger north and south islands. Like the rest of Andros, Mangrove Cay is dominated by the West Side National Park, with the vast majority of its 890 inhabitants occupying the land nearest the Queen’s Highway on the east coast.
Arguably the north and south islands offer more sights and activities for tourists, but we were looking for partial isolation and total relaxation. Mangrove Cay is perfect for this! The main attractions on Mangrove Cay, and arguably all of Andros, are bone-fishing expeditions and blue hole exploring. With spring break and bone fish season in full swing, all the fishing lodges were full and the boat captains happily employed. We asked our host to look into the possibility of hiring a boat to take us on a bird watching/island exploring trip (inspired in part by this photo essay of West Side National Park by Bahamas National Trust employee Heather Carey), but it wasn’t to be. We will have to return some time after the high season has passed, and the far more lucrative fishing expeditions are not quite so high in demand.
Our self catering villa, situated in the Lisbon Creek Settlement on the southeastern edge of Mangrove Cay, offered stunning views of the bonefish flats and other small islands off the coast. The only sounds were those of the wind in the trees and birds calling to each other. Only occasionally did cars pass on the highway out front. We rented a car for the one full day we were there and were able to stop in at the various beaches along the east coast, eat delicious conch salad, and visit a blue hole. The last day was spent doing nothing but relaxing on the terrace and it was glorious.
I actually managed to get out of bed early, walk the dog and be back in time to set up on my balcony to catch the Super Blue Blood Moon this past Wednesday morning. After the initial cloud cover cleared, I was cheered that I would actually get some great shots as the lunar eclipse changed the moon from white to red. My hopes were dashed however when the low lying clouds out of the north that often envelope New Providence’s west end rushed in to swallow the moon just as the color was beginning to change.
Guess I’ll have to be ready next January 21st when the next blood moon visible from North America comes around. Fingers crossed the clouds will help a sister out and stay away!
Here you can get just a tiny idea of the color changes between the evening and morning moons. I wanted to get a greater contrast, but it just wasn’t in the cards this year.
Hello! So almost four months, and a visit from my youngest child, into my new life in the Caribbean, I feel like I’m finally getting a sense of my new home. The differences from my life in Europe could not be greater. Instead of free reign over miles and miles of cities and landscapes, I am limited to an island that is half the size of Tulsa, OK (my home city). Due to security concerns there are many parts of this island that are off limits to me. Add to that the tracts of land that are “exclusive,” and therefore not accessible without paying out large sums of money, and my world has significantly shrunk.
Photographically speaking, I could not be further from the wood and stone, browns and greys and deep forest colors that I am used to in my photos from Europe. The naturally sepia toned hues that dominate my personal favorites are absent in a country that is perpetually sunny and devoid of ancient ruins and hardwood forests.
However, there are pockets that are just explosions of bright colors. I decided my goal for this tour is to attempt to capture photos that celebrate that vibrancy. This means a major shift from my proclivities – from those shots that bring the viewer a feeling of spookiness, melancholy and nostalgia. I am still finding old historical houses and buildings that are in dire need of some love and restoration and you can bet that I am all over those. But while here in the Bahamas, I will be making a greater effort to make great photographs that are sunny, bright and convey a much different atmosphere than what I am most comfortable showcasing.
This is the oldest lighthouse in the West Indies, located at the tip of Paradise Island (formerly known as Hog Island), at the entrance to the Nassau Harbor. We finally made our way down to Junkanoo Beach (close to Fish Fry) this morning to grab a couple of shots of this iconic lighthouse. For the last several months I’ve been wondering where all the seagulls that you typically find near coasts were. Turns out they like the harbor downtown!
Sitting on the dock at my house.