One of the “joys” about traveling is always looking for the bathroom/restroom/WC/toilet. Sometimes traveling seems like The Great Toilet Hunt. The photo from my day shopping local in Nassau shows a little outhouse with a big name. I think I would have gone with “manse” or “palace” just for the hyperbole.
The Straw Market in downtown Nassau, The Bahamas, is famous. I found it to be too mass produced. If you want to support some of the independent artists and shop owners, then you will have to get in a car and go slightly (ten minutes) away from the main street. The reason for the spread out shops is that, apparently, the rent on the main strip is quite high. The list of independent shops is super short:
Bahama Hand Prints, Ernest Street: Super expensive fabric products from clothes to bags to curtains. The best part is watching the printing of the actual cloth in their attached workshop. The website is a little slow to load, but the shop is quite nice. (also, a secret tip is that they have a bathroom, if you need one).
Kim Smith The Place for Art, #20 Village Road: He offers classes, has a frame shop, and sells prints and original artwork.
Farmers Market, on the porch of the building in the same complex as the Kim Smith gallery. Basically, it’s two vendors. One who sells some vegetables, a baked good, and lobster tail tacos. The other person makes the tacos.
Bahama Art and Handicraft, East Shirley Street: Two sisters have this shop with lots of nick knacks. They don’t allow you to take photos of the things inside but you can find them on their Facebook page if you want to see what they have.
That’s it. But, if you stop at the parking lot where the fresh conch is being shucked , you can make a fun day outing of shopping local.
Here in Nassau, when I asked people to tell me about the national foods of The Bahamas, this is what they told me about:
Peas and rice: Rice with a pulse — from green peas, beans, lentils, etc. They even have “corn and rice” but the important thing is to get some peas and rice. I would hear people talking about it on the streets. It’s a vital part of the day.
Baked macaroni: or “mac and cheese” which is addictively delicious. It’s pasta, cheese, and a touch of jalapenos, baked with cheese on top. It can be cut like cake. Yum oh.
Cracked conch: is deep fried conch.
Johnny cakes: like corn bread but less corny.
Souse: a soup to use for dipping your johnny cakes. You can add the spicy sauce as well.
Grouper: fish — baked, boiled, steamed, and cracked (deep fried).
Fish stew (tuna) and grits: anything with grits (when it’s a ground meat sauce, then it’s called “Fire Engine” which is classic comfort food. Even for breakfast. See photo above.
Lobster: warm water spiny lobster tails. Popular in every way.
Chicken in da bag: deep fried chicken.
The food in the Bahamas reminded me of foods of the American South. Comforting and hearty.
And one drink was mentioned to me.
Sky juice/gully wash: rum, coconut, and condensed milk. Too sweet for me.
It’s the third annual rum festival in Nassau, The Bahamas. Going on right now in the Fort Charlotte. Tickets cost $25 per day, or $60 for Friday-Sunday (pre-purchase online, I think). Tickets can be bought at the entrance to the festival. Fort Charlotte is about a mile from the cruise ship harbor. The stalls are all around the bailey of the fort making a natural path past the stalls. There are stalls selling rum, cocktails, rum cake, desserts, food, jewelry, plants (lettuce plant is not what I’d normally buy at a rum festival, but why not?), soap, tea, candy, t-shirts, and art. You can get samples, but mostly, it’s about shopping. There is music throbbing off the walls and pirates waiting to take a photo with you. There is even a Johnny Depp-look who is very willing to stare glaze-eyed into your selfie. Happening now, February 24-26. I’d recommend it if you like festivals, rum, and a street party… I bought jerk chicken and rum cake.There are also some voodoo elements… and cigars. Overall, not a great way to see Fort Charlotte because the dungeons and other parts of the fort are closed for the festival. But it’s a good use of the fort.
I’ll write more about the foods I tried in a later post. It was spicy!