Downtown Nassau on a Shoestring Budget

Going downtown and doing other things around the downtown area are some fun, short, quick and easy things that, if you’re trying to get the full experience of Nassau and learn about some of the history of the Bahamas, you should definitely do. The Bahamas are, after all, more than just amazingly clear blue water and beautiful beaches, there is an interesting history to the area as well. In an attempt to make this easier to both read and write…I shall use bullet points…

1. Local Buses: Obviously this isn’t an attraction or something that you need to see, BUT, this is the way you get to said attractions so bear with me. The local bus system is amazing, and cheap, and super super easy to use. To be entirely honest, I only ever used two ‘numbers’ of busses, the number 10 and the number 12, but I’m pretty sure they can get you just about everywhere. The number 12 bus gets you all the way to the airport; now that being said, just maybe remember to tell the bus driver thats where you’re going. I almost made a terrible mistake of assuming he would guess that’s where I was going since I had my giant backpack with me along with my smaller backpack and my purse. I mean…maybe it looked functional, but seeing as how I barely managed to get on the bus without nailing the lady sitting in front of me with one of my bags, I don’t see why he would have thought I was simply going for a light day out. Anyway, moral of the story…he didn’t assume I was going to the airport, someone just happened to be getting ON the bus at the airport and as he was about to pull away I decided to maybe ask if that’s where I should get off if I was going to the airport…spoiler alert, he said yes. I paid and jumped off and then realized I had to walk down a road to the airport, as per Bahamian standard…no sidewalk. Anyway, the number 10 bus brought us into town from where our hostel was located. All you had to do was stand on the side of the road, and when you see a bus coming down the street, with the number you’re looking for, wave them down. Boom, done. The drivers own their own busses, so some are air conditioned, some aren’t, some have a door that closes, some don’t, it’s awesome, personally I liked the crappy old busses a little more, it adds to the experience.

The price to ride the bus to town was $1.25, so amazingly cheap. Here’s a few pointers though, try to have exact change, and if you don’t, tell the driver what you’ll need change for when you get on the bus. However, you don’t pay until you’re getting off the bus, I’m assuming the further you go the more it costs, seeing as how the airport cost me $2.50 instead of $1.25. Also….you kinda just yell out to the bus driver that you want him to stop when you get to your stop. There are actual bus stops, but I found that the only time they really stick to only stopping at the bus stops is when they’re in actual downtown, and I’m using my smart brain to assume that’s in order to keep from backing up the already pretty bad traffic. ALSO, the busses stop around 6 pm, so unfortunately, if you want to have dinner downtown you’ll have to take a taxi back (remember to barter the price before getting in though). Also, everything closes at 4 or 5 anyway, so usually the bus service will work perfectly fine, unless, as I said, you want to do dinner downtown.

2. The Caves: Now that we talked about the busses and ‘downtown’, let’s talk about something I didn’t take the bus to and which is in the actual opposite direction of downtown, just to keep y’all on your toes.

Ricki, Jenn, and Sherri had all mentioned “The Caves” to me, but lets be honest, I hadn’t done any research about this trip, I simply bought a ticket and got a hostel bed and expected to sunbathe for ten days?

So yeah, I had no idea what they were talking about, but I did a solid job of pretending to. Anyway, one afternoon we decided to walk to the caves; we used our google devices and they told us it would be about a 45 minute walk, but we were on vacation, we had nowhere to be at any specific time, so we decided yes.

After about 10 minutes, the sidewalk disappeared, classic. Walking along the road was nothing short of entirely entertaining though, we were constantly running back and forth across the street when it looked better to be walking on the other side, along with having our moments of peeking around foliage that came out all the way to the road, waiting for all of the cars to pass so we could walk around.

Now, the caves themselves were small, but awesome.

I didn’t realize at first that you could go all the way down into them until Ricki wandered down and out of sight; don’t worry everyone, she was safe, just the bravest of us so she was the first to go in. The three of us slowly tested the waters, wandering down after her, it was awesome!

There were tons of bats and it was a decent sized room, we explored as much as we could and took as many pictures as we could, but obviously there’s only a point to which you can get photos in a dark cave with a three year old iPhone.

Those little black dots are bats by the way. Very exciting… I know. Then of course I proceeded to make everyone take some seriously cheesy tourist pics with me,

Classic. We definitely stayed for as long as I think we could have stayed, and it didn’t end up being more than 45 minutes at the actual caves, short and sweet.

3. The Queen’s Staircase: This was one of the more humbling and awe inspiring things to see downtown, and people really don’t realize that. Ricki and I had actually attempted to find the Queen’s Staircase once before, turns out though that we went in the exact opposite directions and ended up on West Hill Street next to Graycliff and the magical wine place as spoken about before.

Anyway, there’s worse things than getting lost when you don’t actually have anywhere you need to be, so we kind of gave up that day and ended up making it there a few days later with Jenn and Sherri. Now, we got there at 4 o’clock on the dot, and again, everything closes at 4 or 5; that being said, the Queen’s Staircase itself doesn’t close, but there are (unpaid/tipped) ‘workers’ at the entrances on either side who leave at 4. This means nothing if you don’t care to hear any history behind the staircase, but if you’re interested in the amazing stories and history behind the building of it, you should try to be there before 4. We were lucky enough to show up just in time; the gentleman working told us his ride had just shown up, but that he’d tell us about it. He was awesome, and actually spent almost an hour talking to us, I low-key felt bad for his ride. Whoops.

Anyway, some minor details from his (maybe inaccurate?) 45 minute history lesson…slaves were brought to the island to be tortured, and the form of torture used was making them dig through the solid limestone rock without any tools to ‘make a pathway from the fort to the docks.’ They were barely fed and barely let to sleep in order to keep them from being strong enough to retaliate. Eventually, the slaves were freed, not knowing what to do with their newfound freedom, they finished digging and built the Queen’s Staircase.

Named for Queen Victoria, they made it 66 steps, one for each year of the Queen’s reign. Fun fact, when the area was repaved, they paved over a step so it’s now only 65 steps. When you’re walking along the walkway below the steps, you’re walking over the graves of over 4,000 slaves.

It’s a very humbling experience, and more than just a pretty place to take an instagram photo (not that I don’t personally love Insta, obviously). Time for some cheese…

4. Fish Fry: I heard I had to go to the Fish Fry, uhm to be entirely honest, it wasn’t anything SUPER special. We made a last minute decision on the bus and decided to get off and it kind of seemed like we were there pretty early, because a) we were basically the only tourists there, and b) everything was just barely opening as we were walking through so, you know…that made it pretty obvious. Anyway we dove right in and immediately crossed the street to the actual restaurants, and we were immediately pounced upon by restaurant hookers. They all had the same deal basically, ‘come to our restaurant and we’ll give you a free drink, oh and wifi, and we have the best views’ (of the street?). We ended up walking along all of the restaurants and decided to just go back to the first restaurant we had come upon, couldn’t even tell you the name because it was kind of confusing. One lady sat us and asked what we wanted to drink, only one of us got a drink, and we weren’t super hungry so we just got a few things to share – conch fritters, conch salad, and fries (per Sherri).

#selfie

Personally, I never knew you could eat conch? I feel quite ignorant because it’s insanely popular in the Bahamas, but yeah, no idea. The fritters were pretty good, but that’s probably just because they were basically just deep fried dough, there was the tiniest most minuscule piece of conch in them that you basically missed it even being in there.

The conch salad was not my favorite thing, it kind of just tasted like pico de gallo, only with super rubbery chunks (the conch), it woulda been tasty if they had served it with some tortilla chips. That’s just my personal opinion though, other human beings on this planet like conch salad…try it and decide for yourself.

Anyway, we went to pay and the lady who had sat us and gotten the drink came over and said we had to pay for the drink separate and it was 8 freakin dollars. What!? She’s sneaky, she said it said that on the menu but it definitely didn’t and also she was obviously a different entity than the ‘restaurant’ that we ordered the food from. This was especially clear due to the fact that we had to pay for the food separate from the drink, DON’T LIE TO ME LADY. Anyway, while we were eating the restaurant hooker who had pulled us in kept talking to us; he asked Sherri if she was single, she said no, so he asked if any of us were single, we decided to leave shortly after, but don’t worry, he chased us! We had to lie and say we were going to come back and he finally left us alone. Unfortunately, that guy was not my ticket to Bahamian residency…and I’m really not super sad about that. Check out this cart full of conch shells though…insaneeee

I was trying to get a photo before he was gone sooo, excuse the incognito mode photo and sorry to the guy who got caught in the photo. Moving on…

5. Fort Charlotte: This Fort is across the street from the Fish Fry, so we decided to wander our way across the street and up after eating and running away from Orlando (fish fry guy, had an especially creepy love for Sherri, poor girl).

It was supposed to be something like $3-5 to enter, but we ended up paying $5 and some change due to the recent(?) addition of some sort of tax in the Bahamas, so that was fun, we all sat there digging through our bags looking for change, mostly because we didn’t want to use all of our bus change, ugh the horror of having to ask for change on the bus! Anyway, we were shootin the shit with one of the tour guide ladies there and she told us she was going to give us a one question quiz when we got back, so we got scared. But, with said fire lit under our asses, we headed into the fort. Here are some fun facts for you…Fort Charlotte is the largest fort on Nassau, and is actually three different forts, Fort Stanley and Fort D’Arcy were added a few years after Charlotte was finished. Not a single cannon

(of 42) was ever fired in an act of aggression,

and while there were great views of the surrounding area,

we didn’t really see how this fort in particular was very useful in defense, seeing as how it was so far away from the port…and it also didn’t seem to have any outer walls? There was a moat,

that I’m pretty sure was never filled from what I diligently read while attempting to study for my test, and honestly, you could climb up on to the roof from one side of the fort with absolutely no problem. There were some cool areas down below,

which is where they kept munitions, even though the damp conditions ruined most of them…it really seemed like this place wasn’t very logistically useful. And we learned later on, when we were talking to our friend at the Queen’s Staircase, that the fort was actually built as a front for the general (can’t remember his name…sorry) to steal money. Smart dude. Anyway, there were a LOT of plaques and such with wicked long paragraphs full of information on them and we eventually got distracted with taking photos and wandering around the mazes down below, that we gave up on reading the information. We were all scared to fail our quiz though so when we were finally leaving we snuck past the tour guide lady like the real life adults that we are. From there (and the fish fry since it is obviously right across the street), it’s a decently short walk to downtown, which is awfully convenient.

6. Straw Market: located right downtown, this is the best place to test your abilities to stay strong in the face of needless spending.

If there’s one thing I learned while I was in Cambodia, its that when a full grown woman trying to sell me cheap trinkets starts crying, I crack and give her money. So that’s good. That being said, I have learned, do not make eye contact and keep saying no. And you need to learn to scan everything QUICKLY, because if you stop to look, they will pounce.

Do not stop unless you plan on buying! Well…I mean you can, it’s just harder to get away. OR, take a page out of my book and just throw your friends to the wolves; a shopkeeper starts talking to you and you don’t actually want to buy anything? Point and your friend who’s obviously stronger than you and go, “She’s looking for something” and then run before they get the chance to turn back towards you. Works every time.

Anyway, if I’m being honest, the straw market is really just the same stuff multiplied, you can spend your time walking down every single aisle if you want, but it’s basically all the same cheap stuff. The coolest section, in my opinion, is the woodworking; you can actually see them making stuff right in front of you, it’s actually super cool, and that’s definitely worth a slow walk through. Unfortunately I never got a photo of the woodworking, like I said, if you stopped for too long they’d try to get you to buy something. That’s why all of my photos are A LITTLE blurry, I was taking them on the go. Otherwise, spend some time in there, get your cheap souvenirs, and then feel perfectly happy leaving, knowing you at least saw it.

7. Lukka Kairi Restaurant: I visited this restaurant twice while in Nassau, and I would have gone back more if it was closer to my hostel and I didn’t have to worry about the bus system quitting on me at 6. This place was awesome. They have ‘traditional’ Bahamian food with a ‘modern twist’.

(Parmesan and aioli crusted broccoli). So tasty. Also they have grits though? I figured that was a play at making themselves more friendly to all of the southern visitors they get from the cruise ships. Anyway, along with the very tasty food, their walls are painted with beautiful historical murals,

and it’s open with ‘bar-like’ seating which faces out to the harbor. We didn’t drink the two times we went because one of the times was the middle of the day and we didn’t feel like day-drinking, and the other time was after wine and lite vibes and we all knew that it would not be good to continue drinking. If you’re not drinking alcohol, do make sure to ask if what you’re drinking has free refills, because it probably doesn’t and then you’ll spend $8 on iced tea….not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, or that I’m bitter about it. But, if you get the chance, go eat here! It’s super tasty, good vibes, huge bar if that’s what you’re lookin for, good views, fun employees, good times.

8. Day trips to other islands: This is actually not something I did because it was insanely expensive for my liking for the most part. However, that being said, there were a handful of people staying at the hostel who did do day trips out to the Exumas or Harbor island, and they all said it was COMPLETELY worth it. Harbor island is a little cheaper, it’s only about $120 at the cheapest for a day trip, however, it is a 3 hour ferry trip one way, so 6 hours of your day will be spent on the ferry, which is the only reason I did end up opting out of that one. You can pay more for more amenities, but yeah, that’s the cheapest option, and Harbor Island is home to the pink sand beach which is awesome, I hear. The Exumas are extremely expensive to get to for a day trip and for activities such as swimming with the pigs and playing with the iguanas. But, again, everyone who did it at the hostel LOVED it. The beaches there are apparently even more beautiful and amazing than in Nassau, and swimming with the pigs sounded like a hard thing to pass up. However, it is about $250-$300 at the cheapest to get out there. Partially because you’ll be flying for a day trip; as much as I wanted to go, I wasn’t willing to part with $300, no matter how amazing all of the stories sounded.

Otherwise, y’all know how I feel about places like the Hillside House for Lite Vibes and West Hill Street for tasty cheap wine and the Graycliff manor (check out the National Art Gallery while you’re on West Hill Street! It’s another cheap and quick, but interesting thing to do). And if you don’t, that means you didn’t read my last blog! Shame! Go check it out, it’s full of mildly embarrassing stories and photos.

Like these!

Wine and Lite Vibes

Now when I left for the Bahamas, my mother told me not to get drunk. Whelp, sorry mom, don’t read this one, it’ll upset you. To my credit though, I did not do this by myself, I was in a group of lovely individuals who were also staying at the hostel with me. Perfectly safe. Also it was a complete and total accident…that makes it better right? That being said, these are two must do things in my opinion if you’re a younger traveler in Nassau and you’re looking for fun things to do. We’ll go in order of what we did first…and that is the 90 minutes of bottomless wine provided by the Graycliff Heritage Village Artists Studios(?maybe?). I’m honestly a little confused as to what this place actually is if I’m being honest. It has a small menu of assorted snacks, and if you google it, it comes up with way too many different things to sift through. Greycliff itself is a very well known name in Nassau. Graycliff mansion was originally built in 1740 by a famous pirate of the Caribbean by the name of Captain John Howard Graysmith. This mansion has gone through 300 years of bouncing from hand to hand; from pirates, to small armies, to royalty, and it is now a hotel, restaurant, chocolatier, cigar maker, wine cellar, and probably more, those are just the things I personally know about it. It’s located on West Hill Street and, either way, whether you’re staying there or not, you should definitely check this place out, it basically takes up the entire street, and there’s definitely something for everyone.

We, being the people we are, were attracted immediately to the bright colors of a little snack/wine place,

and then we of course loved the idea of the 90 minute bottomless wine for $13.00. Okay, this place was flipping adorable, everything was so brightly colored, they had cute little tables out front along the street, and they had swings! Who doesn’t love swings!? So we wandered into the wine tasting ‘room,’ and there were these two beautiful ladies in there. The girl working told us though, that they closed at 5, and it was already 4, so we only had 60 minutes instead of 90. Chinwe and I, being the Americans I guess, looked at each other and immediately accepted the challenge. Jay, the girl working asked us what we wanted to drink, and offered tastes; Chinwe and I just said to pour us something red, there was no time for tasting, we had 90 minutes of wine to do in 60 minutes, gotta get a move on. Once all of us got our wine we went straight to the swings to take pictures…because why not right?

After taking our photos and boomerangs (because you can’t be on a brightly colored swing with wine without taking a boomerang of it),

we moved on, into a very brightly colored room full of closed doors. So usually, turns out, these doors are typically open and full of local artists with beautiful paintings, souvenirs, glass makings (is that a word?), and such. Unfortunately for us though, everything is closed on Sunday pretty much, so we were out of luck, but we did have a great time hanging out and chatting, getting to know each other, talking about our signs and such, you know…as you do.

Great stuff.

We even were able to see a tiny portion of the art that’s created there…bottle trees!

They have history dating back to the 1600’s in Africa, where people would hang bottles on the branches of trees in order to ward off evil spirits. This was typically done in burial sights; the belief is that evil spirits would enter the bottles during the nights and burn off with the morning sun. They had a bunch of art inspired by these stories in the building, it was very cool to see and learn about something that’s not actually just a Pinterest inspired fad (not that I’m hating on Pinterest, by any means).

Chinwe and I kept everyone on track chugging wine, and actually, we ended up staying way later than we realized. We eventually ended up back in the tasting room talking to the girls in there,

taking tasty shots provided by Jay, and cheers-ing to Chinwe and Shauna (Jay’s friend) because they were both celebrating birthdays.

This was an amazing time, and I can’t recommend doing this enough! Bring a friend, or don’t and meet a friend while you’re there; spend some time looking around at the artists stuff, drink some tasty wine, take photos, swing on the colorful swings, it’s impossible not to enjoy you’re time here. We did, eventually have to move along though, and what better place to go, than to the block party just down the street!

Side note, we did actually stop by the block party earlier, keep this name in mind, and remember it, and if you’re in Nassau on a Sunday…GO TO IT: Lite Vibes.

Anyway, our first stop here was mainly for food and bottomless mimosas…you can get me anywhere if you tell me there’s bottomless mimosas. We walked in and were immediately confused…through only our own fault and anxiousness maybe. There was a DJ playing awesome music, stuff that you can dance to, but also just chill and bob your head to. Stuff that’s uptempo, but doesn’t make you want to smash your head against a wall. Stuff that’s happy and fun, but doesn’t get boring or old.

You get the gist? (Side note: all photos with the “Lite Vibes” watermark are from the Lite Vibes gallery and I do not own them; just borrowing). Anyway, we walked in and looked around; we saw the bar…we saw the DJ…we saw a crazy big sign that looked like fake grass

…and we saw people with food. But where to get the food!? It’s like my entire trip to the Bahamas was just me watching other people do the thing I wanted to do, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the thing…let me do the thing! We did some light recon and noticed that everyone with food was walking in from the front entrance…so we turned slightly to our right, and saw food trucks on the other side of the fence behind the DJ. Score.

We proceeded to stand awkwardly at the food trucks/booths trying to decide what to get; Joelle loves corn, so she got some delicious sounding grilled corn with truffle butter. YUM…

look how happy she is.

Chinwe and I both ended up with some shrimp tacos,

very tasty, and the boys shared something which I’ve already forgotten the name of if I’m to be entirely honest. They seemed happy about it though, so that’s a win. And we got to look at some cool street art while waiting,

along with witnessing what I can only assume was a cruiser gang roll up and then immediately back out.

After we all inhaled our food we wandered back to the other part of the party to get some mimosas…the time had come finally. We patiently stood in line at the bar, and upon asking for the bottomless mimosas…heartbreak: they were out. Noooooo! Okay well I’ll just get a rum and sprite instead, when in pirate territory…drink rum. We all got insanely strong drinks and moved along to take some of our first pictures of the day/night with the grass wall,

and that’s when we decided to move along to the wine place.

Fast forward, and we’re back, ready to have a bloody amazing time; and that’s exactly what we got. We showed up and took a hundred selfies right outside, there’s proof of that not only in my phone,

but also from the photographer for the party…really great stuff,

look at that pure joy. We got a few adult slushees and proceeded to DANCE.

I bounced around like a crazy person, (literally, even the Lite Vibes insta agrees see…)

Joelle had some swag,

Chinwe was our calm dancer,

Sith got DOWN with me,

and even though we didn’t realize he wasn’t quite as intoxicated (sorry again mom) as the rest of us, even Mohamed put up with us and threw some moves in.

We took videos,

we took pictures,

we danced,

we drank,

this is easily one of the most fun nights I could have possibly had while staying in Nassau.

They even had giant Jenga,

which we dedicated ourselves to quite passionately.

What else is there that I could possibly say about this block party? It was an amazing time, there were good tunes, good food, good drinks, fun games, lovely weather. Above all of that though, this is where some of my hostel acquaintances turned into lifelong friends, Lite Vibes may be a simple block party on the surface, but it’s much more, this was a place to enjoy; to let down your defenses and have fun and be happy, which is exactly what we did. Don’t pass up this opportunity should it arise for you, this is an amazing thing they’ve got going on with awesome (Lite) vibes. Go. Seriously.

Atlantis After Hours on a Backpackers Budget

We may be budget travelers, but we ARE in Nassau, home to one of the most expensive hotels in the world, so obviously we decided it was entirely necessary to at least go check it out. We did so later in the day because the aquarium is free after 6 and… well, we are budget travelers after all. We started our day downtown though so we were met with the decision to either walk to and across the bridge or to take the public transportation. Whelp…we’re cheap so we decided to immerse ourselves in the full (free) experience of walking. There is no public bus which goes across the bridge to paradise island, but there is a ferry you can take across for $8USD round trip. That being said….the walk across the bridge takes like five minutes tops, it’s super short and gives you some pretty cool views of downtown and Paradise Island/Atlantis, so why the heck not?

I’ll give you a reason…the walk from downtown TO the bridge itself is sketchyyyyyy! Or, as my lovely Dutch friend, Joelle, would say…”it’s quite dodgy.”

Side note, downtown Nassau is not a scary place to be at all. Every single person I’ve met is amazing, nice, lovely, welcoming, helpful, happy, ugh seriously I love the locals, there’s nothing to fear as long as you’re not stupid. However, there is about a ten block stretch of pretty desolate, abandoned real estate between downtown and the bridges, which we somewhat accidentally ventured into, not realizing JUST how far we had to go. Now luckily it was the middle of the day, it was somewhat dodgy, but there was no point during which I felt unsafe. This was mostly to do with the company I held in the form of a Kiwi Jedi master whom I had befriended from the hostel by the name of Ricki. Also, we were in a small group of 3 and I had my trusty pocket knife on me, which, while probably not actually super useful in a fight seeing as how it is quite literally smaller than my palm (and I have child hands), I feel it helps me exert a sort of confidence that says “she might be a little more trouble than she’s worth.” No matter how much I personally think I’m worth, I can be pretty annoying, it’s all part of my charm. Moving on.

We made it through the dead zone and started our way up and over the bridge, and wow it has some seriously steep grade to it. Like I said, it’s not a long bridge by any means, but wow, the lazy ass in me looked at it and groaned;

spoiler alert though, it wasn’t as steep as it looked once on it and I did have someone ask if I was from heaven. Personally, after this particular experience, I believe the best way to exert yourself is to have someone standing by to compliment you while you do so, though I can’t promise that guy will always be there, ready and willing to sling compliments at every stray tourist wandering by.

Fun fact, since we walked across we didn’t have to pay the toll to get on to the island, so there’s a win for us and our budgets. Now, I would have been insanely lost the entire time we were on Paradise Island, but I was lucky enough to have met a lovely lady by the name of Joelle (previously named Dutch friend from the hostel). She actually works on a charter catamaran (Joelle, is this accurate information? I’m second guessing my memory) in the Bahamas, going between Nassau and the Exumas. Side story…the boat was recently damaged and is currently in Florida being repaired, and while that is happening, Joelle was staying in Nassau awaiting her visa for the US. This means that we basically had our very own tour guide/keep us from getting lost on Paradise Island person, and man did she do a great job. Not only did she give us a little shortcut through an insanely expensive marina with tons of crazy yachts, she also got us straight to the aquarium. While Ricki and I wandered, eyes wide, trying to take in the sights and sounds of the casino and high end stores, Joelle casually glided through without a second thought. What an angel.

We got through the casino and straight to the aquarium and it was only 5:30 so we were pretty stoked we had made it through whatever checkpoint it is that they apparently have. Either we looked like we belonged (which we didn’t) or Ricki and I looked lost enough that they figured we wouldn’t even find the aquarium before 6. Well, if you were betting on the latter, yes we were indeed lost enough that we had some embarrassing difficulties. So we walk in and we can see the aquarium on the level below us.

We look around, and decide to wander along the pathway in front of us, because we’re sheeple (sheep people, keep up). We find some doors to outside, so we go; we were now on the walkways along the top of the aquarium, outside. Very cool, the coolest.

We had fish swimming up and arguing with each other about being fed first, because apparently when a human appears there, they expect food. We had none so they quickly got bored of us and swam off. Then we saw the coolest thing of all, the manta ray. Holy cow! It was huge! But we could only barely see it from the top with the sun reflecting off the water! As it swam though we proceeded to follow it with childlike excitement and curiosity. Literally. Here’s how it went…*peer over the edge, see the manta ray* “WHOAAAAAAA!” *pointing* manta ray swims out of view, *we scurry over to the railing one over from us, peer over the edge, see the manta ray* “WHOAAAAAA!” *pointing* manta ray swims out of view, *we scurry over to the railing another one over from us, peer over the edge, see the manta ray* “WHOAAAAAAAAA!” *pointing*. And you get the gist, just repeat about ten to fifteen times and you’ll be able to picture the childlike scene that was happening. Anyway, we grew tired of seeing this all from above, we wanted to be inside, one level down, seeing this right in front of us! But where were the stairs!?! This place was so confusing!

We found an elevator, but we needed a room key to use it, we kept moving and eventually made our way back inside. We ended up back where we started, so confused, staring at all of the people downstairs going into the aquarium, such joy on their faces and such despair on ours. What could we do? We were losing hope, the world was getting dark and sad, we turned around to look away from the joy we were being deprived of, and alas! Stairs! That was embarrassing, by this point we had spent a solid 30minutes trying to find out how to get downstairs and by the time we were joyously standing at the entrance to the aquarium, it was indeed 6 o’clock and turns out the workers at Atlantis just must have known we were too lost to make it there any time before 6. And if I’m being entirely honest, we even kind of only ended up going inside accidentally because we were, once again, running after the manta rays from panel to panel; it’s almost as if they happily led us into the actual aquarium because they knew how confused we were.

Anyway, this place is flipping awesome! There were all sorts of specific tanks for different fish, my ultimate favorite being the jelly fish,

but then there was also the main big aquarium where there were a ton of schools of fish and of course the two huge manta rays.

So here’s some numbers from the google machine for you…straight from the Atlantis website, “Atlantis, Paradise Island is home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world… encompassing 14 lagoons, eight million gallons of ocean water and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species.” We apparently were at The Dig lagoon, I could attempt to put into words what this consisted of, but how’s a little more direct quoting instead…”Reflecting the tunnels and thoroughfares of the lost continent, The Dig at Atlantis Paradise Island features over 100 venomous Indo-Pacific Ocean Lionfish, 500 piranhas, iridescent jellyfish, and six-foot Moray Eels.

Special environments hold nine species of enormous groupers,

while smaller separate “Jewel Habitats” are home to multitudes of brilliantly-colored tropical fish.”

I am almost positive I saw a sign somewhere saying that a lot of the marine life housed in Atlantis were unable to live in the wild, so this is a sort of “sanctuary,” I don’t know if that’s legit, but I’d like to believe so. Anyway here’s some more photos to break up the text! Yay!

We spent about 45 minutes in the aquarium and made it out in a completely different part of the resort, where, we were, once again, lost.

In the meantime though, we saw another few pools or lagoons with black tipped sharks, more rays, and another with turtles!

We were supposed to be meeting a few other girls from the hostel though so we had to find our way back to the start in order for me to get WiFi back (Atlantis complimentary…useful as long as you’re only trying to use it in one specific place and never move from that general area of the massive resort). We finally found our way, once again due to the amazing Joelle, and we found out the girls were at Margaritaville. THE Margaritaville, unfortunately I spent no more than 5 minutes there, so I don’t have much to say, besides that they have a bar in the pool and I wanted nothing more than to have a drink in it….obviously I didn’t though, so this will not be a story about that. Anyway we all headed back to Atlantis as a group so that Sherri and Jen (two lovely Canadians from the hostel) could experience the true magic. Believe it or not, it took us even longer to go through the aquarium the second time; Sherri and Jen got to experience running from pane to pane after the manta rays just like we had, and, just for fun, we did it all over again along with them and we all took some selfies.

This time, when we finally made it out, we spent some time taking at look at the pool and fountains where the aquarium let us out.

They were, of course, beautiful, and I wanted to go swimming in that pool so bad I almost risked getting kicked out to do so even though I had absolutely no legitimate swimwear with me.

Alas, however, this story does not end that way; instead we made our way slowly back through the resort and casino, where Sherri and Jen gambled $1 each,

and out into marina village, full of insanely overpriced shops. If you ever do stay at Atlantis, please take a day to venture off of paradise island, it is not that scary to do so, I promise, and spend your money at the stores downtown instead. You can get the exact same stuff for almost half the price, AND you get to actually experience the local life a LITTLE more than just staying in your resort…as nice and all-inclusive as it may be.

Before grabbing a taxi and making our way back to the hostel, we decided to grab a quick drink at an awesome little open air bar called Green Parrot.

This place was a killer end to the night, there was live music with a quick interruption from a group of people dressed traditionally playing some (I’m assuming) “local” music.

The drinks weren’t cheap, but they were significantly cheaper than in marina village or in Atlantis, and it was a cool little vibe. Go there if you can, very cool little place; I know Margaritaville is like important and stuff, but this place was better. We finally decided to leave and wandered out in search of a taxi. Here’s the thing, the aquarium may be free after 6, but the public busses stop at 6, so it’s kind of a catch 22. And, good thing for y’all to know about taxis in Nassau, there is no meter. You “barter” with the taxi driver upon getting in to the taxi and come up with a price. That’s where it got a little dicey for us this time…our taxi driver picked us up literally in the middle of a round about, he was driving through it and saw us and stopped in the middle of it. So, that meant that he was rushing us into the taxi and was attempting to ignore our attempts to get a price as he was trying to get out of the middle of the round about; the problem was that it was now dark out and he was driving us onto the bridge and straight into the super dodgy part of town on the other side of the bridge. This was a problem because we were asking him to either give us a price that we could agree on, or to let us out, obviously we didn’t want to be let out in the scary part of town though. So we proceeded to awkwardly and somewhat aggressively yell at him about the price. He tried to say $50 and we told him to let us out, but he wouldn’t, so we finally got him to agree on $30, perfect. It was a little awkward at that point though as he turned the music up super loud and him and his friend started talking about ditching us in an alley because they were sure we had money and could pay more than that…so yeah that was fun.

Atlantis itself was awesome to see, but personally I wouldn’t pay $40 to go see the aquarium during the day. There are a bunch of different packages you can do if you’re not staying at Atlantis, but want to do the aqua park or the aquarium or anything, they start at somewhere around $40 and end up close to $300-$400 whether it’s just the aquarium or swimming with turtles or sharks or rays or dolphins. Otherwise, it’s ALMOST worth it to stay at Atlantis for a few days to get the opportunity to do some of the activities. Two girls who were staying at the hostel did 3 nights at Atlantis in order to be able to do the activities there and they spent $900 for the two of them for 3 nights. Very expensive, yes, but if it’s something that’s important to you personally, it sounds like it can be worth it, they seemed to have an awesome time during their three days and they said that, even though all they ate was cold pizza the whole time they were there (in order to at least save money on food), it was awesome. So really, you choose! Either pay for cheaper accommodation and pay for passes to Atlantis, or pay for Atlantis and get the all inclusive….or just do like us budget travelers and go sneak in on the cheap.

Oh, in case anyone’s wondering….I saw a cat while I was in marina village.

That is all.

BahaSea: An Ode to the Hidden Bahamian Hostel

Nassau is, on the surface, not a very happening place for backpackers. For one thing, no one knows what I’m talking about when they ask where I’m staying or if I’m on a cruise and I tell them that no, I’m actually staying at a backpackers. The other travelers and I have gotten quite a few confused looks after saying so. I’m assuming this is due to the fact that mostly everyone who comes to Nassau stays either in a resort, or is a cruiser (this is a copyrighted term I have come up with which clearly means “cruise ship passenger”). So, that being said, when I was informed of this backpackers in Nassau called “BahaSea Backpackers” I was intrigued. I didn’t even think backpackers/hostels existed on Nassau because I just assumed it was all resorts and hotels, so my first response was, predictably….”there’s no such thing as hostels in Nassau.” I was shown proof in the form of a booking.com listing and decided that was good enough for me. Here’s where it started getting weird though…yes, right at the beginning. I couldn’t book for the number of days I wanted, blah blah, long story, I emailed them before taking matters into my own hands and just booking two separate reservations. I never got a reply. Ever. So I ended up booking again but I had a lingering fear about this place.

I had terrible anxiety leading up to my trip, fearing I wouldn’t have a place to stay when I got to Nassau, that my booking would have either been lost, or that the hostel itself didn’t even exist. I definitely could have acted like a real life adult and contacted the hostel via phone, instead of immediately giving up after my email was never answered, but where’s the fun in that, eh? Also I’m a child. So my anxiety was made even worse when I got to Nassau and I was going through customs, the customs officer had absolutely no idea what BahaSea Backpackers was. He didn’t even know what a backpackers was in general actually, just as with everyone else on this island. Anyway I was even more nervous after our fun customs chat and I began moving extremely slowly after this encounter, as if putting off the inevitable heartbreak of having to find a place to stay that was much more expensive and much less fun. I was, however, still getting ahead of myself so once I got my bag I sat down and used the airport wifi to try to figure out where I was going. Here’s the next fun thing…there is no address for the backpackers. The only address provided is “West Bay Street.” West Bay Street is freakin long, okay? It goes along the entire length of the island, the island is 21 miles (34 km) long. For those of you who aren’t good at deducing information (me) that means my directions were to a street 20 freakin miles long! Those are ridiculous directions, how am I supposed to find it? My solution was to screenshot the picture of the map they had on booking.com to show my taxi driver, I assumed they’d be able to figure it out from there. Whelp…the lady who was directing the taxis on where to go couldn’t figure it out, she got another guy to look at it…he couldn’t figure it out, so they gave up and handed me off to a taxi driver, thanks guys.

I showed the picture to the taxi driver and he asked me what number, “I don’t know.” The only information we had was that it was near Sandy Port, so that’s what we went off of. I told him I’d just look for a sign when I got there, he informed me that he had dropped people off there before and that there was no sign, great. Things are getting better and better. Once we got “there” he asked if I had a phone number for them, magically the screenshot I had taken had their phone number, so he called. They said we were in the right place and that someone would come down to get me, things were starting to look up, this place existed, yay.

Here is where I would like to go back in time a little…okay here we go. Denver, Colorado; 10 pm, April 24: gusty, rain turning into snow, cold as fck. I, being an intellectual, was dressed for the weather in long leggings, wool socks, thick boots, a long sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt. Next…Charlotte, North Carolina; 6 am, April 25: rainy, air conditioning on in airport…cold as fck, I even bought a blanket. Side story…I actually forgot my neck pillow as I always do #firstworldproblems and it was “buy 2 for $20” so I got a blanket along with my 3rd neck pillow, BUT, that blanket was an amazing decision. Anyway….Nassau, Bahamas; noon, April 25: beautiful, birds are singing, sun is shining, my body was literally melting as I stared at these bloody stairs waiting for god knows what…

SO, I am literally dying of heat, sitting on these steps, staring straight at the sun, waiting for someone to “come get me.” Suddenly, a wild tourist appeared! In the form of a guy driving a car….exciting, I know. He gets out, I’m trying to decide whether or not he’s the one there to “get me” but he just said hi and started going up the stairs. I had a quick internal debate: “should I be normal and stay sitting here in the sun where it seems no one is actually coming to get me, or do I politely ask this stranger if I am in the right place?” Whelp, I did what any normal person dying from heat stroke would do, I formed a completely normal, well thought out sentence in my head, “hello, I’m looking for BahaSea Backpackers, am I in the right place?” I stood up, turned to him and awkwardly and excitedly yelled “Hi! Sorry! What is this place!?” Because that’s a good question for the situation, great work Zoe. He responded how you would expect any normal person to respond to a strange girl loitering outside their accommodation, face shiny and red with crazy eyes and probably even a little spit coming out of her mouth….with a very confused look on his face, a little stutter, and a “ummmm…….BahaSea?”

Okay well I burned bridges with that guy and he probably wouldn’t be hanging out with me, but I had found where I needed to go. I started following him up the stairs and he, understandably, instead, told me the office was down where I was, he obviously didn’t want me following him, I couldn’t blame him. So I followed his directions and went to the door he said was the office, it was locked…and also didn’t look like an office, so I ignored a “private property, no trespassing” sign and ventured up the stairs next to the door. There was a pool, and a little outdoor bar, and two women having lunch.

Obviously they noticed I was lost and one of them came up to me asking if I had just arrived. Personally, due to my general appearance, such as my clothing and the strong confused expression on my face, I thought that was obvious, but I simply said “yes” and she brought me to the actual office. It was in the opposite direction that the guy said, fuckin guy. I didn’t want to hang out with him now anyways.

In the office my next terrible fears were recognized and toyed with. They didn’t have my reservation written on their list of people showing up for that day. Oh my god, my stomach dropped, the world was ending, why me? I internally began going into full on meltdown when Maria, the owner, found my reservation in the computer. Cheers erupted in my head, the sun came back out, my savior, Maria, I wanted to kiss her, but that would have been weird and I was trying to dial back on the weirdness. Anyway, she brought me up to my room and I can easily say that BahaSea is one of the nicest backpackers I have ever stayed in. Despite how impossible it is to find and contact, this place is insane, I would 100% recommend this place and I would absolutely stay here again. You know how the pictures always lie? This place was exactly what it claimed to be. There are two pools

along with having a private beach (somewhat only accessible during low tide)

and another public beach on the other side of it.

This was taken from the balcony of the hostel…perfect walking distance.

It’s beautifully clean, has two quite large kitchens, (this one was the kitchen next to my dorm)

and did I mention it’s right on the water? Or is that more information that could have been deduced? Either way…it is.

Perfect views of the ocean. It is the most expensive hostel I’ve ever stayed in, but for only $35-45 USD per night, this place is a gem. There’s a supermarket right down the road, only a five minute walk, and a Wendy’s and an awesome pizza place. There have been a few drawbacks, such as no water for a whole day, and a constantly low supply of toilet paper, but Akeem and Maria do their absolute best to keep everything running smooth. It’s also quite obvious that this is somewhat a new place, there are a few things unfinished on the outside, but these are superficial things which don’t actually have any effect on the stay.

There are awesome outdoor areas,

and comfortable indoor areas for if the weather isn’t cooperating (along with a million outlets! HUGE plus for a hostel, us backpackers always need to charge our shit).

I was staying in a 10-bed female dorm, and my first few nights there weren’t any boys staying in the 10-bed boys dorm next to it, but we finally got some guys in there. However, this must be some sort of sanctuary for ladies, because the female dorm was overbooked so they turned the male dorm into a mixed dorm. I thought about taking pictures of the boys/mixed dorm, but I’m trying to dial back on the weird, so instead I stuck with just my room

Anyway, I know I’m not that important but, I can’t endorse this place enough, the bus picks up right out front for a 15 minute ride to downtown which only costs $1.25, and it’s a comfortable, safe, welcoming atmosphere which draws some very cool people, myself included ha #lovethyself.

The hardest thing for me about staying in this hostel? Forget the lack of toilet paper or water, forget how hard it was to find or contact, forget the price, the hardest thing for me here is going to be saying goodbye to all of the amazing people who were drawn to this hostel as well. This place has great views, yes, but most of all it has a great vibe and a great community of travelers.

How’s your Aspen?

This was a hard blog to write seeing as how I’m from here, and it therefore felt somewhat fake, but….here we go anyway. As a chance to act slightly like a tourist in my own home, I procured the opportunity to house/dogsit in a home in Meadowood, in the Aspen territory. First, foremost, and obviously most important…packing for this adventure. I started off by grabbing my well used backpack and shoving any clothes within a five foot radius of myself into it. I was mislead by the weather being extraordinarily nice while I was packing and ended up with shorts, a dress, more shorts, a pair of pants with holes in them (it’s fashion), a crop top, one sweatshirt, a bathing suit (to tan obviously), and Chacos. Word. This packing method, however, would come back to haunt me, just a little dramatic irony for you kids lookin to make fun of me later. Obviously I grabbed my chargers because I am a millennial and what self-respecting millennial doesn’t bring a phone or iPad or Bluetooth speaker or Bluetooth headphones charger? Well I tell you what, I don’t have MUCH self respect, but I sure as shit have all of my chargers. Lastly, I grabbed my reusable bag for the grocery store because it’s Aspen and I was going to be a local acting like a tourist acting like a local…like any sane person would.

Even though I had been to this house before, I used my Waze gps app because A) I’m a tourist and don’t know where I’m going, and B) I wanted those app miles in order to keep succeeding in my life. The house I stayed in is right next to a colossal mansion…at least to me it is. Like wow, classic Aspen, mine however was tastefully perfect in size, I wouldn’t be getting lost, which is good for a first timer. And the pup was the cutest angel ever…

So, I was staying in Aspen, and of course this house has an amazing kitchen, and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I obviously had to cook in this beautiful kitchen. And what elegant meal to cook for my first night in Aspen? The answer was clear to me….tacos. Next order of business, look and see what the kitchen has, and make a list of what I need. Common sense, easy. I looked through every single cupboard and drawer…every. single. one. This took a lot of time, and I came up somewhat empty handed. I found one ingredient that I needed…cumin. Otherwise I couldn’t even find salt and pepper, color me confused, but okay, that’s cool, I’m in Aspen, I can buy whatever I need of course.

Now…while I thought my reusable bags might help me look the part, I didn’t think of the fact that I was wearing my gym outfit still from earlier in the day, so strike one on that. It’s okay, I am good at recovering from public embarrassment. The cold temperatures from being 3000 feet higher in altitude than where I packed my bag where it was sunny and warm however….a little harder to deal with. So I ran. People stared. It’s cool. When in Aspen, buy organic right? Yes, however I couldn’t convince myself to buy the artisan cheese…I got regular stuff. Still tasty. I paid, packed up, and almost drove straight by the liquor store before realizing that I HAD to get wine cause I was in Aspen. I whipped around and ran inside (nothing screams “tourist” quite like terrible driving). I decided to get a nice bottle that I had never tried before; I went for the cheapest I could find that still had a cork because I’m a classy lady.

AND, on my way back I saw deer so I did what any tourist would do and stopped to take pictures! Excitement!

Dinner itself was uneventful if not delightfully delicious, and the cheap wine made me fall asleep without tossing and turning for three hours ahead of time because of all of the murderers that were obviously coming to get me since they all knew I was alone in a big house. I’m a hot commodity for murderers in the roaring fork valley apparently, and side note….murders don’t happen in the roaring fork valley, this is a lovely place to stay and visit, the humans that live around here are lovely #egocheck #psa.

Anyway, the next day was gorgeous and I had a few friends come hang out with me because when you’re DVT and you’re staying in a big house in Aspen, you invite your friends up to drink champagne. (DVT=down valley trash; and I use that term with complete love and acceptance.)

Here’s where the dramatic irony comes into play though….the Colorado weather took a turn…dun dun DUNNNNN. It snowed….a lot. Well, a lot for someone who brought sandals and a bathing suit and had a dog to walk three times a day.

This was less than ideal, however, I did look very Aspen when I went out to brunch with an indecently short skirt on. Nothing’s more “Aspen” than brunch in inappropriate clothes for the cold weather. Making my own dinner each night and cleaning the house up before leaving might have tipped me too far back on the scale of DVT than Aspen, but I was trying my hardest to act like somewhat of a tourist, while still hanging on to my “I’m actually a local” snob complex. It’s a beautiful place to live and it’s hard not to be proud of being lucky enough to have been born and raised in the roaring fork valley…even if I am DVT.