Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, is situated about 300 miles from Florida. The city is a blend of influences from West Africa to England and from Haiti to the United States. Once an English colony, Nassau remains in the Commonwealth and declares allegiance to the Queen.
Nassau has a bloody history of slave rebellions, pirate attacks, and sunken galleons full of treasure. Edward Teach was one of its early magistrates. You may know him better as Blackbeard the pirate. In the past, the island was known as the “home of marauding pirates” and many infamous characters were based there—Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney and Mary Read. In the 1700s the city’s claim to fame were its thriving slave markets where many American plantation owners purchased auctioned slaves. A more romantic piece of history occurred in the 1940s. King Edward VIII gave up his throne to marry “the woman I love” and settled in Nassau. A stroll around Parliament Square will provide excellent examples of the pastel-colored historic colonial buildings of old Nassau that were built in the early nineteenth century.
When you visit Nassau you will find plenty to do. Here are a few sites you won’t want to miss:
• Ardastra Zoo and Gardens features native plants and flowers, exotic fruit trees, coconut palms, bromeliads, orchids, brilliantly colored bougainvillea and hibiscus blossoms. It has a variety of animals—turtles, lemurs, monkeys and jaguars. Perhaps the highlight is the flock of marching flamingos that really do march.
• Straw Market on Bay Street is a good place to stock up on souvenirs to take back to relatives and friends. The market houses more than 450 vendors and sells just about anything you could want. Prices match quality.
• Queen’s Staircase. You may or may not want to climb the sixty-five steps of the 18th century limestone rock Queen’s staircase to get to Fort Fincastle. If you do, it will be well worth the effort. Built in 1793, the fort offers amazing views of the island.
• Pirates of Nassau is an interactive pirate attraction museum that includes a replica of the pirate ship Revenge that visitors can board and explore.
• The Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation is dedicated to teaching visitors about slavery and its impact on the people of the Bahamas.
• Café Matisse, housed in a centuries old building, is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner. The menu is tantalizing but pricey. Consider stopping for one of the mouth-watering desserts and coffee on the veranda.
I highly recommend a visit to Nassau, the city with a raucous yesterday and an exciting today.
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