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Trip Report Grand Bahama & Why I'm Sorry I Listened to a Lonely Planet Guidebook

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A number of years ago, I was investigating the possibility of visiting a variety of Bahamian islands and was turned off of visiting Grand Bahama Island due to a Lonely Planet guidebook on the Bahamas, 2000. Comments by the author such as these were present: "if you're seeking sophistication or Bahamian culture, skip Grand Bahama", "arguably the least attractive because it is surprisingly middle American", "the island's history is colourless", "culturally antiseptic mecca for fast-lane-vacationers", "the island attracts a less sophisticated clientele than do Nassau or the Family Islands", "the center resembles an Australian outback town with about as much appeal". Generally I like the Lonely Planet series and I accept that Grand Bahama clearly wasn't to the author's liking especially; I'm just sorry this negative review kept me from even considering visiting for much of the last 10 years. In fact, had it not been for the fact that Grand Bahama is the only Bahamian island accessible by ferry, I might never gone... which, now that I've been, I think would have been a pity.

*Sea Grape B&B*

I cannot over-recommend this jewel of a bed & breakfast in Grand Bahama. My initial experience portended well since arriving at the harbour, I was so thankful that the Sea Grape's owner had sent someone to pick me up... especially since December 30th was quite the crowd with 1100 passengers being released from the Discovery Cruise Lines ferry from Fort Lauderdale and there was nary a taxi to be found!

Every day Katybel made a delightful continental breakfast, including home-baked breads, a variety of fresh fruits (including tamarinds one day)and tea or coffee. Both she and husband Barry were so incredibly helpful planning my stay, from reserving a kayaking tour in Lucayan National Park to lending me a bike for exploration to reserving a taxi to the harbour terminal my final day.

Equally ideal was the location: only 2 minutes walk from a relatively quiet part of Lucayan Beach (I loved seeing the lizards scamper up the walls of the passageway leading to the beach!) but also an 8 minute walk from Port Lucaya Marketplace and all the amenities (pharmacy, ATM, restaurants, dive shop, Internet cafe, snorkeling & glass-bottom-boat operators). I loved that I was able to stroll over to Billy Joe's in 8 minutes, a blue-painted beach shack on Lucayan where I indulged in that magnificently fresh Bahamian specialty, conch salad... where a Bahamian would cut the conch, peppers, onions, lime and oranges right before your eyes, then squeeze the citrus juice on top and immediatley serve it to you (seems relatively healthy and can it *get* fresher?) in a bowl. And then to be sitting on a bench, eating that conch salad and looking out at that floury-textured beige sand and turquoise water... so tranquil, so magical.

*My Experience Cycling on Grand Bahama Island*

Thanks to the generosity of my hosts, I was able to fulfill one of my passions, cycling, on two different occasions this vacation (something I don't do in Montreal this time of year). Unlike Nassau, where I didn't see anywhere I would feel safe cycling, Grand Bahama has a designated bike lane on Midshipman Road (which was about 10 minutes walk, 3 minutes by bike from my B&B) that extends out as far as Doubloon Road, well east of the busier Port Lucaya Marketplace area. The flatness of the island, combined with the bike lane, combined with the fact that once you're out as far as Doubloon Rood, you rarely see a car, in my opinion make the island an IDEAL cyclist's destination.

Cycling out past Doubloon Road about an hour and twenty minutes from Port Lucaya allowed me to get out to the magnificent and relatively secluded turquoise-watered Fortuna Beach as well as a restaurant in a gem of a spot called Garden of the Groves. The Garden is a delightful setting of semi-tropical vegetation, ponds and a (likely artificial but still lovely) waterfall; the conch chowder was terrific and homemade. I met my first ever white Bahamians here (restaurant owners/ staff) and I must say I did a bit of a double-take hearing a white person speaking with the Bahamian accent.

*Coming up: A few firsts for me: Junkanoo, Scuba Diving and Kayaking!

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