If you haven’t noticed, we’re not beach people. But when we were invited to see a dear friend get married on the island she grew up on, we couldn’t pass it up. We also couldn’t pass up on another chance to have a Robinson/Batir adventure. We were able to get tickets from Houston’s IAH for a reasonable price, which meant that my sister and her husband, Joe, had to drive to Houston from Dallas in order to cash in on the deal. But it was worth it.
DAY ONE started with an early morning ride to the airport and almost eight hours of travel time. But the four of us love traveling together, so it was fine. We arrived in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island around 5 p.m. where we picked up our rental car from Brad’s Car Rental (They have the “Best Rental Around for Your Dollar”) and headed to our Airbnb. The Bahamas used to be part of the United Kingdom and that means that they drive on the other side of the road. Neil and Joe had a blast figuring out how that worked, while Ali and I enjoyed being chauffeured and not having to worry about getting in a wreck on an unfamiliar island.
Freeport is an interesting place. It’s not the main tourist destination in the Bahamas by any means and so was mostly filled with locals and ex-pats (and a few stray spring breakers). In October it was hit hard by a Hurricane Matthew and the evidence of that was still apparent. Most of the big hotels had not fully reopened and there was a fair amount of debris everywhere.
However, our Airbnb was really nice, clean and spacious. It was only a mile or so from the main market and restaurants, which was convenient. We ate dinner at a place boasting the “best pizza on the island” (and it was) and then went to bed.
They next morning we went on our only planned excursion: reef fishing. We headed to a local dock and met Captain Les of Lil B’s Fishing Tours. Captain Les took us out in his boat and we spent the next 4-5 hours catching (some) fish and basking in the wonder that was Captain Les.
Let’s just say Captain Les was enthusiastic. He spent a lot of the time yelling at us to “FISH BETTER!” While that may sound incredibly rude or frightening, we found it utterly hilarious, because we, in fact, were terrible at fishing – except for Joe, who was exceptional. At the end of our little fishing trip, we’d caught more than enough to feed us for a meal or two.
But first, we stopped at a place called Two Dollar Bar for a late lunch where we met some awesome people who were staying for the winter. They insisted we sign the wall. So we found a blank space among the other signatures and made our mark.
That evening we went to the rehearsal dinner of our friend at the Garden of the Groves, a nature reserve of sorts. The food and the venue were awesome. Ali got an extra special experience when a giant butterfly landed on her face and hung out for a while and a caterpillar plopped in her salad. Nature, everyone!
Saturday was Wedding Day. But we had some time to spare before the big event so we spent the morning at the beach. Since Freeport isn’t much in the way of tourists, the beach was almost empty, which was nice. I hadn’t been in the ocean in maybe eight years (I don’t count Galveston), so it was nice to splash around a bit.
Once we had our fill of the sun, we took our pale selves to the local grocery store to buy ingredients for our fresh fish lunch. They import almost everything there so a trip to the store will cost you a fair amount more than at home. But it was an experience and we were hungry. Our resulting meal was delicious thanks to our husbands who are great and persistent chefs.
At last, it was wedding time. Our friend Olivia was my sister’s and my neighbor our freshman year of college. She had been homeschooled her whole life (in the Bahamas) and we bonded because of that (and because she’s fabulous). Eight years ago she and her family invited us to go island hopping in their sailboat over Christmas break and it was an amazing time. That was the last time we’d seen her family and we had never seen her childhood home so the night was part wedding, celebration part reunion. And all of it was awesome.
The ceremony was at a local church and the reception was at the family home. It was such an intimate and sweet event. We were honored to be invited and so glad we were able to go. The home was beautifully lit and the table immaculately set. However, before the dinner was served, Ali and I went for a group bathroom trip which ended in somewhat of a disaster. The 20-year-old lock on the bathroom door broke while Ali was inside. After more than half an hour of the Father of the Bride, an extra from two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and their assorted helpers scratching their heads and trying everything they could think of, Ali finally freed herself by hammering the door off its hinges (after a mallet was passed to her through a tiny window). Ali always knows how to be remembered and she was the talk of the evening in the best way possible. Even the Bride thought it was hilarious.
The beautiful night ended with a live jazz band, paper lanterns and fruit cake (a British tradition). It also ended with us receiving several invitations to come back and stay with Olivia’s family friends. So if anyone wants to come with us to the Bahamas, let us know!
DAYS FOUR & FIVE
For our last day on the island, we met up with the wedding party at a local restaurant called Banana Bay where we enjoyed food and laughs. Then we took Joe to a hidden snorkel spot. He’d been wanting to snorkel the whole trip and so we watched from the shore as he explored the sea. He says he saw some gigantic starfish. We’ll take his word for it. On our way back we found a few large conch shells and decided to make them our souvenirs. We flew back to Houston early the next day. Overall it was a quick but fun trip, and it was so great catching up with Olivia and her family – and meeting her new husband! We wish them all the best of luck.
Throughout our trip, we got a glimpse into what life is like in The Bahamas. It’s different from America in many ways. The contrast between the local and ex-pat communities is large and is a reminder of how tourism can negatively affect the economy of a small country of islands (it’s a complicated system for sure). One of the last commercials we saw on Bahama TV was for BAMSI, an organization that wants to increase agriculture and farming education on the islands so the Bahamas can start feeding themselves instead of relying on foreign imports and resorting to tourism for their main source of income. We thought that was a really cool initiative. I hope it succeeds. You can check it out here.