The Special Joys Of Seaside Bars

We’ve had a chance to frequent a seaside bar or two during our brief visit to Grand Bahama Island, and we’ve enjoyed each visit.  In fact, I think I’ve enjoyed every visit I’ve ever made to a seaside bar, regardless of whether the particular hole-in-the-wall is in Key West, Cozumel, or a remote Caribbean island.

There are several reasons for this.  First, a cold beer never tastes so good as when it is quaffed in the warm sunshine, while you are wearing a bathing suit, sitting barefoot, and watching through the darkened lens of your shades as anchored boats bob in the sun-dappled water nearby.  The warmth of the sun and the beer-infused warmth spreading through your system seem to combine in a magical elixir of relaxation.

Second, seaside bars tend to serve mostly fried foods — that is, salty, heavy, crunchy foods that are guilty pleasures for almost everyone.   I’m talking about foods like conch fritters and chicken wings, grouper fingers and fried lobster.  These are dishes that you eat with your fingers and dip into a sauce and that taste especially good with a cold beer.

Consider this plate of cracked conch and french fries that I got yesterday when we visited Doris’ place outside High Rock on Grand Bahama Island.  The plate is a study in shades of tan — the color that most of us secretly associate with tastiness.  There’s no effort to make it “healthy” by adding a few unwanted sprigs of green or the latest cutting edge vegetable combination.  In truth, no one wants to eat vegetables in a seaside place.

And finally, seaside bars are unpretentious.  They’re not decorated with fancy stuff.  They feature battered picnic tables and plastic utensils rather than fine cutlery.  There are cracks in the wood flooring.  They’re not the kind of place where people feel they need to whisper.  No, they’re places where everyone tracks sand in the door, and their idea of decorations doesn’t go much farther than a funny sign or two.  In short, they’re the kind of place where you can heave a sigh of relief, lean back with your frothy adult beverage, and enjoy a hearty laugh with your friends.

And that is the beauty of a seaside bar.

That Beautiful Shade Of Blue

Exactly what shade of blue is the water around Grand Bahama Island, anyway?  Of course, the water color changes as you move from deeper water to spots closer to the shoreline.  But as you reach the shallow depths near the beach, the water becomes an inexpressibly beautiful shade of blue.  Is it azure?  Cyan?  Aquamarine?  Turquoise seems to fit best, but then again a word can’t really capture the sunlight glinting on the water, the different shades created as the waves move past, and glimpses of the ocean bottom appear through the crystal clear water.

Bold And Beautiful

One of the great things about a visit to the Bahamas this time of year is the welcome contrast in colors.  In the northern U.S., except for Christmas lights and decorations, it’s drab and dreary, a study in shades of gray from the sky to the ground.  Here around Freeport, however, the tropical plants are blooming in an explosion of colors, all of which are cast in sharp relief by the bright sunshine.  The effect is stunning.

In The Canal Zone

The area around Freeport, Grand Bahama, is honeycombed with canals.  It’s not quite Venice or Amsterdam, but the canals make for some beautiful vistas — and have turned out to be an inspired development decision.

The canals were built years ago.  The canals increased the amount of waterfront property the developers of Grand Bahama Island could offer to potential residents and businesses and also provided more secure places for boat storage.

The areas along the canals are now dotted with harbors and marinas, and the white and masted boats provide an attractive scene for waterside bars and restaurants.  If you follow the labyrinth of canals farther inland, you will find lovely waterside homes with the inevitable family boat bobbing nearby.

The presence of the canals also seems to have drawn a lot of development to the area along the canals, as opposed to along the oceanfront.  One surprising thing about a visit to Freeport and Grand Bahama is how much of oceanfront property is completely unspoiled — and untouched by tourists.  To some degree, the outlet for development provided by the canals no doubt has relieved the pressure for building on the beach.  As a result, vast areas have been left in their natural state, and you can cruise in a boat along the shore for miles without seeing any structure along the beachfront.