The British Airways flight to the Bahamas was bad. There is no First Class cabin and the ageing Boeing 767 (the caravan of the sky?) felt clapped-out and on its last legs. On boarding, the waft of ‘Eau de Toilette Chemique’ (Waft of a Chemical Lavvy) in Business Class brought back days spent in caravan parks as a child in North Wales. A few spritzes of Jo Malone Lime, Basil and Mandarin around the cabin provided some temporary relief, but many won’t be so well-equipped. There were two passengers who did not look shipwrecked but the rest seemed to willingly go along with the whole caravan theme, with many looking as though they should be tinkering with a Waltzer. I didn’t know if the crew was going to serve a meal or organise a game of bingo.
“Given the enclosed nature of the cabin, the sooner wheat is banned on long haul flights, the better”
At 2.10 in the afternoon the cabin descended into darkness as the wheat, sugar and booze load took its toll and passengers crashed into a carb coma. Whilst the pilots took it in turn to sleep in the corner, the man next to me started snoring. It was one of those loud, dry snores and fortunately the crew had bolted all drawers so they could not be drawn in and out Deputy Dawg-style with every rasp. Midway along the cabin, a man was lying perfectly still, pale with silvery hair, the top of his seat scooped around him making him look as though he were in a coffin. This alarming scene just added to the awfulness of the macabre atmosphere of a cabin in complete darkness in the afternoon as well as possibly explaining the reason for no garlic in any of the food. The airline had managed to create the ideal experience for those who love the unique ambience of a teenager’s gloomy bedroom – plenty of baggy shorts, tee shirts, mediocre food and blinds tightly shut on a summer’s day. Add in a good dose of belching, snoring and enough wind emissions to re-pressurise the cabin and the scene is set. Given the enclosed and air-tight nature of the cabin, the sooner wheat is banned on long haul flights the better – nine hours of flatulence at 33,000 feet is not acceptable. (Think this isn’t you? Cut wheat for a week, reintroduce and open your windows.) As the pilot walks past, my tray table falls off its hinge. He says to a crew member – “note that in the book.”
After an encounter with a pointlessly scary customs guard in Nassau, we are on our way to another island. The flight on Flamingo Air to Eleuthera, 50 miles to the east of Nassau, was not for the faint-hearted. A tiny twin prop with only twelve seats and a Ministry for Tourism official – no stranger to Johnny cakes and needing more than his fair share of them. The wise-cracking girl behind me commented on the drip leaking over the pilot’s head – “That is totally high tech – I hear American Airlines are introducing that.” “Are you really over 18?” she asked the pilot, “Have you borrowed your licence from someone?” A passenger to my right was scrolling down his phone – “Sir, can you put that on flight mode please, I am way too fertile to die.” We took off in a storm – lightning forks and tiny planes (with no bar service) is never a good combination.
“Lightning forks and tiny planes (with no bar service) is never a good combination”
The hire car looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned in six months and smelled like a stripper’s handbag. The cost of hiring it, unless car import tax is astronomical, way exceeded the cost of buying seven such cars. However, I was so relieved to be alive that I didn’t even bother with the antiseptic wipes. Arriving at the rental house, the housekeeper, glancing at the luggage, was surprised there were only two of us – I explained “Tropical maxis. Very important.” The tropical maxis turn out to be in stark contrast to our neighbours’ attire, a neat Belgium couple who had rented the tiny cottage next door. Each night they would stroll into town, dressed head to toe in khaki hiking gear hand in hand, their buttocks clenched so tightly that their back pockets struggled not to be entirely munched.
Three miles wide and 110 miles long, Eleuthera is quiet and warm with charming Caribbean architecture. I eagerly make my way to the local food stores. Things initially don’t look good – frozen clumps of mystery meats, too much US food with bizarre cocktails of chemicals masquerading as food ‘ingredients’ including coconut cream which did not contain any coconut, strangely coloured pink and green breakfast cereal and tinned fish in genetically modified soya bean oil from China.
Determined to wear a maxi, having brought them on two disgusting and one life-threatening mode of transport, I make my way to the fish fry in the very charming Governor’s Harbour. There is a poor dog covered in flies (which are out of control). That’s the trouble with us Brits – we can’t just hang out and chill with swarms of flies. You know it and I know it. The locals aren’t a bit bothered and whilst I am slightly anaesthetised by two rum punches, I just don’t have the fight in me to handle the flies and abandon all attempts to eat the fish. The sand flies chow down on my ankles, the flies on my conch fritter (which, I hasten to add, is a local delicacy not a euphemism).
I go to the bar and the evening ends up with me dancing with a complete stranger whilst a man with a tuba (who is part of a marching band) tries to navigate round us.
The rolling pink sandy beaches are beautiful and practically deserted. I soon get into the food groove – seeking out local fishermen, buying bags of frozen jumbo shrimp, quaffing sugar-free mojitos and playing ‘Yellow Bird’ on iTunes. I am beginning to feel as though I live here.
As I have three Tory Burch maxis with me, I feel I have no choice but to drive up to Harbour Island and head straight for The Landing Hotel. I have boutique hotel fatigue – I can’t face any more noughties’ ‘feature wall’ wallpaper, square plates, triangular cups, wavy teaspoons, vast lampshades, drug dealer armchairs, black bathrooms, pink toilet paper (believe me when I say how unsettling that is) and I don’t need an eight foot headboard. I am leaving these ‘pre-recession’ hotels to those hotel goers with enormous heads and/or extraordinary bouffants requiring a floor to ceiling quilted vinyl headboard. I therefore could not be more grateful for The Landing. Its cool, dark wood and crisp linen is so authentic, so easy on the eye and so welcoming. The restfulness of a hotel where simplicity, charm, taste and ease are cultivated cannot be underestimated. Dinner on the terrace was a highlight of the trip – delicious, charming and relaxing in equal measures. The combination of pink beaches and pastel-coloured gingerbread houses adds to the exquisiteness of the experience, so much so I am wondering if I should just move here? There are important questions to answer of course. How can I get the magazine proofs from the printers? Do Net-a-Porter deliver? Will my fluffy Persian cats swelter to death? Ultimately, there is no point in complicating this delicious simplicity though. The easiest thing to do is simply return for more, which I will. After all, I have the tropical maxis – it’s a shame to waste them.
Amanda stayed at Squires Estate, Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera
The Landing in Harbour Island, Bahamas
Flights from Heathrow to Nassau, Bahamas with British Airways (the 767 has been replaced)
Flights to Eleuthera with Southern Air Charter, Bahamas Air and Pineapple Air.
Nearest airport to Harbour Island is North Eleuthera which has connections to Nassau and Miami. You take a very short water taxi ride from a jetty close to the airport to Harbour Island.