This no-nonsense, efficiently designed hotel rises prominently across busy West Bay Street from the narrow sands known variously as Junkanoo Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Long Wharf Beach, and the Western Esplanade. Partly because of its compact rooms, it's the least desirable, and also the least expensive, of the also-recommended hotels (Nassau Palm, El Greco) that lie nearby within this congested downtown neighborhood. But during the peak of winter, when other competitors might be sold out, it offers comfortable, unpretentious lodgings in a six-story venue that might be appealing if you don't expect tons of amenities or superlative service.
Junkanoo Festivals -- No Bahamian celebration is as raucous as Junkanoo. Its special rituals originated during the colonial days of slavery, when African-born newcomers could legally drink and enjoy themselves only on certain strictly predetermined days of the year. In how it's celebrated, the Junkanoo festival closely resembles Carnaval in Rio and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Its major difference lies in the costumes and the timing (the major Junkanoo celebrations occur the day after Christmas, a legacy of the English celebration of Boxing Day on Dec 26, and New Year's Day). A more touristy 2-month event, the Junkanoo Summer Festival (tel. 242/302-2007; www.bahamas.com), takes place in June and July every year.
In the old days, Junkanoo costumes were crafted from crepe paper, often in primary colors, stretched over wire frames. (One sinister offshoot of the celebrations was that Junkanoo costumes and masks were used to conceal the identity of anyone seeking vengeance on a white person, or on another slave.) Today, locals have more money to spend on costumes and festivals than they did in the past. The finest costumes can cost up to US$15,000 and are sometimes sponsored by local bazaars, lotteries, church groups, and charity auctions. Everyday folks from all walks of Bahamian life join in, often with homemade costumes that are sensuous or humorous.
The best time and place to observe Junkanoo is New Year's Day in Nassau, when throngs of cavorting, music-making, and costumed figures prance through the streets. Find yourself a good viewing position on Bay Street. Less elaborate celebrations take place in major towns on the other islands, including Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.
- © Frommer's 2013
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