Serendipity

by Janice Hecht

Jul 15, 2019

Don’t you just love when you stumble upon a good time? As much as we plan our travel, there’s always some special moment where the unexpected happens — the good kind of unexpected.

This past Saturday evening, we watched our oldest grandson’s baseball team compete for the state Intermediate U-13 championship. It was a tough game and, unfortunately, they lost. On the ride home, hungry and tired, we decided to stop at the local pub near our house for a burger and beer. Small solace for the loss, but hopeful they’d make a comeback Sunday night in the second game of the double elimination. As we walked into the pub, a band was setting up in the place where we usually sit. We had no idea there would be entertainment that night, but here it was. We sat at the bar, ordered a Guinness, a New England Lager and a tavern burger and watched the Red Sox battle the LA Dodgers on the bar TV while the band set up. And then the magic happened … the band, the Redliners — a local Connecticut group — played exquisite blues, providing a delightful diversion and the perfect soundtrack for the baseball game on TV (as the Red Sox lost to the Dodgers).

We’ve experienced plenty of serendipitous encounters over the years — taking a wrong turn in Ireland and coming upon a charming little pottery shop in the woods; buying a timeshare in St. Maarten and later discovering our week coincided with Carnival — but the most memorable was on our honeymoon in Paradise Island, way back in 1974 (we just celebrated our 45th anniversary on the 4th of July).

We had chosen the Bahamas on the advice of a travel agent. Less developed at the time, quiet little Paradise Island offered everything we enjoyed — solitary beaches, pools with swim-up bars, small casinos, excellent food, rum cocktails and historic sites and nature to explore. One night we were dining at Café Martinique (the original restaurant, where scenes from the James Bond movie Thunderball were filmed) when we suddenly heard a racket of pots and pans crashing like cymbals. Was there a fight in the kitchen? Was the chef throwing a tantrum? No, the entire restaurant staff had formed a conga line and were banging spoons on pots as they danced through the restaurant and out onto the terrace. When we asked what the celebration was, our waiter said, “Goombay Summer!”

When we planned the trip, we had no idea that just the year before the Bahamas had become a free and sovereign country, ending three centuries of peaceful British rule. July 10 is Bahamian Independence Day, and in 1974 the Bahamas celebrated the first Goombay Summer. (Goombay is a form of Bahamian music and a drum used to create it.) We were excited to be part of the inaugural celebration, and it made our honeymoon even more memorable.

The Bahamas have changed a lot since 1974, and our quiet hotel (the Britannia Beach) is now the mega-resort The Atlantis. Thousands of cruise ship passengers disembark into Nassau’s streets to shop, eat and drink every day. The original Café Martinique — one of the first restaurants to open on Paradise Island — closed in the 1990s, and another version opened within the Atlantis marina. But one thing remains the same: Goombay Summer continues as an annual festival in August, inviting locals and tourists alike to celebrate everything Bahamian, including music, delicious down-home dishes, fashions and local arts and crafts.

— Jan Hecht, senior editor

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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