My expectations for our trip to Bermuda this year were pretty straightforward: I wanted to spend time in the sun, go swimming as often as possible, read a lot, and eat fish and chips. I can say proudly that I successfully completed all of those missions, with gusto, even. This was our third trip to Bermuda (I know!), and it was just as much fun as the last few times. I feel a bit luxurious telling people where I was, but I suppose I should get over that part. Bermuda is an interesting place; it’s such a tiny island that you can navigate entirely by walking, taking the bus (or ferry), or by renting a moped. It feels exotic (the colors there are SO VIVID it doesn’t seem real, and that doesn’t come across in the photos very well at all), yet it’s still quaint and comfortable. Also, it’s British, so that adds a certain something, too.
We stayed in St. George, which is the more historic of the parishes, and sits on the far east coast of the island. Our first few days were spent exploring the town, scoping out restaurants and touristy shops, and really, a hell of a lot of time by the pool at the club. It was exactly what I wanted. Of course, the thing you remember vaguely is that it’s hot. Duh. But the thing about it is, yes, it’s hot, but it’s a different sort of hot. The sun is just SO DAMN BRIGHT and hot down there that you have to be even more super cautious about it than you would normally. I was paranoid (which isn’t a bad thing) so I kept escaping into the shade or inside. Getting burnt on the first day would have been extra special, I’m sure.
The few days leading up to our departure were full of warnings about Hurricane Bertha. From pretty much everyone I know. I was getting text messages and emails with the huricane’s projected path… and truly? I didn’t even want to THINK about it. Nor did I want to look at the weekly forcast that my dad printed out before we left, the one that was basically seven days of rain clouds. Once we arrived, though, it seemed that the weatherfolk from the U.S. were not necessarily exaggerating, but certainly doing what we Americans do best: panicking. Anyway, the hurricane did hit the island on Tuesday, and yes, there were torrential rains and gale-force winds. For us, though, it meant a day inside, playing cards and watching tv and reading. I suppose you could say it was a bit of a bummer, but I was glad for the break from the sun. As the eye of the storm passed over, we walked downtown and got some giant beers at one of the bars, and we made it back to the condo just as the second half of the storm hit. So that was definitely fun.
One of the things I remember most about our previous trips to Bermuda is eating fish and chips. I don’t like most seafood (I have issues with food that is too … smooth), but I LOVE fish and chips. After ordering it the first two nights out, I decided to turn it into a mission. I was surprised at how different it was: batter vs. breaded, as well as a few different types of fish (not that I would be able to tell you which was which). I had fish and chips every night except for two: the night of the hurricane, and the last night, when we ate at an Italian restaurant that simply didn’t offer it. Anyway, here for the record, is my conclusion: the best fish and chips in St George’s Parish, Bermuda can be found at Blackbeard’s Hideaway (the bar/restaurant overlooking Achilles Bay), OR at the Whitehorse Pub. I think I preferred Blackbeard’s (I actually had that on two separate nights), but the Whitehorse fish and chips was also very, very good.
Our touristy excursions were not as frequent as on previous trips, but we did take one day to head down to the larger town (and capital of Bermuda), Hamilton. We took the high-speed ferry, which was my dad’s idea, and what a great one it was! We’d done this on a previous trip, and it’s the coolest way to see the island from out on the water.
The ferry stopped at the Royal Dockyards (where our cruise ship docked last summer), and then headed into Hamilton, where we did some more shopping, and I attempted to get a photo of a Bermudian businessman in his shorts and high socks. I need to work on my street photography, because I was too shy, and they were everywhere, with their short-sleeved dress shirts, ties, Bermuda shorts, and high socks. It was just so damn charming.
After the trip to Hamilton, we took the pink bus to one of the more famous restaurants on the island (at least among my family members), the Swizzle Inn. The Swizzle Inn is famous for the rum swizzle, which is a fantastic drink made with Gosling’s dark rum, Gosling’s gold rum (Gosling’s is the company that makes the BEST Bermuda rum) and some combination of fruit juices and spices. And they’re so strong that one teensy tiny glass makes a pretty good dent.
But the most interesting part about the return voyage was the bus trip itself. First, let me just tell you that the roads in Bermuda are NARROW and hilly and windy and did I mention narrow? Because they’re narrow. There are very few cars on the island; it’s mostly mopeds and the public bus. And everyone beeps and waves at each other. Our bus driver must have known everyone on the island, because he was beeping and waving to practically every other car. And it was nice to see. But the best part was when a car had pulled out into the road, trying to get a better look before his turn. And the bus comes barreling around the corner, on a collision course. And he’s beeping, toot toot toot, and waving, and then the other guy’s beeping and waving, and the bus screeches to a halt inches from the car. And the bus driver lets the car go, and they’re waving and laughing and beeping and best friends forever. While I’m sitting in the back row with my mouth hanging open. That would never happen in the U.S. Never. There was no cursing or yelling, just smiles and “oh hey, sorry about that heeheeeee”. It was just so adorable.
We weren’t planning on renting a moped this year, because the club had a shuttle that could take us to the beach and the restaurants just out of walking distance if we needed it. I, for one, wasn’t too sad, because mopeds scare the crap out of me. I don’t know why, but I just have no interest in driving one, unlike my siblings, who have been talking about it for at least the past ten years. But Dad couldn’t resist, and we rented a moped for a few days toward the end of the week. I went out with him one afternoon for some sightseeing and photo-taking, and it was totally worth it to get some really good shots of the beaches (Tobacco Bay and Achilles Bay), the old Club Med hotel that’s been empty and abandoned for at least ten years, the fort on the hill, and the gorgeous white cemetery overlooking the ocean. I let John use my camera later that day for some more up-close shooting, and he got some really awesome pictures too. It was like a little adventure within the trip, and I’m glad we changed the plan on the moped after all.
The interesting thing about Bermuda as a whole is that it’s ringed by reefs, making it virtually impossible for many ships to dock on the island. (Part of the whole Bermuda triangle? Maybe. You can buy maps of famous shipwrecks in Bermuda, and they happened all the way around the entire island.) The harbor in St George is one of the smaller harbors on the island, and it can only be accessed by what locals call The Cut, an incredibly narrow inlet leading out to sea. Only the smallest cruise ships can get through, which is why most can’t dock in St George at all (and our behemoth ship last summer was so large that it could only dock in the Dockyards). On a previous trip, we ventured out to the cliffs edging the cut to watch the cruise ship leave, and we did that again this year. It was so crazy to see all the people on the ship waving to us as it squeaked through the cut.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the rum swizzles were good (and I can’t wait to make some of my own using the mixes my aunt and uncle gave me this week) but they don’t hold a candle to what may very well be my favorite drink other than beer, the dark and stormy. (Which is also Bermuda’s national drink!) It’s made with Gosling’s dark rum and ginger beer, and it’s crisp and spicy and refreshing and packs a wollop if you make it with the 150 proof Gosling’s. My dad scouted out a pamphlet in the lobby of the club advertising the “Dark and Stormy Trail,” in which you travel to certain restaurants around the island, get stamps for ordering a dark and stormy, and then collect a diploma, tshirt, polo shirt, or hat depending on how many stops along the trail you complete. Did we win my dad a diploma and a tshirt? Hell yes we did.
Of course, we couldn’t visit Bermuda without spending at least one day on the pink sand beaches, which are beautiful, beyond gorgeous, but somehow, to this girl born and bred on the Jersey Shore, seem like pretend beaches. The water is warm? There are no waves? What’s going on? But we had a great time, and of course we hit up the beach bar for some cold drinks while we waited for the shuttle to take us home.
It was a bit bittersweet to come home (and not just because it was so damn hot in NJ when I returned that I felt like the heat of Bermuda tempered me for the weather here, which was backwards)… but it was a great trip, and I have to say that I really benefitted from the week of sun and sand and fresh air, and came home with a belly overfilled with fish and chips and dark and stormies and a camera packed with hundreds of photos. And I can’t argue with that.