Ellen and I celebrated our honeymoon in Bermuda, a shade less than three hours by air from the east coast of Canada. Arriving in February, the temperature for our seven-day visit averaged 70 F., perfect for shorts and sandals. As oldest overseas British Territory, the local customs and the language were familiar, but cars and scooters perversely drive on the left side of the road.
With a population of 66,000, Bermuda is an archipelago of six main islands joined by bridges. Twenty-one miles long and three-miles wide, efficient public transportation allows exploration from one end to the other in a mere two hours.
We choose the only resort with an all-inclusive package, the
Grotto Bay Beach Resort, a ten-minute ride from the
airport. Our spacious room overlooked the turquoise-coloured waters of Grotto and Bailey's Bay (how appropriate). There was a superb pool and a spectacularly clean white sandy beach with a natural cave on site, filled with an array of delicate crystal formations of stalagmites and stalactites. The international staff was charming and attentive. The food (and plenty of it) was delicious. However, the price of food and everything else on the island was expensive. Bermudian and U.S. dollars are at par. Without the all-inclusive package we'd have spent $40.00 for breakfast, the same for lunch and about $200.00 for dinner without drinks - with similar meal prices at other restaurants! A 17 % gratuity was automatically added to the bill. There is no sales tax on meals or purchases.
Our package included a transportation pass for the island; otherwise, one expects to pay about $100 for two for seven days. The alternative is to rent a scooter (only the very brave or those familiar with driving on the left should do this). Thank goodness, visitors are not allowed to rent a car. The bus stopped at the resort's front door which allowed us to explore the entire island at ease. Getting on the bus and mingling with the locals was a wonderful experience. Bermudians are extremely polite and easy to talk with, but start your conversation with a polite salutation like, "Good morning; how are you today?"
Pick up a "Handy Bermuda Reference Map" before beginning your island expedition. These were our top choices to visit:
Town of St. George: The little historic seaport of
St. George on the eastern end of the island is a 20-minute bus ride away, the original capital of the island dating back to the early 1600's. Narrow winding brick lanes give close-up views of pastel 18-19th century homes. This UNESCO World Heritage Site impresses the most serious history buffs. On Saturday morning, we visited
St. Peter's Church, the oldest continuously used Anglican Church (circa 1612) in the Western hemisphere. At the harbor, we stumbled upon a re-enactment of a ducking (not dunking) of a women accused of being a "nag and gossip." Highlight of the visit was a free guided tour of the town by Alison Outerbridge who explained she was an Onion, a person who traces their heritage back to the settlement of the island. When the colony was first established, they grew sweet onions to survive. Alison enjoyed the gift of making the past seem like the present.
Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo: Back in the bus we took a forty-minute ride west to Flatt's Village. This aquarium/museum and zoo on the waterfront looks like nothing from the front, but as we stepped inside, we were dumbfounded. We discovered fantastic exhibits that described the island's marine and terrestrial wildlife and we viewed the prettiest orange (not pink) Flamingoes in the world. Lingering there for 3 hours, we later learned it was the
island's most popular attraction.
Hamilton, Capital of Bermuda: Over the next few days, we made several trips to
Hamilton, the capital of the island, a forty-minute ride from the resort. This city is laid out in a grid pattern and easy to navigate. Start your tour with a visit to City Hall, next to the bus terminal, also the home of the Bermuda National Gallery. Admission is free. Nearby, two spectacular cathedrals date back to the early 1900's, but most of our time was spent wandering the streets, visiting upscale stores and boutique shops. We even purchased some "bling" to remind us of our visit. (On Sundays, most stores are closed.)
Royal Navy Dockyards: No trip to Bermuda is complete without a visit to this
historic naval shipyard in the west of the island. We choose to take the 20-minute ferry ride (it's included in the pass) from Hamilton Harbor. Shops are open on Sundays. Local historian, Tim Rogers, conducts free tours of the dockyards on Sunday mornings.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.