bermuda!

  Downtown Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda.

Downtown Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda.

"Good morning!" he said with a wide grin.  "How are you folks today?"

"We're great!"  We climbed into his cab.  "How are you?"

"Fantastic!"  He didn't even skip a beat as he turned on his meter.  "I LIVE IN BERMUDA!"


As Alex's spring break approached, I was suddenly overcome with the urge to travel.  It had been years since we had traveled alone as a family, and much longer since the three of us had set out to a place where none of us had ever visited.  "We should go somewhere new," I pleaded with Marcus.  "We should have an adventure."

Happily, Marcus agreed, and so for several weeks I did extensive research to find an airline-and-hotel package deal that wasn't too expensive, and wasn't too far to get to -- which, from Houston, generally means the Caribbean or Central America.  Every package that I found was a bit too pricey, or was to a place at least one of us had been to before ... things weren't looking good.

And then I suddenly thought ... what about Bermuda?

I've always been intrigued by Bermuda, and not just because of the Triangle, either (although that's certainly part of it).  We folks from the Caribbean always feel a sort of kindred love for Bermuda (and vice versa), even though Bermuda lies nowhere near the Caribbean  -- it's actually way out in the Atlantic Ocean, at the same latitude as Charleston, South Carolina.  Bermuda shares much of the same English-colonial-and-slave-trade history that Trinidad does, but because Bermuda remains a British territory, it's English-ness feels a bit stronger.  And since it was winter there ("winter" meaning "too cold to swim in the ocean," with highs only in the 60s), we could get a really cheap package.

I broached the subject with Marcus.  "Would you be okay doing a beach vacation, if all we could do is walk on the beach?"

"Absolutely," he quickly responded.  "I just want to get away from the city for a while.  Book it, Danno."

So I did, and we both congratulated ourselves on being so frugal.  Look at us, we grinned to ourselves.  We're so fiscally-minded!

Well, that patting-ourselves-on-the-back nonsense came to a screeching halt once we arrived -- that country is EX. PEN. SIVE.  What we made up in airfare and hotel, we more than spent once we got there (as an example, one cold & rainy day we stopped for a cappuccino, a cup of tea and a hot chocolate respectively, and the bill came to TWENTY-ONE-DOLLARS).  It turns out that Bermuda has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world.  If we ever go again, we're not doing so before saving up a lot.  And I mean, a lot.

And man, I do hope we return -- it is such a beautiful place.  I actually have a theory:  you know that whole "Bermuda Triangle" mythology?  Despite the legends behind it, I suspect that it's really a body of stories made up by locals to dissuade people from finding out how much of a paradise the place truly is, so they can keep it all to themselves.  I mean, Bermuda is damned near perfect:  blue-green-aqua waters everywhere,  gorgeous houses dotting the landscapes (each painted Easter egg colours, if you please), incredibly warm, friendly people, and the entire island is immaculately kept -- I'm not sure I saw any litter anywhere during our stay.  The average temperature highs year-round are between 60 - 85 degrees, so even though it was cool when we got there, the weather was perfect for sightseeing -- and I noticed all the houses had fireplaces, so I imagine if you live there, a cozy fire at night while listening to that beautiful ocean outside would be just the thing.  Also, I learned that Bermuda isn't actually a single island, but a series of about 120 islands, all linked together by bridges, and lying within a 21-square-mile area -- so just about everywhere is "ocean-front."  It is, hands-down, the most gorgeous island-destination I've ever visited, and trust me, I know islands.

Our 6-day stay (which was unfortunately shortened to 5 days), was absolutely perfect:  quiet, peaceful, restorative.  If you're looking for a raucous, bachelorette-party-type getaway, Bermuda might not be the place for you (although, admittedly, we were there in the off-season, and I assume there's a bit more nightlife and stuff going on during high season).  However, if you're looking for a quiet, family-friendly retreat, or a romantic holiday, definitely consider Bermuda.  

But dear Lord, save up first.

Here are some highlights from the trip:

 

the historical town of St. George

Located at the north end of the country, St. George was Bermuda's very first permanent English settlement.  Here's where you'll see old Bermuda -- many of the colonial buildings remain, some of the streets are even cobblestoned.  Don't miss The Unfinished Church, a church whose construction was abandoned due to cost overruns, and now stands with a floor of grass and a ceiling of sky.

  A replica of the   Deliverance   in St. George.

A replica of the Deliverance in St. George.

  The Unfinished Church.

The Unfinished Church.

  St. Peter's Church in St. George, reputedly the oldest Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere.

St. Peter's Church in St. George, reputedly the oldest Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere.

 

crystal caves

Bermuda is dotted with caves everywhere; however, Crystal Caves are ones you can safely visit.  A guide will take you down the 81 steps to the underground cave, and tell you the story of how two young boys discovered it.  This was one of Alex's favourite things we did.

 

the bermuda aquarium, museum and zoo

I'm not generally a fan of zoos -- I find them usually so restrictive for the animals -- but I have to admit that I was completely charmed by this one.  One of the  zookeepers I spoke with mentioned that they "try to pack a punch with their small animals" and they certainly do:  because the zoo isn't very big (it couldn't be, on such a small island), they don't really have any big animals, and the small animals they do have are from similar climates, and they're mostly in habitats that felt more like small reserves, rather than tiny cages.  Like the rest of Bermuda, the facilities are pristine, and the setting idyllic.  Though it's tiny, we ended up spending several hours there.  Absolutely worth a visit.

 

the dockyards

Our last day in Bermuda, we took the ferry from Hamilton over to the Dockyards, the historic home of the Royal Navy.  I'm so glad we did:  we visited glassblowers and glassworkers, watched marine biologists interact with dolphins, and climbed all over the historic barracks.  Definitely not to be missed.

 

and finally, beaches!

Bermuda is known for its pink-sand beaches, but to be honest, because of the cooler weather, we didn't spend any real time on any of them!  Still, I could hardly write about Bermuda without mentioning them, so one day, we ran down to a small beach for about an hour to at least say that we experienced the Bermuda coast.  But honestly?  The one we visited wasn't one of the famous ones -- and even this little one was lovely.  We can't wait to come back and experience them in earnest.

(The upside of visiting beaches in the off-season, though?  You have them all to yourself.)

All this to say we had an amazing time, and it actually ranks up near the top of the best family vacations we've ever had.  To see these photos (and a few more) in large format, be sure to check out the new Bermuda gallery I've published.  And to those of you who are planning a trip to this beautiful little country, have a wonderful time.

But save up.  (And when you're there, take buses.  They're clean, safe, punctual, and tons cheaper than cabs -- friendly cab drivers notwithstanding.  Trust me on this.)