Basking in Bermuda

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Getting married was a lot of fun, but we knew it would be seriously exhausting.  So where would be good to escape for a few days?  Something romantic, but easy.  We considered a lovely B&B we’d visited in West Virginia, but that didn’t seem quite right.

Then inspiration struck:  Bermuda!  It’s a two hour direct flight from Baltimore, suitably exotic and romantic, and I’ve always wanted to visit.  However, Bermuda mapit’s too far north (the same latitude as North Carolina) to be really warm for those winter breaks one takes when in dire need of a dose of sunshine, so I’d never made it there. 

April would be a perfect time to visit, and the Mayhem Consultant agreed.  Bermuda is as beautiful as its reputation, with pink sand beaches (well, not THAT pink) and turquoise seas.  It’s really an archipelago of 181 islands (more or less), some connected by bridges to form the mainland.  There are less than 21 square miles of area, so this is a small place. 

IMG_0997But Bermuda had a LOT of history.  There was no indigenous population.  The first known European to land was the Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermudez, whose name was given to the island.  Ten years later he came by the island again and released a dozen pigs and sows, for the benefit of future shipwrecked mariners.

It worked, too!  The first British settlers came in 1609, when the Sea Venture, part of a flotilla of supply ships heading toward the struggling Virginia colony, was run aground on the reefs during a storm to save it from sinking.  All 150 passengers and a dog made it safely to shore.  Most later went on to Virginia, but while on Bermuda, they were grateful for the pigs!  And Britain claimed Bermuda for the Empire.

The Gentleman PoetHonorary Word Wench Kathryn Johnson wrote a wonderful, werll-researched book inspired by the wreck of the SEA VENTURE called The Gentleman Poet. 

With little land for agriculture. Bermuda became a shipbuilding and sailing center, and for quite some time controlled much of the world’s salt trade.  After the American Revolution and the loss of British military bases in the new USA, the Royal Navy began building forts and defenses on Bermuda. 

Situated midway between the British colonies in Canada and the Caribbean, the island became Britain’s primary naval installation guarding the western Atlantic shipping lanes.  The attacks on Washington and Baltimore during the War of 1812 were launched from Bermuda.  The Royal Dockyards were the hub of all this naval activity, and are now a very pleasant tourist destination with shops, museums. and a dolphin pool. 

Fort St. CatherineBermuda also had masses of forts: 90 have been built since 1609! My favorite was Fort St. Catherine, which looks modest above ground, but has many levels of tunnels and arsenals below.  It’s a great museum,.  Plus, hidden behind a pillar between artillery placements was a metal tray with cat food.  <g>  We saw two cats, and I suspect there were more. 

IMG_1034No shots were ever fired in anger from these forts, but in 1941, there was an invasion of sorts when the American military arrived to update and fortify the artillery for the duration of WWII.  Most of the military installations are gone now, but their artifacts remain.

Because of its small size, Bermuda has always had to husband its resources carefully.  For example, the only source of fresh water is rainfall, so there are reservoirs under just about every building on the island.  Roofs are not only designed to channel rain into the reservoirs, but they’re painted with a lime mixture that helps purify the water.

It’s almost impossible for outsiders to buy land in Bermuda unless they’re in the Bermuda rooftopsmega-rich category, like Mayor Micheal Bloomberg.  Tourists can’t rent cars, either.  Instead, there is a delightful bus system consisting of pink buses with blue trim.  (The colors of Bermuda.) 

Bus stops are painted pink for buses heading toward Hamilton, the capital, or blue for buses heading away from Hamilton.  There are also plenty of taxis that include a site seeing rate on their rate cards.

IMG_1062We were fortunate to be referred to a driver by friends who’d been escorted around the island by him.  He was a lovely fellow, and each day he’d come at 10:00 am and take us to a different area, then drop us off for lunch and take us back to our hotel later. (As an overseas British territory, the fish and chips were excellent!)

Bermuda is a rich tapestry of an island, both beautiful and sophisticated.  My favorite place was the oldest city, St. George’s, founded in 1612 under the name New IMG_1046London.  It’s charming and historical, with the beautiful church of St. George on a hill overlooking the town and the harbor.

The vital location has always made Bermuda busy and prosperous.  These days, the most profitable business is off-shore banking, with tourism in second place.  I had no money to launder, but the tourism side of the island is great.  <G>

Bermuda is as expensive as its reputation, though!  A saying we heard a couple of times was, “Know how to become a millionaire in Bermuda?  Go there as a multi-millionaire.” <G>

 IMG_1064But it was a lovely place for a honeymoon, a delicious blend of Britishness and history and island culture. 

Have you ever visited Bermuda?  If so, how did you like it?  And if not—would you like to??

Mary Jo, who wants to go back!