Bermuda – A British Overseas Territory and A World Away

Over the years I’ve made three trips to Bermuda.

Map of Bermuda

[June 1985]  My first trip was in June of 1985 at the conclusion of my first software training class for Esri in Washington, DC. Having spent two long, exhausting weeks conducting training for the US Geological Survey, I was really looking forward to a short vacation. Back in 1975, when Marion and I arrived in the States from England, we spent a few days in New York with her long-time family friends Rolf and Vickie. They had invited us to visit them at their summer home in Bermuda, and at last, I had the opportunity to accept their invitation, although it was ten years later. An invitation to stay with a resident of Bermuda is very special, since accommodations on the island are quite limited. The day after my training class ended, I was up early at 5am for the flight to Boston and on to Bermuda. That afternoon, I arrived in Bermuda to find hot, sunny, humid weather, typical for the island in the summer. After passing through Customs and Immigration, I was met outside the terminal by Rolf, dressed in a white linen suit and tropical pith helmet – looking very “official”! We drove to his home, at the island wide speed limit of 25mph, and arrived at “Fiddler’s Roost”, the name given to the estate by Rolf. It was a gorgeous white washed Spanish Colonial style house located near the summit of Knapton Hill overlooking the sea – with spectacular views! It had thick stone walls, marble floors, lots of French doors opening on to several terraces and patios, and high ceilings of beautiful Cedar beams. It surrounded a lovely pool and colorful tropical garden – such a marvelous, peaceful, and relaxed setting, almost idyllic!

“Fiddler’s Roost”
“Fiddler’s Roost”

Later in the day I joined Vickie as she took her daughter to the airport for the return flight to New York. On the way back to Fiddler’s Roost, we took a short tour of St. George’s, a classic English style village, established in 1609 as Bermuda’s first capitol. Most of the buildings in the old village were painted beautiful pastel colors, with white washed roofs, on narrow cobble stone streets having curious old English names, like “Auntie Peggy’s Lane” and “Needle and Thread Alley”. The town square had been restored to its original condition when whalers had visited the island in the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, St. Catherine’s Fort and St. David’s Lighthouse were preserved  from the same era. Touring the old village was like stepping back in time!

St. George’s
Town Square in St. George’s
St. Catherine’s Fort

Then we picked up Rolf’s nephew Oliver and his Irish girlfriend “George” (Georgina) at the Club Med. As we drove back home, we passed countless mopeds and bicycles, but few cars, primarily because the number of cars allowed on the is strictly regulated. According to Vickie, it could take 2 – 3 years to obtain a permit for a car. Needless to say, there were no rental car companies on the island, but plenty of places to rent mopeds and bicycles. Along the way, we also passed a large US Naval Air Station – must be a pretty tough duty station! (Although locals refer to the “island”, Bermuda is actually a collection of several small ancient volcanic islands connected by causeways, enabling one to drive the entire “country”) Late in the afternoon, there were a few tropical showers, but by evening, the cool air from the ocean was perfect for a leisurely supper of cold meats, fresh fruit, and warm crusty French bread. As we sat on the terrace overlooking the sea, the sweet fragrance of Honeysuckle and Jasmine drifted around us on a gentle breeze. Such a peaceful, relaxed feeling surrounded us in the garden, under the light of a full moon. That night, I lay in bed listening to the soft chirping of the tree frogs and the rush of wind in the trees – a timeless moment!

The Terrace

The next morning, I awoke to a beautiful, sunny day and joined everyone for breakfast beside the pool. Later, Rolf drove me down to “Devil’s Hole Cycles” to rent a moped so I could explore the island on my own. Driving on the left was a bit scary for the first 20 minutes or so, but with everyone going only 25 mph, it soon became easy and enjoyable. In the afternoon, I drove into Hamilton, the main town of Bermuda, bustling with activity. There were hundreds of mopeds, and a lot of businessmen dressed in coat, tie and “Bermuda shorts” – so classic and very British. Moored in the harbor were two huge cruise ships, preparing to “unleash” their cargo of thousands of tourists upon the town. I did some shopping among the mostly British stores and stopped in a local pub for a cold Ginger beer. Then I boarded the ferry for a short trip across the bay to the small town of Somerset. The journey followed a scenic route through several small islands, on some of which were beautiful homes overlooking the bay. Once I arrived in Somerset village, I decided to have lunch at the “Country Squire”, a lovely outdoor café on the shore of the bay. Scores of multi-colored sailboats and yachts were anchored in the bay, shimmering in the warm mid-day sunshine, surrounded by clear, aquamarine water.

The Ferry from Hamilton
Islands in the bay on the way to Somerset Village
The “Country Squire Pub”
Boats anchored in the bay

After lunch, I walked to Cambridge Beach, a gorgeous arc of pink sand and crystal clear blue water. Beautiful tropical flowers of red, purple, and yellow lined the edge of the beach.

Cambridge Beach – Somerset Parish

Back in the village, I stopped at a small shop called “Trimingham’s” to purchase a gift for Rolf and Vickie, a replica of the “Sea Venture” – a ship that was bound for Jamestown, Virginia in 1609. However, it encountered a severe storm at sea and wrecked on the coast of St. George’s Island, and from this accident came the first European settlement of Bermuda. On my way back to Hamilton, I took the “back roads” for mopeds only. The route passed many beautiful bays and beaches along the south shore of the island, where waves of brilliant aquamarine water crashed upon soft pink sand beaches, in long, frothy white crests – some of the most beautiful beaches as I’ve seen anywhere! I stopped to visit “Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse”, located on the highest point of the island. I climbed the 189 steps of the old spiral staircase to the top, where I met the lighthouse keeper. As I walked around the narrow catwalk, the views of the entire island (aka country) were spectacular.

Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse
View from the lighthouse

Upon returning to Knapton Estate, I joined Oliver and Georgina in the pool, to cool off in the hot, humid weather. Later, as evening approached, Rolf invited Oliver and me to join him in his study as he listened to the daily financial report on BBC World Service radio. The world’s metal prices were of particular interest to Rolf and Oliver, as they trade in concentrated ore futures. Afterwards, with cold drinks in hand, we all sat down to dinner, a local chicken and rice dish that was a specialty of Bermuda. Dinner was a special affair as we sat around the table, overlooking the ocean, sharing stories and adventures. With the sun slowly setting and a cool evening breeze softly brushing past us, it was a most relaxing dinner. And as the evening progressed, we all moved out to the terrace for coffee and dessert by candlelight. Looking upon the sea, the moonlight “shimmered” across the water, and the little tree frogs kept us company as we talked about many current topics – everything from world politics and the arms race to life’s most embarrassing moments. Finally, the gentle evening breeze from the moonlit sea, rocked me to sleep in my room.

The following morning, I awoke to sunshine streaming through the open bedroom window, along with a fresh ocean breeze. Breakfast was fresh papaya and lime beside the pool with Rolf and Vickie. As we basked in the warm tropical sun, little multi-colored lizards scampered among the plants in the garden. Finally, it came the time to pack my bags and reluctantly take a long, last look at the brilliant blue sea and the beautiful tropical flowers. I said my farewells to Oliver and Georgina , as they lay on their air mattresses in the pool.

Georgina and Oliver in the pool

Vickie drove me to the airport, past a stunning landscape of deep blue lagoons and bright pastel pink houses. All too soon, I was aboard a new Delta Airlines L1011 aircraft bound for Atlanta. As the huge jet lifted off and I gazed upon the islands, surrounded by the azure blue sea, I knew would return someday soon.

[May 1988]  My second trip to Bermuda came in 1988 after a hectic business trip to Huntsville, Alabama. Early in the morning, after returning home from Huntsville the day before, I was aboard a Delta flight to Boston. Since I arrived after the only daily flight from Boston to Bermuda, I spent the night at the Logan Airport Hilton Hotel. The next morning, I boarded the Delta flight to Bermuda, not yet having heard from Rolf or Vickie. I suspected they were still at their home in Scarsdale, New York. When I arrived in Bermuda, I called their home and received the message that they indeed were in New York and not expected to be in Bermuda until the day after my departure from the island – unfortunately bad timing! So I checked with the “Accommodations Bureau” at the airport and was able to book a nice room at the “Serenity Guest House” in the village of Paget, on one of the south shore beaches. After a short taxi ride, I checked into the guest house and then grabbed my camera for a day of exploring the island. I soon discovered a beautiful, lonely trail that followed the path of the old, abandoned “Bermuda Railway”. It originally ran from one end of the country to the other, some 50 years ago. Hiking along the trail, I was able to see some of the more remote parts of the island that tourists rarely see.

Bermuda Railway Trail

At one point I left the trail and walked down to Warwick Long Bay Beach, the longest, and regarded by many, as the most beautiful beach. I took off my hiking boots and strolled along the beach, the warm sand and cool water making for a very pleasant experience. Later, as evening approached, I went for dinner at the “Sea Horse Grill” in the nearby “Elbow Beach Hotel”. The fresh grilled shrimp salad was delicious as I sat on the terrace overlooking the ocean and the beach below. The hotel was among the earliest to be built in Bermuda, and remains a stunning structure of old local limestone, atop the cliff above Elbow Beach. After dinner, I went to the “Sea Horse Pub” in the hotel for a cold gin tonic and listened to a very funny British performer singing “rude” songs that delighted the older folks in the audience. On the way back to the guest house, I picked a few flowers to freshen up my room.

Warwick Long Bay Beach
Elbow Beach Hotel

The next morning, I arose rather late, most likely due to my biological clock being 4 hours behind the Atlantic time zone. I spent most of the day in Hamilton, exploring the shops and galleries. For lunch, I stopped at the “Cock and Feather Pub”, where I enjoyed a delicious local, spicy fish stew, as I sat at a table overlooking Hamilton’s main street.

Main Street in Hamilton
Hamilton Harbor

Meanwhile, several colorfully decorated horse-drawn carriages passed by, carrying their tourist guests from the huge cruise ships docked in the harbor. Returning to the guest house that evening, I walked over to the Elbow Beach Hotel for another delicious dinner of fresh grilled fish, followed by a drink in the Sea Horse Bar. Early the next morning, I hiked another section of the Railway Trail to Hodson’s Ferry, by way of Tribe Road #4 and Chapel Road. Along the trail I passed through large expanses of gorgeous blue Morning Glory and bright red Oleander blossoms. In Many places, the trail became a narrow lane, framed on both sides by old rock walls – very quaint.

Bermuda Railway Trail

When I reached Hodson’s Ferry landing, I boarded the small ferry for a short journey to Hamilton town, by way of Salt Kettle. After some shopping in Hamilton, I took the number 11 bus to St. George’s, an hour’s ride along the north shore. At one of the bus stops, a small group of Rastafarians were gathered. As the bus pulled to a stop, a guy in the back of the bus leaned out of the window and yelled “Hey Bro – hit me with a lick”! He was handed a cold beer as the bus pulled away. All along the journey, passengers were constantly leaning out the window and shouting greetings to people on the street as the bus passed – the very epitome of a “local” bus! At one point, the bus made a stop at the American Naval Air Station, where the main gate was guarded by two young Marines – what a tough duty station they must have! At last we arrived in the old village of St. George’s, where two huge cruise ships were docked. The village center was crawling with thousands of pink pastel pants and flowered shirts (aka tourists). In an effort to escape the crowd, I spotted the historic “White Horse Tavern” on the waterfront, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch, while overlooking St. George’s harbor.

St. George’s Harbor

After lunch, as the crowd headed back to their ships, I explored the old town and passed many small, interesting shops, such a “Cow Molly” and “Mama Angie’s”. The narrow, quaint cobble stone streets had curious names, like “Shinbone Alley”, Printer’s Lane”, and “Old Maid’s Row”. On a small hill overlooking the village was an old abandoned church – walking among the ruins of the church was a bit of a strange feeling.

Old abandoned church

Nearby was old Fort William, also known as Fort Victoria, where the gunpowder magazine had once been used to store ammunition for the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Now it’s a trendy pub, deep under the massive rock walls. Later in the afternoon, I visited the “Confederate States Museum” housed in the historic Old Globe Hotel, an important headquarters for the Confederate States during the Civil War. From here, the Confederates managed the shipment of cotton to England and war materials to the South. It was a fascinating look at a part of little known American history, of which few Americans are aware.

Old Fort William
Ethiopian Orthodox Church – St. George’s Parish

I returned to the White Horse Tavern for a pint of traditional English bitters, before boarding the bus back to Hamilton and the ferry to Hodson’s. That evening I returned to the Elbow Beach Hotel for a superb dinner of fresh, local broiled grouper. Afterwards, I went to the bar and caught the “naughty” songs show again – still very funny! On my walk back to the Serenity Guest House, the tree frogs serenaded me under a dark sky filled with millions of bright stars.

The following morning, I did some last minute shopping in Hamilton to find a wedding gift for my sister. As I strolled around the town, I hated to leave Bermuda and such a beautiful relaxed pace, knowing that I would be returning to a hectic pace of life at work back home. However, as the Delta flight departed the island, I once again felt that I would return someday!

[July 1991]  On my third trip to Bermuda, I was fortunate to be able to invite my dear friend Leslie to accompany me on a complimentary Delta Airlines First Class ticket. And this time we would be staying with Rolf and Vickie at “Fiddler’s Roost”. Our flight to Bermuda included a stopover in Boston again, where we stayed at the Logan Airport Hilton Hotel. As we were leaving the hotel the next morning, we encountered members of the heavy metal band “Poison” in the elevator. They had been hired to play for a large wedding the night before, and as we all stood in the elevator, the contrast in cultures was dramatically apparent – but everyone took it in stride! After having coffee and pastries in the Delta Airlines Crown Room, we boarded the L1011 aircraft for the flight to Bermuda. Rolf met us upon arrival, still looking “chipper” at age 79, dressed in his signature white linen suit and pith helmet. We chatted all the way home, and Vickie welcomed us with open arms. She showed us to the flat (apartment) downstairs, a lovely place where we could be alone to come and go as we pleased.

The “apartment”
The Pool – Fiddler’s Roost

We spent the afternoon lying around the pool, catching up on reading and napping as a result of the 4 hour time change. The weather absolutely perfect, with lots of sunshine and a gentle ocean breeze. That evening, Vickie prepared a delicious dinner and we chatted on the terrace as we enjoyed the beautiful views of the ocean and gorgeous sunset.

The next morning, as we enjoyed breakfast beside the pool, Rolf reminded us of the need to conserve water, due to a severe shortage across the country. Bermuda depends almost entirely upon rainfall for its fresh water supply, and in fact, every house is designed so as to capture rain on a limestone roof and store it in cisterns beneath the house. We spent another leisurely day around the estate before joining Rolf and Vickie for another fantastic dinner on the terrace overlooking the ocean. The usual evening “routine” was to “freshen up”, have drinks, watch the BBC evening news, and then sit down for dinner by candlelight on the terrace, as a gentle evening breeze from the ocean surrounded us. Coffee, liqueurs, and stories rounded out the evening. Leslie and I usually stayed up late, sitting on our patio, watching the stars, listening to the surf crashing on the beach below, and enjoying the caress of a warm ocean breeze – pure bliss!

On the patio

The following day, Rolf had arranged for a moped to be delivered for us, and I was given detailed operating instructions by Rolf. It was a two-seater model so that Leslie and I could “motor” around the island together. It took me a bit of time to get my “sea legs”, and Leslie was very patient about not being a “back seat driver”. In the afternoon, we drove to the Elbow Beach Hotel for a drink and then on to Horseshoe Bay Beach for a leisurely stroll in the surf along the gorgeous pink coral sand beach!

Horseshoe Bay Beach – Southampton Parish
Horseshoe Bay Beach

From there, we went via the ferry to Somerset Village and the Royal Navy Dockyards, at the far west of the island, to visit the Maritime Museum. It occupied a large portion of the old stone fort known as “The Keep”, and included the historic “Casemate Barracks”, once used as a prison in the 19th century. The “Citadel” still had old naval guns from the 19th century, mounted on massive ramparts to protect the harbor and docklands.

Old Naval Guns mounted on the ramparts

The interior of the museum preserved the huge gunpowder magazines, with their high arched red brick walls and ceilings, where ammunition had been stored. Today, fascinating historical displays and exhibits line their walls. We spent a couple of hours exploring the museum and just scratched the surface of Bermuda history. Originally, we had planned to take the 6:35pm ferry back to Hamilton, but since the museum closed at 5pm, we decided to take the 5:15pm ferry instead. And it was a good thing we did so, because it was the Queen’s birthday and the ferries were running on a holiday schedule. Had we waited until 6:35pm, we would have missed the last ferry of the day! That evening, we joined Rolf and Vickie for dinner on the terrace, as the sound of the surf played in the background, and a gentle breeze surrounded us. Leslie and I spent the rest of the evening chatting on our patio, serenaded by the tree frogs. The next morning began with a lovely breakfast beside the pool, after which, we packed our bags for the return to California. As Rolf drove us to the airport, we felt sad to leave the beautiful, private world of Bermuda. But we had many wonderful memories and lovely pictures to take home with us! (I’m sure another trip to Bermuda awaits us)


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