Shangri-La on Earth, it’s Bermuda.

(Warning: Post may be long and winding)

If asked, “where would you like to be if you weren’t here?” You’d most likely answer, “on a sandy beach.” Some people (like me) would probably answer, “underneath a mountain of patty meat” or something equally disgustingly fatty.

No, I’d probably answer the beach too, although I do despise the sand getting everywhere. It’s all about the ambiance! Clear skies, fluffy clouds that you can get lost in for hours, and that water. Nice sparkling clear water that isn’t filled with muck floating. Eg:

Bad water, Good water

A bit of background information beforehand. We did not fly over there. While Amtrak would be a nice option, unfortunately there are no tunnels long enough to go through the ocean to the sandy beaches of Bermuda. Cruising was a bit more of a feasible alternative compared to hauling luggage to a plane, being subjected to the whole 3oz rule so begrudgingly, we decided to partake in the sights of the ocean and become what people would call Mariners. Sadly I did not have enough time to purchase a funky little hat for the occasion. I did however, see many “captains” wearing it. Meanwhile the only captaining I’ll do, would be from the comfort of my own bathtub.

The trip itself was a total of 7 days: 2 complete days at sea (coming and going), and 3 1/2 complete days in Hamilton (capital) of Bermuda. We went on Holland America Lines (HAL) and our ship was the ms Veendam. I never really heard about this cruise company before, but it turns out that they are owned by Carnival and they do more of their advertising via word of mouth. I have to say one thing about HAL though, if you’re looking for a good partying time, this really isn’t the line for you (entertainment to some varies, naturally so this is just a blanket statement). Perfect for me though. Loved every bit of the ship from its size to the crew within. The HAL post will come later though, this is about Bermuda (yes yes, making with the pictures… now)!

For some brevity (and to save on sanity), this loonnnnnnnnng post will be cut into separate blog posts:

  • Bermuda Central (Hamilton)
  • Bermuda East End (St. George, Tobacco Bay, St. Catherine’s)
  • Bermuda West End (Somerset, Royal Navy Dockyard)

This post will be about Bermuda “Central” or more rather, the middle portion of Bermuda. We start off with the capital of Bermuda, Hamilton.

Some quick facts about Bermuda:

  • Contrary to what many believe, Bermuda is NOT an island, but is an archipelago (chain of islands) of 138 islands in total
  • There is no fresh water source in Bermuda other than rainfall collection (and most likely importing)
  • Bermuda shorts are not manufactured in Bermuda, but imported from other countries. “Bermuda shorts” is just a specific type of fashion in shorts
  • Runs one hour ahead of EST (eg: 7PM EST = 8PM Bermuda time)
  • Its closest landmass is Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, USA
  • Stores close around 5PM due to local laws
  • All families are only allowed to own one (1) car, but can own more than one (1) scooter
  • There is no income tax, however Bermudians have to pay import taxes on items that are imported in however
  • Bermuda has some of the largest reefs in the world. To read more about Bermuda’s reefs, click here

Bermuda reefs

Since we were docked on Front Street, I’ll mention the stores that I saw/checked out along there.

Shopping wise, Hamilton is the site to many high end stores. Some names are Marks & Spencer, Astwood Dickinsons, and Crisson’s to name a few.

They also have your typical touristy shops that sell the novelty items with the words “Bermuda” emblazoned on it. Those stores are Spinnakers and Onion Jack’s right along Front Street, and Flying Colours on Queen Street & Front Street (Flying Colours and Spinnakers both are owned by the same people, for those who don’t want to walk all the way to Queen Street to buy tchotchkes). There are also stores in between touristy and high end, one of which was Carol Holding. Carol Holding is a unique store which feature artworks by Carol Holding as well as little trinkets one could pick up. She sells matted prints of paintings (as well as a few originals) for a reasonable price as well as items that she has designed.
Note: Not many items in Bermuda are actually made in Bermuda. Especially tchotchkes, which are all made in China, sadly. Also some of the items in the high end stores are items you can purchase back at home/online. Just a word of warning if you want to buy a lot of stuff in Bermuda, you may be hit by Customs, depending on how much you purchase overseas.

Party wise, Front Street has a few bars and clubs that open late at night and close early morning. Some names: Flanagan’s Irish Pub and Café Cairo.

Flanagan’s Irish Pub (building with the black window borders)

Café Cairo (colorful party lights at night)

On Wednesday nights during cruising season (late March-early November) the Bermudians have an event called “Harbor Night,” in which local artists and musicians come out to showcase the talent and sell a bit of crafts to the locals and tourists. It takes place right along Front Street from 7-10PM. Traffic ceases to flow on Front Street and everybody gets to wander around and shop to their heart’s content. I had a chance to meet one of the local artists, Joan E. Thompson who was just a delight to chat with. She sold matte prints of her paintings at very affordable prices. What I loved learning about her was that she had no art training whatsoever, and still painted all these gorgeous pieces. When I asked to take a photo of her next to her works, she insisted that I be right with her (as well as one of her prints of our ship)! Way to make a girl blush, Joan!

Melbus & Joan E. Thompson

ms Veendam in the back as local musicians play

Locals and tourists alike enjoy Harbor Night

Bermudian Police in the “Birdcage”

We tried to explore as much of Hamilton as we could in one day and I have to say, you definitely cannot explore all of Bermuda in a week. We did get to check out Admiralty House Park though (but spent so much time there that we did not get to go up to Spanish Point) and explored what I believe, is the Admiral’s Cave. This is an interesting cave for the fact that it’s man made (tall enough for people to walk through) and which went straight out into the water. Definitely a recommended must-see when you’re in the area, however you should be very able bodied (or have company/adequate lighting) to enjoy it safely. There is this one narrow tunnel which leads to a stairway up to the park, which turns into a wind tunnel almost if you’re standing right there.

Admiralty House, long abandoned

Admiralty House, inside

Admiral’s Cave, inside

Looking out of a “window” in Admiral’s Cave

Next up: Bermuda East!

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