Lovely Bermuda: A Luxurious Journey Information
Words from Simon Hale
Up to 70 degrees of sunshine and a calming breeze while strolling along the harbor front with yachts dancing on the gently glittering waves as you gaze out to sea. A vacation experience to enjoy any time of the year, but here in Bermuda in winter, during a pandemic, it feels like a miracle.
This small British island area in the mid-Atlantic of just 62,000 people has been open to the world since July last year and had no coronavirus deaths in seven months when we arrived in late December.
Now, at the end of January, after Bermuda had suffered only 12 deaths and active cases by the mid-50s – and although this was sad – Bermuda’s Covid-19 status has been welcomed from “clusters of cases” to “sporadic cases” ‘ from the Pan American Health Organization.
With your Bermuda Government Travel Authorization and a negative PCR Covid test result, fly into the brand new terminal at LF Wade International Airport with the British Airways service from London Gatwick and begin the mandatory retesting procedure with a wristband, reminding you to check your temperature twice a day.
The Covid result arrives on your smartphone within 24 hours. After that, you can leave your hotel room and wait for instructions to take additional tests on the fourth, eighth and 14th days of your stay. We are fortunate to have arrived on the verge of a new policy requiring British travelers to stay in quarantine for the first four days – albeit in their own property rather than just a single room.
The Hamilton Princess is affectionately known as the “Pink Palace”.
There could be fewer hotels than the Hamilton Princess where you could choose to be cooped up. This swanky landmark, named after Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise, who visited Bermuda in 1883, was completely renovated ahead of the 2017 America’s Cup.
Although two of the prestigious restaurants, 1609 and Marcus’, were closed, the Crown and Anchor restaurant, overlooking a luxury marina, provided a warm enough Christmas Eve outdoors. Meanwhile, the redesigned lobby and retail area offers a superb tour of modern art prints, sculptures, and video installations by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Banksy.
The ‘Pink Palace’, as the Princess is fondly known for its size, luxurious rooms and furnishings, also has a private beach club in Sinky Bay on the south coast of the island with free shuttles from the hotel. We had the beach almost to ourselves on a beautiful afternoon and the sea was still warm enough to take a dip, although this is out of season for water sports.
Hamilton itself is a clean, affluent capital of pretty, pastel colored buildings with an abundance of designer fashion and jewelry stores. Bars and restaurants range from traditional English pubs like the Hog Penny to upscale high-end restaurants like the Barracuda Grill.
Hamilton is a clean, affluent capital of pretty, pastel colored buildings with an abundance of designer fashion and jewelry stores
The Bermudian bar’s specialties include the fish sandwich with locally caught wahoo or rockfish and the Dark n ‘Stormy rum and ginger beer cocktail, Bermuda’s unofficial Caribbean-style drink. On an island where memories of home range from letter boxes and police uniforms to traditional friendliness and good manners, you’ll also find British-style fish and chips.
The Fishhook Archipelago of more than 100 islands, of which only about 20 are inhabited, has been British since the first arrivals were shipwrecked here in 1609. Its first capital in St. George’s on the eastern tip is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the New World.
As you stroll the narrow, cobblestone streets, you’ll find quaint old stone buildings dating back 300 years that still support homes and businesses, though a landmark didn’t fare as well. The unfinished church overlooking the city, begun in 1874, suffered financial hardships compounded by a storm and disagreement about its future, which resulted in its construction being abandoned.
You can walk around the premises although you are not allowed to go inside for safety reasons. It’s a fascinating stop on the way to some of Bermuda’s many fortifications and associated artillery that graphically illustrate the history of English military engineering up to the 20th century.
The Royal Naval Dockyard has a shopping center and ferry service from Hamilton
Bermuda played a major role in wars from the American Revolution and Civil War to the War of 1812 (when British red coats stormed the U.S. Capitol and not Trump supporters), as well as World Wars I and II, and military base beyond.
The Royal Naval Dockyard on the far western edge of Bermuda closed in 1957, and the last British naval presence was abandoned in 1995. However, the base was used again. Take the ferry from Hamilton and within half an hour you can visit former warehouses that have been converted into artist shops and a bell tower building that is a pedestrianized street.
Other sights worth visiting include the Commissioner’s House, the world’s first cast iron house built in the 1820s. It now houses the National Museum, which contains exhibits and artifacts from shipwrecks (around 300 ships perished on the island’s reefs) and Britain’s involvement in the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in Bermuda.
More innocent attractions include an 18-hole mini golf course, which has probably the world’s most exotic ocean view, and Dolphin Quest, which lets you swim with dolphins. At the Frog and Onion Pub in the old cooperage buildings, you can enjoy an excellent homemade curry or burger accompanied by a pint of Dockyard beer brewed on the premises – all at reasonable prices (expect the best London prices in High-end range of Bermuda and hotel restaurants).
The commissioner’s house now houses the National Museum
With rental cars banned in Bermuda (the narrow, winding streets are just too dangerous for strangers), buses provide an affordable and reliable means of transport to the many other attractions, especially for those interested in natural history.
The Crystal and Fantasy Caves – a half-hour drive from Hamilton – were first discovered in 1907 by two boys fetching a cricket ball. This breathtaking and somewhat eerie underworld of lagoons and centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites – all well lit – is a must for those who are fit enough to climb the 180 steep steps down.
Much easier for the feet is the route of the old rail traffic, which ran between the north and south of the main island from 1931 to 1948. This 18-mile walk takes you from the scenic coastline to the lush forest with abundant and varied flora and fauna on either side. In some places only the melodic “Kis-Kis-Kiskadee” of the attractive yellow-bellied Kiskadee bird can be heard.
Fun to branch off the line from time to time to visit the almost empty beaches at this time of year or natural paradises like Spittal Pond nature reserve, where you can find migratory birds like great egrets that have escaped the British winter. Winter in the Botanical Gardens is decidedly out of season, however, but the change for the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art on the premises, and especially for its shrine to musician John Lennon, is well worth it.
The Crystal and Fantasy Caves were first discovered in 1907 by two boys fetching a cricket ball
An iconic sculpture by the Bermudian Graham Foster symbolizes the former Beatle with his Rickenbacker guitar, grandma glasses and the doves of peace. It also features a freesia, Double Fantasy, a local flower that he named his last album after after finding the inspiration to complete it while staying in Bermuda.
As the perfect escape from a global pandemic, it’s not difficult to take inspiration from this beautiful island nation. Fortunately, Bermuda is one of the few places in the world that is still open to us when we are allowed to travel.
Simon left Gatwick on British Airways (£ 910 economy class including tax).
The weekly four-flight service is the only direct flight from the UK. British Airways will move the service from Gatwick to Heathrow, where it will operate daily from March 28, 2021. Wearing face masks on the service is mandatory – it is worth taking several with you for the 7-hour, 20-minute flight.
The 15 miles taxi ride from LF Wade International Airport to Hamilton is around £ 25.
Bermuda Tourism Authority: gotobermuda.co.uk
Simon stayed at the Hamilton Princess (£ 250 a night for a double room only).
Where to dine
Barracuda Grill, Hamilton for seafood and chops, served in an upscale New York-style setting.
Bolero Restaurant and Bar, Hamilton for modern Spanish cuisine in a harbor location.
Tom Moore’s Tavern, Hamilton Parish, was built as a private residence in 1652 and was home to Irish poet Thomas Moore, who serves old-school continental cuisine.
Where to shop
English Sports Shop, Hamilton for the famous knee-length Bermuda shorts.
Jon Faulkner Gallery, shipyard for beautiful ceramic Bermuda rockpools, handcrafted and distributed around the site by the owner / potter.
All images are from Simon Hale.