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3:26 AM / Sunday August 14, 2022

18 Aug 2013

Only in Bermuda (part one)

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August 18, 2013 Category: Travel Posted by:

By Renée S. Gordon

 

Upon approaching Bermuda’s airport the sheer beauty of the cerulean water of the Western Atlantic Ocean, also known as the Saragasso Sea, overwhelms you. Set against the island’s lush green foliage and stark white limestone roofs, this small gem, one of the most remote islands in the world, is 650-miles offshore of the eastern coast of the United States. A mere 21-miles long, it is made up of nine parishes and features a larger concentration of golf courses than any other country. There are more than 150 dining establishments, only one of which is a chain restaurant, and accommodations from intimate inns and small boutique hotels to lavish resorts and cottage colonies. Water sports, adventure and nature trails and unique cultural and heritage tours are offered daily and best of all, there are nonstop flights from Philadelphia that will have you in Bermuda and on the beach in 150-minutes. www.gotobermuda.com

 

Juan de Bermudez, a Spanish explorer, is the first documented European to sight the more than 180 islands that form the archipelago that is Bermuda. He had difficulty navigating the region because of the treacherous reefs and, according to his log, was forced to capture a local native to serve as a guide. Bermudez did not claim the land as Spanish territory during his 1503 explorations but it was used as a landmark for treasure ships transporting gold to Spain.

 

In 1609 the Sea Venture, on route from England with provisions for the Jamestown colony, was wrecked on reefs near Bermuda. Admiral George Somers and his crew washed ashore and claimed the land for the British. Using indigenous wood they built ships and all but a few sailed on to Virginia. It is believed that the story of these marooned Englishmen served as inspiration for Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The British renamed the country Somers Islands and in 1612 60 people arrived to colonize Bermuda.

 

Getting around the island can be accomplished in several ways including on foot, by bus, scooter, moped and taxi. Tourists can rent scooters but I do not recommend it unless you are experienced. Transportation passes, from one to seven days, are available and the buses travel throughout the island. Schedules are online. www.gov.bm

 

Bermuda is internationally famous for the beauty of its private and public beaches that range in color from a light brown to a vivid pink and the clarity of its waters. On a calm day visitors can see to a depth of 200-ft. More than 400 shipwrecks and 500-miles of coral reef surrounding the island making it ideal for scuba divers and snorkelers. The largest shipwreck is that of the Spanish luxury liner the Cristobal Colon, sunk in October of 1936. Colon’s debris is strewn over 100,000-sq. ft. and is a diver’s favorite. Divers also come from afar to have an encounter with The Hermes, a 165-ft. ship built in PA in 1943. She developed engine trouble and was abandoned by her crew because of the prohibitive cost of repair. The completely intact ship was sunk on May 15, 1985. One of the oldest wrecks is that of the Virginia Merchant. This ship has the distinction of having caused the greatest loss of life. Only 10 of the 179 passengers and crew survived. 

 

The Bermuda Railway Trail is a pedestrian path that covers 18 of the original 22-miles of a railroad line that serviced the island for 17-years. Cars were banned so the railway was the primary form of transportation from 1931-48. A walk on the trail provides glimpses into history and stunning vistas.

 

While traveling throughout the island visitors should take special note of the architectural styles. There are approximately 800 Bermuda stone buildings protected by special legislation. They date from 1619 to the 18th-century. The earliest homes are forms of English cottages with adaptions for climate and available materials. The white limestone roofs are both visually appealing and functional. There is no source of freshwater on the island and so, by law, 80 pecent of a roof’s rainwater must be collected. Channels in the roof guide rainwater to a pipe and then to a cistern beneath the house. 

 

Somerset Bridge, in Sandy’s Parish, was constructed in 1620. It is the world’s smallest working drawbridge at 16-inches wide and 16-ft. in length. The opening is only 22-inches, large enough for a small sailboats mast.

 

One hundred million years ago Bermuda was created by a series of volcanic eruptions forming underwater volcanic mountains. Less than 2 million years ago the tops of the mountains eroded and coral and limestone covered the surface area resulting in more than 125 limestone caves, with an average depth of 59-ft. The Green Bay Cave System, Bermuda’s largest, is more than one mile long and is totally underwater.

 

Crystal Caves, in Hamilton Parish, was discovered in 1904 and the cave was opened to the public in 1908. The caves are about 230-ft. deep and 1,640-ft in length. Regularly scheduled tours are offered along a pontoon bridge that exposes visitors to sights as awesome as those above the ground. www.caves.bm

 

The Swizzle Inn Pub and Restaurant Bailey’s Bay is the oldest pub on the island. Founded in 1932 it is located in a building that dates from the 1600s. No visit is complete without a Rum Swizzle, a cocktail comprised of amber and dark rums and a variety of citrus juices. www.swizzleinn.com

 

Bermuda’s Botanical Garden s is more than 115-years old and free 90-minute tours of the 36-acre gardens are offered. In 2012 “Double Fantasy,” a 4,000-lb steel sculpture dedicated to John Lennon was placed in the gardens. In June of 1980 Lennon sailed to Bermuda after suffering writer’s block for five-years. He was inspired by the beauty of the island and wrote the 25 songs for his final album. “Double Fantasy” was issued in November. Lennon was assassinated in December 1980. www.bgci.org

 

Henry Hamilton, who governed the island from 1788-94, gave his name to the current capital the City of Hamilton. The island’s businessmen felt it was time to create a mercantile center and 145-acres of land was purchased to that end. Hamilton was developed with wide roads, as opposed to the older capital, and a dock that even now is large enough to accommodate cruise ships. The Town of Hamilton became capital in January of 1815. Eighty-two years later the town became a city.

 

Hamilton City is only six blocks by four blocks, is easily walkable and is one of Bermuda’s main tourist attractions. It is filled with trendy restaurants, entertainment venues, stellar accommodations and is renowned for its designer-shopping venues. 

 

Goslings Wine and Spirits Shop, on Queen Street, is the oldest business in Bermuda. In operation since 1809 the company has been producing Gosling’s Black Seal Rum since 1860. It was Bermuda’s first black rum and was sold from the barrel with patrons supplying their own containers until WWI. After that time it was sold in old Champagne bottles that were sealed with black wax. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum is a key ingredient in the trademarked National Drink of Bermuda, the Dark ‘n Stormy®. It makes a great souvenir and you need not bring a container.  www.goslingsrum.com

 

The House of Assembly, or Session House, is the site of Bermuda Parliamentary sessions. The building was constructed in 1817 with the addition of the Clock Tower in 1887. The Supreme Court of Bermuda meets on the lower level while Parliamentary sessions convene on the upper floor.

 

Bermuda’s Premier and the Cabinet of Ministers meet in the 1833 Cabinet Building and Senate Chamber. The Premier also has offices in this building and the official state symbols, the Sword of State and the Silver Oar and Mace, are housed here.

 

Several monuments are located on the grounds including a cenotaph commemorating Bermuda’s WWI and II dead and the 2009, 10-ft., bronze statue of the enslaved Sally Basset. In 1730 Sally was accused of poisoning her granddaughter’s master and his family. Although she declared her innocence she was tried, found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. She was executed on an extremely hot day at the base of Crow Lane in Hamilton. Bermudians continue to refer to an extremely hot day as a “Sally Basset Day.”

 

Situated on the western tip of the island stands the formidable Royal Naval Dockyard. The British began its construction in 1809 to protect its Caribbean colonies after their loss in the American Revolution. Slave labor was used initially but changed to prison labor after emancipation in 1834. Until 1951, when the British left, the Dockyard was known as “Little England.” There are approximately 17 sites of historic interest and shops and restaurants within the 16 -acre complex. A tour of this cultural icon is an absolute must. www.thewestend.bm  

 

The Bermuda Rum Cake Company and the Dockyard Glassworks are located on the grounds adjacent to one another. Visitors can watch glass craftsmen at work from a seating area and then purchase unique souvenirs. www.dockglass.com. The Rum Cake Company is also a great place for souvenirs. Cakes come in 11 flavors and four sizes. Free samples are offered. www.bermudacakes.com

 

The Frog and Onion Pub and Dockyard Brewery is the only microbrewery on the island. This British pub opened in 1992 inside what was an 18th-century cooperage. The establishment has several dining rooms, outdoor dining, a gift shop and a huge fireplace that was part of the original structure. www.frogandonion.bm

 

The Commissioner’s House, now the National Museum of Bermuda, was completed in 1827 and was the first cast-iron framed residential building in this hemisphere. The three-story building features galleries that relate the domestic, colonial, maritime and defense heritage. On the first floor there are two well-done galleries, “The Slave Trade” and “Slavery in Bermuda” that interpret the general history of the trade and slave practices specific to Bermuda. The slavery exhibit is listed on the African Diaspora Heritage Trail as part of the UNESCO Slave Route Project. www.bmm.bm

 

The most noted exhibit in the museum is “The Hall of History,” a mural painted over a four-year period that depicts 500-years of the island’s history. The two-story, 1,000-sq. ft., mural was created by Graham Foster and is a wonder to behold. www.grahamfoster.com/pages/mural

 

There are 185 steps to the top of the 117-ft. Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.  The lighthouse was constructed in the 1840s on the highest point on the island.  It is the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world and once at the top you get an incomparable 360-degree view as far as 19-miles out to sea. www.bermudalighthouse.com

 

The only problem with accommodations in Bermuda is that there are so many outstanding options. Grotto Bay Resort is a great choice for families. The resort has restaurants, two bars, nightly entertainment and amenities include a fitness center, tennis courts, fish feed dock, watersports center and dive shop, pool and activity programs for adults and children. Grotto Bay’s Natura Spa is the only island spa that offers treatments inside a 500-year old cave and in the Spa Gazebo overlooking a cove. www.grottobay.com

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The 30-acre Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa is the perfect place for couples. Situated along 4 soft-sand private beaches on a parcel of land first documented in 1663. It was the first cottage colony on the island. The resort provides all the amenities including an infinity pool. Cambridge Beaches is considered one of the island’s premier luxury destinations. www.cambridgebeaches.com

 

Part two will explore the Historic Town of St. George and the African Diaspora Heritage Trail, both UNESCO sites. Until next week sit back with a Rum Swizzle or a Dark ‘n Stormy and begin to plan your Bermuda getaway. www.gotobermuda.com

 

I wish you smooth travels!

 

TRAVEL TIPS:

Ben is Back! The Benjamin Franklin Museum in Franklin Court will re-open on Saturday, August 24, 2013. The museum will interpret Franklin’s life through use of personal artifacts and state-of-the-art technology highlighting five of Franklin’s most successful personal traits. Admission is free on August 24th and 25th. www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/benjamin-franklin-museum

 

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