Caribbean / Mexico

Bermuda: Some would refer to Bermuda as heavenly

St Georges at dusk | Photo credit: Melissa Fox

“You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.”

– Mark Twain

Just (slightly) off the U.S. coast in the North Atlantic, the island of Bermuda rises out of the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by unimaginable and distinctive colours of the sea, rich hued coral reefs and of course, those famous pink beaches. It’s no wonder Condé Nast Traveler readers have voted Bermuda “Best Island in the Caribbean/Atlantic” 16 times since 1994.

Bermuda’s unusual location in the Atlantic Ocean – and it is the Atlantic and not the Caribbean – means that the island is warmed by the Gulf Stream and the sun’s rays, but free of the tropics’ relentless heat. The pleasant climate rarely sees extremes of either hot or cold, something like an endless summer …

To generations of residents and visitors alike, Bermuda is the epitome of British sensibilities, a laid-back island atmosphere, and a lifestyle of combining an old world charm and luxury. And perhaps this is why the island has delighted visitors for as long as there have been explorers and modern day vacationers.

Bermuda (officially, the Bermudas or Somers Isles) is a British overseas territory. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about 1,030 kilometres to the west-northwest. The capital city is Hamilton.

Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Spanish navigator Juan de Bermúdez, after whom the islands are named, who claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Unoccupied, the island was settled by England in 1609, making it the oldest and most populous remaining British overseas territory. Its first capital, St George’s, was established in 1612 and is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the Americas.

Bermuda’s world famous pink sand beaches and clear, sapphire blue ocean waters are popular with tourists and many of Bermuda’s hotels are located along the south shore of the island. In addition to its beaches, there are a number of attractions such as Historic St George’s, which is a designated World Heritage Site. Scuba divers can explore numerous wrecks and coral reefs in relatively shallow water with virtually unlimited visibility. The islands’ most popular attraction is the Royal Naval Dockyard, which includes the Bermuda Maritime Museum. Other attractions include the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the Botanical Gardens, lighthouses, and the Crystal Caves with its impressive stalactites and underground saltwater pools.

Business men in Bermuda shorts | Photo credit: Bermuda Dept. of Tourism

Bermuda’s culture is a mixture of the various histories of its population. There are strong British influences, together with Afro-Caribbean.

Bermuda’s early literary history was largely limited to non-Bermudian writers commenting on the island. In fact, perhaps you did not know that Samuel Langhorne Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, spent a total of 187 days between 1867 and 1910 in Bermuda.

His first Bermuda visit, in November 1867, is of special interest. Mark Twain, under his real name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was a passenger on the SS Quaker City. The ship left New York City on June 8, 1867 for the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Holy Land. She arrived back in New York on November 19, via Bermuda. (During the voyage, Twain penned The Innocents Abroad). During this first visit to Bermuda, Twain viewed the enormous rubber tree (which is still there) in the grounds of Par-la-Ville Park, in front of where the Bermuda Historical Society now stands. He pretended to be disappointed with the rubber tree. He complained, with a twinkle in his eye, that it did not bear a crop of hot water bottles and rubber overshoes! He was noted for his humour and consideration for others. He penned the famous phrase that Bermuda was a paradise, but one had to go through hell to get there. It was because ships’ voyages made him sea sick. He became Bermuda’s most famous visitor by far, so much so that several busts of him remain in Bermuda, plus a famous local hotel named a prestigious suite after him.

More than any other person or entity, it was Mark Twain who introduced Americans to traveling to Bermuda for its own distinctive long-term charms.

It was from Bermuda, because of its newly-established telegraphic facilities, he dispatched letters to San Francisco’s Alta California news journal. In their revised form (1869), they were his The Innocents Abroad which won him virtually immediate international attention.

Bermuda has produced, or been the home of actors such as Earl Cameron, Diana Dill, Lena Headey, Will Kempe, and, most famously, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Noted musicians have included local icons The Talbot Brothers, who performed for many decades in both Bermuda and The United States, jazz pianist Lance Hayward, pop singer Heather Nova and more recently dancehall artist Collie Buddz.

Alfred Birdsey was one of the more famous and talented water colourists. His impressionistic landscapes of Hamilton, St George’s and the surrounding sailboats, homes, and bays of Bermuda are world-renowned.

Aside from the pink sand beaches and renowned ocean view golf courses, here are some other interesting tidbits that perhaps you did not know about Bermuda …

Hamilton became the capital of Bermuda in 1815 and remains the capital to this day.

Bermuda’s pink sand setting on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches is caused by particles of shells mixed with pieces of coral and calcium carbonate.

Bermuda shorts are the most famous attire for men in Bermuda. They are worn with jacket, tie and knee socks. They are quite proper in all business and social settings. Typically, Bermuda shorts are worn from the first of May through the first week of November.

There are some 650 species of fish in the waters off the coast of Bermuda.

The mainstream breakfast in Bermuda is codfish and potatoes.

Bermuda is made up of 181 coral covered lava based islands and has just 250 kilometres of roadways.

The famous tree frog, also called the whistling frog, is difficult to find. 
You can hear them at night and chance seeing them when it rains.

Bermuda has the most golf courses per capita of any location in the world.

The unofficial name for Bermudians is Onion.

Cup Match takes place the end of July and it is the biggest holiday in Bermuda. 
The 2 day cricket game between the east end and west end team is the focal point.

Gombeys | Photo credit: Bermuda Dept. of Tourism

Bermuda roofs are made from Bermuda slate and timber. They are whitewashed and collect rainwater into tanks stored under each house. The water undergoes a filtration process, and as such, each dwelling has their own water supply.

Kite flying is customary on Good Friday. It is a public holiday when families gather to fly kites that many have made themselves.

Dark “n” Stormies are a drink made of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Bermuda Ginger beer.

The Gombeys are traditional dancers originating back to the 17th century. 
They perform with drums and bottle whistles in a magnificent whirl of color and rhythm.

You cannot rent a car in Bermuda. Mopeds, scooters, buses and taxis are the way to get around on land and scenic ferries on water.

Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse has been warning ships since 1846. It sits 110 metres above sea level. 
The climb to the top is 185 steps.

The name “Bermuda Grass” derives from its abundance as an invasive species on Bermuda; it does not occur naturally here. It is believed Bermuda grass seed was both swept to the island from Africa by tropical winds, and brought to the island by slaves and traders who arrived carrying the seed. A bit of unknown trivia is that locals actually call it “Crab Grass” due to the fact that its deep root system, which can grow to over 2 metres deep, makes it very difficult to extract from the soil, and that it grows very quickly, “crawling” over the surface to form a dense mat. It is fast growing and tough, making it popular and useful for sports fields, especially golf courses, as when damaged it will recover quickly. It is a highly desirable turf grass in warm temperate climates, particularly for those regions where its heat and drought tolerance enable it to survive where few other grasses do.

Johne Rolfe, who discovered how to cure tobacco and become the husband of the Indian Princess Pocahontas, was one of the original shipwrecked colonists on Bermuda. He arrived on the Sea Venture with his first wife, who gave birth to their daughter (named Bermuda), and who passed away before they rebuilt The Deliverance and The Patience.

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