Tag Archives: Bermuda travel

A week in Bermuda: the perfect holiday!

An itinerary for visitors:

Having had a series of visitors during this last year I realised that the itinerary we used for them might be of interest to others. So here it is:

Day 1: Meet at airport, drive to home (or hotel) and sit in garden with cool drinks, listen to tree frogs and wait for the sunset. If your visitors have come from UK then keep them awake until past 9pm – they will still wake early but won’t be asking for breakfast at 4am the next day. The BA flight arrives around supper time but the passengers are very well fed generally, +/- wine, so I have discovered the best solution to “do we have supper?” is a bacon roll with a glass of wine. If you are island visitors staying in a hotel then perhaps a bowl of Fish Chowder – practically every restaurant/eating place serves this.

On the water.

On the water.

Day 2: This might depend on which day of the week it happens to be, so the days are interchangeable with the basic premise of “just one big thing each day”. So this day is a Kayak paddle with snorkelling. It does help if you have your own kayak and water access but even if not there are plenty of places to hire kayaks. We are lucky enough to have water access into Harrington Sound so we paddled across to Trunk Island and swam around the shallow waters there, good site for the snorkel-naive to practise.

Experiments with GoPro (image with permission from SL)

If based at the West End then Mangrove Bay and the islands around there would work just as well. For our last visitors we did a picnic lunch and took them into Hamilton for dinner. This coincided with Harbour Night, gombeys and craft stalls along Front Street. At the moment Harbour Night is only during the peak summer months, but I did see a news article that it might be extended later into the Autumn or that the Winter tourist program might have a similar event on a regular basis. Gombeys are amazing so if you don’t catch them at Harbour night look out for the Saturdays in the Park at Queen Elizabeth Park (Par-la-ville) or if it’s winter then Tuesday’s at Pier 6 along Front Street.
For dinner my recommendation is Angelo’s in the Walker Arcade, good menu, pleasant ambience and always tasty food. Of course that depends on your budget, but I am assuming you don’t wish to take out a mortgage to fund your island holiday.

Image with permission from SL.

Image with permission from SL.

Day 3: Start with a Jetski adventure. See previous post for suggestions. This was probably my son’s favourite activity, the girls on the other hand were “glad we have done it but never again” – with varying degrees of tremor when they finished! Substitutions for this would be a Wildcat Round the Island tour or one of the Boat trips around the Great Sound.
After the Jetski we visited the small Hayden Chapel, with a bottle of water and half an hour to watch the view or read a book. If you are closer to the East End then this would be a brief visit to Tucker House in St George or to Carter House on St David’s Island.
For lunch we visited the Southampton Princess Hotel – their Pulled Pork Tacos are delicious and I recommend the strawberry lemonade. I understand the cocktails here are also good, but I was driving 😟

The afternoon is for one or more of the South Shore beaches.

Image by SL

Image by SL

Day 4: In the morning visit Miles Market to pick up a picnic lunch then hire a Boston Whaler from Grotto Bay for the afternoon – 1-5pm, very reasonable cost at $140 plus fuel. Remember sun lotion, hats, snorkels and water.
If you wish to have a slightly bigger boat I would suggest St George, Mangrove Bay or Somerset. The advantage of doing this in Castle Harbour is the wreck off Nonsuch Island and the almost deserted beach that is only accessible by boat. Round this off with a drink at the bar at Grotto Bay or Swizzle Inn, then supper at home. I chose not to cook so a take-out from East meets West solved that issue.

Day 5: Dockyard, Glass-bottom boat, Mini-golf with a drive back via the sea-glass beach. To be honest the glass bottom part of the boat trip is the hook to get you on the boat, you don’t actually see that much under the boat, but what you do get is a gentle chug out to the Wreck of the Vixen, a feeding frenzy of bream, chub and snapper and maybe a few turtles on the way. Oh, and a rum swizzle! This is very reasonably priced at $45 per person and the tour guides are great. We were on a boat piloted by the youngest Captain on the island who started driving boats at the age of 4 – he is a little older than that now!
Don’t like mini-golf? What’s not to like – our very sceptical visitor was a convert after the first six holes, or was that just because each set of six ended up at the bar?

Turtle

Turtle

Day 6: Tobacco Bay for an early snorkel – before 10:30 the visibility is best as after that people kick up sand and you have to go further out in order to see the big fish. Then take a walk to the end of the little promontory with a can of drink and sit watching the parrot fish around the rock towers. That brings you to around midday for lunch at Blackbeards Restaurant, just around the corner overlooking Achilles Bay. I would highly recommend the scallops wrapped in bacon. Sun cream and hat are vital here if you want to sit and look out at the sea while you eat.

IMG_0143
Replete with lunch you take a drive to St David’s Island for a gentle walk along Cooper’s Island nature reserve. The second and third beach along from Clearwater Bay are just amazing, white sand, unspoilt, turquoise sea, everything that’s good about Bermuda.

IMG_0148
Then to cap this day off I suggest a Sunset Cruise. Our last visitors went with AnaLuna Adventures and they asked me to give the company five stars in the TripAdviser Review – they sailed to Flatts Inlet, swam around the island there and then off into the sunset with champagne. Idyllic.

IMG_0145

Day 7: This is where you have some choices to make : shopping in Hamilton, any of the museums, a wander in the Botanic Gardens or perhaps a walk along the railway trail at Baileys Bay. It is your last evening so a meal out perhaps? We enjoyed a relaxed meal at La Trattoria, good choice on their menu, and attentive wait staff (my husband suggested that was down to having two beautiful young ladies with us, but whatever, they were fun).

Day 8: A brief trip to the Zoo/Aquarium (it still isn’t fully open yet but at least what they have done is looking very good, much better displays than previously) and then drive into St George for the Ducking Stool at 12:30. Note this doesn’t happen on Friday or Sunday so you may need to shift days around. It was pouring with rain when we went this week, but the Town Crier announced that he wouldn’t let a bit of rain prevent the wench from getting what she deserved! So we all got soaked in one way or another.
End the week with a bacon butty and glass of wine looking out across the water.

IMG_0147
Prescription: Seven day course of treatment. Repeat often, prn (when required) with food and wine.

Advertisements

Bermuda for the mobility-impaired visitor

P1000790

Last week I discovered how difficult Bermuda can be for visitors with any degree of impaired mobility – my mother-in-law came to stay. We actually had a lovely week but not without some problems and disappointments relating to accessibility.

Although Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory it is not covered by any of the British discrimination acts (Equality Act, 2010) and the island has no protective equivalent to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). It seems that if not compulsory then many businesses are slow to make provision for the disabled and this includes tourist attractions.

Arrival
But first a word of praise: The staff of both British Airways and Bermuda Airport were excellent.
We pre-booked a wheelchair for both ends, wondering if it might be a bit over-the-top since in normal day-to-day UK life she only occasionally uses a stick, but of course sometimes the distances and obstacles one encounters at an airport would challenge even a triathlete. The “with-wheelchair” status was as good as a “beat-the-queues” ticket at Disney World and we were prioritised at immigration and offered help retrieving our luggage. The Bermudian welcome was outstanding.

Now that stick that I mentioned – well in case it “wasn’t permitted” as hand luggage it had not made its way into the packing and so one of the first things we had to do was to find a stick. It isn’t as easy as one might hope but the pharmacy in St George’s offered a small choice and the one I purchased was collapsible, adjustable and right-handed – perfect.

IMG_0619

Hamilton
For those who don’t know, Hamilton is on a hill and the only flat street is probably Front Street. I learned that
HILL + HEAT + HUMIDITY = NO-WAY
The slope up from City Hall to the Cathedral is deceptive, it is a good job that churches tend to be cool inside. If you then want to walk down to the harbour, Burnaby Street is steep – Queen Street is more gentle, but even that on the way up is hard-going. We did find a lift in the Wellington Centre which delivers you to three steps up from the Reid Street level which can be achieved with the wheelchair lift beside the steps. Many of the shops, however, could not be easily navigated, the old buildings have multiple levels and steps in all sorts of places, only some of those steps with hand rails.

St George’s
I volunteer for Bermuda National Trust and would like to say nice things but neither of their museums in St George’s are accessible to the mobility-impaired visitor. Tucker House has several steps at the entrance with more inside and The Globe Rogues and Runners displays are all on the upper level. Even more disappointing was St Peter’s Church – a long steep flight of steps at the front with no handrails and although they have a rear entrance through the graveyard, the road behind, Church Lane, is resident-parking only, and I could hardly leave my Mother-in-law balancing on her stick or perched on a gravestone while I parked ¼ mile away. Water Street and Kings Square are accessible, but elsewhere in the town take care with uneven surfaces, lack of pavements and narrow roads.

Dockyard
This visit was a success until we reached the Commissioner’s House – or, more accurately, didn’t reach it. There are two slopes up – one narrow but steep, the other wide … but steep. Having been there before I did know this but was disappointed that it wasn’t mentioned as we paid our steep (!) entrance fees – after all the entrance is for the Museum of Bermuda and most of that museum is IN the Commissioner’s House.

I shall simplify things and give you a list, since I guess some of you reading this will have landed here considering a trip to Bermuda with a mobility impaired traveller:

Not accessible:
Crystal Caves – probably obvious that there are no elevators in old caves!
Fort St Catherine – on three levels with lots of stairs, possible entrance to one level by wheelchair
Alexandra Battery – view from ground level only
St David’s Lighthouse – again probably obvious, some views from outside.
Admiralty House Park – steep slope and steps
Commissioner’s House
Sea Glass Beach
Most of South Shore beaches
Spittal Pond – uneven and hilly
Warwick Pond
Abbot’s Cliff – too steep, no path
Ferry Point Park and Martello Tower – ground too uneven

Manageable with help:
Ferry Point Park – rough uneven ground
Paget Marsh – boardwalk slippery after rain and no clear path across the grass to the start
John Smith’s Bay – parking and ramp down to sand
Elbow Beach – if accessed via hotel grounds; public access by steps only
Botanical Gardens – some parts accessible on level ground; wheelchair with “pusher”
Some parts of Railway Trail – but parking a problem
Fort Hamilton – steps to access views of city, cannot access moat path
City Hall
Sessions House
Verdmont – ground floor only
Shelly Bay
Blue Hole Park – first part only
Bermuda Historical Society Museum – ground floor only
Good access:
Spanish Point Park – gentle walk, wheelchair suitable; view the Floating Dry Dock
Gibb’s Lighthouse – at least good for ground level, great views, can park close by
Masterworks – ramp down to entrance, lift inside, toilets on ground floor
Front Street
Aquarium and Zoo
The best place we visited was the Aquarium and Zoo where the paths were well kept and easy to navigate, the ground generally level and wash rooms accessible. Masterworks might have come a close second but they were closed for changing the exhibit, and rather frustratingly did not inform the “Nothing to do in Bermuda” website which is where most attractions and activities are listed.

Transport is an issue if you are not staying with residents who have a car –
Buses do not have wheelchair ramps and because there are few pavements in most instances you will have to mount 1-2 steps to get on the bus
Taxis are often mini-vans requiring a step up
Ferries – not all are suitable for disabled passengers
There is no car rental permitted on the island
Mobility scooters are not permitted on the roads
Pavements are random, will disappear or change sides frequently
Roads are narrow, windy and hilly, not very suitable for pedestrians

So if you are considering Bermuda for a mobility-impaired visitor it will need some careful planning and you may not be able to experience some of the attractions.

Once we understood the issues we had a good time, we thought ahead and did a lot of “drive-by” sightseeing. Clearly a success as planning a second visit next year.IMG_0623

Bermuda International Airport… to be renamed?

In April 2013 Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, suggested that the new London airport be named after Margaret Thatcher.  I might have been bemused, failing to see the connection, a battleship perhaps, but an airport?  As it was I was too busy with packing and preparations to come out to Bermuda so paid little attention. It seems that politicians have commonly given their names to airports – well, their colleagues have, presumably with an unspoken expectation that they too will be similarly honored in time. So we have McCarran Airport in Las Vegas after a US senator, Dulles Airport, Washington after a US Secretary of State, and slightly closer an ex-PM of St Kitt’s: Robert Bradshaw Airport. 

And LF Wade Airport, Bermuda.

Bermuda Airport

Bermuda Airport

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Frederick Wade (1939-1996) 

You will have surmised that he was a politician, one time leader of the Progressive Labour Party of Bermuda, though they were never actually the party in power during his lifetime.  I wonder if it is something to do with being left wing that leads to eponymous airports – Grantley Herbert Adams (Barbados Airport) and Norman Washington Manley (Kingston Airport, Jamaica) were both labour politicians. Or is it an island thing – Terrance Lettsome (British Virgin Islands Airport), Lynden Pidling (Nassau Airport).

LF Wade entered politics in 1968 when segregation and property-based franchise were prominent in Bermuda? He was black. The PLP took up a socialist rhetoric and walked a wobbly path between rejection of racial oppression and anti-white sentiment. This was the start of party politics reflecting Westminster, but was probably inevitably linked to racial arguments given the 60/40 racial split in the population and the fact that historically black people had been emphatically excluded from government on the island.

IMG_2619

Image on the left

 There is no doubt that LF Wade was a noteworthy character: he was trained as both a teacher and a lawyer, a family man (3 wives and 6 children) and played clarinet in a band.  The naming of the airport after him in 2007 was noisily controversial.  The PLP were in power in 2007 (they are not now) and I find myself agreeing with the opposition of the time who accused them of making decisions that were not theirs to make – the naming an airport should be a democratic process. The PLP responded that their election platform had included promoting naming of streets and public buildings – they probably had a long list of members they planned to honour.

62651575

The earlier sign

 

Bermuda Airport of old

Bermuda Airport of old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening

Evening

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1121

Before the land reclamation

 

Field Kindley was an American WWI pilot

 

 

 

 

What is the purpose of naming buildings, streets or airports in this way?  I can understand the instances or promoting culture – Hungary have a Franz Liszt Airport, New Orleans has Louis Armstrong Airport; honoring really famous nationals also makes sense – Alexander The Great  and Aristotle both have airports in Greece, and Pisa has Galileo Gallilei. But it seems that using partisan names creates an unbalanced version of history, socially excluding those who hold alternative views. I wonder if the conservative Bermudians might justly feel aggrieved at the promotion of political statements at their national airport.

All the rage

It turns out that airport names are in the news all over the place this month:

  • Humberside Airport wants to rename itself after John Harrison, the local clockmaker who invented a tool for measuring longitude.
  • Wichita has renamed their airport Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport – lack of consultation providing the controversy
  • Beijing is choosing between Daxing (meaning Big Prosperity) and Lixian (courtesy and virtue)

The Philippines have rules about all this – only dead people and a strict hierarchy so a local official will only ever name a tertiary road but a president might give his name to a motorway. In Uzbekistan they forbid naming any place after any person.

I see John Major has had a Spanish street named after him, not a motorway.  Why? He went there on holiday.

A Major Event

A Major Event

 

 

 

 

 

UK Airports

Bermuda flights leave UK from Gatwick.  The name was that of a goat farm on, or probably now under, the northern runway. Beware the websites telling you Gatwick was a small hamlet – there is one such, but it’s in Surrey.

Heathrow was located on a hamlet of that name and Stanstead by a village with the pretty name Stanstead Mountfitchet.

We might be accused of misleading by the naming of London Oxford International Airport, but it follows the pattern of London Heathrow and London Gatwick, and is arguably closer, at 60 miles, than London Ashford at 73 miles from Downing Street.

Is it a good thing that we have not yet succumbed to sponsorship of airports?  Philadelphia has a subway station named AT&T. I like the sound of MacDonald’s International Airport of Independent Scotland.

Other Airports

Can be eponymous:

  • O Hare at Chicago after naval pilot
  • Logan International in Boston after WWI veteran and senator
  • Shuttlesworth in Alabama for a flying preacher
  • Dallas Love Field in memory of a pilot who crashed (painful memory)
  • La Guardia, NY after the mayor

Or after Saints:

  • St Paul The Apostle in Macedonia
  • St John’s, Canada

Curiously none after St Joseph of Cupertino who is apparently a patron saint of flying.

Or some that are just Silly:

  • Tsilli Tsilli, Papua New Guinea
  • Raspberry Strait, US

 

Pitfalls  

I refer back to the Daily Mail, where Boris Johnson states that naming an airport would create “a permanent and lasting tribute” to his teenage hero.  Saddam International Airport in Baghdad was neither while Sydney Airport has been called Kingford Smith and before that Mascot. If airports will so easily switch allegiances then surely it is best to stick with a geographical identifier, maybe just naming the waiting areas or the baggage reclamation after locally honourable people.

Lending your name to buildings, structures, streets, parks…

But poor Emilia Clarke, better known as the beautiful mother of dragons from Game of Thrones, has had a slug named after her: Tritonia khaleesi

 

 

Travels

So where am I?
I have to admit it was with not great prescience that I left the island last Friday before Tropical Storm Gabrielle picked up strength, flights were already booked. Perhaps a good thing we didn’t have to either queue for limited flights, decide where to go or pay the tripling in fares that probably occur in the anticipation of a hurricane. We have travelled East, a pre-planned trip to Monte Carlo – it’s all work, honest!
But even this far away, early this morning we received our EMO text on the Bermuda cellphone (how Americanised I have become). I understand this is the first year they have used this system for island wide warnings – it works. My apps were a little later in passing on the information, but then maybe they are confused by my current location.
I understand that the storm will pass to the North West of the island, about 25 miles away and with winds about 45 knots.
I confess to being a little sad that I won’t be there, only a little.
I am relieved that we had the forethought to take our garden chairs indoors before we left. (Spent both time and too many $ on two bright blue Adirondack chairs as a treat to myself 🙂 )

20130910-193634.jpg

Yes we took in the sun umbrella too.

I also had the forethought to use up most of the freezer contents just in case there is a power cut – all that’s left is half a tub of ice cream and some frozen peas! Which does mean we may have to eat out when we get home, what a shame.

Why Monte Carlo?
Insurance – they have a get together here each year, though this is the first year I have been. Outside the famous Casino, lined up in a fan shaped parking lot are Porsches, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Aston Martins etc. How I would love to drive up in a Smart car and park in the space between two of those!
I had expected to perhaps feel a little dwarfed by the fashion and expense here, but I notice this afternoon that most of the people wandering around don’t have glamorous high heels or pearl studded clothes, most have flat, sensible sandals and brightly colored but simple dresses – I actually feel quite comfortable. The shops are another matter, but window shopping is as free
here as anywhere.

One of my husband’s colleagues asked me which I preferred, Bermuda or Monaco – it is actually an easy choice, despite the humidity and any other gripes I may have made, Bermuda is far prettier, softer, cleaner, friendlier, and lots of other similar words. I suspect when I return there it will be the first time it truly feels like home!

20130910-195245.jpg

Gibb’s Lighthouse

20130610-151618.jpg

The hiking guide informed “it affords a panoramic view of the archipelago”
So off we set….
Maybe it was a mistake to park the car at, and hence begin the walk from the lighthouse itself – I needed a reminder that lighthouses are usually placed on a hill and if we started there then we had to end there – uphill all the way back!

But we are not totally daft and we had delayed the walk until early evening, hopefully cooler (a tiny bit) and, given it was the first walk for an embarrassingly long time, we chose the short circuit of 3km. Yes, it sounds very short but at 26C and 86% humidity, trust me its long enough.

There seems to be just one hiking book for Bermuda, that by Cecile Davidson, a local, published locally and available almost everywhere. Of the 20 walks, this was no 5, classed as moderate. Those who know me will already realize I am not the fittest person around, but I can walk comfortably about 6 miles in UK, unless it’s raining and I have a small paddy in the hope of reducing it to “round the block”. Here I need to recalibrate myself – humidity is harder than rain, ignoring for now the similarities, and the views worth stopping to appreciate occur every three steps. So the “moderate” “short circuit” walk was more than enough for a Saturday evening in June and there were a few moments when I wondered if we had been rather optimistic.

20130610-153357.jpg

What did we see?
Part of the Railway Trail, St Anne’s Church from 1716, Church Bay, Tribe Road Nos 2 and 3 …
Oleander, Prickly Pear, Hibiscus, butterflies and lizards, a female bluebird, ….
Makes a change from the usual muddy field with cows!

You have to laugh a little at the “Queen’s View Plaque” where reportedly in 1953 on a state visit the Queen (Elizabeth II) stopped to take a look. I suspect she might have stopped more to get her breath after climbing Gibb’s Hill, but it doesn’t have the same ring about it “Breathless Point”

Would I recommend the walk – I enjoyed it and the views across Little Sound to Great Sound and of Dockyard and Hamilton are definitely camera-worthy. But it rather depends on if you are here for a week or a year – there are more amazing things to do if only a week, but if here longer and you find a quiet cool evening then yes it is worth the time.

20130610-154539.jpg