A Long Weekend in Bermuda

About three weeks ago now I was reading an article that said something about this being the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Bermuda and about there being good deals at some hotels. “Hey, want to go to Bermuda for a long weekend?” I asked Robert. Robert  on one hand is incredibly ambivalent about decisions, but on the other hand prides himself on being spontaneous. “Sure!” he said, spontaneity winning out in this case.

Above: Robert and Marcus just arriving in Bermuda, at the airport; Robert and Marcus investigating a vintage phone booth; Robert, Marcus, and me at Horseshoe Bay on our first day there.

So I looked around a little, and found us a nice package deal for Columbus Day weekend—a direct flight down first-thing Saturday morning, two nights at the Fairmont (Princess) Southampton, round-trip airport shuttle on the island, and a connecting flight back on Monday afternoon through Atlanta (deliberate, because the direct-to-Boston flights left so early in the day on Monday that we wouldn’t get a chance to enjoy the day at all).

We dusted off our bathing suits (and baby’s suit, of course), researched a couple restaurants on the island, packed our bags, and we were ready to go. Saturday morning we had a very nice flight down—baby slept for the first hour and, as Robert said, charmed everyone around us on the plane for the remaining forty-five minutes. Once in Bermuda, we went outside into the dazzling sunshine and explored the water’s edge (literally across the street from the airport) while we waited for our shuttle (Bee-line) to leave. The shuttle driver was quite the character; first of all, he refused to believe that it was 50 and rainy in Boston when we left. Apparently such weather is just deemed impossible down there. Then, on the bus, he offered a quirky tour-guide narration: he covered the founding of Bermuda (twice), the preserving of a body in a barrel of rum, the plight of the Bermuda cedar trees, the plumbing of the depths of Harrington Sound, and the attempt of Oprah to move to an exclusive gated Bermuda community. He had a very dramatic speaking style, with lots of pauses, and lots of repetition—and lots of repetition—of key phrases—of key phrases.

Above: baby napping on me on the hotel beach; sandy baby close-up; daddy and baby exploring the kiddy pool cove near our hotel.

In Southampton, it was so early that our room was not yet ready, but we stored our bags at the bell desk and changed into our suits and went straight to the beach. The hotel’s private beach is long and lovely, with just a few very small waves, but right next to it is Horseshoe Bay beach, even longer and also lovely. Just to the right of Horseshoe Bay is a tiny cove, mostly protected by rocks, with virtually no waves at all, and a depth of about three feet in its deepest spot. It’s essentially an ocean kiddy pool, and over the course of the weekend we spent most of our time playing at the Horseshoe Bay cove and then going back to the hotel beach to nap on their lounge chairs and take a swim in deeper water.

After a nice beach nap, we were able to check in and settle down in our room. We showered and then went out to an early dinner (since we sort of missed lunch while traveling) at the south shore Swizzle Inn (“you swizzle in and stagger out”). We took a taxi there and back, and split a frozen rum swizzle there, along with Bermuda fish chowder, grilled local wahoo, and an English pub-style chicken curry plate. Marcus loved the fish chowder, and also the eccentric musician (and his even loopier friend who hovered nearby) who set up before we were done eating.

Above: baby's first sand castle! He loved sitting in a hole we dug and waiting for the water to rush in around him, swirling around his waist.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel for bed. Now, we love king-sized beds in hotels—baby can really spread out (he prefers to be perpendicular to us in bed, actually), and we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but apparently the air conditioning in our room wasn’t working right. I kept asking Robert to crank it up, and we kept fiddling with it, and making sure the vents were open and the balcony door was closed, etc., but Marcus and I both kept waking up warmly and disgruntledly. Finally, at almost one in the morning, I couldn’t take it any longer and called the front desk. They told me that all the maintenance crews had gone home for the day, but that they would send someone up with a key to another room and we could just go there to sleep and then they’d fix our air conditioning the following day. That sounded mildly inconvenient but better than the alternative, so we left all our luggage in our room, bundled Marcus up in the mei tai, and headed up to the fifth floor. In the morning (I think we all three slept straight through, cool and happy), we went back to our room to get ready.

We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant—their regular breakfast buffet plus a Sunday special of traditional Bermuda food. Robert loved the made-to-order smoothie bar, fresh croissants, and the eggs benedict station; I loved the two kinds of codfish, fish cakes, onions, tomato-onion sauce, avocado, fried bananas, and cassava cake. Marcus was just happy wandering around, attracting smiles from the guests and staff, and trying to climb up the pyramids of fruit in front of the smooth guy.

Above: another family shot (Robert is red by now) on the last day at Horseshoe Bay; mama and baby in water wrap, in the water (about chest-deep for me) on the hotel beach; daddy and baby by a tiny sea arch at the cove.

Fortified, we headed out for the beach for the day, stopping at the front desk on our way out to remind them about our air conditioning. The front desk clerk referred us to the manager, who apologized for the inconvenience and immediately upgraded us to the Fairmont Gold concierge floor for the rest of our stay—not too shabby.

We spent another lovely day at the beach, and then went back and packed up and moved into our new room by 3:00 or so, just in time to catch afternoon tea served in the Gold lounge. Tea then morphed into appetizers, and then into cocktails, and then into late-night petit fours—there was just a constant stream of nice nibbles right outside our room, and also an unlimited supply of local ginger beer (really excellent—much sweeter and more soda-like than the Jamaican-style ginger beers we get here) and bottled water (normally I am not a bottled water person, but I was not a fan of the flat-tasting tap water).

At 4:30 we took the free hotel ferry over to the Hamilton Fairmont to get into the “city” at least once in the weekend. Marcus both loved and loathed his first real boat ride: he was first of all fascinated by the fact that sometimes he would not be able to stand up (if the boat rocked, for example—it was, after all, a fairly small ferry), and he found many things to amuse him (in particular the extremely steep, and therefore apparently thrilling, flight of stairs to the top deck), but he was frustrated that he wasn’t allowed to roam freely (since neither Robert nor I wanted an overboard baby, we had to keep a hand on him the entire time, and baby thought he was far too grown-up for that).

Above: daddy and baby on the ferry, both exploring the steps and posing with the lighthouse behind them.

In Hamilton we walked the short walk into town, to Front Street, and gawked at the meeting of Britishisms and Caribbean colors. We were trying to go to the Jamaica Grill, a place I’d heard has great, down-home food in a totally unpretentious atmosphere, but sadly they were not open (their sign implied that they were opening later that night, but we saw no real evidence of any preparations). Despite being warned that the Jamaica Grill was in a terribly unsafe neighborhood, we went anyway; the biggest danger sign we saw was a vacant lot on the corner—populated by chickens! They screeched and called to us as we walked past, gaping at them. One rooster crowed quite insistently from the top of a tree as we wondered how he’d even gotten up there. Disappointed at the closed restaurant, we walked back toward Front Street, looking in vain for a payphone so we could call another restaurant to see if they were perhaps open. Instead we ran into a friendly policeman, who offered us his iPhone so we could call (they weren’t open either) and then suggested a number of places he likes to eat.

Ultimately, we ended up going into a random Thai place (Silk) on Front Street because it looked to be an optimal combination of tasty and baby-friendly. We had Thai-style fish cakes made with Bermuda rockfish, local tuna in a Thai salad, and local wahoo in a Thai-style basil dish. Marcus loved the fishcakes—he held a strip of one tightly in his fist and just kept working away at it, eventually eating nearly all of one entire fishcake. The staff loved Marcus, playing peekaboo with him and bringing him special crackers as treats. We finished the night off with a mango and sticky rice with coconut milk just as baby was starting to get exhausted, and then we took a taxi back to Southampton (surprisingly close, actually—just about 15 minutes and $20). We walked around the hotel and sat with our feet dangling in the outdoor pool for awhile, until we decided to take Marcus up to bed (after the petit fours, of course). Since we now had a suite, we put the baby to sleep on the king-sized bed and went out into the separate living room to watch HBO until we decided to join him.

Monday morning I was up bright and early (even before baby), ready to make the most of our last day. We ate two rounds of breakfast in the room from the spread laid out in the Gold lounge, and then—since it was a trifle cloudy—set out for a walk (baby on my back, at right) to the nearby Gibbs Hill lighthouse. We got several conflicting rounds of directions, so we possibly took a more circuitous route than we should have, but once up there the view was great. Unfortunately, the lighthouse wasn’t yet open, and the sign actually had the opening time blacked out (“Open _______ to 4:30,” it read, helpfully). Right at the moment we had decided to head back to the hotel and just go to the beach rather than wait and hope the lighthouse would open soon, the skies opened and it started to pour on us. Marcus was surprisingly not a big fan of the rain, as he sat in the mei tai and mewed pathetically, so we ducked under some trees part of the way back to the hotel and waited for a break in the rain. When it slackened a little, we headed back, stopping again for shelter at the snack shack on the golf course, where a friendly woman mopped up baby with some paper towels and fed him a granola bar. He perked up, and by the time we took a shuttle back to the hotel, he was happy again. We dried off and, since the sun had just come out and the rain had stopped, headed off to the beach just before 10:00 in the morning.

After another round of playing, sand-eating (why our baby loves to eat sand we are not quite sure), and fish-gazing, we took some pictures and called it a day. Back at the room we washed up, took some water and ginger beer for the trip, and then packed our bags. We had lunch at Jasmine, the lobby lounge/casual restaurant—a good chicken and avocado sandwich, which baby actually loved, and a cold noodle salad with beef—and then it was time to take the Bee-line back to the airport. The driver gave another narrated tour on the way back, adding in a few new details, and Marcus slept in the wrap for most of the trip. At the airport we dealt with some of the least-helpful Bermudinians we’d met (“Every unfriendly person on the island must work at the airport,” Robert observed), played in the children’s play area, and eventually got our plane to go home. It was a lovely weekend away—what with the warm weather, warm water, and lack of phone service, it felt like much, much more than just two nights and three days. Robert and Marcus loved their first Bermuda experience, and I was glad to be back. We will definitely return!


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Created: 10/14/09. Last Modified: 10/14/09.