The cedar is a wonderful aromatic rich looking wood that is endemic to Bermuda. That means it doesn't grow anywhere else. (It's also not really a cedar.) The first shipwrecked mariners used it to rebuild the Deliverance which took them on to Virginia. It is also extensively used for woodwork in places like St. Peters in St. George. There was even a cedar prison in St. George's.
Juniperus Bermudiana is harder and darker than normal cedar, and it repels moths and fleas and to prevent mildew and rot. Settlers not only used it in ship building but also used it to cure toothaches and coughs (in the form of cedarberry syrup), and they boiled cedar brush in water to break fevers.
Fondest memory: Four centuries ago, Bermuda cedars grew throughout the islands, about 500 trees to an acre, according to some reports. But in 1944 Bermuda cedars suffered a tragedy that no one foresaw, when oyster shell scale, a form of fungus, attacked the trees. A year later, another fungus, juniper scale, struck. Ten years later, 90 percent of Bermuda cedars were dead. As many as 75,000 dead cedars were cut down as authorities launched reforestation programs.
Many people come to Bermuda for the beaches. The sand is ground up coral and limestone and it has a pinkish tinge to it. The water is lovely and clear, and (in the summer) warm because Bermuda is in the Gulf Stream.
So if beaches are your thing, then I highly recommend the beaches of Bermuda to your attention.
Fondest memory: I personally am not a beach person. I love to swim, but I have had melanomas and I hate being out on the sun on the sand - sweaty and gritty. I never went to the beach when I was in Bermuda. Of course the last three times I have been there it was mid to late November, and in 2011 Tropical Storm Sean was approaching, so there was a lot more surf than usual.
I love to look at the beaches - they are lovely. Just don't ask me to lie on the beach and try to get a tan.
I was really looking forward to trying out some of Bermuda's cocktail specialities. Considering that so many were based on rum (a personal favorite), I knew it would be an extra happy hour come drink time. :)
Bermuda has two "national" cocktails. The first is called "The Dark and Stormy". Made from two parts Ginger Beer (a hairier version of ginger ale) and one part Gosling's Black Seal rum, it really packs a punch...especially if they've used the 151 proof version of Gosling's. (It comes in 80 proof, 140 proof and 151 proof varieties, please see my separate tip about buying Gosling's for the trip home)
The other national drink is the "rum swizzle". The recipe for the swizzle is a bit more varied from place to place. Basically, it's rum with fresh fruit juices and mixer(s). One recipe for the swizzle is as follows:
8 oz Gosling's Black Seal rum
6 dashes Angostura bitters
juice of 2 lemons
5 oz pineapple juice
5 oz orange juice
2 oz grenadine syrup
Stir or shake vigorously until a frothing head appears. Strain into sour glasses. Garnish with a slice of orange or a Maraschino Cherry.
The swizzle is sweet, but not to a point to be sickening.
Fondest memory: OK, the results of the personal drink voting...
I like both drinks. But, for me, the swizzle is a drink that I could spend an evening enjoying. I can and did order them by the pitcher on a couple of occasion. Mind you, a pitcher of rum swizzles screams out for public transportion or a taxi, so keep that in mind. :)
The Dark and Stormy was more of a novelty for me. I don't see it as a drink I'd order that often. It could be that I, traditionally, am not a huge ginger ale fan. And remember, ginger beer is similar, although a bit stronger. Just to prove that difference is the spark of a great relationship, Bonnie much preferred the dark and stormy to the swizzle. She liked both as well, though.
The best of each?
The best swizzles in Bermuda were clearly at THE SWIZZLE INN, over in Hamilton Parish. I'm sure the SWIZZLE INN SOUTH over in Southampton would be equally good. Get a pitcher and call a cab...or ride the pink bus. (If you've had a bunch of swizzles, you might want to sit next to the pink elephant.)
The best dark and stormy was a close call, but we're going with THE FROG AND ONION PUB over at the Dockyards. Not sure why, it was just a bit smoother.
On a power scale, both were serious head-slammers. Drink too many of either too quickly, and you'll be (as the locals say) "full hot, mon". (Full hot means seriously drunk in Bermuda. "Half hot" means you're just a little bit buzzed.)
Every evening, you'll here the gentle whistling sound made by millions of Bermuda tree frogs. Apparently, these little critters are tiny and difficult to set eyes upon. In fact, our hostess at the B&B, Marlie, indicated that she'd never actually seen one.
But by golly, they're there. They make a distinct sound that I found somewhat peaceful...but then again, I'm a country boy who enjoys the sounds of crickets in the woods. The photo below was taken from a Bermuda's Fauna website, because we sure as heck didn't SEE any frogs. Just heard 'em.
Fondest memory: Shaking down a bush near the Princess Hotel trying to find a hidden tree frog. A few locals saw us doing so and just laughed. :) One guy told me that it was all a hoax and that the island government had installed tiny speakers all over Bermuda to intrigue tourists. And with that, they walked away laughing even harder.
My wife and daughter are very much into birding, and were on the lookout for the local species. We never got a good look at the Bermuda Longtail, which is the bird locals seem most proud of.
However, the kiskadee was everywhere...and they are NOISY. A very pretty bird that likes to chat, you'll be serenaded all over the island.
The Kiskadee is actually an imported species, arriving by deliberate action in 1957. 200 Kiskadees were imported from Trinidad and their original assignment was to help control a species of lizard that was annoying the islands. However, as is usually the case, things don't go exactly as planned. They've invaded nesting areas of the native Bermuda bluebird, and have even hunted the formerly indemic cicada to extinction. On one website, I read the kiskadee described as a bird terrorist, a aviary mafioso, so to speak.
Fondest memory: Well, we did enjoy indentifiying the kiskadee by sound and sight. But, I still laugh when I think of my bird loving daughter saying, with glee, to our B&B hosts that she'd seen kiskadees. Harry and Marlie were clearly less than thrilled. :)
The "currency of the realm" for the islands is "The Bermuda Dollar". And this "Bermuda $$" is pegged at par to the value of the US Dollar. In fact, they're used interchangeably in Bermuda. Not only will EVERYONE accept the US dollar, in most cases, you'll get your change in US funds, both bills and coins. Occasionally, you'll receive a Bermuda dollar or two, or some local coins as change....but that's the exception rather than the rule.
If you pay in Bermuda dollars, you'll usually get more of your change completely in the local currency, I just think the merchants are all trying to keep everyone happy.
With the dollars at par, there's NO transaction fees for buying something in US funds rather than the local flavor. In fact, they don't even charge a fee on credit card transactions, or at least on the ones that we encountered. It could depend on your bank. We have Bank of America.
If you're using Canadian $$, UK Sterling or Euros, the daily conversion rate applies. I suspect that there is an additional fee for these transactions, especially on credit cards. As for the Canada $$, I don't THINK it's readily accepted by local merchants, although it could be an individual thing.
ONE LITTLE NOTE/WARNING... if you're returning to the US, you probably do realize that Bermuda dollars aren't going to make anyone happy if you try to spend them. So unless you're just looking to take a few BDs home for a souvenir, I'd spend them IN Bermuda. I didn't see any place in the airport to convert BDs back into US dollars before you board the plane. Then again, I wasn't looking for them, as I'd carefully kept my supply of local dollars very very low.
IF you do have Bermuda dollars and you'd like to be a good citizen, there is a collection box AT the airport, urging you to deposit your Bermuda money to "help the local wildlife and animals". So, if you end up with more local money than you'd planned, you COULD give a few dollars to the Bermuda Animal Society folks.
Fondest memory: When we asked the transportation pass seller man at the airport if he took credit cards, he goes "no sir, I'm sorry". We then said "do you accept US funds"?
His answer? "Love it, brother".
That's pretty much the attitude everywhere.
Bermuda is, as you know, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. There is actually not a great deal of shallow waters around the island, and the Atlantic drops off to a much deeper body of water very quickly as you leave shore. And with Bermuda being out in the middle of "open ocean", the waters in the Atlantic can get kind of rough. Quite a few deep-sea fishing outfits do ply the Atlantic, but for water sports and more gentle fishing activities, you might like the "SOUNDS" of Bermuda.
A sound is salt water surrounded on at three sides by land. Bermuda has three major "sounds"...
The GREAT sound is bordered on the west by the Dockyards area, in the middle by Tucker and Morgan islands (formerly home to the US Navy in Bermuda) and by Spanish Point, Paget's Parish on the east. The Great sound is quite deep in the middle, as it's regularly plied by major cruise ships, whether they're docking at Dockyards or heading into Hamilton Harbor.
The Little Sound, which almost seems to be a subset of the Great Sound, is bordered on the northwest by Tucker and Morgan Islands, on the south by Warwick and Southampton Parishes, and on the east by Burgess Point, Warwick.
And, Harringon Sound is the smallest and most isolated of the sounds. The only way into or out of Harrington Sound is under the bridge at Flatts Village. Otherwise, Harrington is completely surrounded by Hamilton and Smith's Parishes. When I lived in Bermuda in the 1950s, we lived on the gentle waters of Harrington Sound.
Fondest memory: My dad used to talk about seeing the tides going out and coming in under Flatts Bridge, and how boat owners who'd left Harrington Sound for open ocean having to time their return to the tides. We saw boats waiting out that very tide change on our recent visit.
In general, the sounds are great places for watersports, jetskis, skiing, swimming off your boat and simple fishing trips.
THE national spirit of Bermuda is clearly Gosling's Black Seal rum. It's been bottled for hundreds of years, and is a legendary component of such Bermudian classics as the Dark and Stormy and the Rum Swizzle.
"Black", as the locals call it, is good in any rum drink. A simple "black and coke" hits the spot, especially if they use the "hi-test" variety of Black.
There are actually three different types of Gosling's Black seal, namely 80 proof, 140 proof and 151 proof. And for your export information, the 151 is not allowed on airplanes...too explosive for these modern times. Only the boat people (cruise ship occupants) can leave the island legally with 151 in tow. Score one for Royal Caribbean.
If you want to take some Black home, you absolutely need to buy it at duty free out at the airport. They'll tell you as much at the Hamilton Gosling Brothers (the makers of black) liquor store. For example, a liter-size bottle of 151 proof black goes for about $35-40 if you buy it in town and plan to drink it in Bermuda. But if you buy it at duty-free, it's only about $15. Prices on the 140 and 80 proofs show a similar disparity between "buy in Bermuda for use in Bermuda" versus "taking it out of the country". So, buy your take home black at the airport.
Oh, and I'm writing a separate tip on the subject of duty free at L W Wade Airport/Kindley Field. But let me mention it here, too...
Duty free sneaks up on you. You check in at the counter and then you head to passport control. The only duty free happens before passport control, so if you want to score some black, or maybe some Cuban cigars (good luck with US customs), buy them before getting in line for passport control. THERE IS NO DUTY-FREE WITHIN THE DEPARTURE TERMINAL AREA. Oh, and in Bermuda, duty free does mean a bargain. I know that in most places, it's just something that you do without any real monetary savings. :)
Fondest memory: Realizing as we got to the passport line that I needed to haul my tail back out to duty free for some black. :)
Bermuda is made up of 9 "parishes". And although small, each has its own special claim to fame within the whole of Bermuda. Size? The entire island is only about 20 miles long. :)
You've read that I used to live in Bermuda, some 45 years ago. My parents tell me that, back then, there were people living on the east end of the island (St. George's Parish) who had never, in their entire lifetime, been over to Sandys or Southampton Parish on the west end. From their perspective, it might as well have been New York and San Francisco. Those days have changed, but in truth...people in different parishes view themselves as differently as people in different American states or Canadian provinces.
An overview of the parishes, starting with the east end:
ST GEORGE'S : Home of the village of St. George, the oldest settlement in Bermuda, dating to the early 17th centure. Also home to Kindley Field/L F Wade International airport. (BDA). Home to St. Peter's Church, and the Bermuda Parfumerie.
HAMILTON PARISH : Home to Grotto Bay and to the Crystal Caverns/Fantasy Caves. Of note, the city of Hamilton is NOT in Hamilton Parish.
SMITH'S PARISH : Home of Flatts Village, the Aquarium and Bermuda Zoo. Also, it's where I used to live, on Harrington Sound.
DEVONSHIRE PARISH : Home of the old Devonshire Church and to Palm Grove Garden.
PEMBROKE PARISH : Home to the capital, Hamilton and Spanish Point. Also home to Hamilton Harbor, and the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
PAGET'S PARISH : Home to King Edward Hospital, and to the Bermuda Botanical Gardens.
WARWICK PARISH : Home to outstanding beaches at Elbow and some terrific golf courses. Home to Bermuda College. Also home to Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.
SOUTHAMPTON PARISH : Home to Horseshoe Bay Beach and the Gibbs Lighthouse.
SANDYS PARISH : (pronounced "Sands") Home to the Dockyards, Bermuda Maritime Museum, DolphinQuest, and Somerset Bridge, the world's smallest drawbridge.
Fondest memory: The map below isn't perfect, but it will help you picture the parishes and their position on the island. Please click on the map to expand it fully... you don't want to leave out St. Georges on the east, or Southampton and Sandys on the western end.
Unlike almost anywhere else on earth on the tourist-friendly earth, Bermuda does NOT offer rental cars to visitors. You can rent cycles, if you have a death wish. But for most visitors, using Bermuda's buses and ferries is a cost-effective way of getting around the island.
The ferry fares are pretty simple, if you're buying point to point. You pay x amount (usually something like $4) to sail. But, the buses can be a little strange to figure out what your trip will cost. Bermuda is divided into 14 zones, and they'll sell you a ticket for either a three zone or a fourteen zone trip. See?? It's getting weird already, isn't it?
Your BEST deal and bet is to buy yourself an unlimited transportation pass for your time in Bermuda. With a three zone regular bus fare being $3, and a fourteen zone trip being $4, it won't take long before a transportation pass will pay for itself... and that's not even taking the need to have exact COIN fare in hand for buses.
You can buy the transportation passes for one day ($12 adult), three days ($28 adult), four days ($35 adult) or seven days ($45 adult). Children's fares (under 12) are approximately one half of those amounts if I remember. (All of us were adults so I didn't pay that close of attention. :) Passes can be purchased at:
> Kindley Field upon your arrival. BUY THEM BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE BAGGAGE CLAIM AREA, because you can't go back in. :)
> Hamilton's main bus terminal
> Most post offices, although for some reason they are NOT for sale at the main post office in Hamilton
Transportation passes are good on any Bermuda public bus (the pink ones), or any SeaExpress ferry. (these go from Hamilton to Warwick/Paget, Watford Bridge, Dockyards/West End and St. George) Cheaper overall, and you only have to keep up with your little transportion card.
The card will be validated by the bus driver or ferry attendant the first time you use it. At that point, it is good for the number of days you purchased in consecutive fashion.
Fondest memory: A great memory? How about only making one error in selecting buses during our entire stay?
And, we met quite a few interesting people on the bus. They like to chat.
The beaches with their rocky stacks and secluded grottos. This is a picture of Scott's first view of Horseshoe Bay - for him he thinks of pirates, shipwrecks and rum-running. For me this view reminds me of magical lands found in fairytale books.
Fondest memory: Depending on the light, the water can take on an almost mauve hue. My first view of these beaches was just that way, with an encroaching storm forming a dark backdrop behind the pastel and white houses.
There is no single place I would take a first time visitor except a walk, anywhere that was convenient. Lots of sights if they liked history and lots of places for scenery.
What I would do is get a bus pass and use the buses and ferries to get a feel for the island and people.
The other part of enjoying Bermuda is a good map, not just the bus route map. With a good map and a bus pass you are able to walk about on some of the less travelled roads and lanes and find your way back to a bus route when you wish.
Telephone books recently included an excellent map if you are lucky enough to find one of these otherwise you will have to buy a good map and they can be hard to find but are there if you keep looking and asking.
Fondest memory: The musical frogs that sing merrily in the evening and the chickens that welcome you in the morning.
Everyone that visits Bermuda should spend at least some time on the beach or at least on a cliff or viewpoint that overlooks the ocean.
Between the fresh, sea air and the view, anyone will walk away with a hearty appreciation of why people love and live in Bermuda.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of Bermuda is spending time overlooking the aqua blue-green ocean and just enjoying the moment.
I did not want to do anything and I did not need to do anything as I took in the beauty of the area.
Anyone that does not take time to soak up this type of natural stress-reliever is missing something special.
Well I didn't like it. Wanna talk about fake, then come to Bermuda. The people aren't really nice at all, even though they try to act that way. VERY intolerant to other cultures etc. The whole experience was superficial, and I really feel sorry for the people who live there. I was taken back by the uptight, snobish atmosphere. And NO, I don't wanna dress like you, that is rediculous! Just because you think it looks "proper" or "good" doesn't mean I do.
Aside from the Hellos, and Good Mornings, these people are snobs, and I would not recommend going. Total waste of money.
Bermuda is located almost directly to the East of Charleston, South Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean--some distance from the coastline of the United States.
This island is benignly overseen by the United Kingdom.