Visit To A New PlaceAfter more than eighty trips to various venues around the Caribe Basin, I finally got an opportunity to go to a new island playground, one that had long held an interest for me. Nearly seventy years ago, my parents went to Bermuda on their wedding trip, and had often spoken of it as a true tropical paradise, though they never got to go back again.
With a deeply discounted air fare from Charlotte, North Carolina, we -- my wife, Nina, and I -- decided to take our first trip to Bermuda the end of August, 1999. I made flight reservations on Friday, August 20th. I then set about finding accommodations on the island.
I called my friend, Chris Whittle (a member of The Caribbean Travel forum on CompuServe), who lives on the island and I got the names of five properties that he felt would meet our wants and needs. I got on the telephone early Saturday morning and called the resorts in the order that Chris had set for me.
I had forgotten that in Bermuda it was still "high season" in August, that is until I called each resort in order, and I found that the first four resorts had no accommodations available. But the fifth -- White Sands Hotel -- was able to make reservations for our long weekend trip. I spoke with Suzzette and I accepted the reservation without a second thought.
Going From Home
We drove from home (Easley, SC) to Charlotte's Douglas International Airport for our scheduled US Airways direct flight. (We long ago found that it was less expensive and easier to drive the additional seventy miles to Charlotte rather than flying from Greenville-Spartanburg Jetport, which is thirty miles from home. During our visit, we met a delightful couple from England -- they had done the same thing we did by overnighting near Gatwick Airport. If you are doing the same trip from the UK you may be traveling from a London airport and consider staying in one of the Gatwick hotels the night before for convenience.) I had found that our flight to Bermuda originated in Newark, and having found that the best seats on planes are located on the "exit" rows, I drove out to GSP the day before our flight, to try and get assigned seats in an exit row, which I was able to get. And, it was a good thing I did -- the flight (when it finally flew!) was nearly full!
We left home at 8:15 o'clock for our scheduled 10:55 departure time, arriving at the airport at about 9:45 o'clock. Upon arrival, we quickly checked in and got our boarding passes on the starboard side of the 737-400 plane for seats 11D and 11E in an exit row. Nina waited while I parked the car and took the shuttle to the terminal building.
US Airways At Charlotte
We cleared security and proceeded to the assigned gate, only to find that our flight had been moved from gate C-4 to gate C-6! No problem, since it was just a few steps down the concourse. We walked to the new gate and took a seat to await boarding. Then, things started to really go wrong!
At 10:45, the gate agent announced that the auxiliary power unit on our plane was inoperable and would have to be repaired or replaced, before the flight could take off. The plane was able to fly, but regulations required that the unit be working for an over-water flight. So much for on-time departure!
The departure time was first moved out to 11:15, then 11:45 and finally the flight was scheduled for 12:00 noon! Then the gate agent announced that the needed part had been found and the unit was being repaired, but that a new departure time had been rescheduled for 12:45 -- nearly two hours late! Then we were told that another plane would be used, and the departure time was moved out to 1:00 o'clock! That meant that it would be more than two hours! (So much for US Airways' on-time departure average!)
At 12:55 the gate agent announced that the flight was being changed to Gate C-2 so all of the passengers trouped up the concourse to the new departure gate. There we spied the announcement board showing a "scheduled" departure of flight 1056 of -- 1:45 PM! (Nina decided that she was hungry and she took off to the main terminal, to get something to eat!) We ended up boarding at 1:45 and pulled back from the gate at 1:58 PM!
Bermuda Bound -- At Last
At 2:05, the pilot announced that we were second in line for takeoff and that flying time to Bermuda (BDA) was two hours and ten minutes. At precisely 2:07:30 we lined up at the end of the runway and began moving, with rotation of the plane at 2:08:00. We were finally on our way! The plane quickly climbed through the numerous cottony clouds to 10,000 feet at 2:13, heading for its cruising altitude of 33,000 feet.
The flight attendants served "lunch" at about 2:45 and it was typical air carrier cuisine -- green salad, grilled chicken breast, underdone carrots and green beans, overcooked rice and a small slice of fudge topped cake. I was happy to have a Coca-Cola to drink and I was able to inveigle a container of milk -- after all, a growing boy needs to have his milk!
The flight was uneventful, and at 4:15 (5:15 PM Atlantic Daylight Time, which is the time zone in which BDA is located) our silvery magic carpet arrived at Bermuda and came in for its approach from the northwest and landed at the international airport on St. David's Island. We had arrived!
Arrival in BDA
Walking from the plane into the terminal building, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the airport. Then, moving through the corridors, I was again amazed to find that the Bermuda International Airport building could easily be mistaken for the lobby of most any world class resort. It's clean, colorful and as contemporary as any resort anywhere. I can't say enough about what a nice airport Bermuda has, being the first place an airborne visitor sees upon arrival on the island.
Immigration was expeditious and professional. Baggage retrieval was no different from Atlanta, Miami or Los Angles. The carousel brought our checked luggage to us quickly. We had to stand in line to clear customs, but it was basically no different from any other airport anywhere. Once past the customs checkpoint, we emerged to find that the outside of the building was as beautiful as the interior. We were directed to stand at the curb for the next taxi in line -- no haggling or soliciting by assorted drivers. An official waved the next available taxi forward and we entered Isme's van for the ride to our resort, White Sands Hotel and Cottages in Paget Parish.
I can't say enough about our impressions during the ride to Paget. Bermuda's roads, while narrow and winding, and with traffic driving on the "wrong" side of the road, are well maintained, free of potholes and traverse tropical areas that are a joy to the eye of the beholder. I hate to compare islands, but Bermuda, upon first blush, is without a doubt the most beautiful island I've ever visited, bar none! In fact, it is most probable that my comments won't really do the island justice -- a person needs to actually experience the island to truly appreciate what a lovely place it is.
White Sands Hotel and Cottages
Isme, our van driver, turned left off of South Road and went up the hill on White Sands Road. The road climbed up a steep hill, wound around and finally dead-ended at the hotel. The hotel entrance wasn't particularly impressive but we found that looks can most definitely deceive. Upon entering, we went to the small hotel lobby, where we were warmly welcomed by Maria, offered our sign-in card (which already had our names on it) and then shown around the entrance area: the bar (where Maria introduced us to Billy Watton, the maitre d'), the main dining room and the sitting room, from which we had a marvelous view of the crystal blue hotel pool and over the trees, the broad blue Atlantic Ocean. (White Sands is now owned by the Dyer Hospitality Group of Ocean City, New Jersey.)
Maria next led us to room 246 in the South Building and showed us all of the amenities: in-room cable TV, a small refrigerator, a large bath room, a small balcony (which overlooked only White Sands Road) and a small, complementary bottle of champagne from the management to commemorate the reason for our short-notice trip -- the fortieth anniversary of our wedding!
We quickly settled in, unpacked our bags, and went out and walked through the main sitting room and out on the broad, grassy verandah above the pool. We engaged in conversation with a couple, Faye and David, who were celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary. After chatting for a short time, we went down to dinner, an outdoor buffet by the pool.
White Sands Dinner
We elected to eat at White Sands our first night on Bermuda, since we had experienced a long day of traveling, we were physically beat and, being novices, we didn't know any other places to go for dinner. The meal was served by the pool was a barbecue buffet. The cost was high -- US$34.00 per person -- but in talking with Chris by phone earlier, he indicated that the price was pretty much what we could expect most anywhere.
I won't go into detail about what we had for dinner; far too many trip reports go into inordinate detail of "She had..." and "I had..." and my purpose here is to provide information on our vacation destination and not a dinning report. Suffice it to say that Nina and I had an excellent meal for a fair price.
While dinner was being served, there was a talented guitarist, Ranam Burch, who played the electric guitar and sang. He had an excellent voice and an extensive repertoire of well known island songs. I had occasion to talk with Ranam during his break and he told me that he and his band were going to the States to take part in the Jerry Lewis MD telethon -- a super contribution for a most worthy cause by a very talented performing artist.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there was a full moon rising as we finished our meal. It had just cleared the eastern horizon as dinner ended and I complimented Billy Watton, that I really appreciated the management staging the full moon, just for the benefit of the guests of the resort! It provided just the right mental image for us to take home and remind ourselves of our visit to beautiful Bermuda, each time we saw another full moon!
Nina and I walked down to the beach after dinner, a hike that us ol' folks found very challenging physically, especially in the dark. But the effort was well worth it -- the full moon cast a shimmering gleam across the ocean and that was without a doubt one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.
First Full Day on Bermuda
We awoke about 7:00'ish -- our first night in a strange bed nearly always is not the most restful sleep. We dressed and went to the dinning room for our BP (Bermuda Plan) included breakfast. It was excellent and we chatted with another couple at the next table, Deb and Jack, from New Jersey, about what they had been doing while there.
We found out that the regular bus fare was $3.50 per person, but by buying a pass (available for a day, three days or seven days), we could ride any bus from anywhere to anywhere else and the passes were also good for the ferries that ply the waters of Great Sound. We decided that would be our best bet for local transportation and we elected to obtain a three day pass for $21.00 each. I had thought that renting a scooter would be our best bet to get out and about on the islands and explore on our own.
I had been warned that riding a motor scooter can "be injurious to your health!" The tourists who do rent and ride scooters can most often be identified by the bandages they wear, to cover their "Bermuda Road Rash!" However, at my age, and with not having ridden any two-wheeled motor contraptions since I was a young soldier stationed in Germany, I felt it was the better part of wisdom to listen to those who gave me advice not to subject ourselves to "road rash!" Plus, there was no way that my bride of forty years would have even considered getting on a motor scooter, certainly not after hearing horror stories of scooter dangers in the gate area at Charlotte!
We walked from White Sands to South Road, not a particular pleasant walk up and down hills and in the sun. Reaching South Road, we crossed over to the other side of the road, to the bus stop. (You can tell which way the busses run by the painted blue and pink pole at each stop -- if the route is toward Hamilton, the pole is topped by pink paint, if away from the capitol the pole has blue paint on top.) We waited no more than seven minutes and a pink bus with blue stripes pulled up. Climbing aboard, we took seats and within ten minutes we had arrived in Hamilton at the bus terminal. We purchased our passes and walked the few blocks back down to Front Street.
We decided that we would take the ferry directly to the Royal Naval Dockyard across Great Sound. We caught the 11:00 o'clock ferry for the thirty minute boat ride. The ride was wonderful, providing interesting views of the Hamilton waterfront, and then on past Spanish Point, across the sound to the ferry slip at the Royal Dockyard. It was a really hot day, so our first stop ashore was at the Convenience Store for a Coca-Cola!
Then, we walked around the area known as the Camber, where in olden days, ships were moored while being worked on and repaired, and walked over to Clocktower Shopping Mall, a group of assorted shops that are housed within two of the former British Navy repair shops. The architecture is most interesting for history buffs, but we quickly realized that there was nothing that we needed. (I did buy a pair of socks -- I hadn't worn any and I had gotten a blister on my right foot. So, I did end up with a pair of white socks -- "Bermuda socks" -- and I was fine from then on!)
Returning to the ferry slip side of The Camber, we went next to the Frog and Onion, a well known Bermudan eatery. It's housed in one of the original dockyard buildings in the area known as the "Vicualling Yard," an appropriate location, since this was the area where food stores were prepared for "His Majesty's ships" when the dockyards were responsible for provisioning the British Fleet. The building occupied by the Frog and Onion was also most interesting architecturally and the light lunch of sandwiches was perfect in every way.
Finishing our meal with an eye to the time, we hurried back to the ferry landing, to catch the 1:30 ferry back to Hamilton. While the first ferry ride was direct from Hamilton, there are two different routes to and from the Dockyard, and our second ferry ride was by way of four stops before returning to Hamilton. It lasted an hour, with stops at Boaz Island, Watford Bridge, Cavello Bay and Somerset Bridge wharves. These stops, and the cruise down the west side of Great Sound, offered us new vistas of the area and another delightful boat ride. Upon arrival back at Hamilton, we caught a taxi back to White Sands, and a welcome return to our cool hotel room for a couple of hours of rest before going out for dinner.
Chris had invited us to be his guests for dinner Friday night. He picked us up at White Sands at 5:00 o'clock and he drove us first to the area known as Tucker's Town, where the homes and villas are a sight to see! Chris pointed out two magnificent homes, both owned by Ross Perot, though one is listed as being owned by his son. (I understand that people aren't permitted to own two residences on Bermuda.) He also showed us numerous houses which were in the tens of millions of dollars in value -- one had recently sold for over fourteen million dollars!
Next, we went to Chris's home in Hamilton Parish. It overlooks Harrington Sound, near Shark Hole. It's a gorgeous home, replete with the requisite swimming pool and from the outside, it appears very Bermudan. However, inside Chris and Maria, his beautiful wife, have created anything but a typical Bermudan home. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that it is one of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen.
Chris and Maria had a house guest, Sarah from Boston, who was staying with them for the weekend. All five of us drove over to St. George for dinner at a delightfully intimate Italian restaurant, San Giorgio. It's located on Water Street, just off King's Square, and has a commanding view of the St. George's Harbor from the dinning terrace on the rear of the establishment. The cuisine was superb and I would heartily recommend it to anybody searching for a great restaurant. (Our thanks for a lovely evening, Chris!) Following dinner, Nina and I caught a taxi back to White Sands.
Saturday - Out and About
We were up early and had another delightful breakfast in the White Sands' Captain's Table dinning room, following which we sat by the pool waiting to meet yet another "Bermuda Onion" -- the nickname for people who live on the island. Glen Cuoco pronounced "qwo-co"), who I had "met" on the internet (Glen has a super web site which I had found while researching our trip), had offered to pick us up at White Sands and take us with him to St. George on the east end of the island. We were accompanied by Shannon and Jim, a really nice young couple from Boston, who were also staying at White Sands and who were on their honeymoon. They had said they planned to go to St. George too, and Glen happily had them ride with us. We attended a "happening" that occurs each Saturday at noon in the town square of St. George -- the Town Crier (portrayed by Michael Jones, a friend of Glen's) and the "ducking chair." We thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Michael and the "wench" who was repeatedly ducked for her "transgressions!" It was great fun and I would heartily recommend that any Bermuda visitor who is on-island on a Saturday, take in this event.
(For pictures of Jamaica Jim and Michael with Shannon and Jim from Boston, Click Here.)
Following the fun in the St. George, we left Shannon and Jim there and Glen drove us back to his house. Glenn lives in the Cavendish section, above Hamilton, in a house named "Cocoabana." I wanted to see Glen's computer setup and I was able to access my web site on his computer for him, as well as some other sites that I thought he might find interesting. Then he drove us down into Hamilton for some quick shopping and we bade Glenn a fond farewell.
We had a late lunch at the Terrace Restaurant, which is located on the second floor of the A. S. Cooper department store and overlooks the cruise ship docks and Front Street. Following a light lunch, we again caught a taxi back to the hotel.
Saturday night, we had dinner again at White sands, sitting with Shannon and Jim and Deb and Jack. This was a more "formal" evening and I had brought a new blue blazer along, so I wore the traditional Bermuda attire -- blazer, white shirt, tan Bermuda shorts and long, dark blue socks with my polished loafers. I have to admit that the Onions have a good idea -- the outfit was much cooler than I expected and I now know why the folks there have adopted this outfit as their standard attire.
Sunday - Rest and Relaxation
Following our two days of getting out and about, we decided to just rest by the pool for the day, and it was definitely a welcome respite from walking all over the place in the heat and humidity! In fact, I ended up dozing much of the afternoon, by the pool in the shade of a sculpted casuarina tree.
We had a light lunch of sandwiches by the pool and again dined in the Captain's Table that night. The thing was, White Sands is somewhat remote, the cost of a taxi to go to any of the many restaurants would add to the total cost of our meal and, while the meals at White sands were somewhat expensive, the cost was less that if we had gone elsewhere.
Monday - Back to Touring
We had our included breakfast at the hotel and then lucked up -- another guest had a taxi picking her up and we were able to "hitch" a ride to the bus stop on South Road. We caught a number 8 bus and rode to where Gibbs Hill Road intersects South Road. Upon getting off the bus, we were faced with another walk -- this time up the road to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. The walk, or rather "climb," up the hill provided us with a wonderful reward for our efforts. The view from atop the hill is of the entire south end of the island, including the vista of the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Great Sound to the north!
(Check out the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Web Site, where you can browse the interesting Gift Shop and Tea Room, and see amazing views from the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse of Hamilton Harbor, the world's oldest Cast Iron Lighthouse.)
Then, I decided that a visit to the lighthouse wouldn't be complete until Yours Truly had climbed the 185 steps up to the top of the structure! We did just that, and I'm glad we did. The view from the catwalk is even more beautiful than that from below, on the brow of the hill. Plus, the climb up inside the tower wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it would be. There are landings spaced inside the tower, with interesting pictures and artifacts of the lighthouse, where a visitor can stop and rest. And, the climb down was a breeze!
We walked back down the hill to the bus stop and caught the next bus headed for the Dockyards. This ride provided us views from the road of the islands that are strung along South Road through Southampton Parish to Sandys Parish; Somerset Island, tiny Watford Island, Boaz Island, Ireland Island South and finally Ireland Island North, where the Royal Dockyard is located. Upon arrival, we elected to again take the long ferry back to Hamilton, a nice restful ride after a long, hot morning.
Arriving back at Hamilton and Front Street again, we had a light lunch, sandwiches again, this time at Front Street Terrace overlooking the main street and the ferry dock. Then I did some shopping -- I had wanted to get some bottles of Royall Lyme after shave lotion, which I had used long ago and had not been able to locate anywhere in the United States. I purchased two 8 ounce bottles at Peniston Brown Company on Front Street and I'm satisfied that they will last -- hopefully -- until I next return to Bermuda. Nina found some sweaters for a paltry US$32.50 each, and bought one for herself and one for each of our two daughters. We again taxied back to White Sands and enjoyed another great dinner there.
Tuesday - The End of a Perfect Trip
All too soon, it was departure day! We quickly packed our bags and then went out by the pool to read until time to leave for the airport. There was a nice breeze and I was at peace with the world. At eleven o'clock, I took a quick shower, dressed and we went to the lobby area to await our taxi to the airport. When it arrived we loaded aboard and were whisked to St. David's Island, arriving at about noon for check-in for our flight. Or so we thought!
It seems that US Airways personnel won't allow passengers to check in for the 3:15 flight until 2:00 o'clock -- but we didn't know that! So, we stood in line for the better part of an hour and a half, only to reach the check-in counter and be told to come back at 2:00 o'clock! Oh well, that meant we could get a good lunch while waiting for the appointed hour. No way -- the only available food was located at what can only be called an airport "fast food" counter! We had a sandwich -- over priced and over dry -- and a Coca-Cola!
Then, it was back to the check-in counter and another wait -- a long wait, I might add -- until we could check in and get our boarding passes! Luckily, the counter agent who turned us away earlier had heard my request for an exit row and when we finally got our boarding passes, we were assigned to one. But, it was the wrong exit row! It was the forward row, which has seats that can't recline. However, the plane wasn't full, so when we got aboard finally, we slipped back one row and nobody else appeared to claim the seats there!
Our last few minutes on Bermuda were marred -- by the first real rain we had seen since we arrived! And, did it ever rain! It was as if barrels of rain water were hitting the tarmac and the runways, and us, as we ran out and up the stairs into the forward door to the plane! But within minutes of settling down in our seats, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started. So much for not having experienced any rain while visiting the island!
And the entire time we were on our short trip, Bermuda had been a probable target for not one or two, but three full scale hurricanes - Cindy had been aiming directly at the island until it finally veered off to the east; Dennis had ravaged the Bahamas and moved up the coast of the mainland to the west of the island; and Hurricane Emily, unlike her earlier, infamous September 25, 1987, namesake, had simply dissipated before even reaching Bermuda.
Reflections on Bermuda
I can't say enough good things about Bermuda. As I indicated above, this is definitely an island that must be experienced to fully appreciate all it has to offer to its visitors. I most heartily recommend that anybody who has an opportunity to visit Bermuda, should make a point of going there. Only in that way will a person truly see what we saw -- a place of beauty that is unspoiled to the n-th degree, with locals who are as warm as the weather and as friendly and outgoing as any people that a person could ever want to meet anywhere.
Our too-short visit didn't allow time to "do" Bermuda as I would have liked. There are things that I wish I could have had time to do -- visit the Confederate Museum; experience the Bermuda Aquarium and the Devil's Hole Aquarium; stop off at the Swiggle Inn for a cool drink and some premium people watching; do some snorkeling in Tobacco Bay and other watery places around the island; tour some of the many forts that dot the island; scuba dive on some of the wrecks that are around the island; climb the other lighthouse, St. David's Lighthouse; rent a boat and cruise the waters of Great Sound on my own; spend some time in the town of Somerset; visit Crystal Caves --but time is always our master when traveling and those things will have to await another trip.
Would I go back to Bermuda? You bet -- just point me toward a flight and I'll be there in a flash!
Jamaica Jim Jordan
Jim & Shannon with Michael Jones,
The Town Crier of St. George.
Jamaica Jim -- shown here being
"punished" in the St. George pillory!
Jim's Home Page | About Jamaica
Jim | Jim's Links | Caribbean
Chronicles | Jamaica Jim Reunion
The Towel Grip ®
| Hedonism III '99 | Hedonism III Photos | Hedonism II '96 | Hedonism II '95 | Hedonism II '93 | Hedonism II Photos | Hedonism II To Me! |
| FDR & Pebbles Review | SuperClubs Saga & Hedonism History | SuperClubs Chronology | Bahamas '01 | Bermuda '99 |
| Anguilla 1997 | Anguilla Pictures | US Virgin Islands '96 | US Virgin Islands Pics | Bahai Principe 2001 | Travel Packing List |
| Caribbean Flags | CompuServe Page | Cosmos Restaurant | Silly Stuff | Breezes Bahamas Breezes Bahamas Photos
| Breezes Curacao | Breezes Curacao Pics | ABCs Trip Report | Aruba Photos | Bonaire Photos | Curacao Photos |
You are virtual visitor number ...
© 1995 - 2003 by Jamaica Jim Jordan.
Material may not be republished without permission.