BERMUDA BECKONS

BY MARY AND CHARLES LOVE

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LifestyleTravelVer4-Image-1We arrived in Bermuda for a mid-January getaway as islanders were preparing for this summer’s 35th America’s Cup races. The weather was mild and sunny with the temperature in the mid-60s.

At the Royal Naval Dockyard, we ran into a crew member from Oracle Team USA. Was there any way to go aboard the team’s catamaran, we inquired? “Not possible,” he said, “but if you go to the end of that long jetty, we’ll be leaving for practice in about 10 minutes. You’ll have to run to get a glimpse.” And run we did, just in time to watch the sleek racing machine cruise by, only 75 yards away, in a moderate breeze!

The boat looked nothing like the monohull yachts of yesteryear. Today’s catamarans— which are nearly 50 feet in length—are built to rise up on their “foils” (two dagger boards and rudders) in a strong wind. The objective is to keep the twin hulls out of the water as much as possible to reach speeds exceeding 40 knots. As Tom Slingsby, tactician for Oracle Team USA, told The New York Times, “The boat that can make it around the racecourse without touching the water will win this America’s Cup.”

THE HAMILTON PRINCESS & BEACH CLUB
Our island “home” was the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, the historic luxury hotel located on the waterfront in Hamilton, the island’s capital.

The hotel, which opened in 1885, has been affectionately dubbed “The Pink Palace.” Winston Churchill, Mark Twain and Ian Fleming are among the many celebrities who’ve been guests over the years. When Prince Charles was appointed by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1970 to open Bermuda’s parliament on its 250th anniversary, the gala took place at the hotel. Today, the Princess is the oldest property in the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts family. Anyone who stays here feels as pampered as royalty, thanks to a professional and welcoming staff.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
GETTING THERE
Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, American Airlines and United Airlines offer flights to Bermuda from East Coast gateways.

WHERE TO STAY
Hamilton Princess & Beach Club: 800-441-1414, thehamiltonprincess.com

VISITOR INFORMATION Bermuda Tourism Authority: 800-BERMUDA (237-6832), gotobermuda.com (Tip: Before you go, download the Bermuda Travel Guide from this excellent site. When you arrive, ask the tourist office for the brochure Uncover the Arts, which highlights the season’s cultural events.)

TO VIEW OUR BERMUDA FILM, GO TO:
charlestonstyleanddesign.com/travel/multimedia-gallery/

Designated the official host hotel of the 35th America’s Cup, the hotel’s recent multimillion- dollar transformation has taken it, according to marketing director Diarmaid O’Sullivan, from “classic” to “contemporary.” The new décor features clean lines and neutral colors that provide the perfect backdrop for a world-class collection of modern art, including works by Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg and Ai Weiwei, among others.

The hotel’s many improvements include a 5,400-squarefoot exhale brand spa and fitness center and a state-ofthe- art marina. With 60 berths, it’s the first and only full-service marina in Bermuda.

Among the Princess’ three new on-property restaurants is Marcus’, directed by chef Marcus Samuelsson. It’s the only celebrity-helmed restaurant on the island. Samuelsson, who also has restaurants in Sweden, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and apprenticed in Europe. Among other accomplishments, he was chef for the James Beard Awardwinning restaurant Red Rooster Harlem in New York City. His restaurant at the Hamilton Princess features a 30-seat bar and an open kitchen that prepares eclectic, creatively seasoned entrees, like miso-glazed salmon, black pepper duck and more.

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Our dinner there reflected his love of—and familiarity with— world cuisines. Fish chowder bites (fluffy panko-covered fish croquettes) were flavored with berbere (an Ethiopian spice blend) and served with a zesty rum aioli. Jerk chicken breast arrived on top of hoppin’ John, comprised of yellow basmati rice, minced vegetables and bacon. The sauce? Dark and sultry.

The highest level of suites at the Princess affords access to the Fairmont’s exclusive Gold Lounge, where a dedicated staff serves complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and early evening cocktails—either inside or on a terrace with panoramic views of the harbor.

The property’s location is perfect—just a five-minute walk from Hamilton’s boutiques and sophisticated restaurants. A complimentary jitney could take guests to the hotel’s private beach club to sunbathe, chill out in a hammock or swim in the calm, clear water of a secluded cove. Other activities—golf, tennis, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, biking, sailing or simply exploring the island—were easy to arrange.

HISTORY
Although Spanish navigator Juan de Bermúdez discovered Bermuda in 1505, settlers didn’t arrive until the British ship Sea Venture—on its way to relieve the distressed colony of Jamestown in America—shipwrecked here in 1609. In 1612, the settlement of St. George was established on the eastern end of the island. Bermuda has been continuously inhabited since then and is a self-governing British territory.

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Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, visited Bermuda for a winter retreat in 1883. As a result, the island gained international recognition and introduced tourism. In addition to tourists from the United Kingdom, wealthy North Americans visited to escape cold winters and enjoy the island’s pink sands and turquoise waters. In the 20th century Bermuda has prospered as a successful offshore financial center. Although tourism continues to flourish, it’s second to international business in terms of importance to the economy.

Bermuda’s white citizens trace their heritage to the British as well as to Portuguese settlers who came in the 19th century to work on farms. Black residents descend from enslaved Africans from the West Indies. The island’s cultural diversity is reflected in traditions that range from cricket matches and afternoon tea to Gombey dancing, which has roots in African and Caribbean cultures.

EXPLORING THE ISLAND
It’s easy to get around by taxi, motor scooter, bicycle, bus and ferry. We found all useful at one time or another. (Only residents are permitted to drive cars.)

One morning, we explored Hamilton’s historic fort, situated on a hilltop overlooking the town, then admired fresh produce and crafts at the weekly farmers’ market. Near the market was the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, a small building packed with islandinspired works by renowned artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, as well as paintings by local artists.

Next stop was the town of St. George, the island’s oldest town and former capital. Its tiny streets, bordered by pastel-colored homes with white, stepped limestone roofs and prominent chimneys, are straight out of a Winslow Homer watercolor. We visited St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in continuous use outside the British Isles, then admired the Unfinished Church, a neo-Gothic ruin abandoned in 1870. Down the hill is The Bermuda Perfumery, creators of handcrafted perfumes since 1928. (There’s also a shop in Hamilton.)

On another day, we took the 25-minute ferry from Hamilton to the Royal Naval Dockyard. Once called the “Gibraltar of the West,” the dockyard was an important shipyard for nearly 150 years until it closed in 1951. Today, private yachts dock here along a waterfront converted to civilian uses, such as restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.

The National Museum of Bermuda, also at the Dockyard, is situated inside the massive stone ramparts of the island’s largest historic fort. The museum showcases seafaring memorabilia and relics from shipwrecks, while exhibits in the 19th-century Commissioner’s House cover Bermuda’s military and social history.

In addition to watersports, Bermuda affords plenty of landbased activities. The limestone Crystal Caves, for example, have fascinated people ever since they were discovered in 1907. Here, from floating pontoons that span a clear underground lake, you can view surreal rock formations below and a profusion of stalactites affixed to the roof—all some 30 million years old. At Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, birders can view up to 30 species of waterfowl. In the spring, whale watching is popular when humpback whales, migrating north to summer feeding grounds, pass Bermuda. You can spot them on clear days from some of the island’s beaches or enjoy awesome closeup views from a charter boat.

Many people appreciate the natural beauty of the Bermuda Railway Trail, the island’s former train route now transformed into a scenic pathway for bicyclists and hikers. Guided by informative signage, trekkers see the remains of historic train stations, lush forests and stretches of gorgeous, rocky coastline.

Seasonal events on Bermuda draw crowds. The island features an annual international film festival; the biennial Newport- Bermuda Race (a sailing event held in even-numbered years); the Bermuda Triple Crown— three back-to-back billfishing tournaments for competitive anglers; and a World Rugby Classic, in which former international players from around the world represent their respective countries.

BACK AT THE PINK PALACE
After our explorations around the island, the Hamilton Princess always relaxed us. The last afternoon of our visit proved no exception. We went to the infinity pool for a sunset swim. As gold and crimson light reflected on the harbor in front of us, sailboats cruised toward their berths for the night.

We looked forward to encouraging others to visit Bermuda and stay at this grande dame hotel—a place where history, luxury and warm hospitality make for a very special experience. After all, Bermuda is only a little over two hours by air from America’s East Coast. It couldn’t be more convenient.