BERMUDA - You think it’s hard being a weather man in Toronto? Imagine being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – or close to it – and in the paths of hurricanes in fall.
Yeah, being a weather predictor in Bermuda can be difficult.
It was raining lightly when I got up in St. George’s in the morning, but it wasn’t’bad so I got few shots of some of the fun streets around town. I got a cab to Hamilton (see photo at left) from my day one cabbie and good guy/tour guide Irving Butterfield, and then got a tour of the capital from another good guide, Larry Rogers.
"Bermuda is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," he said. "It's mostly good, with a little bad." Pause. "And I'm ugly."
Rogers showed me some of the nice neighbourhoods out Pitts Bay Rd., and also some “normal” areas where average Bermudians find houses for the “average” price of $800,000. He also drove me up to Fort Hamilton so I could admire the fortifications and the dry moat and the terrific views of the harbour (see photo below right) and downtown Hamilton, which is not in Hamilton parish, just FYI.
After my tour, I wandered around the capital for a while, climbing the 155 a steps (two down and 153 up the friendly ticket-taker/guide at Holy Trinity told me). Apparently the church was designed by a Scottish architect who also drew up plans for three churches in Newfoundland. There’s a fine view from on top and it’s not a hard climb.
Hamilton is a bustling, lively town with a nice harbour and fun shops along Front St.; everything from t-shirt shops to Louis Vuitton and Longchamp, plus lively pubs like Flanagan’s. I checked out some shops for t-shirts but not for long. Rather than do the typical tourist thing, I opted to explore the “back of town” area of Hamilton, which features the wonderful Jamaican Grill plus Dub City records and other Caribbean-influenced shops.
Rogers explained to me that marketing types now want to call it “Uptown” as it’s up the hill from the harbour, the thinking being that “back of town” sounds somehow shady or dangerous.
Shawn Thomas at Jamaica Grill told me the jerk chicken wouldn’t be ready for a while, so I had brown-stewed chicken and rice and peas with some home made scotch bonnet pepper sauce. YUM. Oh, and a ginger beer, too.
I checked out Victoria Park and Queen Elizabeth Park, which I prefer to Victoria and is right downtown, steps from the water. Queen Elizabeth Park also has a nice, little museum on Bermuda history.
It was then time to take the Fairmont ferry from the Princess hotel in town to the Fairmont Southampton, which is mid-island and close to fabulous Horseshoe Beach. The weather was nice when we departed but 10 minutes in the rain started. And kept going.
By the time we reached the dock near the Fairmont Southampton it was an absolute deluge; sideways rain and high winds and no way to get the 50 metres from the boat to the Fairmont shuttle bus without getting drenched.
Water was pouring off the side of the road near the harbour as if there were four or five miniature Niagara Falls, and the road had a metre of water on it.
After 20 minutes of huddling on the boat waiting for the storm to dissipate we noticed a small break in the action. I grabbed my two bags and dashed. I got wet but not quite drenched and felt pretty good. Until I looked around the bus shelter and realized my knapsack with my camera gear was back on the boat. Sigh.
I checked into the hotel, which is mostly quite good, and, of course, an hour later the sun came out and it was glorious and hot. So I caught the shuttle down the hill to the beach at the Fairmont, a lively and pretty spot that sits on a hill overlooking the harbour and also the south beaches on Bermuda.
The main hotel beach, Whale Bay, is small but lovely, with jagged rocks that protect swimmers from most of the big waves that can often arrive from the south. The cabana bar was inexplicably closed at 5 pm and I had to beg someone to serve me a beer at the restaurant, but other than that it was fine.
I had dinner at Mickey’s, a restaurant that sits on the edge of Elbow Beach a few minutes east of the Fairmont. You dine under cover but you’re right on the sand, maybe 15 meters from the surf. Very nice. They do a fabulous grilled seafood platter with scallops, shrimp, salmon, local fish, octopus and tender calamari, plus veggies and mashed potatoes, for $38. And they make a very good Bermuda Triangle drink with two kinds of rum plus pineapple and orange juice.
After that it was time to check out downtown Hamilton. The place buzzes on a Friday night, and I checked out a couple bars in the name of research. First Flanagan's, which is on the second floor and has a nice balcony patio with lots of tables where you can sit and look out on Front St. (see photo at left) and the harbour. Down the road is a more upscale option called the Onion, "onion" being a term for folks born and raised on Bermuda. It was quite the happening place; with the feel of Earl's or The Keg meets Sassafraz, if you like. Nice drinks with names such as Pink Panties and The Black Banana, it's definitely the local meat market from what I could see.
A very long and busy day, with a real mix of weather. But those are the days we often remember most, aren’t they?