It is the weekend and the newspapers are filled with glossy travel features. This one by Frank Barrett of London’s Sunday Mail looks at the timeless charms of Bermuda.
Where is Bermuda? It’s not just its Triangle that’s a mystery; a lot of people get muddled about its exact location. It is easy to assume it is in the Caribbean.
As an island just a short flight from the US with a good year-round climate, Bermuda seems to fulfill the regulation Caribbean criteria. But while the Caribbean lies south of Florida, Bermuda sits in the Atlantic Ocean, some 600 miles east of North Carolina.
Geography is not the only difference. Many islands of the Caribbean were once UK dependencies, something reflected until recently in their culture. These days, however, they are increasingly Americanised – youngsters on Barbados, for example, seem keener on basketball than cricket. Meanwhile, Bermuda has resolutely remained under UK control and is happy to display its Britishness.
Prior to its settlement by the British in 1609, Bermuda was unoccupied. The island has the distinction of being the oldest and most populous remaining British Overseas Territory. Its first capital, St George’s, was established in 1612 and is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the Americas.
The trigger for the settlement was the shipwreck of a flotilla that had been en route to Virginia to relieve a hard-pressed colony of pioneer settlers. The wreck is believed to have been the inspiration for William Shake speare’s final play, The Tempest. Ships do seem to have had an unfortunate habit of unexpectedly colliding with Bermuda – something that no doubt contributes to the Triangle myth.
Bermuda’s ability to influence artists continues into the modern era. Thirty-one years ago, just months before his death, John Lennon turned up here on a private yacht and found the island much to his liking. Perhaps the fact that Bermuda seemed stuck in a Fifties time warp offered a certain nostalgic pleasure for the Beatle, who hadn’t been back home to the UK in a decade.
On a visit to Bermuda’s botanical gardens with his son Sean, Lennon spotted a freesia called ‘Double Fantasy’, providing him with the title of his final album which was largely composed on the island. Bermuda may have more significant claims to fame but as the place that gave Lennon his final musical flourish after his long self-imposed exile, it deserves international recognition.
A group of islanders have talked about building a Lennon memorial in the gardens but the plan seems to have become bogged down in the political infighting that so often dogs small communities.
It’s not hard to see what Lennon loved about Bermuda. Imagine a subtropical version of the Scilly Isles: a charming model village place full of delightful pink sand beaches, neatly manicured gardens, tiny roads, well behaved traffic and friendly locals.
It is, in many ways, the perfect holiday place, and Cambridge Beaches on the western fringes of the island is similarly the perfect place to stay.
You can imagine Hercule Poirot turning up here on holiday only to discover a body in the pool. Actually, it’s a wonder that no TV producer has thought up a Bermudian Bergerac: it would look a lot like Midsomer Murders, albeit with a richer ethnic mix.
It is impossible to imagine that anything bad happens on Bermuda, although taxi drivers assured me it has a bit of a drug problem with attendant violent crime. The only bad behaviour I saw during my week’s stay was from the determined matrons who shouldered me aside in the rush for the cucumber sandwiches when the gong sounded for afternoon tea at Cambridge Beaches. The sandwiches and scones are pretty special.
This was, I think, the first place I’ve been where tourists are forbidden from hiring a car. You can hire a scooter or moped but I lacked the confidence to take to two wheels, as did fellow guests at Cambridge Beaches, preferring the services of the amiable and knowledgeable taxi drivers.
It meant Lenny was a constant companion on outings to St George’s, to the Crystal Caves, the botanical gardens and for a rubber-necking trip to Tucker’s Town to take a peek at the Bermudian homes of the rich and famous: Ross Perot, Michael Bloomberg and Italy’s president Silvio Berlusconi are among those who have glitzy residences here.
There are good bus and ferry-boat services and romantics can indulge in a horse-drawn carriage tour of St George’s. For walkers, there are carfree trails that have been built along the line of the 22-mile Bermuda Railway which operated for just 17 years from 1931 to 1948. The trail is also open to cycles and mopeds – a safer alternative than competing for space on the narrow highways.
The problem for any would-be sightseer is that life is so good in Cambridge Beaches that it requires a real effort to get out and about.
Bermuda has excellent restaurants. Astonishingly, TripAdvisor lists more than 90 eating places. My favourite was the Blu Bar & Grill, known for having the island’s best sunset view.
Gratifyingly, the one thing I didn’t see during my springtime stay was anyone wearing Bermuda shorts complete with long socks. Locals don’t consider the weather warm enough to abandon long trousers until the end of May.
As a 12-year-old, I battled with my mother over my desire to abandon short trousers, so was glad to miss the spectacle of seeing grown men in the modern equivalent. But this would have been the only negative.
Bermuda is about as perfect as a holiday place can be. That is another view of the world I share with John Lennon.