Thursday, January 18, 2018
Travel

Bermuda: pink beaches, British history and easygoing lifestyle

HAMILTON, Bermuda

This small island, only 21 square miles in size and 650 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., gave the world shorts.

And onions (still used in island cuisine). And grass (still used on the island's ubiquitous golf courses).

Bermuda has earned literary cred as well. An early chronicler of its infamous Triangle, William Shakespeare used it as the shipwreck setting for his play The Tempest, making it the only New World location the Bard ever cited by name. While Prospero, Miranda, Caliban and Ariel had their share of difficulties, Bermuda's gentle beauty and easygoing lifestyle today lure those who wouldn't mind being shipwrecked on its shores.

It's no wonder. Luminous turquoise waters lap shell-pink sand beaches, frangipani perfumes the air, and pastel houses snuggle behind winding hedgerow-bordered roads with names such as Happy Talk Lane and Pie Crust Place.

It boasts what may be the world's smallest working drawbridge (with a width of a mere 32 inches) and a signature drink (the Dark and Stormy, a heady concoction of ginger beer and rum). It has no rental cars (mopeds being the preferred method of transportation), no skyscrapers and no sense that life should be lived at other than a leisurely and enjoyable pace. The capital of Hamilton is a beautiful harbor city filled with shops, museums, galleries and gardens.

For those who suffer from Anglophilia, it's comforting to know that you don't have to travel across the Atlantic to get your Britain fix. Bermuda is arguably the most British of all the Commonwealth nations.

When Adm. George Somers first arrived in 1609, it was by mistake; he was actually headed for the Virginia Colony when he was shipwrecked. Not being one to miss a good opportunity, he did what the Brits always did upon discovering a new place: He claimed it for the Crown.

Here, at the eastern end of the island, is St. George's, also known as the Town of St. George, rich in history and a designated UNESCO world heritage site. St. Peter's Church in St. George Parish, the oldest Anglican Church in continuous use outside the British Isles, possesses a set of communion silver that was a gift from King William III.

A top island attraction is the Dockyards, former headquarters of the British Navy, now a collection of fashionable restaurants, pubs and shops, the latter stocked with British imports, meaning you can get cashmere, tweeds and Wedgewood china, although don't expect bargain prices. Another visitor favorite is Fort Hamilton, overlooking its namesake harbor. Built by the British to protect the harbor from a possible American invasion, it has guns on the ramparts, underground passages, lovely gardens and concerts by the Bermuda Isles Pipe Band.

And if you think you have to go to Scotland for the world's best golf, consider this: Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Your hotel can probably make an introduction to these state-of-the-art courses, including Riddle's Bay, the oldest and most picturesque, and the ultra-chic Ocean Club, considered the finest, especially the legendary fifth hole.

Finally, don't even think about skipping high tea. Two of the most unusual tea spots are Homer's Cafe in the 36-acre Botanical Gardens (Sundays) and Sweet P's at the Bermuda Perfumery (Wednesdays and Saturdays).

Bermuda's pink beaches are as noteworthy as Kentucky's blue grass, Utah's red rocks or Vermont's green mountains. Gorgeous stretches of sand such as Horseshoe Bay really do shimmer pinkly under the sun.

They may inspire poetry, but science offers an explanation for all the pinkness. Just off the island's south shore are an abundance of coral reefs that are home to a tiny red marine organism. Upon its death, the organism discards its pink shell, which then mixes with the white sand to create the distinctive color.

Also seashell pink, the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club anchors a prominent spot near Front Street, while its back side overlooks the yacht-crammed town harbor. Officially dubbed the "Pink Palace," the Princess re-opened this summer after a two-year, $100 million refurbishment and will serve as the official host hotel for the 35th annual America's Cup Yacht Races to be held on the island in June 2017.

Among the new additions to the property are the island's first celebrity chef restaurant, Marcus', which showcases the culinary artistry of Marcus Samuelsson, a native Ethiopian and adopted Swede who hit the big time in Manhattan with his Red Rooster Harlem.

Guests can also experience his cuisine at the restaurant and bar at the Princess Beach Club, a private club for hotel guests on one of the south coast's loveliest sheltered coves.

     
 
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