Jennifer Gray 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Go ahead, tempt the Bermuda Triangle. Although tourists do occasionally go missing around Royal Naval Dockyard, they always reappear — often laden with shopping bags. Inspect the forts built over four centuries, see artefacts from the shipwreck that founded the colony, or climb the cast-iron lighthouse that still blazes a trail. Listen for blithe spirits in countless old houses, courts and churches. Commune with Mother Nature on walking tours, in Victorian gardens or along decommissioned railway trails. Count the birds that fill the skies. Peer below the surface at aquariums, on boat tours, or explore the sea bottom while breathing in a helmet. Go underground for a stroll amongst the stalagmites in the caves. Nothing beats a personal walking or bus tour by your own guide who knows the stories and how to tell them. Walks and talks covering any angle of Bermuda are tailored to families, groups and individuals with particular interests. What could be easier than a professionally scheduled family day to make sure everybody has a good time? Ask about Tim Rogers of Bermuda Lectures & Tours, or Judith Simmons of Unique Vacations (331- 8687, www.uniquevacations.bm), two wellexperienced guides on the islands. An easy, relaxing way to see the sights is aboard a sunset cruise, favourite libation in hand, as the scenery floats by. Peek into the lavish estates of the rich and famous, charming colonial homes in pastel colours, even the classic landmarks, but from a new vantage point. Or see the sights down under — coral gardens, colourful fish and shipwrecks — without even getting wet. Glass-bottom boat tours are as leisurely as they are fun. Cruises come with plenty of anecdotes about island personalities. Old Haunts Everybody knows the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, where ships and planes vanish without a trace. The northern tip of Bermuda’s namesake enigma points to Clocktower Mall in Royal Naval Dockyard, but as far as we know, no hapless sightseers have ever been sucked in. The other two points are Miami and San Juan. According to the National Geographic Society, the first documented encounter with the Bermuda Triangle was by Christopher Columbus, who witnessed mysterious lights and suffered compass malfunctions on his first voy-Age through it. The name entered the modern lexicon after a 1964 Argosy article. The most infamous case was the 1945 disappearance of five bombers on a mission from Ft. Lauderdale, plus the search plane sent after it. In all, 27 men disappeared that day. Some connect the Bermuda Triangle to the disappearance of the USS Cyclops dating back to 1918, one of the great naval mysteries of all time. Numerous theories have been proposed and discarded, including an electromagnetically induced fog that wreaks havoc on passing ships and planes. As a matter of mundane fact, the Bermuda Triangle regularly experiences interesting weather, including thunderstorms, waterspouts, hurricanes and such, which can rise quickly and dispatch a ship or plane. The Gulf Stream, which runs through the Triangle, can quickly clear any evidence. Modern satellite surveillance, inexistent when the triangle was first hypothesised, has shown that rogue waves reaching 80 feet or higher occur with relative frequency. These waves can take down even a large ship. Devil’s Hole was Bermuda’s first bona fide tourist attraction. As the water rises and falls, eerie noises that emanate from the sinkhole near Harrington Sound spooked 19th-century tourists, who went away imagining they had heard the moans of Satan. In the 1600s, witchcraft mania washed across the islands. When you visit St. George’s, stop by the Old State House, where Governor Josiah Foster condemned Jeane Gardiner for practising black arts. Gardiner was drowned — after three attempts — and other witches were burned at the stake on Gibbet Island, near the disarmingly quaint Flatts Village. Almost any cottage or house in Bermuda that dates back more than 100 years can harbour a (friendly) ghost. Noel Coward reportedly wrote his famed play Blithe Spirit based on his Bermuda encounters with a beautiful French ghost. In St. George’s, Camden, the official residence of Bermuda’s premier, is where some have spotted the ethereal former wife of a government official strolling the grounds on moonless nights. Built around 1710 and especially interesting to students of American colonial history, the tercentennial Verdmont has had plenty of time to collect ghosts. An exemplar of Georgian architecture still in pristine condition, it was used as a private residence until opening as a National Trust Museum in 1956. Virtually no structural changes were ever made. The former owners never even added electricity or plumbing. The house is renowned for its wonderful collection of antiques, including the pintsized furnishings and period toys that fill its upstairs nursery. An early 19th-century piano was imported from England, but many pieces are made of local cedar crafted by Bermudians. A fine china coffee service on display was supposed to be a gift from Napoleon to U.S. President James Madison, but was seized by a privateer and brought to Bermuda. Devonshire Parish offers views deep into Bermudian history. On Middle Road, look for Old Devonshire Church. Its present foundation was laid in 1716, and its first incarnation dates back to 1624. An explosion on Easter 1970 fairly destroyed the tiny building, but it was reconstructed and now serves as a national icon. Train buffs should check out the Bermuda Railway Museum, in Hamilton Parish, with a nice collection of maps, photographs and memorabilia. It occupies a Bermuda Railroad station from the early 20th century, when trains rumbled through the woodlands, over the cliffs, and past the pretty beaches and dunes. Sometimes called Old Rattle and Shake, the local train service only ran from 1931 to 1948. What’s left of the line is now the Bermuda Railway Trail, a walking trail and bridle path divided into seven sections that each take about one-and-a-half to three hours to walk. In Paget Parish, Waterville, now headquarters of the Bermuda National Trust, dates to 1725. It was home for the Triminghams, whose descendants operated the biggest department stores in Bermuda for more than 150 years. Waterville’s drawing and dining rooms are full of antiques, china and art. Gracing the well-tended grounds is a lovely Victorian rose garden. Bermudian guide Tim Rogers leads walking tours through the grounds, where visitors learn about tradi-Tional gardens and unusual plants, continuing on to the Paget Marsh preserve. Now 400 years since the founding of the colony by the passengers and crew of the Sea Venture, stop at the Bermuda Historical Society Museum, on Queen Street in Hamilton, to see artefacts from the life of Admiral Sir George Somers, who led the settlers. The museum also houses an impressive collection of antique Bermudian silver and cedar furniture. Whilst on Queen Street, pop in at the Perot Post Office, headquarters of 19th-century Postmaster William B. Perot, who produced the first Bermudian postage stamp. Sessions House, an 1815-era Georgian building with an impressive clock tower, is where the House of Assembly and Supreme Court meet. Visit the Parliament Street landmark Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. In the downstairs court, Bermudian judges still wear wigs and red robes, carrying on a tradition that dates to the 17th century. In Sandys Parish, Scaur Hill Fort and Park affords visitors majestic views of Great Sound and Ely’s Harbour. The park opens from 10 a. m. to 4:30 p.m. Designed in London and opened in 1846, the cast-iron Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse still towers over Southampton Parish — 117 feet tall and 362 feet above sea level. The modern 1,000- watt lamp can be seen by ships 40 miles out and by planes 10,000 feet up. The 185 stairs to the top are challenging, but the views of Bermuda are panoramic and well worth the effort. After the American Revolution, Royal Naval Dockyard became the headquarters of the British Navy in the western North Atlantic. It now houses shops, cafés, recreation, attractions and the National Museum of Bermuda, located within Bermuda’s largest fort, The Keep. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., this museum is home to the territory’s most extensive collection of maritime and other artefacts, and no student of military history should miss a chance to explore here. Curator Elena Strong says, “Best day out is definitely the National Museum of Bermuda. Nowhere else can you find impressive historic military buildings, commanding viewsOf the ocean, dolphin encounters and 500 years of Bermuda history, all in one place.” Immediately after Bermuda was settled, several forts were erected to defend against Spanish attack. Early sites were along the northeast coast and the south shore, where the barrier reef had gaps. Eventually, 90 forts would be built. According to Dr. Edward Harris, director of the the National Museum of Bermuda, all forts were constructed of stone, except one built of timber, which promptly burned in 1620. Seems that a new governor had visited the fort and received a salute from its guns. Anxious to go and greet the governor, the gunner neglected to put out his match. All watched in horror as the fort went up in smoke. “Change came dramatically at the end of the American Revolution in 1783,” writes Dr. Harris. Britain had lost all of its American harbours between the Canadian Maritimes and the West Indian Islands, so Bermuda became the pivot of British naval strategy. For visitors interested in military history, Dr. Harris recommends three installations: Fort St. Catherine, which towers over the beach where the Sea Venture survivors washed ashore four centuries ago and includes a museum; Fort Hamilton, a 19th-century fort offering great views of Hamilton and its harbour; and The Keep, the largest fort in Bermuda, at Royal Naval Dockyard. Unique Culture After 400 years, this crossroads of culture has amassed quite a collection of music, art, architecture and literature, with elements from Britain, Africa and the Americas. Traditional Scottish bagpipe music still rouses these islands, courtesy of the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band, wearing the Gordon tartan. “Scottish and Canadian highland regiments were posted to Bermuda, a heavily defended colony of Great Britain, and where the highlanders went, so did the bagpipers,” explains drummer Adrian Cook, whose day job is with the police. The band performs a heavy schedule of public and private events. The Skirling Ceremony, a free 30-minute show with pipes, drums and a highland dancer, is performed at noon each Monday from November through March, at Fort Hamilton. The Beating of the Retreat ceremony, a tradition from the days of King James VII of Scotland, is performed twice a month from May through October — early in the month at the Clocktower Mall in Royal Naval Dockyard or at Kings Square in the Town of St. George, then later in the month on Front Street in Hamilton — at 9 p.m. during Harbour Nights. “The Masterworks Foundation and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art are amongst the finest of the flowers thriving at the botanical gardens in Paget,” effuses Nicholas Lusher, prominent dealer of art and antiques. The museum concentrates on works inspired here. Assistant director Elsie Outerbridge says that artists often praise the quality of Bermuda’s sunlight as it plays with the islands’ distinctive architecture. Besides Homer and O’Keeffe, visiting artists have included Marsden Hartley, Albert Gleizes and Charles Demuth, whose works are amongst 1,200 in the museum’s growing collection. A Masterworks Artist in Residence Programme spotlights visiting artists through exhibitions and selling shows, of which there may be 20 in a year. Many consider architecture as Bermuda’s principal native art form. But it’s really about function; houses are low and boxy with shallow eaves to withstand high winds. They have gleaming white roofs and pastel-coloured walls to reflect the ubiquitous sun. High ceilings and large windows invite cooling sea breezes. Many fine examples of original Bermudian architecture are found in St. George’s, including the Old State House from around 1620, the Old Rectory from 1699 and the Globe Hotel from 1700. In Hamilton, Front Street is lined with 18th- and 19th-century facades, making it a prime position for pictures. Learn more about Bermudian art, architecture, culture and history by perusing the shelves of the Bermuda National Library, in Hamilton. Amongst its collections are rare books and current periodicals from Bermuda and abroad. Natural Highs For nature lovers, Bermuda has preserved several beaches, bays, ponds, parks, gardens, caves, forts, lighthouses, scenic overlooks and hiking trails.The Bermuda Railway only operated in the 1930s and 1940s, but it left a fabulous recreational resource, the Bermuda Railway Trail. Reopened in 1984 as a scenic pathway for walking and riding, the trail offers spectacular views, stunning seascapes, lush gardens and exotic flora. Quiet stretches amble through nearly every parish, but the best parts are from Paget west. Points of interest along the way include historic Fort Scaur, in Sandys. Sign up for a walking tour and get some colourful commentary along with the beautiful scenery. If you enjoy hiking, check out the four-mile walking trail from Dockyard to Somerset. The path crosses Gilbert Nature Reserve and passes the Royal Naval Cemetery, which dates to the 19th century. The hike allows ample opportunities to take dips in the ocean along the way and enjoy fabulous views of Great Sound. A way to commune with nature whilst learning some history is on walking tours. Bespoke tours can last from 90 minutes to four hours, cover just about any collection of interests, and serve groups up to 15 people. Professional guide Tim Rogers of Bermuda Lectures & Tours says, “My tours are all about painting pictures of the past to appreciate the present.” Popular routes include Dockyard, Hamilton, Hog Bay Park, Walsingham and Spittal Pond. Set your sights on the best of Bermuda by signing up for one of the island’s exciting sightseeing tours. Unique Vacation Tours (www. Uniquevacations.bm) offers three-hour tours of the eastern and western parishes. And for par-Ties of six or more people, they can personalise a tour to suit your needs. To join the locals for an informal six- or seven-mile walk on a Sunday morning, fall in with the Walking Club of Bermuda. Luxuriate in the islands’ natural beauty, traversing the rolling hills, nestled valleys, and paths strewn with flowers. Find a schedule at www.walk.free. bm or call 737-0437. Bring your water bottle, sunscreen and walking shoes. To see Bermuda as the early settlers did, pay a visit to Paget Marsh. The 25-acre preserve is a palmetto and cedar forest with distinctive mangroves. An elevated, wooden boardwalk takes you past the pond and its peat marsh. It also gives you an opportunity to see a wide array of wildlife and birds. The Botanical Gardens, in Paget Parish, are magnificent. Species range from lush, subtropical foliage to ferns and cacti. Established in 1898 at Camden House, the garden is open without charge from dawn to dusk. Orchid lovers should take time to explore Firefly Nature and Freer Cox Memorial reserves, in Devonshire, home to many animal species as well. Blue Hole Park, part of Hamilton Parish’s Walsingham Nature Reserve, is known for its palm groves and a veritable carpet of elephant ears. Birdwatchers flock to Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, on the south coast of Smith’s Parish. The 34-acre reserve features trails and footpaths through wetlands and along the south shore. While the herons and egrets are roosting at Spittal, the great blue herons are found along Great Sound. Pied-billed grebes settle around many ponds, and double-crested cormorants fish the inshore waters. The National Audubon Society of the United States has held a Christmas Bird Count for over 100 years, and the Bermuda Audubon Society, established in 1954, has taken part since 1974, averaging 90 species per count, totalling 200. Grab the binoculars and look up. Learn about the local briny deep by visiting Flatts Village. Built in 1926, its Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (BAMZ, located at 40 North Shore Road) is one of the oldest continuously operating aquariums in the New World. It features an intriguing look at Bermudian wildlife, especially native fishes, exotic reptiles, pink flamingos and a giant replica of a living local coral reef. Animals roam around at arm’s length in a vast flight cage. Bermuda’s Turtle Project, sponsored by BAMZ and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is world-renowned. (293-2727, www.bamz.org)If the aquarium whets your appetite, then sample the displays at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, on the harbour east of Hamilton. Sophisticated multimedia demonstrations teach about heretoforeunknown creatures. “The more information visitors have about the ocean environment, the more we are able to protect it,” says Director Wendy Tucker, daughter of famed undersea archaeologist Teddy Tucker. (292-7219, www.buei.org) Go ahead and pet the friendly fish and explore other magnificent sea life on a tour with Hartley’s Under Sea Adventures. The shallow-water helmet diving is the safest undersea adventure yet devised, but everyone — even certified divers — finds the experience exhilarating. (234-3535, www.hartley bermuda.com) On the spring migration of humpback whales, Bermudians can hear their complex songs as they pass offshore. People share breathless tales of whale-watching encounters by land and sea. They find friends who own boats or join party-boat whale tours like Fantasea Bermuda. (236-1300, www.fantasea.bm) “At this time of year,” allows local environmentalist Jennifer Gray, “I can often be found perched on a warm cliff top on the southShore, with binoculars in hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of these creatures as they cruise down the coastline.” Sometimes the whales breach and play. Sometimes the only sign is an occasional fountain of mist erupting from a blowhole. Learn more about local whales at BAMZ, in Flatts Village. Don’t want to get wet? Then go underground. The limestone that capped the islands’ volcanic origins left them crisscrossed with caves and caverns. Two great places to learn about underground Bermuda are Crystal Caves and Fantasy Caves, at Bailey’s Bay in Hamilton Parish. Crystal Caves opened in 1908 and is one of the largest cave systems here. “The delicacy of the formations and the quantity of formations make them world-renowned,” says Dave Summers, president of Crystal & Fantasy Caves and active in the International Show Caves Association. In Fantasy Cave, startling white crystal formations are viewed from a walkway floating above the lakes. (292-0640, www.caves.bm) Other caves accessible to the public are Prospero’s Cave and Cathedral Cave, beneath Grotto Bay Beach Resort in Hamilton Parish. They organise regular “cave crawls” for interested guests. Prospero’s beautiful underground lake alone is worth the visit.Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo 40 North Shore Road, Flatts Village Tel: 293-2727 E-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.bamz.org The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (BAMZ), one of Bermuda’s premium attractions, inspires appreciation and care for island environments. A treasure trove of native fish, exotic reptiles and birds, including pink flamingos, the facility offers education and entertainment in a beautiful setting. The North Rock exhibit is a 140,000-gallon replica of a living local coral reef. A path guides visitors through the Caribbean exhibit, a vast flight cage where animals roam at arm’s length. The Australasia exhibit includes lemurs, wallabies and tree kangaroos. Children love the touch pool in the Local Tails exhibit, and Discovery Cove is an interactive haven for children of all ages. Enjoy the spectacular view of Harrington Sound from the coastal walkway. Learn about Bermuda’s geology and habitats in the Natural History Museum. BAMZ opens daily except Christmas, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.), $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5–12. The Bermuda Train Company Tel: 236-3130 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.bermudatrain.com On the tour of Royal Naval Dockyard are highlighted such areas as Lagoon Park, Royal Naval Cemetery, Somerset Village and the National Museum of Bermuda. Learn how the Clocktower building, built in 1857, initially contained the naval store offices, secretary cashier offices and the office of the captain-in-charge of Dockyard. The walls are three feet thick and the towers are 100 feet tall. The southern tower originally contained a clock made in 1856 by John Moore & Sons in London. The face on the eastern side of the northern tower had a single hand, set daily for the time of high tide. Hear about the old Royal Naval Hospital, its epidemic of yellow fever, Bermuda’s largest fort and Dockyard as it was in the 1800s. Sit back in the train and be transported through time. A Hamilton tour highlights the City Hall, Parliament, Bermuda Cathedral, Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute and Botanical Gardens. Learn how a house is built in Bermuda, including details on how to catch rainwater on the roof and store it in tanks beside or under the house. The above is just a fraction of the historical facts and stories you learn during the 60-minute tour of either Dockyard or Hamilton. Dolphin Quest National Museum of Bermuda, Royal Naval Dockyard Tel: 234-4464 / 1-800-248-3316 E-mail: dqbermuda@ dolphinquest.org Website: www.dolphinquest.org Dolphin Quest is a place where you can swim with beautiful dolphins in their ocean-water safe haven within the old stone fortress now home to the National Museum of Bermuda, one of the world’s most extraordinary naval history museums. Feel the thrill of a lifetime as you touch, swim with and even kiss a dolphin! Enjoy a wide range of encounters for adults, children, families and groups. Dolphin Quest is open daily, all year round from 9:30 a. m. to 4:30 p.m. Reserve your encounter online or by phone. Lady Boats Tel: 236-0127 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ladyboats.com See breathtaking views of Bermuda’s shoreline while cruising in total luxury. Celebrate weddings, anniversaries and birthdays like never before. Invite a couple hundred of your closest friends, or keep it intimate with just you and someone special. Lady Boats may be the largest and most experienced charter company in Bermuda, but staff of the family-owned-and-operated fleet still believe it is the personal touch that counts. Let them work for you. Marquis Ranch Royal Naval Dockyard Tel: 505-5575 E-mail: marquisranch@ yahoo.com Slow down and enjoy the dynamic, scenic Dockyard by travelling on Bermuda’s original form of transportation. Climb aboard a charming horse-drawn carriage with Marquis Ranch. Enjoy the peaceful sound of horseshoes as you leave Dockyard and head out to Bermuda’s only lagoon. Experience views of old Bermuda cottages and learn how the locals harvest fresh rainwater. Photograph some of Bermuda’s most intimate and secluded beaches. Carriages operate when cruise ships are in port. For more information and rates, call 505-5575 or e-mail email@example.com. Quality Transport Tel: 505-1584 (Cyrus Ratteray) / 505-4604 (Yusef Bean) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com Quality Transport is a small company big on service, catering to singles, couples and large groups, deploying a network of reliable, courteous and experienced drivers, offering prearranged airport transfers with 24-hour notice. Use them as transportation for weddings, dine-arounds and personal island tours, as well as general sightseeing, beach excursions, golf, shopping, luncheons and tourist attractions. For same-day service, contact Cyrus or Yusef directly via the cell phone numbers above. Prearranged appointments can be booked via e-mail or phone. St. George’s Olde Towne Railway 7 Bridge St., St. George’s Tel: 297-5001 E-mail: oldetownerailway@ therock.bm The Olde Towne Railway Train will take you on a tour of the renowned historic sites in the Town of St. George. Witness 400 years of history and culture as you explore the back streets and neighbourhoods of the quaint town, where British settlers first landed. Hear the amazing story of one of the oldest English settlements in the New World. Also available for weddings, parties and special occasions. The St. George’s World Heritage Centre Penno’s Wharf (next to Penno’s Wharf Cruise Ship Terminal)Tel: 297-5791 Website: www.stgeorges foundation.org See a scale model of the Town of St. George, based on illustrations from the 1626 John Smith map and other research, including the original State House, St. Peter’s Church, stone and wood dwellings, small bridges, model ships in the harbour, and the early forts. Interpretive panels describe the islands before the English and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of today. The centre opens Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Unique Vacations Tel: 331-8687 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.uniquevacations.bm Unique Vacations invites you to explore hidden Bermudian treasures on its tours. The journey to the island’s western parishes is filled with beauty — South Shore beaches, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Somerset Bridge and many other attractions. Travel back in time on the eastern parishes tour with a visit to St. George’s, first capital of Bermuda, established in the early 1600s, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let Unique Vacations design a personalised island tour to suit your needs, combining Bermuda’s favourite places of interest with your own must-see-and-do list. Enjoy scenic bus tours conducted by qualified Bermuda Department of Tourism Blue Flag ambassadors, who share their indepth knowledge of Bermuda’s history and landmarks. Admission fees to attractions are included in tour prices unless otherwise stated, and pickup service from hotels or cruise ships is by air-conditioned 14–21-seat buses that accommodate visitors with limited mobility.
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