Civilized, elegant, lovely -- and expensive -- Bermuda
AS a rule, island vacations tend to drive visitors into one of two camps: those lured on by the romance of the remote vs. those put off by excessive insularity. I am cheerfully of the former faith and make it a rule never to be bored when holidaying on the snouts of extinct volcanoes. Of course, I also count a halfway decent beach and a turquoise-colored sea as high culture. Bermuda, I knew, was going to be heaven.Skip to next paragraph
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I had done, as tourists are wont to say, the Greek isles, the Virgin Islands, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, and two sand spits off the west coast of Florida known as Sanibel and Captiva Islands. (For the purposes of scientific purity, I do not count a year spent in Great Britain as an ``island vacation.'') But, for reasons not fully examined, I had never ventured to Bermuda.
Perhaps the island's accessibility (a direct, two-hour flight from Boston) and reputation as a honeymooners' haven tempered its exotica. This flower-sprigged volcanic cap (six islands in all) had so long been part of America's collective vacation consciousness -- right up there with the golden oldies of Miami Beach, Disneyland, and the Grand Canyon -- that I undoubtedly took it for granted. Only when spurred by a misguided sense of intrepidness (pegged to the United States dollar -- Bermuda tourist rat es are flagging) did I venture to belie Andrew Marvell's 17th-century verse: ``Where the remote Bermudas ride, in th' ocean's bosom unespied.''
As it turned out, millions of honeymooners were not wrong. (I encountered the first of these adorable duos entwined in seats 9D and 9E as I stumbled into 9F. Everyone comes to Bermuda en deux, en famille, or at the least en golfing foursome. My temporarily solo status -- I later rendezvoused with an old school friend -- elicited a polite ``Madame is here on business?'' from a deeply suntanned waiter.) Less historically significant than the Greek islands but more so than Floridian isles (Ber muda was settled by Britian in 1612), more formal than Nantucket but friendlier than the Caribbean, Bermuda is decidedly its own animal.
A happy blend of English seaside village, Italy's Amalfi coast, Portugal's Algarve, and a touch of the Caribbean, Bermuda remains topographically unique. Beyond the pastel cottages with lime-washed ziggurat roofs (for catching and purifying water), the lush subtropical vegetation (oleander, hibiscus, morning glory, bougainvillea) and signature hordes of buzzing moped riders (no rental cars available), Bermuda is civilization in short pants. It is English antiques and cool tile floors; jackets and ties and Bermuda shorts; the clatter of teacups under the tropical sun. If Britain had a Costa del Sol, this would be it.
For the frequent or first-time visitor -- beyond honeymooners, Bermuda remains a favorite with golfers and yachtsmen -- there are many advantages to a Bermuda vacation. There is no language problem; a voter's registration card will float you by immigration; and everyone accepts the US dollar. The famed pink beaches (microscopic bits of coral) not only live up to, but surpass expectation. Warwick Long Bay, a series of rock-studded azure coves on the island's south shore is a must for every beachcomber. A nd as overused as the word ``charming'' is, it is the perfect way to sum up the island and its inhabitants -- residents of Britain's oldest colony. Cab drivers fall all over themselves to ask you if you're enjoying their island.
Additional pluses include local cuisine that puts most other tropical and subtropical locales to shame. (Bermuda's proximity to the US allows for good mainland provisioning, and the island's numerous if Lilliputian farms take up the slack.) The coastline is studded with bays, coves, and beaches, unspoiled by high-rise development (Florida take note) and generally uncrowded even in high season (Horseshoe Bay was the one exception). Sports, water and otherwise, abound. Snorkling, sailing, and deep-s ea fishing trips can be arranged, and nearly every hotel complex has at least one all-weather tennis court. As for golf, Bermuda is justifiably famous for having more courses per mile than any other country.