In search of the missing ships!

BERMUDA

OverviewIMG_6422

 

Day 1 

Considering this was a long weekend (but short in comparison) getaway trip, we decided to seize the day and start exploring as soon as our feet touched the ground in Bermuda. Yes, we may have been a little too ambitious, but that’s why you can learn and have an even more amazing trip (do what I say, not what I do:)).

Direct, 1hr 38 min flight from Boston, was a breeze. We don’t check suitcases on short trips. There is no need to bring any warm clothes to Bermuda in July, so we packed light. Grabbing your bags and leaving the airport to explore new destination always beats waiting at that seemingly slowest baggage claim belt on the planet.

For this trip, we had pre-arranged a taxi through our AirBnb host. That was our first little mistake. There are PLENTY of taxis waiting outside at the airport! Our taxi driver was more expensive, because he spent his time waiting for us while we deplaned.

Important note: most taxis do NOT take credit cards in Bermuda, so bring some cash or take it out of the ATM there. US Dollar is the same value as Bermudian Dollar (no, you will not be able to buy same amount of items as in the US, but that’s for later). US Dollars are accepted everywhere, but change back sometimes will be in Bermudian Dollars.

45 min taxi ride to Warwick was a non negotiable $50. And with that we started lightening our wallets 🙂 . We should have invested the time and looked into the buses schedule. Bermudians take pride in their bus/ferry system and it is for the most part very reliable transportation and definitely cheap compared to taxi fares. The same ride back on public transportation to the airport cost us $5 each. It was a comfortable, air conditioned bus.

Our Airbnb was simple first floor apartment with private entrance, nothing extravagant, but we did not come to the island to spend much time indoors. We chose it based on the price (hotels were nearly double the cost) and the location- per google maps- 30 min walk to the Elbow Beach and a 5 min walk to the ferry. We love walking, so we figured- great, nice walk will be perfect after the flight. Well, we did not know, that Bermuda and walking on the street are two things not to be used in the same sentence. There are beautiful, colorful houses and then there is the road. There are NO sidewalks pretty much anywhere! We later found out that when the country was built, the government had to buy the land from the property owners and the houses were built right on the edge of the street, leaving no space for sidewalk. Streets are narrow and curvy as is, so leaving space on each side would pretty much make them a one lane road.

Important note: Bermudians drive on the left side of the road (just like in UK, which makes sense- Bermuda is British Overseas Territory). So whatever you do- PLEASE look to your RIGHT first when crossing the street. Maybe I was overly excited to get to the beach, but I nearly stepped in front of the car just crossing the first street there…

Before going to the beach, we stopped at the local grocery store- Lindos. And that’s where we saw how sad our American dollar value is…Simple groceries like bananas or yogurt were double the price of already expensive Boston. But the best way to save time and money is to have some breakfast at home and have snacks ready for the beach/sightseeing during the day.

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Island breakfast

Then we can splurge on nice dinners and enjoy the local food without breaking the bank. So we got some essentials at the supermarket.

As we were about 15 min in our walk to the Elbow beach (pretty much hugging the walls of the houses when cars were passing by), the taxi driver stopped and despite our protests, that we want to walk and don’t need a taxi- drove us to the Elbow beach free of charge. He felt that as a local, he has a responsibility that we don’t get hurt by walking on the dangerous busy road. That’s where we first experienced the warmth of the island people, which we encountered several more times during our short stay.

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Colorful houses of Bermuda

 

Yes, that’s me being silly at the Elbow Beach…

As you can see- I could hardly contain my excitement- the water is Caribbean blue (Bermuda is not in the Caribbean) and most importantly warm! You don’t get such luxury in New England, even by the end of August. Sand is slightly pink and soft. It’s caused by tiny red organisms that grow beneath the coral reefs just off the shore. When they die and fall to the ocean floor, the organisms mix with bits of coral and crushed shell that are washed onto the beach and make the sand a light pinkish color.

Elbow beach was nice first Bermuda beach experience, but there is so much more to see and do! Ambitious as we were, the plan to go to the Horseshoe Bay was postponed till later in the trip. Instead, we decided to take a bus to the Royal Naval Dockyard as suggested by a local bartender in search of the night life. Well, this time the local knowledge proved to be wrong. The bus never came (we waited an hour, while chatting with an awesome Jamaican woman, who was working on a yacht that came all the way from New Zealand). As it was getting dark, we decided to share a cab, dropped off our new friend to her boat and continued towards the Dockyard. As my stomach rumbled. Now that’s never a good sign. It means that HANGRY is coming and it’s coming fast! The cab driver informed us that no night life is happening at the Dockyard, unless there is a cruise ship in. And on Friday there are none. So we would just be spending more cash to go all the way to the far west side of the island for nothing. HANGRY.

Luckily, just about 15 min before the Dockyard, there is a very well regarded local joint- Woody’s. And it has THE BEST local fish sandwiches the island has to offer! Let them make it the way they normally do- on a raisin bread- it’s worth the wait (45 min for a sandwich), you will definitely enjoy it. IMG_2661

The first day was complete. Now we just need to get back to our place, hopefully without spending another $40 on a cab…No such luck- the last bus never came either. We found out later that weekends and evenings are not as regular and reliable as it is during the week, when the locals depend on the buses to get to work. After all, Bermuda only allows one car per family. Oh, and I forgot to mention- no rental cars are allowed for tourists. So we waited another 45 min and then the staff from Woody’s came to the rescue. They had called a cab for one of the America’s Cup visitors that had slightly too much to drink and asked the cab driver to give us a lift as well. Second time a good deed from the locals- two in one day! We like this island, but tomorrow we’ll make more informed choices- no more wasting time on waiting for the buses for so long. And let’s actually check their real schedule!

Day 2

Woke up bright and early- we need to make up for all the lost time yesterday and see more of this island! While setting the alarm, we both forgot that Bermuda is an hour ahead of Boston. So with 7 am wake up, we really started the day feeling like it’s 6 am. No wonder some of us was pretty grouchy…

Ferry schedule seemed to be very accurate and our AirBnb was 5 min walk from the Darrell’s Warf, where the ferry scooped us up and quickly delivered to Hamilton.

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View of Hamilton City from the ferry

Important note: Ferry tickets and bus tickets are interchangeable. You can either buy a day/few day passes, tokens or tickets. They are available at Ferry Terminal at Hamilton City and Bermuda’s Central Bus Terminal also in Hamilton City, next to the city hall. If you don’t have tickets and want to pay cash, you need to have exact change (and drop it in the box on the bus/ferry), which needs to be in coins(quarters).

We bought $25 worth sheet of tickets and used them for both ferries and buses. On either one,  the driver will tell you how many you need to rip off, since it depends on how far you are going.

As for Hamilton itself, we did not stay around for very long. It’s a nice colorful (of course!) city with lots of options for shopping and dining. We planned to get back in the evening, so just went for a short walk around the downtown and visited Fort Hamilton- all within walking distance from the ferry terminal.

Productive day continues! From the Bermuda’s Central bus terminal we hopped on the bus #11 and went the scenic route across the island to the town of St George. It is about 45 min bus ride, but the views along the way are gorgeous and the bus is comfortable.

While in St. George, do yourself a favor and stop at the corner ice cream shop Yo Cherry. They have constantly changing flavors, but avocado/honey/cinnamon or ginger/honey were my two favorites of the day!

As you walk up the street from the ice cream shop, follow the signs for Unfinished Church- its a beautiful structure for some good pics (peek trough the windows for better angles). St George is also famous for St. Peter’s church– 400 years old UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Walking around in the heat calls for a dip in that crystal clear water- perfect place is just around the corner- Tobacco Bay!

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Tobacco Bay Beach happiness

Spend the afternoon relaxing at the beach, have a drink at the beach bar with a pretty loud DJ, or just float around the shallow bay in a bath warm water. If you love snorkeling, this is a great place for it as the water is very calm and clear. Tobacco Bay was certainly a time well spent in Bermuda!

But the day is far from over (it certainly helps getting up early)- being so close to it, we needed to check out the Crystal Caves. The last tour is at 4.30pm, so we walked back to St George and hopped on a bus for a quick 15-20 min ride that dropped us right near the Swizzle Inn (to have an island drink Rum Swizzle after the cave tour is over). Entrance to the caves was just to the left, across the street from the Inn. There are two types of caves- Crystal and Fantasy.FJMM5756

The last tour was only available for Crystal ones, but from the description of both, seems like that’s what we wanted to see anyway. Crystal caves have a nicely build path over the water (if you are tall, you may have to duck a few times to avoid a low hanging stalagmite).

YHJF4447OCOA5265They also have lights installed, so you can see the beautiful reflections in the clear deep water. The guide was informative, tour lasted about 30 minutes and was well worth $22 per person. As for the Fantasy Caves that we did not see- the main difference according to the guide is that the temperature is hotter and more humid (Crystal Caves was nice and cool) and the color is slightly more red/darker.

The day got us thirsty, so before going back to Hamilton for dinner, we ventured into the previously mentioned Swizzle Inn for a nice refreshing local rum drink. It’s not too strong (unless you have the whole pitcher of it:)) and definitely worth the stop. QHHN0118As we entered the bar, the couple from the nearby table asked if we had been following them! They had seen us on the ferry, then at the Tobacco Bay and now again! Kathy and John have been vacationing in Bermuda from Delaware and one drink with them turned into another shared cab to Hamilton, followed by dinner in Portofino– Italian restaurant right downtown. Portions are well sized and we all enjoyed our pasta dishes. We can’t wait to see the friendly couple again, as it seems like we will be in Puerto Rico the same week in the fall!

As we already were in Hamilton, we decided to stay there till later, to see how the night life is. To be completely honest, it’s pretty quiet. You will not find crazy loud music playing, there are no clubs/bars lining up the street. Yes, there are places to go in, but it’s no Miami Ocean Boulevard. We’ve heard a lot about The Pickled Onion, so we went there for the last drink of the night. Sadly they were out of a few ingredients for the drink I asked from the menu, so I settled with rose wine (you can hardly ever go wrong with rose!). Service was good, the live band was playing inside, so it was a nice end to the busy day.

Day 3

This is the day for the books! Despite all of the locals advice and scary accident stories, we went and rented the mopeds! We chose well rated Oleander Cycles, that were close to our AirBnb. They came and picked us up from the house and brought us to the office for the ‘lesson’. I must mention even though we’ve been on the motorcycle/moped as passengers, neither of us have ever tried riding one on our own. So YES, it was very exciting, but also very scary. The fact that you have to remember to KEEP LEFT was a constant brain tease. Pressing break with one hand and also not pressing gas with the other was also a slight challenge for me. Then there is the leaning while making a turn. And there are A LOT of turns in Bermuda. As well as the little hills. You get the picture. But, you have to do what scares you, right? So after some practice rounds near the local church, we were cleared OK to get on the real road. And off we went…Slooowly. Creating some slight traffic behind. Until locals were flying by and going around us and oh well- we just wanted to get to the beach alive and well. KVIG7668We picked a relatively easy route to Horseshoe Bay Beach and some 30 min later were high – fiving each other that we MADE IT. Well, made it to the beach. Let’s not worry about getting back just yet, enjoy the day.HVKF3947

No wonder Horseshoe Bay is recommended in all Bermuda travel sites that I read before coming to this island. The beach is wide, sand is soft and of course that water is amazing! There are some little waves, it’s not a flat bay as Tobacco Bay Beach, but it makes it fun to jump and body surf. The beach was pretty empty when we arrived, so we rented the chairs and an umbrella and I took a little nap. When I woke up, it was like a totally different place!! The cruise ship has arrived to the Royal Naval Dockyard carrying some 5000 passengers. And of course a lot of them came to the #1 advertised beach. It still was good, we still had a great time, but had we showed up later in the afternoon, we would’ve not been able to rent the chairs or the umbrella.

As the storm clouds started rolling in, we decided to get back on our mopeds and scoot back before we get rained on (that’s the last thing the moped ‘experts’ like us would need!).  We made it back to the Oleander Cycles in one piece (I almost went into the opposite traffic at the very last turn- wouldn’t that be embarrassing, crash right in the parking lot;)). Returned the mopeds – one day of adrenaline rush was enough, and got a ride back to our place.

Time for dinner! We called a week before the trip and made reservations at the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse restaurant. LZWB9794Short cab ride got us there right around 6 pm.

Scheduled dinner was for 7 pm, but make sure to get there earlier, so you can enjoy the beautiful sunset and the sweeping views. The lighthouse itself closes around 4 pm, so we did not get to climb to the top, but since it’s located on the top of the hill, views were no less magnificent.

Food and service was excellent, Lobster Ravioli for the main meal and Toffee Pudding for desert were my personal favorites.

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As we now knew that buses go much less frequently on the weekends and especially in the evenings, we did not waste our time on waiting for one and got another cab to Hamilton. Warwick is a small town and there is nothing happening there, so Hamilton is a place to go for the evening.  We wandered around the quiet streets and came to Hamilton Princess Hotel. It had access to the marina side and right next door was 1609 restaurant- perfect for a drink and a late snack. Day 3 was a success!

Day 4

As we’re now used to the one hour time change and this is our last full day on the beautiful island, we got up early again. This time – to take the ferry to the Royal Naval Dockyard, located on the far west side of the island. While the drive from Warwick is about 45 min, the ferry is much faster and more enjoyable. And you get to see the island from the water.

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Royal Naval Dockyard from the ferry

At the Dockyard, there is a Commissioner’s House- now museum, which is definitely worth checking out.  Everything in the Dockyard is within easy walking distance, so you can spend a few hours checking out the museum, fort, Dolphin Quest  if you like swimming with dolphins. FIPY4449There is even a beach area, where the water is calm and good for snorkeling- Snorkel Park Beach, which costs $5 per person to get in. We tried, rented the chairs and then returned them…Horseshoe Bay stole our hearts and we did not want to sit at the beach right near the fort wall.

To get back from the Dockyard to the Horseshoe Bay was much easier. Because there was a cruise ship in town, there were also mini buses waiting around, offering transportation for $7 per person to bring you to the beach! In comparison, taxi cost for the same distance is $30-40.

Back at the Horseshoe Bay, we decided to avoid the crowds and explore the other bays that stretch along the southern coast of the island. There is a clear path just to the left of the Horseshoe Bay beach, that leads you to the quiet and almost private little bays. GETZ6107There are no chair/umbrella rentals there, but if you are OK just spreading your scarf or towel and catching some rays away from all the touristy hustle and bustle- that’s the way to go.

We picked our bay and jumped in the water- this is the last swim before heading back home tomorrow…

As we were drying off, we saw a movement in the corner of the eye inside the crack of the rock. I thought it was a stuck inside bird, but the local quickly explained that it’s a nesting Bermuda Long Tail! He touched the bird slightly, which made her turn around and show the baby chick under the wing!IMG_6986

How cool is that?!!

On the way back to our place, we walked along the Horseshoe Bay Beach, which now close to sunset, was converted into a massive beach volleyball courts! Tourists were gone and a lot of the locals were enjoying their beach. And we got one more magical site- a beautiful rainbow over the ocean!IMG_6905

Conclusion

We did not find the sunken ships or the missing planes. In fact, the first thing I asked our cab driver was: What do  locals say about these myths? And he said- “That’s all rubbish!”

What we found was kind and welcoming people, beautiful, warm turquoise waters, pink sand beaches and a desire to come back!

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