A lasting impression of Bermuda: Gentlemen wear shorts. Bermuda shorts, to be precise. Formal attire is a dress shirt and tie, suit jacket, shorts, calf-length dark socks, dress shoes. I couldn’t live here. Joy has long observed, “You only have knees for me.”
Bermuda is a cluster of 180 islands, mostly tiny and uninhabited. Our floating hotel parked itself at the Royal Dockyards, across the lagoon from Hamilton, the principal town. From here we can wander around the historic keep (fortress) and the port’s typical, ever-present shops. It’s too far to walk into town so we hitched a ride on the ferry ($5.00 apiece unless you buy a token at the Information Center. There it’s $4.50. We went to the Information Center).
We had no trouble with the currency. Bermuda prints its own money but not based on the English pound, which we expected (Bermuda belongs to the English Commonwealth) but on the American dollar. Convenient, but you have to ask for the change in US rather than Bermuda dollars, which are only valid here.
We aren’t supposed to be in Bermuda. Our original itinerary called for two stops, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. But then along came Irma. It’s heartbreaking. In addition to the physical devastation to these two islands and Puerto and other Caribbean islands, Irma destroyed future income as well. They depend on tourism; cruise ships put food on the table for island residents. It’ll be a long time before they return. Our ship alone deposits 4,000-5,000 visitors at a stop, and they bring their money with them. I hope Americans don’t soon forget the huge need in this post-Irma world.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been on a cruise rerouted to protect passengers from violent storms. It happened once in the Caribbean and then again way up north, when we were sheltered in the St. Lawrence River because a hurricane barred Halifax, Nova Scotia from us. Thanks to today’s electronics, a forewarned ship can be the safest haven in a storm.
Hamilton has a population of 3,686; all of Bermuda totals 65,331, comparable to Johnson City, TN (66,677). It obviously caters to tourists. Excellent shops offering jewelry, exclusive-brand clothes, other unnecessaries. I didn’t see a Ross Dress-For-Less or Marshalls anywhere.
The city has no water supply. No rivers, no municipal water company. Residents are required to catch rain water on their roofs and direct it to their personal water tanks. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of rain water.
Bermuda is an ideal destination for water lovers: snorkeling, jet-skiing, swimming, sun bathing (which I’m also forbidden to do—remember the knees?) We are staying for only two days and one night, so we chose to explore Hamilton, the capital, and St. George’s, the territory’s first English settlement, a picturesque village that boasts an 18th-century town hall and a museum featuring crystal, silver and furniture from the period. While older tourists explore the village, younger ones are bronzing their skin on the island’s beautiful, pink-hued sandy beach.
We’ll never forget St. George’s Unfinished Church. The ruins of what looks like a medieval gothic church rise above the town. So it appears, but it misleads. It isn’t medieval at all. Its architecture is neo-gothic, all right, but the church was constructed in the 19th century. It would have been a beauty when finished, but it never was. The ruins stand as a mute symbol of the fragility of congregations, even those with denominational backing.
In 1874 construction began on St. Peter’s Anglican Church, designed to seat 650. The congregation it was to house was born in 1612 in St. George’s. But in time that group split, leaving a huge burden for the remnant to carry. Then when Hamilton’s cathedral burned down, funds were rerouted from St. George’s to Hamilton. Storms and more internal squabbling and finally a highly destructive hurricane followed.
That was the last straw. The members opted to renovate their present building and forget about the “new” one. So it stands today, no roof or ceilings, grass floor, empty windows. At this point in my description the preacher is strongly tempted to burst into sermon. But I think you already have drawn the obvious conclusions.
It’s easy to understand why Americans like to vacation in Bermuda. Temperate climate, friendly people, tempting beaches and shops, plentiful good food and drink, an easy plane trip from our mainland. Our fellow cruisers returned to the ship glad for the rerouting.
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