Weekend in Bermuda

In March 2022 I decided to fly out to Bermuda for a weekend to check it out. The island has been on my radar for a while. In part for the association with the Bermuda triangle but also because its geographic location in a sort of odd mid-Atlantic zone. Some consider it Caribbean, others do not. It has seen a few colonizers given its strategic location. These days it is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. It is also a playground and tax haven for the ultra-rich. It is a wealthy island, comparatively speaking, and you can tell by the infrastructure here. It does not feel like a Caribbean island.  It is also expensive. You can use USD here, but if you use cash you may get local currency in return. Though given the wealth on the island, pretty much everywhere accepts credit cards.

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The island is very beautiful and has delicious and varied foods compared to most Caribbean islands. There is also a lot of history to explore here. The famed beaches are nice. People here are friendly and laidback but not on island time so that is also nice. And no, not everything is catered to the ultra-rich, you can find many things to do here that wont break the bank. With its nice infrastructure, tasty good, nice beaches and towns to meander through, I certainly would consider returning some day. However, that also being said, it would be at the top of my list of places to return to.

There is only one international airport in Bermuda with service to a few East Coast U.S. cities as well as Canada and London. It is crucial to note that visitors cannot rent cars in Bermuda, you can rent 2 seater electric vehicles though, but not from the airport. Your only options to get to and from the airport are taxi, bus or private transfer. The bus is only ideal if you have a backpack or small duffle/carry-on, and you need to pay in exact change in cash.

If you are short on time or would like to kill 2 birds with 1 stone, as in get transport but also build in a tour with that, then I recommend finding Blue Flag taxi when you exit the airport. Blue Flag is the official certified tour guide taxi company (Driers are tour guides). The rates are $50/hour with a minimum of 3 hours, for 1-4 people.  Cab fare from airport to downtown Hamilton is around $30.

Upon my exit of the airport, following a near 3 hour delay (thanks short-staffed Florida air traffic control), I asked the first driver I encountered about doing a 3 hour tour split between 2 days since it was already near 3PM at this time. He was unable to split his time and fare between 2 days so introduced me to another cabby named Mike. Mike was able to split 2 days, and in total it was 2.5 hours on day 1, and 1 hour day 2, and he didnt charge me extra for the rollover hour.

I told Mike that I was short on time due to delayed arrival, and my focus was on food and getting an introduction to the island. He understood the assignment. He took me to where I wanted to eat, showed me a few spots and gave me a history/context as we drove and answered any of my questions. Along the way he pointed out many things, be it historic buildings and their significance, neighborhoods, and all tied it in with the culture and identity of Bermuda. He was a proud local and was very happy to share his heritage and island.

First up was a Late lunch at Wahoo Bistro in St. George Parish/ island. This places came highly regarded and recommended online from variety of sources to try the Bermudan national dish of Fish Chowder. It was good, but I later had an even better one elsewhere in Hamilton.

Bermuda national dish: Fish Chowder paired with Black Seal dark Rum and Sherry Pepper sauce.
With national drink: Rum Swizzle

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Overlooking St. George and Castle Harbour

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We then briefly stopped at the Unfinished Church, yes its really called that, and no, its not a ruin, it really was unfinished, the clergy collected all the money and left without finishing the church

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Tobacco Bay

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Alexandria Battery; Bermuda has a lot of churches and fortresses from the various colonizers (Spanish were first, then Portuguese and finally British). Alexandria Battery is a British one was from World War II.

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John Smith Bay Beach, the sands in Bermuda are famously “Pink” because Bermuda is surrounded by corals and the sand is comprised of mostly coral.

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Elbow Beach

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The most famous beach in Bermuda, Horseshoe Bay Beach

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The one item I was most looking forward to trying was the Bermudan Fish Sandwich. Everywhere I looked everyone recommended Art Mel’s, located in a more local/industrial neighborhood away from the main tourist areas.  Sadly, it was oddly closed on this day even to surprise of Mike. No sign, no notice, they were supposed to be open until 8:30PMs on Saturdays, even according to the sign on their door. Oh well.

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Thankfully I had Mike with me, and he was determined to get me a sandwich so we ventured to Seaside Grill on the Northside, and Mike even phoned ahead to place an order for me. Seaside Grill is another popular local spot for the famous fish sandwich, and since I did not had Art Mel’s I cannot tell you which was better, but according to reviews, many locals claim Seaside is better.

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All I can say it wow, the sandwich is so well worth chasing. It is delicious and massive. Sweet, savory, crunchy, chewy, soft, and a bit spicy (if you ask for hot sauce) all at once.
Bermudan Fish Sandwich: Homemade Portuguese cinnamon raisin bread, fresh fried Rockfish fillet, hot sauce, tartar sauce and coleslaw. Paired with Barrett’s Ginger Beer, which I did not realize is from Bermuda.

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After getting the fish sandwich, Mike took me to my hotel where we bit farewell for the day and remained in touch via WhatsApp to arrange the next day’s tour.

I opted to book the Royal Palms Hotel in Hamilton. It is one of the more affordable options on the island and is #1 ranked on Tripadvisor. It is tucked away in Hamilton so it feels quite secluded and private, but it is within 5-10 minutes walking to all that Hamilton has to offer. The hotel grounds are also beautiful with nice seating options through their garden. The main house is a historic Bermudan manor. Staff here are very friendly and service is good. Simple continental buffet breakfast is included. Their restaurant is also one that is often recommended online, though reservations are required. The bar/restaurant has a very impressive and extensive wine list as well.

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I was still mostly full from my late lunch and the massive sandwich. But I still walked 10 minutes into town to visit the Lobster Pot Bar and Restaurant in Hamilton to sample their multi-year award winning Fish Chowder. It didnt disappoint, and was much better than Wahoo Bistro (Wahoo’s is a bit too salty). Lobster’s pot was not overly salty and was smoother and you could taste the various layers and ingredients more distinctly. Highly recommended.

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Chocolate pecan cake for dessert

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I then returned to my hotel and relaxed in the beautiful gardens with a half bottle of wine and enjoyed the cool spring Bermudan breeze before the rain storms came through.

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The next morning, following a mistimed alarm clock with daylight savings adjustments (I ended up waking up an hour later than I had planned), I walked back into Hamilton to have breakfast at Bouchee Cafe. One of the main places in town that serves traditional Bermudan Codfish breakfast: salted codfish, tomato sauce, onion butter sauce, banana, avocado, steamed potato, boiled egg and johnny cake. It was very good. The banana was an interesting component but it went nicely with the salted codfish, surprisingly. Bouchee is definitely a local neighborhood spot, as everyone that came through was a local that all the staff knew and vice versa.
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Complimentary hotel continental breakfast. I had a bowl of yogurt and granola as well as coffee and juice. You can also order made to order eggs for additional cost.

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Mike then showed up to pick me up at 10AM for the morning’s rainy tour through Bermuda before dropping me off at the airport at 11:30AM.

First stop was Tucker’s Point,  most famous and exclusive neighborhood in town. It is where the rich and famous have their huge mansions, starting at around $32M and upwards. Most are unoccupied most of the year and are mainly tax evasion investments. But they are so pretty to look at from the outside. The area is full of private clubs, golf courses and communities, and applying to get a property or membership sounds tough, you and your family need to be vetted by the authorities but also current residents. About 20 years ago Bermuda shifted from focusing and relying on Tourism to focus on Insurance and Tax and is now a super wealthy nation.

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Random sighting: This exercise/walking pathway park constructed next to one of the private gold courses. Built by a Chinese-Jamaican guy who build a walking trail for his wife to exercise, and its not even on their house’s property. Ah the life of the ultra-wealthy.

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We then headed to the airport, with its new terminal building that seems a bit oversized for the few daily flights that come through the island, even during peak travel season. Thankfully Bermuda has U.S. pre-clearance facility and it was super quick and easy.

Bon Voyage,

TheGastronomicTraveler

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