Bermuda is a tricky place to get a complete understanding of, even after umpteen visits. There is an ephemeral, cotton-candy element to the 21-square-mile island with its confectionery-pink veneer, ubiquitous in hibiscus blooms and on cottages and buses. Yet somehow, ambiguities are all part of the allure.
Bermuda’s intriguing qualities are best unraveled slowly, like the layers of its namesake onion. There are few actual exports these days, aside from rum cakes, linen shorts, and duty-free six-packs of dark ’n’ stormies. Rather, the island trades on intangible attributes — the ridiculous turquoise of its reef line, the infectious rhythm of a gombey drummer, its tax-neutral status.
To the first-timer, a few myths need to be dispelled. Subtropical Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean — that island group lies more than 1,000 miles to the south. As a British Overseas Territory, it is also neither very British nor wholly North American, but a complex combo of the two — with a large dose of island cool thrown in. Bermudians may fly the Union Jack and sing “God Save the Queen,” but they don’t exactly break their workday for scones and clotted cream. And while islanders tune in to Oprah, run NFL office pools, and frequently visit family and friends in the United States, they remain entirely skeptical of a wholesale Yankee cultural invasion.
But from the moment you arrive, skimming its silky aquamarine shallows, Bermuda will seduce you as the brochures promise. While most visitors come for beaches — plus a Hamilton shopping excursion — more and more now flock to Bermuda for spa weekends, golf getaways, ecotours, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, or music and film festivals. There’s plenty to see and do year-round — but if you prefer, it’s a great place to do nothing at all.
Indeed, Bermuda can’t help but charm newcomers and repeat visitors alike. It is a pocket-sized, blindingly beautiful gem of a destination — so close to the Real World, yet in mindset, so perfectly far away. “You go to heaven if you want to,” Mark Twain told a friend in March 1910, just a month before his death. “I’d rather stay here.”
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition