Mark Twain once wrote, "You go to heaven if you want, I'll stay here in Bermuda." I concur as I've had a long-standing love affair with the beautiful island.
I have been under her spell ever since my parents settled there for eight years in the 1980s, my clergyman father tending over the charming congregation of a pastel pink Presbyterian church on the hillside of Hamilton.
I would visit, roar about on my scooter and explore every narrow lane, roundabout and pink sand beach. I swam in her crystal-clear waters, dove her wrecks and black corral, and visited her rum-laden hangouts, introducing myself to Rum Swizzles and Dark and Stormies.
They say good things come in small packages. Only 21 miles long and two miles wide, Bermuda is a loosely-linked chain of islands with lush, rolling hills, beautifully-tended gardens and ocean views everywhere you look.
It is a welcoming place, from the cheery-polite locals, the caring service and the sophisticated ambiance, to the nightly chorus of the peeping tree frogs, or the resident Fairmont Southampton rooster that walks the gardens and offers up his daily morning wake-up call.
The pastel colours of the buildings, with their brilliant, white, sloped, terraced, rain-collecting roof tops, complement the pink sand beaches and the inviting iridescent turquoise waters beyond.
Travellers often think of Bermuda as a "tropical" island, but it is situated well north of the Caribbean island chains, far out in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina. Bermuda's impeccable location means the island is warmed by the gulf stream and the sun's rays, but free of the tropics' relentless heat.
Visitors find a rich island history, beginning when a Spanish sea captain, Juan Bermúdez, spotted the uninhabited islands in 1505. The British arrived a century later. Bermuda began in the Town of St. George, which was its capital for 200 years.
Steeped in history, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest continuously occupied town of English origin in the New World. This is a good place to get a sense of history as you stroll the narrow streets and discover St. Peter's Church, built in 1612, a replica of the shipwrecked Sea Venture and Fort St. Catherine, built in 1614.
The capital was moved to Hamilton in 1815. My wife and I spent three nights at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. You can spend a day here exploring the parks, museums, and British-style pubs, seafood restaurants and eclectic shops.
We hopped on the ferry for a scenic trip to Somerset, site of the Bermuda Maritime Museum and Dockyards, with restaurants, a craft market, galleries and a wonderful dolphin show inside the 19th century Dockyard Keep.
For the remaining four nights of our week's stay, we found the best of Bermuda at The Fairmont Southampton. The palatial pink hotel crowns the 100-acre resort, surrounded by an executive golf course. An efficient trolley delivers you to a spectacular private beach.
Adjacent to the Fairmont's beach club is stunning South Shore Park and famous Horseshoe Beach, considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world. We walked for two miles along a labyrinth of coral caves and cliffs that jut from the satiny pink sand.
You will find this walk necessary, or perhaps the 185-step climb up nearby Gibb's Hill Lighthouse, because of the fantastic island dining.
Make sure you experience the Bermuda fish chowder liberally laced with sherry pepper sauce and black rum at the Frog and Onion in Hamilton, rockfish at the Barracuda, curried conch stew at the Black Horse Tavern at St. George's and a Rum Swizzle in the original Swizzle Inn at Bailey's Bay, a carefree family-owned landmark.
Our final night at the Waterlot Inn was our most memorable meal. Located in a dockside cottage established in 1670, this charming restaurant can't be surpassed for history, local charm and quality of food.
Upscale but still friendly, it has an impressive seafood menu and wine cellar.
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