Anyone reading my recent blog about the NAEC Spring Educational Conference in Bermuda might get the impression that this island possession of the United Kingdom is not an ideal vacation destination. As along as you remember that Bermuda is not a tropical island, nothing could be further from the truth.
In my opinion, the best thing about Bermuda is the people. You would be hard pressed to find anyone more friendly or polite. While visiting several places in downtown Hamilton, the capital, I was struck by their helpfulness. The young lady at the local art museum greeted visitors with a cheery hello and a willingness to answer any question and explain the various exhibits. The waiters and other staff in the several restaurants and other establishments I visited both in town and at the Fairmont Southampton were also courteous and attentive. In most places when you try to cross the street you take your life in your own hands, whereas Bermudans seem to take particular delight to stopping their vehicles to offer you safe passage from one curb to another.
Speaking of vehicles and roads, both are relatively small in Bermuda. Our driver to the airport explained that local laws limit each household on the island to one car, and the homeowner gets that choice. There are no limits to motorcycles and scooters, which explains the plethora we encountered during our visit. All of the vehicles are small by North American standards. The same driver said even the latest model of Toyota Corollas are judged too large for Bermuda’s roads (the 2007 models and earlier pass the size test, however). Even the buses and trucks are small. I saw a van in Hamilton that was smaller than the sub-compact cars seen on U.S. streets.
It’s understandable when you see the roads, which are among the narrowest I have ever seen, including those in Europe. They are very twisting and curvy, much like a slalom course or even a roller coaster! And befitting a possession of the U.K., one drives on the left, which proved quite the challenge for those NAEC attendees who rented scooters to get around the island.
The beaches were very nice, although a bit nippy for my tastes. No doubt they are quite inviting in warmer months. The water, which is laced with both coral reefs and rocky (limestone?) island carved by wind and wave, is beautiful. Both the Atlantic and many bays and coves feature bluish-green water that rivals any I have ever seen. The harbors are filled with many boats and ships, powered by both sails and motors.
The landscape is quite hilly. This, combined with the narrowness of the island, affords many opportunities to see the ocean in both directions. Hamilton reminded some of San Francisco when climbing up and down its streets while playing the tourist. There are many historical sites to see, not surprising when you learn Bermuda is celebrating four centuries of history this year. Fort Hamilton, built in the mid-1800s, sits atop one of the highest elevations on the island and offers much for those interested in those types of sites. There are also plenty of shopping opportunities for those inclined to leave their money behind. (The U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere and is equal to the local Bermuda dollar in value.)
The food was superb. The host hotel offered a variety of restaurants and I partook of the opportunity to “travel the world” with Belgian waffles one morning in the Windows on the Sound, risotto and wild mushrooms with tiramisu for dessert at Bacci the Italian restaurant one evening, and a toasted tuna sandwich for lunch at Wickets. A visit to a pub in Hamilton offered traditional British offerings as well as local cuisine. The food at the conference social functions was also terrific (but don’t tell my wife how many times I visited the dessert bar).
As always, no NAEC conference would be complete without some dancing and Bermuda was no exception. Following bagpipe-playing and kilt-wearing welcome and another delicious meal, a DJ played tunes my generation could sing along with and those younger (and young at heart) could dance to.
In spite of the weather, which was mostly cold and dreary, I didn’t talk to any NAEC member or guest who did not enjoy Bermuda. Kudos to the NAEC board and staff for providing a fine setting for this annual event.