Bermuda, located in the middle of the Gulf Stream off the Carolinas, has two seasons - summer and not-quite summer. Unlike the Caribbean, which remains fairly hot all year round, Bermuda cools down in the November to March period with an average daily temperature about 20oC. It is a perfect time to play golf, walk the beaches, have a game of tennis or explore this 35 kilometre long country. In addition, many properties offer special packages and discounted rates during this time period.
The taxi from Harmony Club was waiting for us outside the modern air terminal and the drive gave us a chance to catch up on the local news. We have stayed at many properties over the years in Bermuda but Harmony Club is special. It is the only all-inclusive resort in the country. In fact, you probably could leave your wallet at home except that you would miss buying all those wonderful gifts in Hamilton's downtown stores. For one price, guests receive airport transfers and are accommodated with a chilled bottle of bubbly upon arrival in their warmly decorated room at a resort with an informal yet classy private club atmosphere. Either a double motor scooter or convenient bus passes are included as well as unlimited quality bar drinks and nightly entertainment. Three meals a day include a buffet breakfast and lunch, and a gourmet dinner with wine in either the dining room or beside the pool. Tipping is not even an option. The sun drenched lounge chairs beside the large inviting pool become the focal point during warm afternoons. A putting green is popular with golfers as well as dozens of frogs who congregate there at dusk.
We had hardly unpacked before we were off to Hamilton, just a few short minutes away on a clean, friendly bus (a seven-day bus pass is good on all routes as well as the ferry system, making it an exceptional value). Although we have used a double scooter before, one of us likes to slightly exceed the speed limit. She does wait for Slow-poke to catch up at roundabouts and intersections. After stopping in to see our friends at Wheels Cycle on Front Street, we each had our own two wheels and were soon scooting about the island as if we had never left (by the way, driving is on the left so care is required). We love using scooters in Bermuda, even if the roadways are narrow and twisting, as they give us complete freedom to explore what feels like our second home.
Within minutes we were at Stonington Beach (Harmony Club guests enjoy a beach lounge, umbrella and towels here) swimming in the luscious water at the beach, watching clouds float by and dreaming on the soft, pink sand. Returning to Harmony Club, a quick swim in the pool, a shower, a sip of the bubbly, a change into nice casual and we were ready to be treated to a delicious dinner. Later we had the opportunity to make new friends while listening to the joyful sounds of Andrew Chamberlain on the grand piano in the lounge.
Morning brought more perpetual sunshine as the chef presiding over the morning buffet created two fluffy omelets which provided the energy we needed after having run along the Railway Trail. One of us has been a runner for many years while the other one cheers from the sidelines. Now he has joined the ranks. As the former railway line passes beside Harmony Club, it was too perfect to pass up. Beneath a canopy of green vegetation above deep limestone rock cuts, we ran for three kilometres while breathing in the delicious sweet aroma of oleander and hibiscus before the 3 km return (she still waited for Slow-poke to catch up).
Then we were off to the west end of the island to see what new art and craftwork was available in the shops at the Dockyard. As lunchtime crept up on us, we strolled into Beethoven's in the Dockyard's Clock Tower Mall for one of the most delicious fresh fish dinners we have ever enjoyed in our lives. Bruno Heeb, a former chef at the Waterloo House (a Relais and Chateaux hotel), is one of the partners of this friendly restaurant and his creative mind is constantly providing delicious ideas for his guests to enjoy.
After lunch we scooted into a couple of small beach coves along the south shore to do a little snorkeling before heading back to Harmony Club for a tie-and-jacket dinner, a once a week event.
We decided to spend the second half of our week in Bermuda at Waterloo House, mainly because of room 10, one of our all-time favourite hideaways. Located on the second floor overlooking Hamilton Harbour, the French doors of this lovely room open onto a private balcony with one of the best views imaginable. This Relais and Chateaux property is one of the finest small hotels to be found anywhere. From the outside, the soft pink walls of the hotel look unassuming but once you enter the first courtyard it becomes a whole new experience. It is like stepping into a corner of a Mediterranean villa with splashes of colourful flowers and quiet areas amidst a pastel backdrop of garden terraces.
After checking in we were off to explore. We stopped in at City Hall and used our Heritage Passes to see what was new at the art gallery before spending a few minutes of quiet time in the Cathedral just a block down Church Street.
A refreshing swim in the secluded pool at Waterloo House and we were ready for dinner. We sat on the waterfront terrace under a wide canopy of tree branches aglow with tiny lights that reflected on the water adding luster to an already magnificent setting sun. After an excellent meal we were ready to stroll along Front Street which is closed off to traffic every Wednesday night for Harbour Night. Friendly artists and craftspeople display their products to both visitors and residents who leisurely wander along the waterfront beside two cruise ships at dock.
Thursday was spent frolicking in the gentle surf along secluded Grape Bay Beach. We chatted with some of the crew shooting photos for the next Virginia's Secret catalogue who had chosen this stunning backdrop to highlight their new line of products. That evening we experienced delicious Italian food in the friendly and lively Little Venice Restaurant where a group of colourfully costumed Gomby dancers passed through to entertain the patrons.
The next day, after a relaxing breakfast at Waterloo House, we were off to the east end and St. George's, the original capital of Bermuda. Although we often take advantage of the good value offered by the seven day transportation passes for the efficient bus and ferry system, we also like to use scooters from Wheels Ltd. which allows us the flexibility to explore the islands to our heart's content. After a snorkel at Tobacco Bay, we spent a pleasant hour on the Coral Sea, watching sea turtles from the upper deck and marine life in all forms on a reef through the glass bottom of the boat. On our way back to Hamilton, we stopped by Bermuda's most famous "watering hole", Swizzle Inn. Sitting on the upper balcony we viewed the traffic of scooters and small cars rushing to and fro as we consumed a jug of the potent rum swizzle.
Back at the relaxing and tranquil atmosphere of Waterloo House, we soaked away our tired bodies in room 10's jacuzzi before heading out to the Monte Carlo Restaurant located behind City Hall. In a room reminiscent of southern France we relaxed over a crisp chilled white wine before indulging in freshly-prepared cuisine representative of the Provence region. After such a feast we walked for awhile, watching the moon as it shimmered through the palm trees. Finally returning back to Waterloo House, we sat on our balcony sipping a glass of bubbly as the last few guests completed their meal at the water's edge. The stars twinkled a little brighter as we savoured the moment of pure luxury and contentment.
Morning brought with it the reality that our airplane was awaiting us. Some cold winter night we will sit by the fire and relive these warm memories of our favourite paradise.
by Dave Stephens & Susan Randles
* Bermuda information: tel. 1-800-BERMUDA
* Harmony Club: tel. 1-888-427-6664
* Air Canada: tel. 888-247-2262
* Wheels Cycle: tel. 1-441-292-2245
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