A Walk in Bermuda, part 2

After our long rumble along the Railway Trail, we were ready for an easier day. We decided to take the ferry over to the Dockyards and explore that area. The sun was out and the journey across the Great Sound offered fabulous views, especially on the approach to the dock.

We hadn’t really done that much research and were just looking for a stroll, and for those who like that sort of walk the Dockyards is a good place to do it. It’s actually not that big of a place, which we discovered after we’d walked around the whole area in under 20 minutes. Since we weren’t in a mood for shopping we took the always prudent option – when in doubt, have lunch. The Frog and Onion pub offered outdoor tables, refreshing locally made ale, and entertainment from some of the feral chickens that roam the island.

After a fish sandwich and a salad, we headed off for another circuit of the town, and since the next ferry wasn’t due for awhile, we took in the National Museum, located in the Dockyards. This encompasses one of the original forts build to defend the Royal Navy base in Bermuda, which the Dockyards served. Within the walls of the fort is the Harbour Master’s House, built in the 1830’s and fully restored in the 1990’s. The views from the wraparound veranda are spectacular.

After that somewhat dutiful nod to history, we took the ferry back and headed home for a quiet evening. The sun had been wonderful but tiring, after our winter hibernation in Toronto.

The next day, recharged, we wanted to explore the North Shore of the island. I also had an ulterior motive for heading north – I had read that one of the best little restaurants in Bermuda was a place called Art Mel’s Spicey Dicey, where they make what is reputedly the best fish sandwich on the island.

While I haven’t sampled enough to know if it really was the best, it was for sure the biggest sandwich I’ve ever eaten – a monster portion of delicious fried fish with chopped salad, tomatoes, and tartar sauce between two thick slices of gently cinnamoned raisin bread – yes, raisin bread. The combination shouldn’t work, but oh boy does it ever. When washed down by Bermuda’s own Barritts Ginger Beer, it’s a meal to keep you going for days.

After that lunch, eaten in the sun sitting on a church wall, we needed to keep walking to burn off the calories. The North Shore is relatively settled and residential compared to some of the beaches on the South Shore, so the walk along the North Shore Road gives you a glimpse into the lives of working Bermudians. Scooters buzz, kids are out playing, washing is flapping on the line, and people are busily making a living while you’re playing the dumb tourist. It’s a great reminder of the privilege that travel represents – not everyone can hop on a plane and swan off for a few days to take a break.

After winding our way to Spanish Point park and then back into Hamilton, our wandering ways were at an end. That North Shore walk was on our second last day, and on our last day I had a vital appointment to keep. My rotisserie baseball league was having its annual draft, and I spent what looked to be a gloriously sunny day sitting inside finalizing my research and chatting with my team partner on our draft picks. Ok, so not a walk, but a journey to greatness we hope. We won the league last year and we’d like to win it again this year.

31 years married! And I can get away with baseball while in Bermuda! That’s love.

We finished our trip with a stroll into town for dinner at Portofino. It’s a small place, but big on charm with wonderful staff, very good food, and a good little wine list – everything I like in a restaurant. We stayed till we were the last ones out, and wandered back to the flat along quiet streets accompanied by the now-familiar frog chirp chorus.

A walk in Bermuda became several walks, and each revealed a different aspect of the island – its lovely beaches, the often overlooked parks and trails, the frugal sightseeing ferry rides, the many great restaurants, and most of all the warmth of Bermudians who go out of their way to welcome visitors to their home.

A Walk in Bermuda, part 1

Recently my wife and I took a break and headed to Bermuda for a few days in the sun – escaping late winter is always sooooo tempting and we gave in this year.

We’d never been, and after doing a bit of research decided to stay in Hamilton, the capital and the largest town. Bermuda is not a large island, so we thought by staying somewhere central we could explore in any direction, and that’s what we ended up doing. Our flat in Hamilton was lovely, with great views out over the harbour.

We arrived on a Wednesday in the rain, so our first wanderings about town were dampish, to say the least. It chucked it for stretches and then eased off to a misty sprinkle before resuming a pelting rain, combined with gusty blow-out-your-umbrella winds. On the plus side, it was warm by Toronto March weather standards – 18C can feel tropical if you’re fed up with winter. Despite the rain and clouds, we wandered about exploring Hamilton. It has its charms, and is compact enough to explore in just an hour or two. Little touches like this alley bring colour to the buildings:

We found a narrow alley called Washington Lane that led to a tucked-away shopping area, and nestled along the lane was La Trattoria restaurant. The pizza and wine went down very well and set us up for more exploring, plus the staff were charming – it’s a great place.

After more walks in the rain, and the discovery of a Waitrose grocery store that took us back to our days living in London, we headed back to our flat to make our plans for the next day, when the weather promised to be dry.

We woke to hazy sun and warmth, so we set out to explore the island. Our research pointed us to the Railway Trail, which stretches along the middle of much of the island, and we decided to walk most of that, fitting in a stop at Horseshoe Bay where there were a couple of restaurants, and then continuing round to the south-west to end up at Rockaway Bay to catch the ferry back to Hamilton.

While small, Bermuda has a surprising amount of traffic. Combined with roads that often have no hard shoulder or footpath, you find yourself sharing the road with buzzing scooters, motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks, and buses. Everyone is polite and defers to walkers, but it’s hardly peaceful. We were glad to get off the road and onto the Trail itself about a km outside of Hamilton.

Once we found it and headed south, we were in a different world. Stretches of the trail are enveloped in trees and others go through cuts through the limestone spine of the island, with stone walls draped in ferns, vines, flowers, and mosses. Parts of the trail reminded us of walks in France or in England, while other stretches brought Florida to mind.

Our mid-day goal was Horseshoe Bay on the south side of the island. On the map, it looked like just an hour’s walk.

In reality, the up and down hills, the road traffic, and the stops to take in the view meant that it was well over two hours before we walked down off the Trail onto the beach at the bay. The journey was worth it for the view, the sound of the surf, and the salt tang in the air.

The walk and the sun and that salty tang were making us hungry, and the wind was whipping sand in our faces, so we headed back towards the trail to find lunch at the Gulfstream restaurant. It felt so summery to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine and some delicious salads. I needed an espresso to fortify myself for the afternoon’s walking.

South from Horseshoe Bay, the Trail slides by the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, and we thought we’d take in that landmark. I’ve mentioned the hills, and Bermuda’s central spine has several that rise nearly 100m above sea level. The Lighthouse is on top of one of them, and rises 5 stories so we made the spiralling climb up the 195 steps to take in the view from the top. Unfortunately the strong winds and the narrow platform made my wife very nervous and as she’s the photographer I took a quick snap and then headed back down.

After a dizzying descent we tumbled down the hillside path to rejoin the Trail, and then kept wandering south before bending along the south west hook of the island. That led us to Rockaway Bay, which we hit just in time to catch the 4:30 ferry back to Hamilton. We’d timed it well, because it started to splat a bit with rain on the way. The views and scenery from the ferry are great – it’s an inexpensive way to see much of the island from the perspective of the Great Sound.

By the time we landed at the ferry terminal in Hamilton and walked back to our flat, we were shocked to see that our Fitbits said we’d done about 18 km on our walk. Since Bermuda is only about 15 km long, and we’d started in the middle, we had thought we’d done about 10 km tops – no wonder we were knackered. It was only proper, then, to end our day in style at the Huckleberry restaurant in the Rosedon Hotel. The walk up the drive let us know what we were in for.

We took a table on the veranda and thoroughly devoured a wonderful meal – it’s well worth a visit if you are in Bermuda. Our night ended with a stroll back to the flat along quiet streets, serenaded by the chirps of frogs and gentle breezes plying palms.