Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Year In Review

Is it New Year’s Eve already? Cliché for sure, but time does indeed fly, especially when you’re having fun. It’s been six months since I started Bermuda Shorts and after a quick look at my blog archive at right, it seems the island quite agrees with me. Take my very first post for example, dated June 1. Even then it was sunny and optimistic—in short, how folks like to say the word Bermudaful, a charming practice I’ve since adopted in outgoing emails (“with Bermudaful wishes,” I’ll now say). June was also the Month of Random Firsts. Like the time I shared fish sandwiches with the actor who played the Golden Child in the 1986 film starring Eddie Murphy. Or when I learned the importance of bungee cords, which of course, help to secure the day’s groceries. Or the first time I got caught in rainstorm while driving my rental scooter (spoiler alert: it ended with me buying a new outfit at Gibbon’s). With July came new experiences altogether, most notably the quest to obtain a driver’s license. There were small victories, mind-boggling exams and major failures, but the good news is my license and our tiny subcompact car eventually materialized one month later. The big news from August was Hurricane Bill, a category 4 storm that threatened Bermuda but turned out to be nothing more than major rain with major hype. Yes, I too bought the fear. And while my Al Roker-esque video shot from stormy Church Bay got some serious circulation, Bermuda got to the business of being its sunny self soon thereafter. How’s this for damage? Thank goodness my family arrived just before the storm! Moving along, September was filled with blissful sailboat charters, eastward Labor Day celebrations and shameless self-promotion. There was my Wyoming road trip story in that month’s issue of Budget Travel—featuring none other than Emmy-winning photographer Joshua Cogan—and my piece in the New York Times, 36 Hours in Bermuda, which ran in the travel section on September 27. Of course there was lots more going on that month—like sampling locally brewed beer at North Rock Brewing Company and day trips to the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences—but a guy’s gotta make a living, right? October gets the Bermuda Shorts Gold Star not only for its abundance of entries but for the world-class events that spurred such creativity, namely the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and the Bermuda Music Festival. If you haven’t seen them already check out these two videos I shot and edited from the Grand Slam: One on the sixteenth hole of Port Royal and another following Lucas Glover’s winning approach on 18. And be sure to turn up the volume. As previously mentioned, the Music Festival was equally as entertaining. After a brief workout at my gym, Wyclef Jean totally rocked the crowd during the festival’s opening performance and day two saw a rollicking rendition of We Are the World, a video also shot and edited by yours truly. But enough about October. In addition to a slew of shoulder season hotel deals, November brought with it the Twenty-Second Annual World Rugby Classic and a long-awaited visit from Queen Elizabeth herself (hey Lizzie, you can thank me later for all of those vacation tips). Which of course brings us to December, a festive month filled with eggnog appreciation, Christmas boat parades, scooter-driving Santas, vintage Bob Hope videos—and my personal favorite—a thirty-foot tall illuminated Michael Jackson. A crazy year, indeed. I'm not sure what's in store for 2010, but if it's anything like the 2009, I think I'll be just fine.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deal of the Day

We briefly interrupt today's scheduled programming to bring you the latest and greatest hotel deal from Bermuda. Thank goodness, because last week's holiday coverage including vintage Bob Hope videos, scooter-driving Santas and a thirty-foot tall illuminated Michael Jackson was getting redundant, no? So in the spirit of winter getaways—and affordable getaways, at that—check out this great bargain from Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa in Somerset Parish: Guests who book a minimum three-night stay at the resort get complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel's casual and fine-dining restaurants, including Tamarisk Room rated by Food & Wine as one of the best in Bermuda and Shutters, an alfresco cafe overlooking Mangrove Bay. Considering the average cost of dinner for two in Bermuda is around $70 (without wine) this is a significant savings. How much exactly? Let's do the math: Three dinners, $210; three lunches, $105; three breakfasts, $50; which means you'll be saving at least $365, most likely more, during your Bermuda getaway. Or just think of it this way—water view rooms at the resort start at $385 per night, so it’s almost like getting one night free at one of Bermuda’s most luxurious properties. Not too shabby. The promotion is valid for travel from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2010 and must be booked by January 31, 2010 (use promotional code CBDINE when booking). For more information, go here. Happy travels!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Well Wishing

The holidays have officially come and gone and after having experienced my very first Christmas in Bermuda I’ve compiled a few observations. Hey, Dominique Smith in France, listen up, because this one’s for you. It’s no secret that Bermuda is a Christian country—after all, it still flies the Union Jack on its flag. But being from the oh-so-politically-correct United States of America, I was particularly surprised—and quite frankly, delighted—at the frequent use of the words Merry Christmas here in Bermuda. Everyone wished me a “Merry Christmas,” not the religion-neutral “Happy Holidays” that you’d get in any typical American setting. It was Merry Christmas, every day, all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, I mean no disrespect to my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters out there—and of course the good folks lighting up Kwanzaa candles—but there’s something to be said for an entire nation of people being in the Christmas spirit. Even Bermuda’s Premier, the Honorable Dr. Ewart Brown and Governor Sir Richard Gozney invoked biblical passages in their Christmas messages to the public, which were published in the Royal Gazette last week. Both ended in jubilant Merry Christmas wishes. The same could be said of the thousands of ex-pats that celebrated the holiday on Elbow Beach—without a doubt the biggest and most tropical Christmas party I’ve ever been to (see above). Nearly everyone I encountered on the beach wished me a Merry Christmas, or in the case of the Brits I came across, a Happy Christmas, which is something I’ve never quite understood but festive nonetheless. I can say with all certainty that I’ve never used the term in public more. And I think that’s a good thing. So Dominique from France, the next time you decide to cook a cassava pie just say the word. I’ll be there with bells on. Christmas bells, that is.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Bermuda

Okay, okay, so it's not terribly tropical but there's something to be said for a cozy fire on Christmas Day. Consider this my gift to you dear readers—your very own holiday hearth, from my computer screen to yours. As for me, I'm currently sipping champagne on Elbow Beach with the rest of the ex-pats that live in Bermuda, so stay tuned for an update on Monday to see how it all went down. In the meantime, if you're searching for something to watch on television this holiday weekend, don't miss tomorrow's episode of Forbes Luxe 11 on the Travel Channel, when I along with an esteemed panel of travel experts discuss Luxury Steals. Should be a goody!








Thursday, December 24, 2009

Back By Popular Demand

Apparently there’s a whole lotta love for Bob Hope out there. On Monday I posted this video from the actor’s Christmas Show from Bermuda—a one-hour holiday special filmed with friends Dixie Carter, Loni Anderson and Joan Van Ark in 1990. In it he and Dixie sing their way down festively-lit Front Street, no doubt a sweet and endearing moment, but who knew it would cause such a stir? A few emails and as many Tweets later I’ve caved to reader demand. That’s right folks, welcome to Part Two of Bob Hope’s Christmas Show from Bermuda. Fair warning: Today being Christmas Eve, there’s nothing terribly Christmas-y about the clip, but it is pretty amusing, especially if you know anything about Bermuda or its history. In the skit—filmed on picturesque Horseshoe Bay beach—Bob and friends reenact the fateful arrival of Sir George Somers in 1609. It’s classic Hope, filled with one-liners, double entendre and clever word play. Like this:

Sir George Somers (Bob Hope): Is there anyone around here besides you?

Princess Lydia (Loni Anderson): Well, just an Indian tribe. They’re called the Hellawi Tribe.

Stranded Settler (Joan Van Ark): How do they know where we are?

Princess Lydia (Loni Anderson): They don’t even know where they are. They just run around and say, ‘Where the Hellawi?”

You can thank me later.



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Off the Wall

Remember when I told you about the Christmas Boat Parade last week? How Bermuda’s 400th anniversary celebration culminated with a Grucci-esque fireworks show and how the winning boat was a Michael Jackson-themed barge? Unfortunately I was a bit too far from the action to get a proper photograph of the King of Pop in lights, but fortunately for you dear reader I went grocery shopping last night. That’s right folks, Michael Jackson is alive and well and appearing nightly at the Southampton Marketplace, which makes sense considering it was the grocery owner’s boat that won first prize. That’s good news for the community, because hey, who doesn’t like to see a thirty-foot-tall red-leather-clad Michael Jackson around Christmastime? I sure do. It’s certainly more creative than one of those blow-up Frosty the Snowmen and in a strange though fitting way, a touching tribute to the beloved pop star. After all, hundreds of islanders gathered in Camden Park just days after he died, offering warm thoughts and calm prayer for a man they most likely never met. Now if I can just get that scooter driving Santa to take a picture in front of illuminated Michael. Bermuda just gets more interesting by the day, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Christmastime, In Bermuda


Okay, I admit it. I’m officially in the holiday spirit. And even though I’m nowhere near the huge snowstorm that walloped the eastern U.S.—and thus entertained my loved one’s with thoughts of a white Christmas—sharing a tropical holiday in Bermuda is (almost) as good. Just ask Bob Hope. Or break out the Ouija and channel his spirit, then ask, that is. In 1990 the legendary actor, comedian, and vaudevillian came to Bermuda with friends Dixie Carter, Loni Anderson and Joan Van Ark to shoot a one-hour Christmas special here on our very own mid-Atlantic island. Thanks to the good folks at VSB—our local NBC affiliate—the show aired last week and was quickly captured by the diligent team of Bermuda Shorts videographers (ahem). Wanna see what it’s like to experience Christmas in Bermuda? Watch Bob Hope and Dixie Carter sing Silver Bells down festively-lit Front Street. It’s only 2:31 minutes long, but make sure to turn your speakers up at the 44 second and 1:47 mark, when “It’s Christmastime in the city,” magically becomes “It’s Christmastime in Bermuda.” Love it. Oh and if you’re wondering, yes, that is a police officer in a birdcage at the end. After all, someone’s gotta direct all that horse and buggy traffic. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

So Much For the Sleigh...

This was one of those only in Bermuda moments. Like when a rainbow suddenly appears over the Great Sound after a light rain or when you bump into the same person three times in one day, in three very different locations. It’s a beautiful, albeit cozy little island where the strange and unexpected seem to come standard. So why was I not surprised when after finishing my grocery shopping and packing up my purchases, that the Man In Red pulled into the parking lot. That’s right kids, Santa Claus is officially in town and he’s ditched his sleigh for a 100cc scooter. And jolly St. Nick could not have been jollier: Not only did he pose for dozens of snapshots in the parking lot—helmet in hand, of course—but he wouldn’t let me leave without this gem of a picture. I know, I know, it’s fuzzy, but I think the nice little boy who shot it was more concerned with the piece of chocolate cake he was concurrently devouring. You get the drift. As an aside, if you’re interested in seeing more of my mug over the weekend don’t miss tomorrow’s episode of Forbes Luxe 11 on the Travel Channel at 10pm EST, when I along with an esteemed panel of travel experts discuss Exclusive Hotels. And if you’re wondering, I already checked with Santa. He said it was okay to plug my television show—I’ve been a very good boy this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deal of the Day

Considering the gift of travel this holiday season? Then don’t miss this it’s-just-not-gonna-get-better-than-this hotel deal from the ritzy Fairmont Southampton. Really, it’s just that good. From now until December 20th—that’s this Sunday in case you've lost count—the hotel is selling rooms for $99 a night, valid for travel until April 30, 2010. And these aren’t shabby parking lot view rooms, either. Moderate rooms boast private balconies with views of the ocean, harbor, or the hotel’s 18-hole par three golf course, tasteful wooden furniture, sitting areas and spacious bathrooms with his-and-her granite vanities. The resort also features the island’s largest and most celebrated wellness facility—the 31,000-square-feet Willow Stream Spa with 15 treatment rooms, newly renovated indoor pool, private locker rooms and much, much more. Add to that some of Bermuda’s finest restaurants, including the historic Waterlot Inn housed in a traditional Bermuda cottage and the Fairmont Southampton's challenging 18-hole par three golf course and you’ve got yourself an affordable weekend trip for the record books (don't forget, Bermuda is less than a two-hour flight from most east coast gateways). So let's recap: Luxurious Bermuda? For $99 a night? That’s a no-brainer folks. Just be sure to book by 11:59pm on December 20th to get the special rate. For more information, go here. Happy travels!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Join the Parade

And so it ends. Bermuda’s year-long 400th anniversary celebration culminated with a spectacular fireworks show over Hamilton harbor on Saturday night—a breathtaking finale to the much-awaited boat parade, which included nearly 75 festive vessels decorated in twinkling lights of all kinds. And although I passed up an opportunity to crew the 44-foot catamaran Ana Luna, viewing the parade from a well-appointed Hamilton veranda was indeed the smart way to go. After all, nearly 20,000 spectators showed up to watch the night’s activities. That’s one-third the population of Bermuda—a festive mass angling for a glimpse of the spectacular maritime light show, which lasted for more than two hours. From my perch the harbor was in full view and the wine was flowing (much akin to those fancy New York City Marathon viewing parties that pop up in Manhattan each November). Favorites of the night included the Spirit of Bermuda, a three-masted 86-foot schooner featuring a 20-foot green-lit Heineken bottle mechanically pouring beer into a mug; a 30-foot Boston Whaler outfitted with a smoky volcano that shot fire from its red-lit cauldron; and the night’s big winner, a Michael Jackson-themed barge featuring a 40-foot tall King of Pop wrapped in red lights, a giant illuminated glove (like the one MJ used to wear from his Thriller days) and a laser light show that projected beams of light into the sky. I’m not sure if it best represented the parade’s theme—celebrating 400 years of Bermuda’s history, that is—but if the cheering crowds were any indication, I think the MJ boat got it just right.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Appreciation Of...Egg Nog

There are certain flavors from one’s childhood that pop up now and again that always seem to put a smile on your face. Maybe they’re sweet, maybe they’re savory, but whatever they are, they’re unmistakable. For me that taste is egg nog. I can remember Christmas parties in my old house as a kid, filling up tall glasses of the stuff, being reminded by my aunt that it’s akin to drinking candy. Of course this was way before I went on my famed ice cube diet to shed whatever “baby fat” I had before entering high school. At the time, I wasn’t very concerned with self-image. When Christmas came around I was drinking egg nog and lots of it. So you can imagine how pleased I was when I walked into the dairy section of my local market and saw this festive carton perched next to the milk. It’s here! Dunkley’s Dairy Egg Nog, fresh from the farm. Admittedly it’s my latest and greatest tropical love affair and boy is it good. Rich, creamy, sweet—everything you’d ever want in an egg nog. Best of all, its got boozy recipes right there on the carton. The “Quick N Easy” calls for three ounces of egg nog and one ounce of Gosling’s Black Seal rum, served over ice and dusted with nutmeg. Even boozier is the “Festive Nog” recipe, which calls for one quart of egg nog, six ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal rum, six ounces of cognac and two ounces of crème de cocoa served over ice with dusted nutmeg. And I was just putting it in my morning coffee all this time! I don’t know about you, but I just got a lot more excited about celebrating the holidays this year. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dollars and Sense

It’s fairly common knowledge that Bermuda is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. What, you hadn’t heard? Even if this comes as a surprise a quick glance around town would undoubtedly tip you off: A conversation with one of Bermuda’s well-traveled taxi drivers might do the trick as would a Sunday drive on the island’s immaculately manicured roads. Have a look at the hillsides and it would be hard not to notice handsome Bermuda cottages with fresh coats of candy-colored paint and thick verdant forests of coconut palms, casuarinas, and more. It’s a beautiful place this Bermuda, but no doubt because of the wealth that’s generated from its thriving financial, banking and insurance sectors. Still not convinced? Take this recent report from the United States’ CIA World Factbook: Based on the latest department statistics, Bermuda has once again topped the list of countries with the highest gross domestic product per capita. The island generated a whopping $5.85 billion of wealth in 2007—the latest year that wealth can be measured—which when broken down, equals $91,477 per person. That puts this twenty-one-square-mile archipelago ahead of oil-crazed Qatar at $87,600 and ritzy Luxembourg at $79,400. When compared to its major trading partners Bermuda is miles ahead: $45,800 for the U.S., $38,600 for Canada and $35,000 for the U.K. Which is not at all surprising given those country’s thriving populations, but when you consider how much wealth is indeed generated from this tiny mid-Atlantic country it’s enough to make your head spin. Over $91,000 per person? It’s no wonder my favorite taxi driver wears a gold Cartier screw bracelet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Puzzle Time

Got a few minutes to goof off? Bermudaphiles listen up. Ever since the untimely demise of the Mid-Ocean News this summer, former crossword compiler Alex Lugo has been searching for a way to publish his Bermuda-themed puzzles and games, which appeared in the paper for the past 10 years. Luckily for you he's finally tapped into the power of the web with the launch of BermudaPuzzles.com featuring brain teasers, island-inspired crosswords—and my favorite—jigsaw puzzles of popular Bermuda scenes. If you've ever spent time lazing on powdery Horseshoe Beach for example, it should only take you a few minutes to put together the 24-piece puzzle. If not, well, give it your best shot. Worse comes to worse you can always take a quick trip to Bermuda so you can tackle the jigsaw like a pro. As for those cryptic crosswords, I've gotta be honest—I don't think I've been on the island long enough to even decipher the clues. Take this one for example: 9 Across He is taxed by mishandled tea prayer. Huh? Here's another: 1 Across So, you have that outside member of Parliament on? Um, yeah. Sorry Alex, but I think I'll stick to the jigsaw puzzles for now.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Holidaze

Forgive me for being so Christmas-minded, but when the holiday news continues to roll in it’s hard to put all that red and green pomp on the back burner. That, and I’m particularly pleased with my North Carolina Frasier fir which is now fully decorated (for the record I’m far less impressed with my five-inch-tall poinsettia that cost a whopping $15, but this is Bermuda after all). Although I’m not sure why—the weather is just divine these days—December is a historically slow month on the island, so hotels are offering gobs of discounts and special events to lure guests in and celebrate the holidays. At the Fairmont Southampton, children can make cookies in Santa’s workshop and participate in sandcastle competitions throughout the month (that's the hotel's festive lobby above). And every weekend in December at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess kids can enjoy a storytelling luncheon with Santa while eating peanut butter and jelly pinwheels, turkey sandwiches with cranberry mayo and sipping on chocolate milk and eggnog. The Reefs is offering free rooms on Christmas day for guests staying five nights between December 15th and 27th (a $400 value). And ritzy Tucker’s Point will be hosting special wine tastings around the holidays in addition to cooking lessons taught by the hotel’s chef, Serge Bottelli, who prepared rockfish and cassava pie for Queen Elizabeth during her royal visit in November. So what are you waiting for? It's about time you traded in your white snow for some pink sand this holiday season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Special Delivery

How apropos! An eight-foot blue-green North Carolina Fraser fir magically appeared at my doorstep the very day I told you about Bermuda’s festive landscape. Yes, it’s true: My Christmas tree was delivered—for an additional $40. But before you start wagging your finger, understand this. I’ve been going through serious delivery withdrawal since moving to Bermuda. Having spent many years living in and around Manhattan, having something delivered—pizza, groceries, wine—was so common I never even thought twice about picking up the phone and having someone else do the work. Like when I used to order toasted sesame bagels with scallion cream cheese at nine o’clock in the morning or when my friendly deliveryman from Liberty Wines would bring over a six-pack and some corn chips before the big game. And then there was Fresh Direct, an online grocer that delivered fresh, affordable food to your door the day after you selected which fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and cheese you wanted on its website (within a two-hour window no less). In New York, everything can be delivered. Needless to say there’s not much of that going on in Bermuda. Which is not necessarily a bad thing—after all, there's something to be said for the island's small town charm—but when I have the opportunity to get something brought directly to my door these days, you bet your behind I’m going to say yes. So here it stands. My lovely Shatley Farms Frasier fir—a happy tree that didn’t leave one needle in the trunk of my car. In the meantime, if anyone out there feels like opening up a pizza place that delivers in Bermuda, consider me a future paying customer.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…

Maybe it’s the sight of Christmas lights being wrapped around the island's palm trees or the festive decorations in the City of Hamilton. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the cheery smiles that I’ve come across while shopping for produce in my local market. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Bermuda. Just yesterday I saw a man bringing a Christmas tree home on his scooter—a precarious balancing act that had the plastic-wrapped fir bouncing between the two crooks of his arms. According to the Bermuda Sun that tree was one of 10,000 pines, balsams, firs, and spruce that have been ferried across the Atlantic, freshly cut from the fields of North America. How else would they get here? In the spirit of giving and receiving much is also on sale, but don’t expect door buster savings. This is Bermuda after all. Take an advertisement I saw from a store called Price Rite in Pembroke. You can buy a plastic dollhouse for the bargain basement price of $160 or a DVD player for $325. Both on sale! (Dear Santa, I hope you’re reading because you might want to bring a few extra sheckles when you and your sleigh visit Bermuda. Just saying). With the Christmas season also comes a slew of special events—a stacked December including a much anticipated performance of Joy To The World by the St. John’s Youth Choir and soloist Kerri-Lynne Dietz at St. John’s Church and of course, the Christmas Boat Parade on December 12, when hundreds of vessels get decked out in lights and make their way through Hamilton harbor (yours truly will be crewing on the 44-foot catamaran Ana Luna, so stayed tuned for an on-the-boat report). So it seems another festive, albeit tropical, holiday season is upon us. I just hope Santa knows where to find me this year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Open For Business

So it seems I’ve got a bit of housekeeping to attend to since last I wrote. Time to flip that “Closed” sign around, sweep up the dust that accumulated on the floor, and count the money in the register. Back to work, as they say, back to work. Fortunately there hasn’t been much groundbreaking news in Bermuda during my absence. Sure, Queen Elizabeth paid a visit for a few days, but assuming she took my advice I’m confident Her Royal Highness had a blast during her stay. As expected the weather is still gloriously balmy—high 70’s, clear skies—and golf season is now in full swing with courses island-wide offering discounts and special reciprocal relationships. Like this one: Guests staying at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess or the Fairmont Southampton can reserve tee times at Riddell’s Bay Golf Club, a ritzy members-only course now open for tourist play. There’s more where that came from too. Rumor has it members-only Tucker’s Point Golf Club is also accepting tourist play and even the venerable Mid Ocean Club has a few slots open for visiting golfers. So what are you waiting for? It may not be beach weather, but it sure is a good time to visit Bermuda.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

To Be Continued...

Everyone needs a vacation now and then, right? Even lucky stiffs like me deserve a break so I'm closing up shop ever so briefly and will return with your tropical news and island updates on December 1. But before I go, just a couple of things to keep an eye out for: New episodes of Forbes Luxe 11 continue to air every Saturday night on the Travel Channel at 10pm EST. If you've forgotten why you should be watching, it's because I'm part of a panel of travel experts commenting on affluent excursions like shark-cage diving, race car driving, and super yacht vacationing. (In case you've missed it check out this short sneak peek video; I show up about one minute in). On November 21 we'll be discussing First Class Travel, including renting a Saleen F7 from Gotham Dream Cars, flying a Zeppelin along the San Francisco coastline and riding the rails on the Orient Express. And on November 28 tune in for Icy Hot Spots, when we discuss the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the ski town of Jackson, Wyoming, and London's Absolut Icebar (where you can drink ice cold vodka from real ice glasses). In the meantime stay tuned for a busy December in Bermuda: the Christmas boat parade, a boozy Boxing Day, and the official start of golf and spa season. Winter here we come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Trip Fit For a Queen: PART II

Heard the news? Queen Elizabeth is coming to Bermuda next week for a two-day visit. Considering she hasn’t been here since 1994, I figured I’d do Her Royal Highness a favor and put together an itinerary fit for a queen. In case you missed yesterday’s installment of Bermuda Shorts, I recommended Lizzie head to the historic town of St. George’s on day one then end up with a romantic dinner with the Duke of Edinburgh at Fourways Inn and a suite at Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa. Well I hope you get a good night’s sleep Queen Liz, because I’ve got a full day slated for you when you wake up. Here’s what you should do on day two: Eat breakfast at the hotel. Your water view balcony is the perfect spot to enjoy tea and crumpets before you hail a cab for the west end. Yep, you’re headed to Dockyard, home of the mega cruise ship piers and more interestingly, the Maritime Museum. (Pssst, you’ve got cash on you, right? Because you’ll probably owe something like fifty bucks by the time you get there. I know, I know, Bermuda’s expensive! But maybe you can get a discount since your face is on the money). When you arrive, tour the Commissioner’s House—built in the 1820’s, it was once the home of the civilian commissioner of Dockyard and is now a soaring museum devoted to the history of the island. Don’t miss the mural depicting 400 years of life in Bermuda, which reportedly took artist Graham Foster four years to paint. When you’re done hop a pink bus to Horseshoe Bay (thanks for the suggestion @AEEvans!). After all, you can’t leave Bermuda without exploring one of our pristine pink sand beaches and considering it’s shoulder season, there’s a good chance Horseshoe won’t be inundated with day-tripping cruise ship passengers. I’m betting you’ll be hungry by now so follow South Shore road until you reach Henry VIII, an English pub that serves one of the best bowls of Bermuda fish chowder in Southampton. When you’re done hop a bus to the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in Paget Parish. You’re just in time to catch the final month of We Are Sailing, its stunning exhibition that explores Bermuda’s connection with the sea. Time for a royal snack? Tuck in for afternoon tea at Heritage Court in the Fairmont Hamilton Princess where you’ll enjoy scones, finger sandwiches and a pot of Earl Grey. You’ll be fairly close to town so when you’re done take a walk along picturesque Front Street—buy some Cuban cigars for the Duke, a designer handbag for Camilla, rugbys for Princes William and Henry—go ahead, knock yourself out. As for dinner I’ll leave that up to you, but it’d be a shame to leave town without trying a succulent spiny lobster and for that I’d recommend a table at Port O Call. Got all that Queen? I hope you have a great stay in Bermuda, but just watch out for those dark n' stormys—they have a way of sneakin' up on you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Trip Fit For a Queen

It was about a month ago when I first told you about the impending visit of Queen Elizabeth, which officially takes place next week. Well, her passport is ready and her dates of travel have been confirmed: HRH arrives Tuesday, November 24, for a short two-night stay. Why am I telling you this now? Even lucky stiffs like me deserve some time off—so while Lizzy is politely waving to the island crowds and admiring her picture on the Bermudian dollar bill, I’ll be sipping gingerbread lattes in New York City. So in the spirit of the royal visit I’ve decided to put together a proposed itinerary for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when they arrive next week. After all, 36 Hours in Bermuda is a good start, but I doubt Her Royal Highness is into shipwreck diving (one of the more adventurous pursuits I covered in my aforementioned New York Times article). Queenie listen up, because here’s what you should do when you get to Bermuda. Day One: By all reports you arrive at L.F. Wade International Airport at 3:24pm. Enjoy the sounds of the steel drums as you walk through the terminal and please, please, please try not to ogle the life-sized portrait of yourself that hangs over the immigration checkpoint any longer than necessary. It’s just plain rude. You’re not far from St. George’s, Bermuda’s historic former capital that was settled by the British in 1609. Meander its labyrinth streets and admire its charming colonial architecture. Looking for a few gifts for the royal family? Stop by the Bermuda Perfumery for handmade scents or pop into the Book Cellar, which specializes in nautical, architectural and historical tomes about Bermuda (and tell the Duke he can buy himself a fancy pair of Bermuda shorts at the English Sports Shop). When you’re done emptying the royal purse check out St. Peter’s Church, said to be the oldest Anglican house of worship in the Western Hemisphere and make sure to stop by the replica of the Deliverance, the ship that eventually carried Britain’s shipwrecked sailors to Virginia to save the Jamestown colonists. I’m guessing you’ll be hungry by now and although you’ll probably be asked to dinner at Governor Sir Richard Gozney’s mansion, I say jettison the invite for a romantic meal with the Duke at Fourways Inn. Hey, you’re in Bermuda. Why not let the sparks fly? Housed in an 18th-century Bermuda cottage with coral stone walls and exposed cedar beams, the candlelit restaurant features a full menu of steaks and seafood, plus a dining room pianist gently tinkling the ivories. When you’re done gobbling up its scrumptious dark n' stormy souflee (which you smartly ordered ahead of time) check into a suite at Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa. Bermuda’s newest and most luxurious hotel has traditional colonial stylings and is sure to make you feel right at home. Whew! Now that was a long day. So what should the Queen do on day two? Leave me a comment below then tune in tomorrow to see where she should visit next.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Pitch

One of the best parts about moving to a new country is learning its subtle differences—and even though Bermuda is just a 90-minute flight from the U.S. it sure does have its fair share of them. Saying good morning and good afternoon before making conversation? Check. Driving on the left hand side of the road in a car with a steering wheel on the right? Check. Rooting for your favorite hooker? Check. Wait a minute, you don’t know what that last one means? Neither did I until I attended the 22nd annual World Rugby Classic last week (now get your minds out of the gutter). You see, I’ve never been much of a rugby fan. Having spent my childhood in baseball crazed New York City it was always about the Mets, whether or not my beloved team was causing the craze. That’s why I was delighted to attend this year’s tournament, which featured squads from around the world: the Lions from the United Kingdom, the Pumas from Argentina, the Wallabies from Australia, the Canadians from Canada, the All Blacks from New Zealand, the Springboks from South Africa, the Eagles from the United States, and Team France. We watched the Springboks play the All Blacks, a defensive struggle that ended in a 5-0 win for New Zealand and a few bloody noses all around. Seriously. American football players are a bunch of pansies next to these guys who play with no helmets, virtually zero padding and don’t leave the game unless something is broken or torn. Talk about toughness. All in all an excellent sporting experience, but consider this a lesson I'm happy to learn off the field.  

Friday, November 13, 2009

TV Guide

I’ll make this short and sweet considering you’ve probably already read about my past television appearances last week. Be sure to tune into Forbes Luxe 11 on the Travel Channel tomorrow night, November 14th at 10pm EST. I’m part of a panel of travel experts who’ll be commenting on Extreme Excursions—eleven adventurous expeditions including shark cage diving, race-car driving, and super boat racing. (If you stayed up to watch last week’s episode you would’ve seen me in about half of the show’s segments. I expect this week to be much of the same). For a sneak peak of what to expect check out this short video. In the meantime, enjoy the show!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deal or No Deal?

Maybe it’s the onset of shoulder season, but there seems to be quite a few Bermuda travel deals floating around the web these days. On Tuesday I told you about a hotel steal from the Department of Tourism, yesterday The Reefs hotel in Southampton went on sale for veterans, and today I found this little gem—a three-night golf package from the luxurious Pink Beach Club in Tucker’s Town for $2,200. But is it really a deal? Here’s what included: A three night stay in an oceanfront junior suite (like the one above), two rounds of golf at Tucker’s Point Golf Club, two sleeves of golf balls per person, one golf cap, one bottle of wine, roundtrip hotel transfers plus a full English breakfast, afternoon tea, and a five-course dinner daily. Sounds like a lot, but the only way to know if it’s truly a deal is to see what the package costs if booked separately, so let’s do the math.

  • Three nights in an oceanfront suite: $495 per night plus $198 gratuities, $107 government tax and $59 resort levy. Total accommodations $1,849.
  • Two rounds of golf per person: $250 per 18 holes. Total golf $1,000.
  • Twelve golf balls: $40 (this is Bermuda after all)
  • Golf cap: $20
  • Bottle of wine: $20
  • Hotel transfers: $40 each way. Total $80
  • Breakfast daily: always included in rack rates
  • Afternoon tea: always included in rack rates
  • Dinner daily: always included in rack rates
Total cost if booked separately: $3,009. Verdict? Deal! I know, it’s not exactly budget travel, but it is a savings of over $800. Plus if you’re at all into golf, Tucker’s Point Golf Club is among the island's best. Not only was the championship course designed by Roger Rulewich—protégé of the great Robert Trent Jones—it has some of the most scenic water views in all of Bermuda (next to Port Royal, of course). If you're interested in hitting the links sooner than later book now: The package is good for travel through November 30, then again from March 15, 2010 through May 1, 2010. This deal is not yet on its website, so for more information call the Pink Beach Club at 800/355-6161 or email reservations@pinkbeach.com.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans, Bermuda Salutes You

Yesterday I told you about a ridiculously good hotel deal from the Bermuda Department of Tourism—a four-night stay for the price of three, with rooms starting at $79 plus vouchers good for $1,000 worth of products and services at island golf courses, spas, and restaurants, all of which is valid until January 31, 2010. Well, the deals just keep on coming. In honor of Veteran’s Day (that’s today in case you hadn’t heard) The Reefs hotel in Southampton is offering a 15% percent discount for active and retired members of the U.S., U.K., and Canadian armed forces, valid for any length of stay through March 31, 2010. That means a poolside room for veterans including breakfast, afternoon tea, and dinner for two costs $313.65—still pricey for the off-season, but a good value nonetheless considering The Reefs was just picked as the number one resort in the Atlantic by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. For more information check out the hotel's Armed Forces Discount. In the meantime to all you veterans out there, thanks for keeping us free. And as for you Lieutenant Desmond, whenever you and the family are ready for a vacation you know who to call. Bermuda salutes you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deal of the Day

Hotel rooms from $79 a night? In ritzy Bermuda? Welcome to November when the average daily temperature is a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit and shoulder season bargains come rolling in. Check out this latest deal from the Department of Tourism: Book now for travel valid through January 31, 2010 and you’ll receive a four-night stay at participating hotels for the price of three. That means you can stay in a water view room at the Granaway Guesthouse for just $79 a night (including breakfast); in a deluxe room with private patio or balcony at the historic Fourways Inn for $125 a night; or in an ocean view room at the beachfront Grotto Bay Beach Resort for $159 a night. Still not convinced? There are 17 other hotels to choose from, even better, you’ll be given a coupon booklet good for up to $1,000 in combined savings at island golf resorts, restaurants, spas and more. Here are just a few sample discounts to whet your appetite: Buy one round of golf and get the second round free, rent one scooter and get the second half price, buy one spa treatment and get a free manicure/pedicure, buy one entrée and get the second half price (valid at over 15 participating restaurants). So what are you waiting for? Swami says a Fall getaway to Bermuda is now within reach. For more information check out Bermuda’s Finest Values Offer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

GOLD STAR: Fairmont Hamilton Princess

It's not every day one receives above and beyond service from a hotel’s staff, so when I do, I make sure to shout it from the rooftops. Like other writers who cover travel and tourism for a living, I stay in a lot of hotels. We’ve all had our share of below-average experiences, but in my opinion it’s the good one’s that are worth writing about. Take my recent stay at Bermuda’s Fairmont Hamilton Princess for example. Booked in for two nights on an impromptu “staycation” weekend (I know, I hate that phrase too) my wife and I planned a leisurely lineup of activities: Fine dining, pool hopping, golfing, and an afternoon game of squash at an off-site club. It was going to perfect until I realized that I’d forgotten my racket. I didn’t want to go back home to get it—after all the point was to get away—so I called the club to inquire about a rental. None were available I was told, so in a last-ditch effort to salvage our game I asked the hotel’s concierge if he could round one up. “Not a problem Mr. LaHuta,” said Edward at the front desk. “Let me make some calls and I’ll get back to you shortly.” To my great delight I received a voicemail the following morning that a racket was indeed available. Score! But it wasn’t just any old racket, as I soon learned after reading the following letter: Good Day Mr. LaHuta. I just want to let you know that the grip on the racquet is deteriorating as it has been in storage for quite some time (it might leave a black mark on your hand that is easily removed with water…sorry). I also thought you might like to know that it was used by me in The World Squash Championships in Cairo, Egypt, quite a few years back. I have dubbed it “THE RED BARON.” I hope you SQUASH your opponent!!! Signed, Derek Wheeler, Assistant Front Desk Manager, The Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Well, to you Mr. Wheeler—squash champion and gentleman du jour—a hearty thanks for your kindness and generosity. The Red Baron was indeed triumphant but unfortunately for me, my wife’s squash lessons are paying off: I won just narrowly, three games to two. And to you Front Desk Edward, thanks for your unwavering hospitality and courteous service. You never balked at an odd request and even better, came through with stellar results. Gold stars all around! Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, you definitely have a repeat guest in me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

As some of you may know, in addition to writing for the New York Times, Travel+Leisure and Caribbean Travel+Life, I also make TV appearances on various news and lifestyle programs. Like the time when I was Rachael Ray’s “adventure buddy,” escorting her viewers on daring excursions including bungee jumping in Canada or shark diving in New York. Or when I’d have weekly chats about travel on CNN’s American Morning or FOX’s Good Day New York. (For a look at some of my past appearances check out the video above). It’s a fun part of what I do—no doubt a bit harder since moving to Bermuda—but the good news is there’s more to come and this time I’ll be on the Travel Channel. Do you like luxury? If so, set your DVRs for tomorrow’s premiere of Forbes Luxe 11 featuring eleven affluent escapes every Saturday night at 10pm EST. For a glimpse of what the show is like check out this two-minute sneak peek (I show up about one minute in, talking about flying in helicopters over bubbling Hawaiian volcanoes). Tomorrow’s episode: Mega-Toys where we highlight snazzy cars, swanky resorts, and over-the-top collections owned by the world’s super-rich (i.e. regular folks collect stamps, Paul Allen collects military planes). If you like what you see let me know! And be sure to tune in each week until December 26 for new episodes. What? You forgot already? Watch Forbes Luxe 11 on the Travel Channel every Saturday night at 10pm EST, starting tomorrow. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kudos To...Wyclef!

Seems like pop superstar Wyclef Jean knows how to do more than put on a killer show. During his short visit to the island last weekend—in town to perform at the 14th annual Bermuda Music Festival—the musician spoke to 500 young people at an African Methodist Episcopal Church meeting at the elegant Fairmont Southampton on Saturday. According to the Royal Gazette, the musician spoke about his humble roots growing up in poverty-striken Haiti, how he was born in a thatched-roof hut and grew up hunting for food with a slingshot. And although his family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was nine-years-old, it wasn’t before he learned an important life lesson—that one should always pursue their goals no matter how far flung they may seem, a sentiment he conveyed eloquently to the young Bermudians in the audience. So to you Wyclef, I say three cheers! Not only do you let strange fans approach you for photo ops while lifting weights in hotel gyms (ahem) but you’re a pillar of the world community and for that you get an official Bermuda Shorts round of applause. (Pause for hip, hip, hoorays followed by boisterous clapping). For more on how Wyclef is helping the public—and more specifically in his home nation of Haiti—check out Yéle Haiti, a non-profit organization he founded in 2005 to assist his native land. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dear Readers

I’m not sure how it happened—my best guess is the daily touting of Bermuda Shorts on Twitter is slowly paying off—but according to my trusty SiteMeter, I’ve got readers from around the globe: Haifa, Israel; Orihuela, Spain; Okotoks, Alberta; West Islip, New York (go Bulldogs!). Best of all a handful of you are contributing handily with thoughtful critiques and comments. Just yesterday, in response to my post about having to vacate my home due to a visit from the exterminator Anonymous in California wrote, “Perhaps your entry tomorrow can detail the best way to sweep up six million ants that seemingly turn to dust upon death. My experience has shown that the pestiness of the common Bermuda ant continues as they become so small when they die, they defy the use of a broom and dustpan.” Thanks Anonymous! Maybe we can talk about it over a glass of Pinot Grigio at Mickey’s Beach Bar? Funny thing is, you’re not alone in your ant advice. Greg from Costa Rica had this gem for me: “I live in Costa Rica where the jungle meets the beach and here the ants also are never ending. Keep in mind that they were here first so we’re actually invading their turf. Rather than trying to kill them off with spray simply do what we do, compost your food and seal all uneaten food in containers. If there’s no reason for the ants to come in they’ll move on to somewhere else. Besides, composting is environmentally friendly, helping your plants and reducing your garbage loads. Simply put a large container next to your kitchen sink and keep it sealed until you have to throw out food. When the container is full, put it in your composting pile in your yard. You can dig a small hole and cover the food with dry leaves or saw dust to avoid odors. After a few months fill the hole in and dig a new one. Give it a try, what do you have to lose!” Thanks Greg. I’d love to dig a hole in my backyard—really, I would—but I have a feeling my landlord wouldn’t be terribly thrilled about a rotting mound of food on his property. Just call it a hunch. So to everyone else reading out there, wherever you may be around the globe, don’t be shy. Go ahead, leave me a comment and let's get talking world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Join The Club

When I was an editor at Budget Travel magazine—long before my office had a view of swaying palm trees and Bermuda's Great Sound—I, along with my well-traveled editorial team used to tell our readers to join every hotel, car rental, and airline loyalty club possible. Why? Because they're often free to join and give its members perks and discounts usually not found anywhere else. Case in point: I've been a member of Fairmont's President's Club for years, a membership that came in handy yesterday when I had to vacate my home after it was exterminated for ants. (Remember that line from the film Blood Diamond when Leonardo DiCaprio's character said, "TIA mate?" It was short for this is Africa, a sentiment he conveyed after experiencing a particularly stressful situation. Well, TIB mate. This is Bermuda). Not wanting to cast aside a whole day's work I brought my laptop to the Fairmont Southampton, a 593-room resort on Bermuda's south shore. With my President's Club membership number in hand I grabbed a seat at Jasmine's—the hotel's casual lobby restaurant—plugged in my laptop and picked up the Fairmont Guest Access Wi-Fi signal. For free. (Check out the picture above; that was my office for the day). Of course I made sure to order lunch before I took off—an excellent shrimp caeser, by the way—but my free Wi-Fi was just one of the many perks the President's Club offers its members. Some of my other favorites? Complimentary TaylorMade golf clubs at select hotels, free Lexus courtesy vehicles, and 10% off treatments and products at its Willow Stream Spas. So what are you waiting for? Next time you see one of those loyalty club brochures at check in do yourself a favor and fill it out. It'll be the most worthwhile three minutes you've ever spent.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BMF VIDEO: Man In The Mirror

The big news from day three of the Bermuda Music Festival was supposed to be the special performance of Thriller on Halloween night. Sounds pretty incredible, right? After all the Keep Yard had all hands on deck: Quincy Jones and his orchestra, pop singer John Legend, even Wyclef was rumored to be hanging around backstage, no doubt still recovering from his now-legendary Thursday night performance (which for the record was the festival’s best show). The stage was set, but aside from spirited dancing from the Warwick gombey troupe and an average vocal performance by Siedah Garrett, the night’s finale was more like a sleeper than a thriller. Fortunately for us the aforementioned singer totally redeemed herself with an earlier performance of Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror, which had the entire crowd on its feet, clapping hands along with the soulful Bermuda Mass Choir (check out the video above to see what I mean). What? You’ve never heard of Siedah Garrett? Neither did I until I learned she wrote the popular Michael Jackson anthem and has paired with the late King of Pop for duets including I Just Can’t Stop Loving You from his 1987 album, Bad. Her resume gets even better: Garrett also wrote Love You I Do, the Grammy-award winning, Jennifer Hudson-sung tune from the 2006 film Dreamgirls and fronted the acclaimed London neo-funk group, Brand New Heavies. Gosh, it looks like Bermuda got its special Halloween night performance after all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

BMF VIDEO: We Are The World

Sure, this rendition of We Are the World from last night’s Bermuda Music Festival could’ve ended a bit sooner but at the time no one, including myself, really wanted the superstars onstage to stop singing. It was just that good. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and produced by Quincy Jones—last night honored with an African Diaspora Lifetime Achievement Award by the Premier of Bermuda—the anthem was sung by none other than Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Patti Austin and Gita Blakeney with backup provided by the soulful Bermuda Mass Choir. All in all an uplifting ending to a stellar show. The festival’s final performance kicks off tonight at 6pm with Grammy Award winner John Legend and a special performance of Thriller by the Warwick gombey troupe (otherwise known as Bermudian folk dancers). Sounds like a perfect Halloween night to me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

BMF: Wyclef Rocked. Badu, Not So Much.

If my pounding head and still-ringing ears are any indication I think I had a really good time at the Bermuda Music Festival last night. Blame it all on Wyclef. The multi-platinum recording artist kept the crowd jumping until 1:30 a.m., an electrifying performance that included old-school Fugees hits (Fug-Gee-Laa), Wyclef classics (Stayin’ Alive, Gone Til November), and Bob Marley covers (No Woman No Cry, I Shot the Sheriff, Redemption Song). Want a taste of what last night was like? Check out this 50-second YouTube video. I guess yesterday’s workout at the Fairmont Southampton paid off. Holy energy Batman! Unfortunately the same can’t be said of Erykah Badu, who lulled the crowd with her smooth, sultry voice. Neither of which was a bad thing, but the two performances couldn’t have been more different. With her own brand of laid-back neo-soul, Badu was the potatoes next to Wyclef’s meat (wow, did I just write that? I must’ve had a rougher night than I thought!). And as I suspected, Naturally 7 was indeed the real deal, as the soulful septet blew away the crowd with their R&B and acapella stylings. Tonight’s lineup: James Just Once Ingram, Michael I Keep Forgettin' McDonald, and the one and only Kenny Through the Years Rogers. Call it a hunch, but something tells me I won't be dipping into my bottle of Excedrin tomorrow morning.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Working Out With Wyclef!

It's not everyday that a multi-platinum recording artist is working out in the same gym you are but I guess crazier things have happened during my time here in Bermuda (eating fish sandwiches alongside a now-adult Golden Child in June is certainly one that comes to mind). Anyhow, I was testing out the facilities at the Fairmont Southampton—for the record as a guest of one of its members—when in walked the one and only Wyclef Jean, which of course makes sense since the hotel is hosting most of the performers at this weekend's Bermuda Music Festival. Besides doing some bicep curls and a few reps on the bench press, he and his entourage of two tossed around the medicine ball in preparation for tonight's show. Wyclef is officially pumped and that officially makes two of us.

Bermuda Music Festival: DAY ONE

The stage is set and the stars have arrived, so welcome to the first official day of the Bermuda Music Festival at the Royal Naval Dockyard. The three-day event kicks off tonight with performances by multi platinum musician Wyclef Jean, neo-soul diva Erykah Badu, and Naturally 7, a groovy accapella-meets-R&B act recently discovered by Quincy Jones himself. Never heard of them? Well you will soon. Check out this YouTube video of the soulful septet beat-boxing Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight on a Paris subway. Amazing stuff. Keep an eye out for the Parisian lady at the four-minute mark. If that’s not genuine love I don’t know what is. Best of all, the concert will be held at Bermuda’s historic Keep Yard for the first time in its fourteen-year history (that’s it in the picture above, on a particularly cloudy day). Concertgoers will enjoy the show from the grass, alongside the limestone structure in the foreground, but that’s just not any ‘ol pile of bricks. Called the Ordnance Building and constructed in 1850, this vaulted-ceiling magazine once stored 4,860 kegs of gunpowder for the British Royal Navy and impressions of the powder keg racks remain on the non-sparking, bitumen floor to this day. If you’re anywhere near Dockyard, it makes for an interesting visit. As does the recently renovated Commissioners House and the rest of the Bermuda Maritime Museum. But I’ll save that for another time. This weekend it’s all about the music.