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 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.