Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cup Match Fever

It’s late July in Bermuda, which means the only thing on most islander’s minds is Cup Match—a two-day cricket tournament that turns into a four-day rum-soaked weekend. Each year on the Thursday and Friday before the first Monday in August, St. George’s and Somerset cricket clubs face off in what becomes a much-anticipated spin on New York’s Subway Series (for all you non-baseball fans out there, that’s when the Yankees play the Mets for five-borough supremacy. Let's go Mets!). Here in Bermuda businesses shut down, families congregate and the island grinds to a halt for two days as east and west battle it out for local cricket dominance. It’s the most competitive match of the year and one that brings with it loads of opinions regarding what team will take home the trophy. So, hoping to quell this year's debate is Bermuda’s own Houdini the Octopus, a distant cousin of Paul the Octopus who became famous for selecting the winner of Germany’s seven matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in addition to picking Spain in the final. Reports local web news agency Bernews, Houdini—who currently resides at the Bermuda Aquarium—appears to have chosen Somerset since the eight-legged creature hovered towards the dark blue and red ribbon (light blue and navy being the colors of St. George’s). I’ll report back next week to see if Houdini was correct, but in the meantime, I’m prepping for a long weekend. See ya on Monday!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Life Outside

It’s Tuesday, so that means I’m filling the pages of my Outside Television blog, The Life Outside. As you’ll see, today’s post is a tribute to world-renown cave-diver and underwater photographer Wes Skiles, who died last week while filming for National Geographic in the waters of Florida (that's him, courtesy of Louis Lamar). I met Wes after my Mountainfilm shoot in Telluride and all it took was a one-hour shuttle ride from Main street to Montrose to learn that he truly was one of the world’s great pioneers of the life outside. If you have a few minutes visit Outside Television and read all about him. And the next time you think about sitting on your fanny instead of exploring this great big world of ours, think about Wes.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now in Bermuda: Bag Trackers!

It’s official: Bermuda is now the greatest place on Earth to lose your luggage. Thanks to new self-service kiosks that were unveiled on Friday at L.F. Wade International—the first airport in the world to receive so-called WorldTracer Kiosks—travelers who experience baggage delays can now track their lost luggage with a few taps of a screen. Designed by air industry tech firm SITA, the slim stand-alone machines are linked to a global tracing system for mishandled baggage. So if your checked luggage is delayed upon arrival, simply scan the barcode sticker given to you at check-in and the kiosk’s screen will instantly tell you the whereabouts of your bags. The kiosk registers the missing luggage as lost, then asks for passenger contact information so the airline can notify you when the lost baggage reappears. “SITA is very pleased to announce L.F. Wade International Airport as a new customer,” says Sandra Girona, SITA Regional Vice President. “The airport will be transformed into a showcase for how the industry can reap major benefits from the innovative use of IT for passenger self-service in a way that is attractive to both airlines and passengers.” The addition of the kiosks to L.F. Wade International is part of a proposed multi-million dollar overhaul, which may include a new terminal, runways and self-service check-in systems. Considering more than 25 million bags were mishandled worldwide last year, the kiosks are a welcome addition. And besides, I could think of worse places to be stuck without your bags. Here's a very real lost-bag-in-Bermuda scenario: Scan barcode, go to hotel, buy new bathing suit, order rum swizzle. Repeat until bag arrives—but just that last part, of course.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Haile?

History lesson: On this day in 1892 Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethopia from 1930 through 1974, was born. So what does this have to do with Bermuda? Not much really. After all, Selassie is best known for being revered as Jesus incarnate among devotees of Rastafari—a movement that believes Selassie will lead the peoples of Africa to peace, righteousness and prosperity, which also includes the spiritual use of marijuana. And unlike the islands of the Caribbean, Bermuda’s Rasta population is miniscule by comparison. I’m guessing it’s the strict drug laws and wide prevalence of Christianity but that’s just one theory. Here’s another: As I’ve said before, Bermuda is not the “no shoes, no shirt, no problem,” Caribbean many people think it may be. In fact, it’s not in the Caribbean at all, as this interview with yours truly dutifully attests. But that’s exactly what makes it great. Don’t forget, the 21-square-mile, mid-Atlantic island is approximately 650 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with nonstop flights less than two hours from New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Caribbean, with it’s laid back beach bars and relaxed drug culture it is not. No doubt the island’s Rasta population will be in full force during Ziggy Marley’s upcoming performance at the Bermuda Music Festival, but beyond a handful of island believers, I have a feeling there won’t be many people celebrating Selassie’s birthday today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cruise News

Great news for Holland America fans living near New York City: The cruise line announced that it will continue sailings on the 1,350-passenger ms Veendam from New York to Bermuda with 24 cruises slated from May through October next year. I’ve never really been a cruise guy but this is easily a win-win for cruisers and Bermuda alike. The Veendam is one of the few ships that docks in Hamilton and St. George’s, bucking the growing trend of ships heading directly to the Royal Naval Dockyard, which is the only island port able to hold larger ships now so prevalent throughout the industry. Bottom line, it’s good news for a sleepy town in need and for fans of smaller cruise ships—and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. According to comments left on USA Today’s The Cruise Log, Veendam fans are pleased with the announcement. Writes Dam55, “This is a 'deal MAKER' for anyone trying to decide which ship to take to Bermuda. You cannot beat the Hamilton docking opportunity. There are larger and newer ships cruising to Bermuda, but if you know the island THIS is the one to take. Kudos to [Holland America Line]!” And then there’s this from Celebfans, “Chalk up one for small(er) vessel fans with this announcement. We're happy for [Holland America Line] cruisers in the NY/NJ/CT area.” Even historians have reason to rejoice: According to The Cruise Log, “It was another Holland America ship called the Veendam, the 500-passenger Veendam II, that offered the line's first Bermuda cruises out of New York in 1930 and 1931.” Very cool, Holland America. We here in Bermuda will be looking forward to your arrival—and with cruises to the island starting at $699 per person (based on double occupancy) so will the folks living in the New York metropolitan area.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ziggy's Coming To Bermuda!

Big news from the world of music and entertainment today: Premier Dr. Ewart Brown announced last night that reggae superstar Ziggy Marley will be headlining this year’s Bermuda Music Festival, which is slated for a three-night run from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 at the Fairmont Southampton. That’s right folks, the Grammy-award winning son-of-Bob will be performing right here in Bermuda and best of all, he’ll be doing it from an intimate beachside venue. Reggae? Sand in your toes? Count me in! According to local reports Ziggy will kick off the festival on Thursday then hand the mic to popular R&B artists Angie Stone, Estelle and Toni Braxton on Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t know about you, but if this year’s festival is anything like last year’s, everyone in Bermuda should definitely prepare for a good time. Have you seen this video I shot from Wyclef’s head-pounding performance last year? Holy smokes! And then there was the all-star We Are the World collaboration featuring Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Michael McDonald and Siedah Garrett, Patti Austin and Gita Blakeney with backup provided by the Bermuda Mass Choir. A soulful short video indeed. Tickets for the Bermuda Music Festival go on sale on Monday, July 26 at 9 a.m. at See ya at the show!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Life Outside

As some of you may know, in addition to writing for publications like The New York Times and Caribbean Travel+Life, I’m also an on-camera correspondent for Outside Television, a brand new network that’s affiliated with Outside magazine, which just launched in June. It’s a fantastic gig, as earlier posts about filming for the network in Telluride clearly attest. But today’s not about Mountainfilm. It's not even about Bermuda. Today is about my latest network gig: Introducing The Life Outside, my weekly blog over on Outside Television. Last week I introduced myself to the network’s millions of active, inspired viewers with a run down of what I was up to in Colorado. And today you can read all about my experience with mountain-climber-turned-humanitarian Greg Mortenson, who I met while in filming in Colorado (that's us at a book signing during the festival). As you’ll see, he’s a very interesting guy. The New York Times sure thinks so and I'm pleased that I got to share just one hour with this amazing citizen of the world. Now what are you waiting for? Go read The Life Outside. Enjoy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Louis Who?

Golf fans the world over were treated to a bore of an Open Championship when South African and virtual unknown Louis Oosthuizen won the Claret Jug in Scotland yesterday. So what does this have to do with Bermuda? Oosthuizen is the third official invitee to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf held for the second consecutive year at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton. Along with U.S. Open Champion Phil Mickelson and Masters Champion Graeme McDowell, the newly crowned British Open champ will play the island’s finest course alongside the winner of the PGA Championship, which takes place on August 9-15 at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin. As my coverage of last year's tournament attests, it's a world-class event featuring a world-class course. Don't believe me? Check out this video I shot and edited of all four champions on Port Royal's signature oceanview hole, the stunning sixteenth (with comments about the hole from Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover and Y.E. Yang). When you're done check out Lucas Glover's final approach on 18, where he wins the crystal trophy, the pink jacket and the $600,000 pot. I can’t say with any certainty who the fourth competitor will be this year—after all, I’ve never really been much of a golf pundit—but I’m putting my money on Phil.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Hope He's Hungry

It’s no secret that Bermuda is one of the best destinations in the world to go fishing. Many of the International Game Fishing Association’s world record catches were hauled in near our shores and the island also hosts the Bermuda Triple Crown, an annual billfish tournament featuring some of the world’s premier anglers—like the guy who caught this bad boy. Reports Bernews—the island’s latest online source for, well, Bermuda news—Playmate skipper Kevin Winters and crew hauled in a 1,103-pound marlin on Monday, one of thirteen “granders” to be caught in Bermuda since 1983. I can’t say with any certainty what captain Kev did with the fish when he took it down from that Island Construction crane, but my guess is he might be eating grilled marlin steaks for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And The Gold Star Goes To...

Lindos! So why does Bermuda’s favorite supermarket get this esteemed Bermuda Shorts accolade? Because it’s going green. According to this story in the Royal Gazette, Lindo’s Group of Companies will be the first island business to adopt large-scale renewable energy by installing 210,000-watt solar panels on its two stores—a move that’s not only environmentally sound, but will save the company around $145,000 per year. “We want a better, cleaner Bermuda," said Lindo’s President Giorgio Zanol. "Bermuda gave me the chance to run a business with my family and we want to give back—to make it better than how we found it." Yeah, but the $145K won’t hurt either, right? “Absolutely! With all of that extra cash we’ll be able to pour additional resources into our television commercials which, as you well know, are dreadfully under-funded. That, and we can finally pass along some savings to our consumers who currently pay way too much for groceries.”

Alright, fine. I made up that last quote but anyone who’s lived in Bermuda knows that Lindo’s ads can use a bit of help and that its groceries are crazy over-priced (same goes for you Marketplace and Miles Market; $8.45 for a small can of mixed nuts is unacceptable). But let us not dwell on the negative. I whole-heartily applaud Lindo’s for making such a forward-thinking move. Which begs the question: Why aren’t more businesses, individuals and government entities using clean sustainable energy? On an island that’s blanketed with sun, it’s almost unimaginable that solar panels aren’t widely used. After all, most everyone in Bermuda captures rainwater for general consumption. Why not capture the sun’s rays too? It's money-saving and better for the environment. That sounds like a win-win to me. In the meantime three cheers to Lindo’s for going the extra mile. Now how about lowering the price of those cashews, deal?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Money Matters

Pop quiz! What do Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Belgium, Delaware and Bermuda all have in common? (No, it’s not a proliferation of quality truck stops but nice try). Along with Ireland, London, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands they’re the world’s best tax havens according to a recent article in Forbes Magazine. Says the report, two benchmarks were used to determine the top ten destinations: The capability to move money in serious quantities and a measure of each locale’s opacity (or how secret it is, meaning if regulation is intentionally created for the primary benefit of those who live there, then it’s probably a good place to hide cash). Of course not all of that money is illicit. But, says writer Richard Murphy, “if you’re going to hide illicit cash, where better to do it? Where it stands out from the crowd, or where it can be lost like a needle in the proverbial haystack? Big numbers help the owner of dubious cash lose theirs in the crowd, and the places named above are big.” No secret there. Companies have long set up shop in Bermuda for the tax breaks alone. It’s the reason why the island is so, shall we say, well taken care of. Big firms get tax breaks and ultimately a lot of that money gets reinvested back into the community. Says Murphy about Bermuda: It’s “the favorite location for U.S. corporate inversions, or companies that move their headquarters to a tax haven while retaining their material operations in higher-tax America, and any offshore insurance company.” Yep, it’s all true. But does your tax haven have pink sand beaches? Take that Delaware.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Expat Life

Fifteen months and counting—that’s how long I’ve been living in Bermuda. Fifteen months of curious exploration (Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, anyone?), memorable firsts (chatting with Wyclef Jean before last year’s Music Festival) and lessons learned (never leave home without bungee cords and duct tape). Short trips abroad definitely have their benefits—after all, it’s called vacation for a reason—but living outside one’s home country sure has its perks. Expat life stokes reinvention, adventure and the willingness to try new things. With it comes unforced cultural exchange and the opportunity to learn at every corner. Here in Bermuda I quickly learned to say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening,” before starting any conversation—although having lived in the über-polite U.S. Virgin Islands in years past, that custom had long been engrained into my consciousness. Fifteen months in I’ve also learned to cross at the crosswalks, to honk my horn when I see friends and to dress smart casually, constantly. I’ve also learned that seemingly simple things, like obtaining one’s driver’s license, is a long and difficult process pitted with potholes, but alas, I won’t open that can of worms again.

Point is, being an expat is a good thing as Istanbul transplant Meg Nestorov recently discovered. I first met Meg through Twitter where she and I casually connected about planning for her big move abroad. I’m not exactly sure why, but all expats, no matter what their nationality or where they live, really like to help other expats or expats-to-be. Call it some kind of secret expat code. So when Meg had questions about moving to Turkey I was more than happy to help. Like me, she posts funny quips about life abroad on her blog, The Notorious M.E.G., and has since parlayed her time in Istanbul into a part-time blogging gig on Gadling. As her first post about expat life attests, living abroad is sometimes a challenge, but no doubt an interesting, weird and incredibly fulfilling challenge.

Writes Meg: “No matter how well-traveled you are, moving to a foreign country and living as an expat is a whole new ballgame. Your priorities and standards change, and hours that you may have spent as a traveler in a museum or wandering a beach are now spent as an expat in search of an alarm clock or trying to distinguish between eight types of yogurt. You become like a child again: Unable to speak in complete sentences, easily confused and lost, and constantly asking questions.” Her post goes on to suggest ways to ease the transition, namely by calling upon expat bloggers and asking for advice. As you’ll see, Bermuda Shorts is in esteemed company, suggested as a resource alongside Miss Expatria (a witty American woman in Rome), Fly Brother (a humorous African-American man in Brazil) and Carpetblogger (a sarcastic chic in Istanbul).

It's all good advice, as anyone who's ever lived outside their home country knows. No doubt, it's definitely a challenge living abroad—do I miss my family and eating hotdogs at Mets games? Absolutely—but it's one that without question opens doors and expands minds. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be here in Bermuda, but with fifteen blissful months behind me and 90-minute flights “home” I may be staring at the turquoise ocean for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Consider This Your $35 Coupon

If you’re like me you’re numb to the rising costs of travel because no matter what, you’ll find a way to get around those extra fees or additional charges. (Me to Continental gate agent: Any chance you have a pair of exit row seats available on today’s flight? Perhaps two that I don’t have to pay for? It’s my wife’s birthday today. Agent: Well in that case honey, lemme see what I can do for you.) Whammo! If it’s money-saving tips you’re after then consider this you’re lucky day, especially if you’ve been procrastinating about getting or renewing your passport. Effective July 13, adult passport book fees will jump to $135 from $100, while those for minors will increase to $105 from $85. Just need a renewal? Expect to fork over $110, up from $75 according to the U.S. State Department. So what do passports have to do with Bermuda? All you Americans out there can’t visit the island without one and that goes for passengers arriving by sea as well. Of course cruise-shippers can always apply for a passport card—the driver’s license-style I.D. that allows you to enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-call—but the fees to obtain one of those are also rising ($55 from $45 for adults; $40 from $35 for kids). For more information on how to renew or obtain a new passport, visit the U.S. Department of State. But act fast! Rates increase on July 13th.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Like, Africa Hot

Do you live on the east coast of the U.S. or Canada? Are you really hot? If so then you probably have Bermuda to blame. According to North American weather reports—like this one from Toronto, this one from Vermont and this one from Massachusetts—meteorologists are blaming the July heat wave on a “Bermuda high,” which is also causing haze, humidity and some very funny comments on Twitter. A few of my faves:

“#pitstains currently trending in Ottawa” -- @domcoballe

“Email from a NYC friend/colleague: I am homicidally hot the minute I am more than 2 inches away from the A/C but otherwise fine.” -- @victoriajcoe

“The East Coast is going to melt” -- @skeletalknight

“I thought I lived in Canada, not Grenada” -- @jonjuane

“Heatwave mixtape: 13 Songs about taking off clothes, -- @eugenephoto

“I’m starting to understand what the dinosaurs felt like” -- @poofleia

“I would relish having a kidney stolen today if it’d mean waking up in an ice bath” -- @rellasue

“Ok, now it really is hotter than two rats fornicating in a wool sock.” -- @deadflagblues6

Says @007LouiseOB, that last one was the “best hot weather description EVER” and at the risk of doting on the profane I think I have to agree (although @rellasue’s ice bath comment is a close second). As for Bermuda, well, it’s 80 degrees and sunny here. And with flights less than two hours from New York City, you can feasibly fly to Southampton, Bermuda faster than you could drive to Southampton, Long Island. Just sayin’. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Deal of the Day

This just in from the Bermuda Department of Tourism: Book a two- to six-night stay at one of 19 participating hotels and you’ll get one or two nights free. For example, if you pay for two nights at the Fairmont Southampton—on Bermuda’s stunning south shore with an 18-hole par three golf course, 21,000-square-feet Willow Stream Spa and its very own private pink sand beach—you’ll get a third night for free. Likewise, a four-night stay at the harborfront Newstead Belmont Hills Resort & Spa will get you a fifth night free and six nights at Pompano Beach Club, which is adjacent to Port Royal Golf Course, will get you a free seventh night (for a list of all participating hotels check out the Endless Summer Offer). In addition to discount hotel rooms, the offer also includes buy-one-get-one entreés from thirteen island restaurants, including three of my faves: Barracuda Grill (upscale seafood), Latin (trendy Mexican) and Hog Penny (a traditional English Pub). The package is good for travel from August 22 through October 31, but you have to book by August 31. For more information visit Happy travels!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Independence Day?

This weekend marks the second straight year I’ll be celebrating Independence Day on foreign soil—although considering the soil is sand and the sand is pink I’m certainly not complaining. Back in the States it’s always the jolliest of weekends. Also known as the official start of summer Fourth of July weekend is when beaches become flooded with sun-worshippers, naughty kids mess around with fireworks and barbecues get stoked for the first time (if of course they hadn’t been lit on Memorial Day or in my case, Father’s Day when my family was treated to grilled pizzas during a recent trip to New York). It’s all good fun, but the point is to celebrate the independence of a nation.

So what’s an American in Bermuda to do? For starters I’ll be wearing this snazzy shirt again, originally procured from a prominent member of the U.S. Olympic volleyball team (that’s me on Church Bay last year). Second? Some down home cooking should do the trick, perhaps barbeque chicken, corn on the cob and fresh watermelon, if indeed the juicy fruit made its long trip overseas in a refrigerated container. I don’t have any fireworks to shoot off but I’ve never really been an explosives kind of guy anyway. Oh yeah, and I’ll read the Declaration of Independence because every American should read the Declaration of Independence at least once a year. Just consider the first sentence. It doesn’t get much better than this:

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” It took a lot of, shall we say, cojones to write that first sentence. But then Mr. Hancock and friends hit us with this doozy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Amen brother! Consider my happiness officially being pursued on Bermuda’s pink shores. In the meantime, happy Fourth of July to all you Americans out there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So Much For That Gold Bracelet

I realize that it’s customary to give your husband or wife-to-be a gift on the day of your wedding but this one takes the cake. According to yesterday’s Bermuda Sun, an American newlywed flew six-time Grammy Award winning artist John Legend to Bermuda to perform for his wife at their wedding, which was held at Elbow Beach Resort last weekend. Says the report, the man shelled out “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to make sure his wife heard her favorite singer on their special day. He also insisted that all wedding guests sign a privacy contract so that no one would spill the beans. The paper goes on to describe the newlyweds as “an ordinary couple with a lot of money.” Ordinary? Considering booking agents estimate that you’d expect to pay from $200,000 to $500,000 plus travel expenses for a private booking of John Legend, I’m guessing this pair orbits in an entirely different realm of the financial sector—which means they should fit in just fine in Bermuda.