continued from TNH Issue Six….
Three weeks ago now, on Sept. 16-18, I ditched my stressful student schedule and spent the weekend in Bermuda visiting my boyfriend, Kade Stallard, and his family of island locals. Part one, which appeared in the sixth issue, ended on Friday evening.
We woke up at 11 a.m. on Saturday and wasted no time getting ready to leave, it being my only full day in Bermuda before catching a 9 a.m. returning flight to Boston on Sunday. By noon we were in downtown St. George’s (Bermuda’s easternmost town) looking for something to eat.
While in town, we ran into Kade’s friend, Keon, aka “Kirby.” Bermudians love nicknames– almost everyone I met between ages 18-30 had at least three. Unoccupied, Keon decided to join us on our food venture.
Randomly meeting up with old friends in town is normal in Bermuda. If you’re local, it’s routine to run into at least five people you know on a walk through downtown Hamilton, the island’s capital. This shouldn’t be surprising though, on a 22-mile-long island with a population greater than 64,000– that’s more than 3,000 people per square mile. And when these run-ins occur, you don’t just say “hi” in passing on the street, or smile and wave. You stop, shake hands, hug, dab (I’ve yet to perfect the art), ask them how they’ve been, what they’re up to today, how the family’s doing, ask about their job, joke a little bit and eventually move on. These interactions will last anywhere from two to 10 or even 15 minutes. Don’t try to go anywhere in Bermuda in a hurry. Bermudians take their time.
Keon in the backseat of the Stallard family Jeep (only one car allowed per household), we passed through town and went to Tobacco Bay, where there is a restaurant and bar on the beach. Kade worked there as a bartender during summer 2015, and was greeted with enthusiasm by the current bartender, who distributed a first round of Heinekens on the house.
Some people might try to tell you that Bermudians aren’t friendly, which isn’t entirely untrue. Visitors will find, however, that if they make an effort to open up to locals and be friendly first rather than expecting immediate smiles from every service industry member, they will meet some of the kindest and most generous people in the world.
We ordered mahi-mahi bites and a plate of wings, and then left the bar area to explore while we waited for our food. Kade and Keon led me around the building where we had to climb over some large rocks to a small, carved out cave area overlooking the ocean where Tobacco Bay employees take their breaks.
The beach area, which looks like a protected enclosure thanks to the natural rock formations, was complete with a volleyball net set up in the water at waist level, as well as a full-sized pool table that had been carried down to the shoreline (a task employees dread, according to Kade).
After eating (the mahi-mahi bites didn’t last long, lightly battered with cajun-seasoning and served with homemade tartar sauce), we took a few unopened beers to-go, hopped back in the car and proceeded to drive a little ways uphill to Fort Victoria, one of numerous abandoned forts on the island.
I love seeing these left-behind places in Bermuda. In such an appealing destination, it’s hard to believe there are so many places that are just empty or unused sites. Fort Victoria was one of them. It had a patterned courtyard and massive concrete look-out stations. The structure itself is overgrown and far beyond repair, but the view from its spot at the top of the hill has value withstanding. Yet still, Fort Victoria and countless others sit, unwanted remnants of another time waiting for the island to overtake them.
From Fort Victoria, we walked further uphill to another abandoned site, this one an old hotel called Club Med. Once a towering tourist attraction in the 1970s, the hotel was abandoned after being badly damaged by Hurricane Emily in 1987. It was finally demolished via implosion using 70 pounds of dynamite on Aug. 25, 2008, both because developers were interested in building a new Hyatt hotel and because it had become too popular among the homeless. This was the first building implosion in Bermuda’s history, according to bermuda-attractions.com. Since then, controversy and contract cancellations have kept the crumbled Club Med site in limbo.
It was easy navigating our way into the former swimming pool area, which we entered through a massive archway-tunnel (amazingly still intact). There, we explored the site, walked around and finished the beers we had brought, already warm in the 80 degree heat. We chose a more difficult, jungle-ridden route upon exiting, one that I regret not having a machete for. When we finally emerged, after stumbling through a makeshift junkyard and gaining several new scratches, we headed down the hill and back to the car, still parked next to the narrow bridge to Fort Victoria’s entrance.
By the time we got back to Kade’s house and dropped Keon off, we were pouring sweat. After going for a quick swim to cool off, we still had time for one more adventure before the family party for Kade’s grandfather, Sidney Stallard’s 90th birthday.
I threw on a pair of shorts and grabbed flip-flops (I later regretted not bringing water shoes. If not one of the island’s smooth sandy beaches, the sea-floor can be pretty mean to bare feet– just another Bermuda lesson I learned the hard way), got back in the front passenger’s seat (on the left side), and went with Kade to pick up another friend, Justin aka “Jay.”
We visited Burnt Point Fort; this one also abandoned but not quite so overgrown. The surrounding area seemed well kept, and there was a park-bench situated so people could look toward the island’s west side and watch sunsets. Nearby was an abandoned recreational fishing boat washed ashore after a hurricane, still fully intact with an inner cabin. We climbed up into the boat and scaled the ladder to its top deck, where we could look over a small harbor area and enjoy a breeze.
We didn’t stay long, as Kade couldn’t be late for the family photo session scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on the Stallard property, which was followed by a migration to another family member’s house for the actual dinner party.
Watching this photo shoot take place was special. As a visitor, I would have wanted any photos taken of me to have a turquoise water and palm tree backdrop. However, this was like any other family photo shoot that might take place anywhere in the U.S. Family members arranged themselves on a nice portion of the lawn (no intentional tropical background) and did their best to control their unruly kids all under the age of 10, while the eldest family members laughed at the spectacle. They are a totally normal family just like any other– only they live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Like the forgotten and overgrown forts we visited that day, Bermuda’s locals are part of the island’s inherent beauty. These aspects of Bermuda’s beauty often go unnoticed by tourists too concerned with gorgeous pink sand beaches, golf courses, guided cave tours, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those main attractions really only scratch the surface of the wonders and also wonderful people that can be found in Bermuda.
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