Sitting on a rock at the Hamilton airport, staring at the aquamarine water, basking in the delightfully clear skies I cannot wait to get home. Trying desperately, on my 32nd birthday to take stock in those things that are good in my meager existence as opposed to all things wrong as I anxiously await an intimate birthday dinner with some friends who love me and whom I adore. Waking up on your birthday with a strange man in a strange country may sound exciting, or may sound like the beginning of the Hangover 4- but trust me it is not nearly as charming and Bradley Cooper's baby blues are nowhere to be found.
A couple months ago I booked myself a trip to Bermuda for my birthday weekend. The flight was cheap, the country was unknown to me, and the spontaneity of it all made me feel like myself again after having lost contact with that particular person for some time.
I felt good about my impulse purchase until I realized that perhaps this was the sort of destination best enjoyed with a travel mate. It still surprises me when I get myself into these pickles- as I have before- how few people are down for an impromptu voyage. Several weeks later I had begun seeing a man who, for all intents and purposes, was fantastic but we had yet to really click. I offhandedly mentioned he should come along, as I am wont to do, and he immediately jumped on board. This sort of down for whatever attitude should have excited the traveler not so deep within me, but instead made me a little nervous and apprehensive.
I like to make each of my trips a new adventure, and interesting in their own right. It seemed that Bermuda would be my first couples challenge- although instead of going with a boyfriend or someone I loved deeply I was going with someone who was essentially a stranger, so much so that he was biblically still unknown to me. What would my grandmother say?
It all started harmlessly enough. We had agreed to meet in Penn station Thursday morning to take the NJT out to Newark. He had some difficulty navigating the train hub, but it was no bother as I chatted up two officers standing guard in full regalia.
A quick ride to EWR and we were off for the surprisingly short flight to Hamilton, Bermuda. I graciously offered my aisle seat as he returned the favor with affectionate warmth for which I was in desperate need as flights always seem to have thermostats set to sub zero.
I had arranged for a driver to pick us up and before you knew it we were in Conrad Murray's cab (ok, maybe that wasn't his name, but it was Conrad Something) twisting and turning down the pristine roads of Bermuda heading out to Southampton where I had rented an apartment. Our driver was amiable and charming and, as I later discovered, a clear indicator of the generous and friendly inhabitants that can be found on this isolated island in the Atlantic.
Being the tightwad I am, I rented the cheapest place I could find in Bermuda, which happened to be a tiny apartment settled just underneath Mrs. White's humble abode located in Southampton, on the West side of the island. Mrs. White was a widow somewhere between 75 and 250 years old trying to make an extra buck by renting out her home. She had had some troubles with guests before which she detailed ad nauseum just before explaining to me that I was white and my travel companion was black. How is it old people get away with saying anything? It was quickly followed by hugs and declarations of love, so all was forgiven.
A quick freshening up session and we were off to the Dockyards to witness a cruise ship's idea of a good time when in port, which included a cover band, some 'local' crafts made in Taiwan and overpriced drinks representing every color of the rainbow. Burgers and curried chicken, which would soon become meal staples, were consumed. A cocktail or two may have been sampled, and we were back to Mrs. White's pad sleep away memories of America and awaken to a new day. And the beach...
Church Bay, which soon became our favorite beach on the southern coast of Bermuda, is an idyllic strip of sand facing crystal blue waters fraught with largely day trippers from the cruises that dock at the West side of the island. Peaceful, serene and picturesque this is an ideal location to do absolutely nothing.
Bermuda is a country of beautiful beaches, warm people and sub par public transportation.
We decided to take this sub par transport, or as I would like to call it vomitmobile - a note of warning to anyone who suffers, as I do, from motion sickness, be prepared to consume copious amounts of Dramamine whilst on the island, as there is no straightaway. After boarding the pink bus to Hamilton I had some time to relax and people watch, one of my most favorite activities. With almost an hour en route, the places open for dinner at close to 10 were limited, but we asked a nice rotund, dark skinned cowboy offered us a few suggestions and we decided upon Cafe Cairo, only to later discover it was the hottest discotheque in town.
Yummy food and cocktails in shades of pastels and neon were consumed before heading to the veranda for hookahtime. Now, I am not a hookah fan, but as my travel mate was I was more than happy to accompany him to the balcony to be amongst the throngs of teenagers taking advantage of looser liquors laws and overpriced cigarettes. As I rapidly turn into my mother I realized I could no longer handle the smoke and retreated downstairs to perch upon a wall and watch the world go by, literally. Women in stilettos and spandex hopping on their scooters to hopefully soberly drive home, old white couples wearing beach appropriate attire and sunburns to match. The evening breeze brought me a sense of peace until I realized my travel mate's lack of information as to where exactly I was seated caused a little friction. I think I am so used to traveling alone that I often forget to 'check in' with others when I make choices. It was nice to know someone cared and after a cab ride home it was off to bed again.
With Hamilton being the only real 'city' on Bermuda we took advantage of the pink buses to head back into town to buy some bus passes, which would have been useful the past couple of days, buy some souvenirs and check out the town. With a large Anglican population I took advantage of the Holy Trinity Cathedral to light my traditional candle abroad for a friend I lost in childhood and we were back out to the beach in no time. Hamilton is clearly a town for those who come to shop for luxury items when on holiday, so I felt little need to stick around.
Our final day was spent visiting Gibb's Hill Lighthouse where, for 2 American dollars you can climb the seemingly endless stairs to the top and get a well deserved 360 degree view of the island that, from up above looks so small, but who's winding roads prove deceptive. It was rainy and hot, so we wandered back down to the main road covered in a mix of sweat and god's tears. The showers had subsided, but just as the clouds looked to be coming back our way, a nice woman offered us a ride. This is perhaps one of my greatest joys in traveling - discovering the kind hearts all over the world and - in other parts of the world - where showing this is encouraged. This realization is often realized with a bit of melancholy and the wish that my home country could be more like this.
Unfortunately, a real vacation, something I have not perhaps ever had in my life, offers little juice for a story well told. It simply offers additional freckles on my aging face and a leaner back account upon completion. Upon return I realized how few people were able to identify Bermuda's exact location on the globe and how many confused it with the Bahamas and home to Atlantis. For me, Bermuda will always hold a special place as the country in which I bid adieu to a painful 31 and hello to a welcomed 32.