When you think of paradise, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you envision beautiful weather with balmy breezes, perhaps long stretches of beaches lapped by waves the color of the sky, people who wear smiles all the time and the aroma of delicious gourmet treats wafting through the air.
What fun to remember this birthday surprise several years ago!
It was my turn to plan my husband Bill’s birthday adventure, and I couldn’t get the word paradise out of my mind. I consulted the Internet only to find that every travel destination in the world describes itself as a paradise. Big help. But concentrating closer to home, I found a paradise right off the East Coast shores, and it just happened to be a place I had always wanted to visit.
When I gave Bill his packing instructions, he looked at me quizzically. I did not falter. Even when we boarded the plane, he did not know where we were going. But our arrival in paradise and the look of surprise and joy on his face made my plans all the more worthwhile.
Our paradise? Bermuda. Reread the first paragraph in this column and you’ll have the perfect description of this 21-mile-long and two miles wide island in the Atlantic, which is a British dependency, the oldest British colony and one of the world’s oldest democracies.
But all of that aside, Bermuda is a world-class experience. Departing the plane we were greeted by a chorus of locals (in Bermuda shorts, of course), serenading us and were served fresh fruit beverages. Upon checking into the Surf Side Beach Club, a one-of-a-kind hideaway perched atop a cliff in Warwick Parish’s south shore, our private cottage and patio offered us a spectacular view of the ever-changing ocean. What a way to spend the next seven days!
From the moment of arrival our days were spent in absolute bliss. First, we rented a moped, the preferred mode of transportation on the island. What a hoot! Both of us on one vehicle, wearing gorgeous helmets. We headed for Gibbs Lighthouse and Tea Room, stopping on the way at Warwick Long Beach, where we strolled along the pastel coral sand beach hand in hand, and in matching shirts—and Bermuda shorts!
Gibbs was the perfect setting for lunch but we had to climb up the 185 circular steps for a spectacular view of the entire island, well worth the effort. While daredevil Bill romped around taking in the view, picture me clinging to the wall.
Back on Mother Earth, we spent the afternoon “scooting around” the south side of the island, enjoying the caressing breezes and beautiful scenery, until we arrived at Henry VIII, one of the island’s most popular dining spots. Remember Henry VIII? Between executing his wives, he was known as a lover of food, drink and music. However, the experience was safe—and memorable—especially our own touch of decadence: roast duck and fresh salmon.
Day One launched the fun-filled and fascinating days ahead, taking in the sights and sounds of the island. At the Royal Naval Dockyard, we visited the Maritime Museum and Craft Market, which housed fascinating exhibits of Bermuda’s nautical history. Bill was in his element, taking in displays of Bermuda boats, whaling, diving, navigation, shipping and the Royal Navy, all illustrating the island’s intimate connection with the Atlantic Ocean.
The Craft Market was more my style. In a rustic setting, artists demonstrated and sold jewelry, ceramics candles, even ”banana” dolls, plus food and condiments indigenous to island life. I wished for a larger moped.
Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, is the financial and commercial center of the island and has the distinction of being famous for its glittering boutiques and busy restaurants. We even saw a Virginia Tech license plate. On to St. George, the original capital and the first English settlement. There we took in the Crystal Cave, an absolutely awe-inspiring natural phenomenon, where we had to go underground to appreciate its dramatic formations and the clear, ocean-fed lake that reflected millions of crystals sparkling in the sapphire depths. And then to The Perfumery, site of acres of gardens, which supply Bermuda’s perfume and cologne industry. The aromas were intoxicating.
I think of this birthday trip often. It was, indeed, paradise, and not that far away. But sometimes when I’m sitting on my back lawn, I look out over the water, take in the air, and think about our adventures in Bermuda, I can’t help but think that paradise is wherever you make it. Maybe paradise is just a state of mind.