A Break in Boston

12 Sep


Just under two hours away from Bermuda is Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, and one of the oldest cities in the USA. Boston has always been on my wish list of places to visit, so when $99 fares came up, we grabbed the opportunity and headed there last week for a little holiday.

My first impression was how beautiful the streets were! As we navigated our way to find our B&B, we walked along pavements of red brick lined with tall trees, elegant townhouses with shiny front doors, and flourishing window boxes. Our B&B was lovely – stripped wooden floors, pastel blue walls, heavy curtains, and a large fireplace. Coming from a home of tiles, white walls, light blinds and air conditioning, our surroundings were a refreshing change!

Every day was gloriously sunny, but on our first day there was an autumnal chill in the air, and I surprised myself with how much I’d missed a crisp breeze! Later in our trip we spent an afternoon in the park, lying on soft grass, drinking freshly-squeezed lemonade, watching squirrels darting up trees and ducks sailing across the lake. It was beautiful, partly because it was so different to what we currently have at home in Bermuda. I even stopped to photograph a squirrel, because I wasn’t sure when I’d see one next. Back in the UK I’d see them almost daily and I certainly wouldn’t have thought about photographing one! It’s funny how, when the place you call home changes, so do the things you appreciate on holiday.

We spent our break exploring the city, viewing historic houses, going on a Duck tour, shopping, eating delicious food and taking in the local culture. These were my Boston highlights:

Cocktails on the 52nd Floor of the Prudential Tower

Sipping a vodka and cranberry juice whilst taking in the twinkling lights across the city was breathtaking!

Dining in Boston’s Little Italy
I love Italian food, so adored Boston’s North End – narrow streets, pastry shops, mouth-watering restaurants and colourful gelaterias. We had yummy grapefruit sorbet in Gigi Gelateria, and incredible pasta and veal at Strega – where our Napoli-born waiter was proud to tell us he’d served David Beckham. (Thankfully you don’t need a Beckham-sized bank account to dine there though.)

Watching the Red Sox win
I’m not much of a sports fan, but I loved the atmosphere at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox baseball team, and I found baseball easy enough to follow. By the end of the game, I was on the edge of my seat hoping that my new favourite team would win – and they did!

Experiencing the Blue Man Group
Rich and I had wanted to see the Blue Man Group for years, so we took the opportunity to see the show – and were not disappointed! The production is a spectacle of colour and sound, with the audience constantly surprised by what happens next.

Breakfast at Brasserie Jo
On our last day we had breakfast outside at the lovely Brasserie Jo – a French restaurant with freshly squeezed fruit juice, crispy bacon and eggs cooked to perfection. Breakfast al fresco in the morning sunshine, watching the world go by was an absolute treat!


10 Things I Miss From Home

29 Aug

Before we got the sad news of Rich’s sweet Nan passing away, I’d been drafting a blog post on the things I was missing from home, not realising that in just a few weeks’ time I’d get to experience most of them during a whirlwind trip back to the UK. Here’s my list:

1. Friends and family – This probably goes without saying! Sunday roasts at our parents’, dinner parties with friends, board games with grandparents on a rainy afternoon…It was lovely to go home and snuggle in that cosy warmth you get from being around familiar ones.

2. Changing seasons – Bermuda tends to have just two seasons – winter (cool and rainy) and summer (hot and sunny). Although winter in the UK goes on far too long, I do miss the cherry blossom in spring, the smell of freshly-cut grass to announce summer, the crunchy, colourful leaves of Autumn, and the sparkly snowflakes on a bright winter’s day.

3. Decent bread – A crusty French baguette with cheese and pate, crispy bacon between two slices of Tiger Bread, a chip buttie in a seeded roll – along with fish and chips, a good loaf of bread was on my list to consume as soon as possible when I got home!

4. The train – It may sound strange to some, but I miss my commute from Winchester to London each workday. I loved having that hour of peace where I could read a book, catch up on emails uninterrupted, or just watch the world rush by with no demands on my time. With no trains in Bermuda it was a novelty to sit back and enjoy that serenity again.

5. Zizzi’s Penne de la Casa – Rarely have I gone to Zizzi’s and ordered anything else. And although there are better Italian restaurants in London, the Zizzi’s Strand branch will always be special as it’s been the meeting place for years for me and my bestest friends to catch up over a bottle of wine (always Frascati) and set the world to right.

6. Wildlife – In Bermuda, other than frogs, toads, lizards, a few feral chickens and some flying bugs, we don’t have many creatures roaming the island. It was lovely watching the squirrels scampering around my parents’ garden, spying foxes dashing into the bushes and looking out for rabbits as we drove along the country lanes in the moonlight.

7. Fish and chips – If only expats could set up their own business in Bermuda – my fictional fish and chip shop would make a killing! There’s nothing quite like a good piece of battered cod served on a bed of chip-shop chips, all wrapped up in paper!

8. Shops – An afternoon browsing and buying treats in the High Street without having to take out a bank loan to afford it? Definitely missed!

9. London – the hidden alleyways, historic buildings, and the hustle and bustle of city life. Whilst island life is wonderfully relaxing, a trip to the big smoke was reinvigorating – even the stuffy Tube!

10. Un-sensationalist news – Oh Huw Edwards! How I’ve missed news that is read calmly by proper journalists with normal teeth! With no noisy commercial breaks! 🙂

What do you miss the most when you are away from home?

Cup Match

9 Aug

The last weekend of July was Cup Match – a two day public holiday of Somerset (west end) vs. St George’s (east end) cricket – and it was quite the event! In the days leading up to the game, there were people declaring their allegiance with their team’s coloured ribbons pinned to their chests, cars and scooters brandishing flags, and pop-up snow cone stands with blue and red (Somerset) or blue and navy (St. George’s) flavourings! Hamilton had a real buzz of excitement in the air – akin to the days leading up to Christmas – as families made their preparations for a long weekend of boating, swimming and camping – a tradition among Bermudians during Cup Match weekend, despite home being a few miles away from their tents!

We headed to the match on the second day to a packed field of scaffolding stands, food stalls, Bacardi bars and – for the Cup Match only – a gambling tent, packed with people trying to go home with more cash than they arrived with, on the one weekend that gambling is legal in Bermuda. There was an incredible atmosphere; the sights of waving flags, face-painted supporters, bright clothing; smells of freshly grilled fish and icy rum cocktails, sounds of cheering and clapping and the shaky bass of reggae music, all under a blue sky and a fierce sun. Thankfully our good friend Bryan managed to blag us into a private stand, with shade, a beautiful breeze, stunning views across the water, and a free bar! Needless to say, we stayed there for the rest of the day!

After a great afternoon and a close match (St. George’s eventually won) we headed off for dinner, past the makeshift camp sites on the sides of the roads, with happy campers cheering and waving their flags by their tents. Our taxi driver – a Somerset supporter – waved his Somerset hat back.

“Aren’t they St. George’s supporters?” I asked, confused as to why he was waving his Somerset hat out the window to the winning opponents.

“Yes, but it’s all the same,” he laughed.

And it was. Although people here are resolutely loyal to their side of the island, everyone is jubilant at the end of Cup Match – regardless of the result. I thought about how different this event may have been in England – fights fuelled by team rivalry and too much alcohol, people falling about, vomit, road rage on the way home. Although there was a strong police presence at the game, I only saw one verbal argument, no drunken embarrassments and no arguments at home time. Instead people waved and whooped, cars honked their horns, and electric happiness zipped through the air like dancing fireflies.

Roses in December

3 Aug

We had some sad news on Saturday. Rich’s nan passed away. She was a kind and gentle lady, 89 years young, who had not woken from her sleep.

Rich telephoned family, pacing up and down the garden because he could go nowhere else. We couldn’t pop over to make his mum a cup of tea, or take care of his granddad’s supper. Suddenly we were incredibly far away from home.

So we did some gardening. We pruned and watered; we moved pots around to face the sunlight; we replanted to fill gaps in blank soil. We worked quietly until everything was neat and ordered again.

We’d planned our first trip home to be at Christmas – a trip full of festivities, family visits, Season’s Greetings to strangers, and cosy celebrations. But of course we cannot always tidy and order our lives in the way we do our gardens. Instead our first visit home will be to say goodbye to a special lady. There will be sadness, but also gratitude – we were lucky to have her in our lives for so long. She celebrated our engagement with us, attended our wedding, and we spent many happy moments in her company. As J M Barrie wrote: “God gave us memory that we might have roses in December”. I know we’ll all nurture and cherish those beautiful roses.

10 Things I Love About Bermuda

25 Jul

Summer has arrived in Bermuda! After a rainy, quiet winter of uncertainty about my new home, the summer has shown me Bermuda at its best, and I’ve come to love it. Here are my top 10 reasons why:

1. Waking up to sunshine: Every morning we wake up in a bedroom bathed in sunlight. When I pull back the curtains to greet the new day, I see tall palm trees against a cloudless blue sky. No day can be that bad when it starts this way!

2. Every weekend is a holiday: Come Saturday, we’re free of our job and volunteering commitments, so we scoot to the beach, lay in the sunshine, hang out with friends, and feel like we’re on holiday – every weekend!

3. Pink sand: Our nearest beach has pink sand, created from the shells of red sea creatures which live on the coral reefs. Every time we head down to the ocean, the sight of the pink beach and the bright turquoise water takes my breath away.

4. Honking means “hello”: In the UK, a honk of a car horn generally means an aggressive obscenity. Here it means hello! And if there’s traffic because some bozo is holding everyone else up, everyone just waits patiently. There’s no road rage here, just chilled out commuters enjoying the views.

5. Tastes of England: From Cadbury’s chocolate to red post boxes, there are little tastes of home to pick me up whenever I’m feeling a bit homesick. I was ridiculously excited to find one supermarket selling Cadbury’s Cream Eggs at Easter! It’s funny how trivial things that you have in abundance at home become a huge source of happiness when you’re in a strange land.

6. Stunning scenery: The white beaches and bright blue ocean; the parks filled with oleander and hibiscus; the rows of pastel-painted houses topped with bright white roofs; and the palm trees silhouetted against the sunset… Bermuda has a unique beauty which I still haven’t got used to after almost a year of living here.

7. Tree frogs: They seem to be one of the noisiest creatures on the planet, but they are incredibly cute. The size of your thumbnail, these teeny-tiny frogs use their whole bodies to make a squeak as loud as your fire alarm. They prove that you can make yourself heard no matter what your size! Who knew amphibians could be so inspiring?

8. Positive spin on rain: Rain water is our tap water, so wet weather is always welcome in Bermuda because raindrops fill up our tanks. If we haven’t had rain for a few months, people are overjoyed when the sky clouds over and the rain pours down the limestone roofs, into our underground storage units, all ready for us to shower in or cook with the next day.

9. The USA is just a short plane ride away: We can be in Boston or New York or Miami in just two hours, on a flight as cheap as chips.

10. The ocean: Most weekends we are either in it or on it. From swimming and snorkelling to boating and kayaking, the ocean is like a giant playground! There is an incredible amount of sea turtles and tropical fish in vibrant colours to spy, and thanks to the warm waters around us, we were also able to go whale watching in spring – an amazing experience.

What would be in your top 10 “loves” for where you live?

Anyone for Tennis?

19 Jul

A few weeks ago, I started taking tennis lessons. For those who know me, you’ll understand that this is a bit like Mike Tyson announcing that he’s learning how to play the piccolo. PE was the one subject at school that I hated. Each week I’d pray that all of the teachers had got locked inside their office, that my kit had been stolen, or best of all, that I’d break my leg – resulting in weeks or even months of no PE!

But, here I was on the way to my first lesson, in my shorts that said Reebok, and my top which said FILA. I felt a little bit like I was going to a fancy dress party. (“Oh, you’ve come as a person that plays sport! How comical!”) I feared that my tennis teacher would take one look at my “costume” and realise that I was an imposter.

But he didn’t. He took me seriously. He asked me if I was hoping to get to a competitive level. I looked at him like he was loopy. He just looked back, waiting for my answer.

During my first lesson I apologised every time I missed the ball (often) or held my racquet the wrong way (constantly). I waited for him to wince, or hold his head in his hands, or look up to the sky and ask why God had punished him with such an inept student. But he didn’t do any of these things. He was patient, and kind, and encouraging, and funny. He acted as if there was some hope that, maybe one day in the future, I might be good enough to actually play!

Now I miss the ball slightly less and only hold my racquet the wrong way half of the time. My classes take place by the ocean, on courts bathed in sunshine, surrounded by palm trees. If I’d ever contemplated learning at home, (and, yes, pigs would have needed to have mutated into the flying kind first) I probably would have learned on a court in an echoey sports hall, surrounded by sickly-coloured walls and smells of feet. I don’t think I would have lasted long.

So why, after years of praying for broken limbs, am I now paying for PE? Because, as an expat, there’s no point trying to keep up the same social habits you had at home. Why come to a different country if you want everything to be the same? Here the lifestyle is outdoors, active, and sporty. You can either join in or miss out. So I’m pulling on my trainers and stepping out into the sunlight!

I’m taking classes at Elbow Beach. For more information and rates, please see: http://elbowtennisbda.com/

The Birth of a Butterfly

8 Jul

Hot climates can mean giant flying beetles, but they also often mean giant, beautiful butterflies too! Keen to attract some to our little garden, we tended to our new Milkweed plant – essentially a flowering weed on which Monarch butterflies like to lay their eggs. Its leaves were lush green with small pinky-red flowers, but we’d only once seen a butterfly flutter around. When we came back from Florida however, it was a different story! The plant was now crammed with fat, stripy Monarch caterpillars, happily crawling around, munching any bit of green they could find left on what was quickly becoming a set of twigs stuck in a plant pot.

We checked on our new brood daily. After a few days, the fattest caterpillars began to crawl away from the plant. We watched as one inched his way up to the big hibiscus pot, and stayed there, slowly curling into a J shape. He was getting ready to form his cocoon. Later when we returned, he had disappeared, and in his place was a beautiful jewel-green chrysalis, with a sparkling gold thread sewn through the top.

Just over a week later, the chrysalis was transparent – the squashed-up butterfly visible inside. Over the next two hours we stood patiently in the heat, watching as the butterfly gradually emerged from her cocoon, and slowly stretched her wings, until she was a huge butterfly! With her wings fully-formed, she slipped to the ground, and took a few stumbly flights around the patio, before finally taking off into the distance. It was an incredible thing to witness – from fat caterpillar to stunning butterfly, we’d seen the whole cycle!

Thanks to Rich, we managed to get some shots of her emerging, so I can share the whole cycle with you too!