Tag Archives: Bermuda

Fasting, Feasting

13 Jun

Getting friendly with Yoshi the dolphin at Discovery Cove


We’re back from a wonderful holiday! Lots of adventure combined with lots of relaxation – just what we needed. We hurled ourselves down water flumes, shopped till our feet hurt, played some over-competitive crazy golf on no less than five courses, and flew through the air on a range of rollercoasters. We balanced all this with hot stone spa treatments, a swim with a pair of gorgeous and gentle dolphins, a sunset cruise along the highway and midnight dips in the pool, with the stars twinkling above us as we floated on our backs. We had a week of peaceful and selfish time together, and then a week of silliness and stomach-ache laughter with my cousins. It was bliss!

This was my first time off of the island in seven months – a period which our expat friends gasped at (“Seven months?! You’ve not left Bermuda in SEVEN months?!) I explained the notion of Rock Fever in my last post, and I was definitely ready for an antidote.

In Florida we banished our Fever almost instantly, stretching our legs and breathing in the freedom of the sprawling USA. We gorged ourselves on choice and space, like a pair of battery hens that had just been let loose into a wide open field. We had two weeks to make the most of it, so we did what we fancied, ate where we liked and enjoyed little indulgences that we wouldn’t grant ourselves at home, because, well, we were on holiday!

Rich spent a lot of the holiday picking up the local birds...

On the flight home, I flicked idly through the complimentary Bermuda magazine, written with tourists in mind. I was surprised to read about places I’d never heard of – nature trails, pubs in the capital, events at the Harbour… On this tiny island, how had I missed these? I thought again about our holiday – how for those two weeks we had feasted, not just on the food but on the country, the culture, the sights and the experiences. In Bermuda, we’d being doing the opposite. We’d been fasting; looking at our new home through the eyes of a cautious resident rather than an indulgent tourist. Maybe we needed to tip the scales a little? Could some of my Rock Fever have been self-imposed? Perhaps we needed to explore new places rather than stick to old stomping grounds. Living in Bermuda is wonderful because there’s a holiday waiting for you just outside your doorstep. And its beauty is free – we can be indulgent tourists at the beaches, and parks, and nature reserves without parting with a penny.

So our mid-year resolution is this: to slap on our sun cream and take our maps and guide books into our local area and see it anew. I’ll blog our new discoveries as we go!

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Happy Holidays

23 May

It’s holiday time in our household! We’re off to Florida for a few weeks and we are so excited. Florida was my favourite holiday as a child, and going back as an adult is just as magical. For me, Orlando will always be candy floss, and fireworks, and sunshine, and smiles. If Christmas Day were a holiday destination, it would be Florida.

In general, past holidays for Rich and I have usually meant a luxurious treat of sunshine and beach days. Now we live on an island of sunshine and beach days however, we feel differently! Whilst lounging by the pool will still be a treat, as we don’t have a pool of our own, I’m also looking forward to simple things such as travelling in a car! The scooter is great fun most of the time, but on days where you don’t want tangles in your hair and shouted conversations, a car is luxurious!

When we first arrived in Bermuda, people warned us about what is commonly known to expats and locals alike as “Rock Fever”. Being a small island, sometimes it does get a little claustrophobic and people have to get away and stretch their legs. I think I may be suffering a little…I’m so looking forward to being able to go to a choice of restaurants, shop in a range of different malls and go to the cinema one evening and have more than one film option! But the beauty of Bermuda is that it’s so close to the Caribbean, the east coast of the USA and Canada. Rock Fever is easily cured with Miami, Boston and New York being visit-able in a weekend. And I plan to take full advantage of this whilst we live here!

Happy holidays to anyone reading with upcoming vacations or stay-cations! 🙂

The Birds and the Beasties

19 May

When we were considering our move to Bermuda, one of the first things I googled was “Bermuda wildlife”, largely to ensure there were no killer scorpions or mutant spiders with big teeth on the island (there aren’t). In fact, other than the occasional vacationing jellyfish and some poisonous millipedes at the east end of Bermuda, there are no harmful creatures here at all, other than a few ugly-looking critters (cockroaches) and cute but noisy beasts (tree frogs).

Birds

Along with the sparrows and the starlings, and the black and white Longtails, there are two more exotic birds here. Kiskadees, originating from nearbyish Trinidad and Tobago, have an awful squawk but beautiful feathers and are easily spotted by their yellow breasts. A much rarer bird is the Redbird, which I’ve only seen once, but, gosh, he was stunning! Bright scarlet with a Mohican style hairdo – he flapped down for a drink and then soared off again.

Chickens
We have a number of feral chickens, that strut along the pavement, and occasionally wait at the bus station for the number 7 (I think the big step onto the bus baffles them every time). This spring, we also saw a number of fluffy feral chicks tailing behind mummy!

Tree Frogs
These teeny tiny amphibians are the size of your thumbnail, but don’t be fooled by how cute they are – they make a flippin’ racket! Come dusk, they start to squeak their mating chorus. You’re probably thinking, honestly, how much noise can such a tiny little poppet make? Here’s how much:

Toads
Every now and then you’ll come across a big, fat toad hopping around the garden. Although one recently gave Rich the fright of his life when he hopped past his foot in the dark, we are definitely pro-toads as they eat the bugs! Which leads me nicely to…

Ants
Ants never fail to amaze me. Their tiny little noses sniff out sugar no matter where it’s kept. Recently we had some Easter Eggs, in their sealed boxes, in a zipped-up bag, on top of a suitcase in a closed cupboard. The ants found them! Thankfully one blast of insect spray gets rid of the blighters, but don’t ever squash one on the wall! Apparently that release some sort of pheromone which then attracts all of his buddies!

Cockroaches
If you read my Conquering the Cockroach post, you’ll know how I feel about these creatures. They might not sting or bite, but they can terrorise you with their disgustingly long, wandering antennae and freakishly speedy legs. Oh, and apparently they fly here too, and have been known to fly into people’s scooter helmets whilst they are driving. So, if you’re moving here, make sure you get a helmet with a visor, won’t you!

Thankfully the only other beasties Bermuda has are wood lice, earwigs and the much more pleasant honey-bees and butterflies.

Lizards

As the temperatures rise, so do the sightings of the lizards, often spotted scampering across a wall. There are a number of different breeds here from the small brownish ones, to the dip-dyed multi-coloured ones, like the one in the photo above (kindly provided by my father-in-law!).

Of course, being an island surrounded by coral reefs, we also have a huge number of incredibly beautiful tropical fish, sea turtles and other ocean creatures. But I’m going to save this for another blog post, when I’m able to share photographs with you, using our soon-to-be-purchased underwater camera!

Missing Out

3 May

It started with the Olympics. There was a flurry of messages on Twitter from friends saying they had just submitted their application for tickets. Then there were the once-in-a-lifetime, two consecutive four-day bank holidays weekends where, thanks to some cunning Annual Leave Maths, people taking only 3 days’ leave, would gain 11 days’ holiday! Finally there was the Royal Wedding, which, whether you are a fan of the monarchy or not, was a momentous occasion for the UK. People were waving their flags, celebrating the nuptials at street parties and, even more unusually, feeling proud to be British – and showing it.

On the day of The Wedding, I set my alarm for 6.50am and crept into the living room to tune into BBC America. At first it was very exciting – not just for the beautiful ceremony, but for the scenery too – there’s Westminster! Oh and look the River Thames! And wait a minute, are they the dulcet tones of Huw Edwards commentating? Huw, how I have missed you reading the evening news!

Then the excitement subsided a little and pangs for home popped up in its place. I used to work near Westminster. I used to love looking across the Thames at dusk as I headed into Covent Garden to meet friends. And how I miss news that isn’t read as if every sentence finishes with an exclamation mark!

As the Wedding commentary was brought to a close, I thought about what people back home would be doing next – perhaps eating sandwiches and scones at a table decorated with Union Jacks; drinking a glass of bubbly and toasting our future King; talking about “Will and Kate” like they were well acquainted with them both. In contrast, my day was just like any other – there were no celebrations here, no bunting, no street parties, and no day off work, despite Bermuda being a British Overseas Territory.

I felt like I was missing out.

One of the tricky things about being an expat is accepting that the world continues while you are gone! It’s much like when you revisit your old university and find your favourite pub from your student days is now a fish and chip shop, and there’s a new lecture theatre on what is now known as the “old” football pitch. Although we know these changes are inevitable, often a part of us feels a bit betrayed that things haven’t stayed exactly as they were when we left. Because that way we can just slot right back into place again when we return.

We may not be home to see London transformed for the Olympics, but we can watch it on TV. And, whilst I was really disappointed not to have experienced a street party – it certainly would have been the first one in my lifetime – I’m hopeful that Britain will do it all over again for Harry’s nuptials, or the Coronation of a new King. And in the meantime, I’ll accept with a smile that you can’t always have your (Royal Wedding) cake and eat it!

Good Friday

28 Apr

Good Friday in Bermuda is a day of celebration. Traditionally people eat fishcakes and hot cross buns (yes, together!) give Easter baskets (containing Easter themed sweets) and fly their kites at the beach.

We’d heard that Horseshoe Bay was one of the main places to go for the festivities, so we scooted down late morning. What is usually a popular but peaceful stretch of sand had been transformed! There were food stands, Rum Swizzle stalls, live music, happy families splashing in the ocean and an unexpectedly beautiful sight of many colourful kites floating on the breeze.

Kites!

Rich and I had decided to enter into the spirit of things and make our own kite – fashioned out of some sticks, twine and a er…blue plastic bag (We still haven’t really sussed out where to get atypical items such as arts and crafts bits!). Unfortunately we soon discovered that our kite’s tail was too short, and so, after a quick twist in the air, it nosedived back down into the sand! With our careers as professional kitemakers well and truly over, we laid out our beach towels and happily watched those with adequate tails soaring and gliding through a cloudless blue sky.

A miffed Rich with our Kite Fail (and also some streamers growing out of his ear!)

Later, the sound of drums appeared. The Gombey dancers were on their way. We had heard of the traditional Gombeys’ dance parade, and had even tried to find them on Boxing Day when rumours emerged that they may be performing, but until this point, had only seen pictures of them in books.

As the drums got louder flashes of colour appeared. Big Gombeys and mini Gombeys, bedecked in tall hats with peacock feathers, tasselled costumes and bright masks, danced and strutted their way down to the sand, followed by a small band of drummers providing the beats for the troupe.

Gombeys are unique to Bermuda, with the drum rhythms deriving from African tribal music. The dancers are always male, and their costumes and masks cover them from head to toe – a tradition that apparently dates back to slavery, as the coverings meant that slave-masters would not recognise the slaves that were dancing.

There was a buzz of excitement as they arrived and tourists and local people alike snapped and filmed them moving to the rhythms, before they moved across the beach and away from sight. Being a small island, there aren’t many traditions that are truly unique to Bermuda, but the Gombeys are one that the local people clearly take much pride in, and make considerable effort to preserve and pass down to younger generations. Given that the Gombeys perform so infrequently, it was a real pleasure to see them and to partake in something that Bermuda clearly cherishes.

Whale Wisdom

23 Apr

Last week was a week of disasters. My visiting mother-in-law broke her toe; my father-in-law got stung by a vicious Portuguese Man o’War; Rich, at the end of a long day, picked up the green petrol pump and filled our scooter with diesel. Half a mile later the petrol engine spluttered out the foreign juice and died at a roundabout. Things broke in the house; and then, to finish the week off, my work permit application for a permanent job was rejected, after 9 weeks of hoping and waiting. It was the final straw and I spent most of the weekend stomping around the house, wondering if we’d got bad Feng Shui or irritated Fate.

Then, on Sunday, we went on a whale watching trip. Given the week we had had, we expected to see nothing but a few seagulls. But, soon after we left the shore, excited mumblings rippled through the boat; someone had seen a spurt of water shoot up from the ocean.

We scrambled to the front of the boat, necks craned. Sure enough a curve of black arched in the water, followed by a large black and white tail. The silence on the boat was broken by a ricochet of camera clicks. The sight was incredible.

Cresting 2

For the next few hours she continued to shoot up from the waves and curve back down, her shiny, black skin gleaming in the sunlight. As she scooped her fin around, the patch of water beside her turned bright turquoise – the white of her fin reflecting the light of the sun.

I thought then about how, when my mother-in-law broke her toe, a stranger had driven her to the hospital; when Rich’s scooter broke down, two kind gentlemen stopped, put the bike in the back of their van and drove us home, refusing to take any thank you payment. And, here we were now, on a boat in beautiful Bermuda, watching this breath-taking and majestic being in her natural habitat.

Sometimes when the excitement of something new dies down, we move the goalposts. When Rich was offered his job in the summer last year, we couldn’t believe this was happening to us. What an opportunity! And then, somewhere along the way, it did happen to us, and we moved our focus to the next thing that we wanted with no real thought to what we already had.

I am truly disappointed that I cannot take that job. I had big plans – not only for exciting things we could do within the company, but also ideas for ways we could give back to the local community. But, I have also come to realise that what I already have here in Bermuda is wonderful. We eat our weekday dinners outside in the evening sunshine, we spend our weekends on the beach, and we regularly feel like we’re on holiday. And that is more than enough.

The Bermudian Good Life

20 Apr

Homemade jams, prize-winning butternut squash, goat parades and dressage contests… you may think I’m describing a typical country fair in rural England, with green-wellied visitors and WI staff on the cake stalls. The weather would be a little showery, but people would nonetheless have a “jolly good time”.

But actually, these were some of the things I saw during my first experience of Bermuda’s Ag Show (or the Bermuda Annual Exhibition as it’s formally known). There were farmyard animals, bountiful fruit, blooming flowers and homemade baked goods – but flip flops and glorious sunshine in place of the wellies and showers!

The Ag Show is a huge three day event in Bermuda with schools making art displays and individuals nurturing plants and vegetables which are then judged and awarded prizes. It takes place in the Botanical Gardens, a large park just outside the capital of Bermuda, dotted with flowerbeds and hanging baskets overflowing with colour. This year there was also a range of farmyard animals competing for prizes including pigs, goats, calves, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, chickens and pigeons with funny peacock-esque feathers!

Alongside the exhibition of animals and foods, there were shows and displays throughout the day including dressage competitions, goat parades and – my favourite – a Dog Agility show, which involved a variety of dogs ranging in age and energy levels jumping through hoops and over hurdles. Some were nippy and sped around the course in seconds; others sauntered round the poles, stopping occasionally to sniff the air – as if looking for the nearest barbecue stall they could head to instead.

The atmosphere throughout the day was wonderful – children giggling with glee at the smelly pigs, parents examining their children’s Recyclable Critters, reading their spindly handwriting with pride, and families laughing and clapping at the animal shows. Everything was organic, homemade and natural – a world away from the traffic and general island hubbub – and it made me long for a veggie patch of my own (and a pet dog I could train to jump over things!) A taste of the Bermudian Good Life!