Here is the second installment from Bermuda. Hope it tides you over until the next. HA! Tides you over...man...1 hour east and I still got it.
You say Bermuda
Last night while the kids did their thing, Julie and I went to a comedian. He was moderately humoresque (that is, approaching or approximating humor) and then we hit the free coffee, walked out on deck to look at the blackness of our own souls and then listened to a guy play guitar. He wasn't bad at all and I'm sure he had a name and everything but sometimes, you just skip the details. He did manage, though, to turn Prince's “Purple Rain” into a song, so super to him for that. We tried to get to bed at a reasonable hour in anticipation of the morning's arrival at the island which our waiter characterized as “like home, but paradise”. I don't know how to react to that.
By the time we awoke and got the kids all together, we had already docked but we were awaiting permission to leave. Once granted (and big, political “mother may I” no doubt...what are they going to say? “Leave your American dollars and tourist sensibility on the boat; the global recession skipped us anyway) we got our bags of food, clothes and towels and headed out. The dock is interesting and quaint and not all that interesting, really. We found a cab and decided it would be faster and more direct to go via taxi instead of bus or ferry. So a guy named “John” drove us out to Horseshoe bay, pointing out the scenic sights along the way. John is near retirement (he plans on retiring to Alabama where he wants to, you guessed it, drive a cab), has 12 kids (7 girls, all married) and holds citizenship in the US, Bermuda and England. His accent is a combination so it sounds totally unlike all 3 of these places. We discussed our alternatives with him and stuck with the Horseshoe plan. He drove on the wrong side of the road but we chose not to say anything. It seems that everyone was doing it, so instead of lecturing him about not giving in to peer pressure, we let it go. We passed pastel colored houses which were dilapidated but redeemed by a coat of day-glo green or soft purple paint. The locals (most of whom are employed in the tourist industry or something one step removed from the tourist industry) were similarly dilapidated but brought back to life when presented with a similar coating of “the green” if you know what I mean (“money” if you don't know what I mean). The trip was about 20 minutes and 29 bucks plus tip. At the beach, we stopped by the 'conveniences' (the public bathrooms/showers) and then rented 4 beach chairs at 10 bucks each plus the 5 dollar deposit each. We found a quiet portion of the beach and set up shop.
A note about the beach. Big deal. It is a beach. Yes, the water is clear. Yes, the sand has flecks of pink, yes the sun is hot when not obscured by clouds and drizzle, yes the breeze is soothing. Yes, yes, yes, but so what. A note for the uninitiated: I hate saltwater, get nervous around open bodies of water and don't like broiling in the sun. The beach was so nice, though, that I thought, “wouldn't it be nice if we had something like this in America”? Oh yeah, we do. So why did I spend those thousands of dollars on Dramamine for the opportunity to sit on a beach? The kids did enjoy splashing about while I fretted and Julie also seemed to like swimming out to sea. We went through the usual stages – excitement of discovery, hunger, sheer boredom, rediscovery of excitement, whining, one last dip and then we found John, returned our chairs, brushed the beach off our legs and got the ants out of our clothes and headed back.
John told us that the population of Bermuda has the highest per capita rate of alcohol ingestion. It certainly appears that the roads in Bermuda were designed by someone who was drunk. Two lane roads that all squiggle and twist and turn all over the place. Now, I'm not looking for grids and strict parallels, but the place was founded in 1610...by then England had some basic idea of city planning on an island. Unless you tell me that horses enjoy curves more than straightaways, I won't accept that here was no choice. We passed and we passed by the horses, the moped, the pink buses and the occasional taxi or private car. We asked John what else there is to do (after he pointed out the two banks and the gas station – gas at $1.79.6 per gallon), and he said “nothing...you did the best thing to do today.” He views Bermuda as a senior citizens village. People who aren't catering to tourists get up and the conversation goes something like this
A: What do you want to do today?
B I don't know. What do you want to do today?
A: I don't know. We could go look at the ocean.
B: Well, we did that yesterday, but OK. Maybe we can swim in it also.
A: Fine, but then won't be leaving ourselves any options for the rest of the week.
The drizzle continued as all of our sunburns began to kick in. We stopped at the Bermuda glass works to watch the glass blowing. Pretty and pretty expensive. We looked at the mall which is a set of indoor tourist traps. It was convenient because it allowed us to compare prices on shot glasses and floppy hats saying “Bermuda is my second home.” We wouldn't want to jump at the first vendor. I want to design a shirt for my parents which says “My kids went to Bermuda and they didn't even get me a lousy T-Shirt. I had to buy this myself. Lousy, ungrateful kids.” Maddie bought Talia some earrings (which means I paid for some earrings so Maddie could give them to Talia and get the credit) and we started to wander back to the ship through the dockyard. I truly believe that we saw most of what this area has to offer in the first 6 hours we were here. The day started cloudy and turned sunny and hot. Thus here is strong like bull. So people will ask if I got any color and I like to say that I tried to color myself like the houses, so I acquired a glow of bright red. Is ouch a color? That's what I got.
A quick shower/hot tub later (I went to the pool, jealous that the ladies all swam today and I didn't, but when I got in the pools I discovered that they were all chlorinated salt-water...ugh) and we are getting ready for dinner. Julie wants to go to the Harbor Lights festival 25 minutes away by ferry, in Hamilton. It seems that we aren't having enough overpriced trash hawked at us around here so we are going to go elsewhere so we can decide not to buy a light-up keychain. Maddie wants to stay on board and “hang out” with her friends and Talia is undecided. Maddie had been complaining about her ear's hurting so I took her all the way down to deck 1 for the medical service. Before anything got started, the nurse from South Africa informed me tat to see the doctor would start at between 100 and 150 dollars. Then, any medicine would be additional. I asked Maddie if her ear really hurt that much and we bopth decided that she was cured.
We had a pleasant dinner during which we actually found some of the food edible. The sliced turkey was hit or miss, and I didn't miss enough of it. The apple strudel dessert was pretty darned good and they nuked the chocolate chip cookies so they were that much better. Other main courses were as expected – ranging from painfully bad to badly painful. After dinner, Julie and I returned to our room to find it had been cleaned and the bed turned down for the 17th time today. We then went to hear the jazz quartet doing an hour of Beatles music. It was really nice but there were two little problems. The first was that, while I got a drink, I have some angry thoughts about it (big surprise).
I ordered a double Stoli (they had the Elite) in a glass, no ice. In terms of effort, this is not that tough for the bar tender. As he was pouring the vodka, he was getting near the end of the bottle. In fact, he finished pouring my drink and there was very little (I mean VERY little) left in the bottle. I figured he would just top off my drink with the drips from the bottle because, hey, I'm the customer and why quibble. Not so. He stopped pouring my drink when my allotted vodka was there and replaced the top and put the bottle back, almost empty, all just to stop me from possibly getting a couple of cents of vodka for free. Now, just to remind you – a shot is 7.50 so a double is 15 dollars. 15 dollars. I'll let that sink in. Then they add on the mandatory “gratuity” of 15% so I'm paying who knows how much for a quick pour. Then the charge sheet that I have to sign (since I'm not on the alcohol plan) asks for “additional tip.” Really? The guy didn't pour a few remaining drips and I'm supposed to give him MORE than a forced tip? Not happening.
Then, the show. The jazz versions of the Beatles were actually really nice (the deeper cuts like I'm only Sleeping and “I feel Fine” were better then the standards but I did get a nice slow dance with Julie to “Something.” George Harrison, you rock). In front of us was a group and their baby. Now, I like babies but come on – it's a jazz show. Did you really think that junior was going to shut up? And when the mom finally walked the kid out, the brother in law sat down and proceeded to lecture his brother on the specs of his new digital camera. At top volume. It's a musical performance and now I know about his job, his family and his camera. Julie was working on a crossword puzzle and wouldn't let me borrow the pen top stab him in the eye because she said it wouldn't write well after that. Tonight's “entertainment” was a musical comedian. At least that's how it was billed. In fact he was a guy singing lots of songs and being silly in imitating the original musicians. The whole thing culminated in an Elvis impersonation. So let's work backward. He is an Elvis impersonator who only knows two Elvis songs so he built his show by learning 1 song by 10 other singers so he impersonates all of them for an hour first. He does an OK job pretending to be a couple. Some he totally fails at. I'd say that the nicest compliment I can give is that the venue is not that far from our room.
A day in the wharf
The morning started inauspiciously as I forgot about the clock change so I checked my watch and read 7:40 when the time was 8:40 and we were supposed to be outside meeting our tour at 9:15. We rushed (the girls didn't rush) and made it with all the needful things packed in a carryon strapped to my sunburnt shoulder. A short walk over to the ferry boat and a 30 minute ride across the bay to Hamilton later and we were ready to go on a bus. We got onto our pink bus and began our trip to the aquarium and zoo while our driver explained all about Bermuda, actually fascinating stuff which I had to make a special effort to forget as it took up precious space which I would need when I memorized the prices of liquors at the first store we found. He did point out one important clarification – the price I saw for gas (1.79 and 6 tenths) was per LITER, not gallon. He also said that the crime rate is near 0 as is the unemployment rate. The crime rate is low because the mandatory punishment for every first offense is hanging and it seems that being unemployed is a crime.
We wove our way to the aquarium on roads not much wider than our bus, but quieter, and when we got there (on North Shore road, off of Parliament Road off of Church Street, off of Front Street) the driver told us we had 45 minutes for the entire establishment. He assured us that that would be more than enough time. Either he thought we were all just using the bathroom, or the aquarium was destined to have 3 fish and the zoo, no animals. I'm still not sure if we missed a huge chunk of the zoo in our haste, or if the 2 turtles, the mouse deer and the snakes were the entire of the facility. We made it back on to the bus and began the drive to the subterranean caves. He gave us 30 minutes there which was troubling because the tour was to take 30 minutes and we didn't start immediately upon our arrival. After waiting in the gift shop (what a coincidence...they weren't ready but the gift shop was right there) we walked down the ramp, then down the 80 or so stairs into the stalactite/stalagmite cavern to hear the story of how this cave was discovered by accident by two fool hardy boys in 1905 while their parents were being negligent elsewhere. The water was crystal clear and the rocks were white red and gray and the only way out was the same way as in and back up all those stupid stairs. Just as fascinating was the cat sleeping outside.
As we started driving back (and I'm ignoring all mention of the lovely couple next to us in the bus – they had a 3 year old and a 2 year old and their parenting approach was exactly what would lead the children to discover underground caves) we took tour short detours. The first was to a little beach so people could get out and splash in the water and take more pictures of themselves splashing in water and then through the botanical gardens so we could gawk at a banyan tree and a golf course. Maddie pointed out that we have been in Bermuda for 2 days and we haven't seen a single squirrel. I did, however, get a bug bite, but the bug was careful to wish me a nice day after he finished. By the time we got back to Hamilton we had missed the ferry (actually, we didn't, it was late, but we decided not to rush back). We chose to walk into a few stores on Front street and buy gifts. Overpriced junk across the board, except in the really fancy stores. There the junk was WAY overpriced. Maddie bought perfume and Talia bought something touristy. I couldn't justify buying books or kitsch and, as I have said elsewhere, you either buy something you want and which is unique to the location, or that you need, and odds are I could get that closer to home.
We did buy some fruit to munch on, and then we pushed through the assembled masses to get on the ferry back. We walked back to the boat and showed our various ID's. On our way to the room, we had them deliver our lukewarm lunches to the room. If we have to eat junk, at least we should be able to do so in relative comfort. Next up, dinner, a family disco and an illusionist and tomorrow, snuba. I don't hold out much hope for the disco. I proved to the world that I lack and Bingo skills a couple of days ago and I hear that disco is like Bingo only with standing.
I have been noticing a few random things about both Bermuda and our ship. First off, Bermuda is clean but has no sidewalks. Also, everyone speaks with some strange hybrid accent and seems to know everyone else. On the ship, the constant politeness seems to belie an undercurrent of superficiality and possibly, ironic disdain. I mean, how much can you care when you engage yet another couple from suburbia in a conversation about pretty houses? We saw a crew member who was, shall we say, not to be taken near natural gas pipelines because he was well, you know, and he had plastered on a scarily wide smile and was laughing it up with a couple whom he was destined never to see again. I welcomed the few minutes today which I spent with that negligent parent because at least he was vicious and mean and didn't care who knew about it. Ah, tones of home. More, maybe after shabbos. If not, I'll keep writing, and upload after we return.