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Our Many Returns to Enchanting Bermuda

Francis H Morrison

Summary

  • Fran and his wife have visited Bermuda on special occasions and have returned at least 20 times over their 52 years of marriage including their honeymoon, 25th Anniversary, and most recently Fran's 75th birthday.
  • They adore the people and its collection of over 180 islands with their stunning aqua marine waters, pink sandy beaches, pastel-colored buildings, and tropical sunsets.
Our Many Returns to Enchanting Bermuda
istockphoto.com/Ashley Hense

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My wife and I have just returned from a five day stay on the beautiful island (really over 180 islands) of Bermuda, bobbing in the Gulf Stream of the central North Atlantic Ocean some 1047 km off Cape Hatteras, NC (about a two-hour airplane ride from Charlotte). Bermuda is a compact destination consisting of some 21 square miles and a year-round population of approximately 65,000 persons.

Spectacular sites include: aqua marine waters with coral visible from the air; pink sandy beaches; pastel colored buildings abound; and brilliant tropical sunsets enjoyed by diners. It is indisputable that Bermuda is a semi-tropical paradise.

We have visited on special occasions and have returned at least 20 times over the 52 years of our marriage. Before I report on our most recent visit, I want to share with you some milestones of our sojourns to Bermuda during our marriage. Then, I’ll share our most recent trip with you.   

My wife Sally and I were married in Washington, D.C. in September 1970 and spent our honeymoon in Bermuda at the old Bermudian Hotel on Front Street in Hamilton (it burned to the ground many years ago but is fondly remembered in Bermuda as is our honeymoon!). We both remember our arrival after a delayed, hot flight to learn that no rooms were ready. We joined a gaggle of other sweaty, slightly crabby newlyweds. Later, we discovered that not only was dinner dress jacket and tie de rigueur for gentlemen and “nice dress” for ladies, but that all of the tables were set for four. That set the stage for a curious, annoying ritual that recurred each night for the five nights of our honeymoon—the couple that arrived first for dinner would be slow-walked until the second couple arrived, after which service to the second couple sped up to catch up with the first couple’s head start.

From top row: Bermuda on approach; a locally hand-painted flower pot; my wife’s needlepoint of Front Street; a Bermuda hogshead penny.

From top row: Bermuda on approach; a locally hand-painted flower pot; my wife’s needlepoint of Front Street; a Bermuda hogshead penny.

Fran Morrison photos

Right from the start on our honeymoon, we learned about Bermudians’ unrequited love affair for all things made of aromatic Bermuda cedar. Our favorites acquired on visits over the years include: an authentic Bermuda cedar container for precious tchotchkes with a Bermuda hogshead penny imbedded in the top bearing the year of our wedding—1970; a Bermuda cedar triangle and an original watercolor of a Bermuda cottage by a local artist John Mills in a cedar frame. The watercolor catches the ubiquitous white water catch on the cottage roof to collect and store potable water for the residents in underground cisterns. Even though Bermuda has built a modern desalination plant, fresh water was and is a precious commodity in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. We also learned about the Bermuda custom of newlyweds kissing under a moongate which means they will have everlasting love. We followed that custom during our honeymoon! 

In 1972, my Navy ship, USS Grand Canyon (AD-28) was approaching Bermuda from the south. Watch standers were on the lookout for Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, an aid to navigation consisting of a Fresnel lens with a focal plane 354 feet above sea level and built in 1844. The light’s characteristic is flashing white every 10 seconds (Fl W 10s). It is also the highest structure on the island. From our navigation bridge some 30 feet above water’s surface, we sighted it 85 nautical miles from Bermuda. On one of our trips to Bermuda, we purchased a hand painted English enamel box depicting the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. My wife Sally (not I) climbed its circular staircase to the light.

On our next visit in 1974, before my 3L year at Duke Law, my wife was pregnant with our first son and was suffering the wretchedness of morning sickness. We still managed, as we had in 1970, to ride a rented moped for two—no small feat driving on the left side of Bermuda’s very narrow roads. And that didn’t take into account the roundabouts—managing the neat trick of driving left, figuring out who had the right of way and leaving the roundabout when and where one intended. And, the two of us found keeping our balance when we leaned opposite directions on a curve was an art that we had no idea existed.

And, along with a crowd of Bermudians, Brits, and fellow Americans, we got to watch the resignation of President Nixon on August 8, 1974, in a hotel dining room.

The demands of budget, trying lots of cases and raising our young family kept us from Bermuda until the 1990’s when we enjoyed the island again with our teenaged children. During those years I had the good fortune, thanks to a member of Mid Ocean Golf Club who was a Baltimore lawyer, to play several rounds at its spectacular course. Rumor has it that Babe Ruth delivered some 11 balls into Mangrove Lake on the par four fifth hole. While I managed my own share of errant shots, I came away with a modest gift of a Mid Ocean comb from the shower room.

And, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 1995 in Bermuda and had the pleasure of walking the Mid Ocean Course to observe a PGA event, complete with Payne Stewart appropriately decked out in plus fours. So, on the very day of our 25th anniversary, we walked the hilly, hot, and humid Mid Ocean Course. Our salvation was not to quaff champagne, but instead one of those orange-colored athletic drinks named after a famous Florida school’s primordial mascot!

That brings me to our most recent trip for my 75th birthday. No golf, thanks to a knee awaiting a full joint replacement. And no mopeds for either of us. And, thank God, no COVID-19 for us, and not so much for Bermuda, which has suffered enough. Indeed, hotels, shops and restaurants we had known and frequented for years have disappeared, at least temporarily. Interestingly, Bermuda enforces a mask and social distancing rule in indoor public places. As we deplaned, masks were handed out for everyone unmasked and authorities announced a $500 fine for offenders. No messing around!

On many of our past visits, we had stayed at a very traditional resort called Pink Beach Club in Tuckers Town. Like many Bermuda resorts and hotels, it was resplendent pink in the strong Bermuda sun with public rooms clad in Bermuda cedar. Central air was uncommon in such aged buildings. But the pink beaches and aqua marine water were drop dead gorgeous.

Our quarters for our stay this July was The Loren at Pink Beach— built on the site of “our” old Pink Beach Club. The Loren is spanking new, modern, and sleek. While it might lack some of the old Bermuda charm of the old Pink Beach, it sits at water’s edge on the same pink beaches and aqua marine waters that graced the old place. Its dining pavilion captures some of the new and the old.

From top left: A Bermuda cedar triangle; a watercolor by John Mills; the Gibbs Hill enamel box; moongate watercolor by Diana Higginbotham; Pink Beach.

From top left: A Bermuda cedar triangle; a watercolor by John Mills; the Gibbs Hill enamel box; moongate watercolor by Diana Higginbotham; Pink Beach.

Fran Morrison photos

We found the best part of Bermuda securely intact—the friendliness and generosity of the spirit of Bermudians. We were warmly greeted wherever we went. And, they loved our 1970 honeymoon stories. To a person, they told us lovingly to be sure that we come back. We told them that we would—and we will—it is a two-hour flight from Charlotte.

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