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Bermuda Essentials

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No destination satisfies your need for a no-fuss, relaxing vacation like the think-pink British colony of Bermuda -- which probably accounts for the amazingly high repeat rate of nearly 50 percent when it comes to returning visitors. We say it's just another tribute to the simple pleasures the islands offer: blue skies meeting blue waters; pink sand beaches along winding roads sprinkled generously with gracious cottages washed in lemon yellows, baby blues and pistachio greens; and sophisticated museums, shops and restaurants.

Contrary to popular belief, Bermuda is not in the Caribbean! Consisting of 120-plus islands (some of which aren't even big enough to build a small house on), Bermuda lies in the Atlantic -- with the nearest land being Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, some 570 miles away. New York is 774 miles from Bermuda and London is 3,497 miles away.

A visitor's Bermuda is basically limited to the eight largest isles -- Ireland North, Ireland South, Boaz, Somerset, Bermuda (or Main), Watford, St. David's and St. George's -- connected by causeways and bridges. There are nine parishes or counties (Devonshire, Hamilton, Paget, Pembroke, Sandys, Smith's, Southampton, St. George's and Warwick), each a bit over two square miles.

And almost certainly because Bermudians know a good thing when they see it, they've put a long list of laws on the books to keep paradise exactly that. They don't allow billboards, neon signs or -- heaven forbid -- golden arches regally reigning over fast-cooked burgers and fries (albeit really good ones). Residents get one car apiece to drive at no more than 20 miles per hour, and there are no places to rent a car because that's illegal too; hence, non-citizens will use taxis, ferries, scooters and bikes for getting from point A to B.

Civilized right down to the last grain of pink sand, they'll let you show some skin by encouraging the wearing of the national dress, Bermuda shorts (which, by the way, are rarely "on sale") -- but never wear a pair that rises more than two inches above the knee, thank you very much. On the other hand, don't even think about taking your bikini-clad body more than 25 feet from the water.

Bermuda's travel season runs from April to late October. There's no rainy season per se, but Bermuda is located in the Atlantic hurricane belt -- so beware the peak storm season (between August and October).

What to See
Bermuda's capital city of Hamilton attracts the most visitors and can easily be seen on foot. Whatever you do in Hamilton, make sure you head back to Front Street around 6 p.m. on Wednesday nights; that's when the party begins sans traffic. So bring your dancing shoes and a big appetite for the tasty tidbits offered from the food stands lined up shoulder to shoulder.

st peters church st george georges bermuda St. George's was Bermuda's first colonized island, and the architecture and history of its main town, St. George's, make it a World Heritage Site. Small charmers in the form of alleys make this place ideal for self-guided walking tours. As you look around at the buildings, you'll see how little changed over the last few hundred years.

The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (North Shore Road, Flatts, 441-293-2727) features the requisite large collection of tropical marine fish, turtles, harbor seals and other forms of sea life. Exhibits range from the geological development of Bermuda and deep-sea exploration to humpback whales. There's a huge seven-foot moray eel whose head is bigger than a human's. Check out the North Rock Exhibit -- a 140,000-gallon tank filled with a Nemo look-alikes. The first living coral exhibit on this scale in the world is here, too.

The Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard (Mangrove Bay, 441-234-2809) offers rotating exhibits of work by local artists. Admission is free.

The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (Crow Lane, Pembroke, 441-292-7219) is the world's first scientific institute to focus entirely on deep-water exploration and research. The 3,000-plus shell collection is bar none, the world's best. Wait till you see the shrunken human heads showing gruesome effects of deep-water pressure -- and leave time to hop aboard the world's first simulated "deepwater submersible" down to the 12,500-foot base of the Bermuda Sea Mount. Try to have lunch here at La Coquille.

The Bermuda Maritime Museum (Royal Naval Dockyard, 441-234-1418) is filled to the brim with recovered treasures from the island's shipwrecks. Also check out the Commissioner's House. Built in the early 1800's, this brilliantly restored home offers great views from the verandas. Exhibits include antique maps and coins as well as an excellent one on slavery.

The Heydon Trust (Somerset Road, Sandys, 441-234-1831) was named for the unpopular 17th-century governor Jeremy Heydon. A staunch Puritan, he was charged with treason at the age of 80. Acquitted a few years later, he established the trust, and all the land remains intact today on 40-odd acres of magnificent, undeveloped countryside offering splendid water views. In addition to being a bird sanctuary, the grounds include fruit groves, gardens and a tiny 1620 chapel, which is overseen by three nuns who sing Gregorian chants in Latin at services.

Though the Bermuda National Trust Museum (King's Square, St. George's, 441-297-1423) was once the Globe Hotel in the 19th century, its history goes back to 1699, when it was built as the governor's house. Unbeknownst to anyone, its first governor (Samuel Day) secretly secured the title to the house in order to use it as his future home. His secret was out the day the next governor turned up to move in. Today, the museum exhibits the history of St. George's.


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