Thursday, October 26, 2017

getting my ducks in a row

I cannot get my hands around Bermuda. And I do not know why.

Three of my traveling companions were absolutely besotted by the place. They are planning a return trip as we sail away to Miami.

But not me. And it is not that I found anything unlikable about the place. It was pleasant enough. What it reminds me of is my first visit to San Miguel de Allende. It took me several visits to find the pulse of San Miguel.

Most port calls on cruise ships are a couple of fumblings in a back alley before the cruise ship sails off to another brief encounter. But that was not our schedule in Bermuda. We were there for two full days.

This map may give you some idea of the lay of the islands in Bermuda.

Most people think of Bermuda as a single island. It isn't. It is a series of volcanic outcroppings surrounding a huge caldera. Because the various sized major islands are so close together, they are joined by causeways -- giving the impression of a fishhook-shaped island.

And because the entire structure has been submerged and pushed up again, the islands are covered with limestone over volcanic rock. A geologically interesting combination that we will discuss a little further.

We were docked at the former Royal Naval Dockyard -- on the tip of he fishhook at the western end of the islands. At one point, especially after the unpleasantness with the American colonies, Bermuda became the site of British naval power in the western Atlantic.

The dockyard was the center of that power. The battlements and several buildings have been refurbished to give visitors an idea how complex it was to run an enterprise like the British Empire.

A twin-towered building has been turned into a tourist shopping area. It is a stunning building housing local traders of rather shoddy goods. It is almost an inevitable result when government dumps money into improving a tourist attraction without any real thought of what visitors might be interested in buying.

Our first day, we visited Hamilton, Bermuda's capital. Hamilton is the economic center of the island. Bermuda makes its money off of selling insurance and reinsurance -- and being a tax haven for individuals and corporations. There is no corporate tax. But the banks make a good deal of income from protecting those sheltered funds.

That appreciation for wealth is apparent in the houses around Hamilton where the average purchase price for a house runs about $1.6 million. And the houses reflect, in a very tasteful manner, their cost. Most are nestled along the shore accessorized by sail and power boats.

The second day (today), we went to the other end of the island chain -- to St. George's. After a quick look through a somewhat charming village, we hired a taxi to take us to Crystal Cave.

I have visited a lot of caves in my touring days. But the Bermuda caves have their own special beauty.

Like many caves, those on the islands are limestone-based. As I mentioned earlier, the limestone formed while the islands were submerged. After they emerged, rain water started seeping through the limestone carrying calcium carbonate. When water drips in a cavern, the calcium carbonate is deposited on the roof or floor of the cave. Over time, the buildup will result in a stalagmites and stalactites.

The process takes thousands of years to produce the rock sculptures that amaze viewers. The Crystal Cave has an additional attraction. They are filled with sea water so clear that is is often difficult to see where the water begins and ends.

Our driver then drove us into Hamilton to a restaurant he recommended. By sheer chance, it was next door to a restaurant where I have wanted Io eat for some time -- the Barracuda Grill. We were too tired to take the ferry into Hamilton last night to eat dinner there. But here we were, and even though it was lunchtime, we decided to eat there.

It was one of the best dining experiences the four of us have ever had. The restaurant is well-known for its fish chowder that was featured in Bon Appetit. I have never tasted a chowder so refined in its layerings.

But my main course outdid the chowder. I am not fond of most fish, but I have always liked swordfish. The grill was featuring it for lunch as a special accompanied with kale and wild mushrooms along with a risotto. The combination was perfect.

And, though I am not a dessert guy, the strawberry and goat cheese with filo was just the right combination of sweet and savory to top off the meal. (Unfortunately, I had consumed my first two courses before I thought to shoot them.)

It was not an inexpensive meal. For the four of us, the lunch tab was $320. But we all agreed, the meal was worth every penny.

If I return, one of the draws will be the Barracuda Grill. Next time, I will go for dinner.

So, there are my thoughts. As you can see, I enjoyed each of our outings. But I am still trying to work out how I feel about Bermuda in total.

And that is probably a good enough reason to return for another stab at trying to understand what Bermuda is.

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