Did You Say... Bermuda?
It became famous as the site of the Bermuda Triangle but never lost its identity as Bermuda the Square—the place where the country-club set headed every spring to play a little golf and relax on pretty pink beaches. All that, thank goodness, remains. But with the arrival of JetBlue, easy-to-buy condos, and the promise of new luxury hotels, could Bermuda become…well, hip?
SCENE 1: GETTING THERE
Fade in. Interior of Continental Flight 1657, seats 16D and 16E (JetBlue was fully booked, a sure sign of hipster frenzy). JANE SMITH sits next to her husband, JOHN SMITH, who is absentmindedly rummaging through the seat pocket in front of him. He pulls out a copy of Destination Bermuda. On the cover is a picture of MICHAEL DOUGLAS and CATHERINE ZETA-JONES on a beach, presumably in Bermuda.
What’s the deal with Michael Douglas and Bermuda again? Is it like Demi Moore and Idaho? Or more like Roman Polanski and France, an extradition problem?
Neither. His mom comes from an old Bermuda family and they own a local hotel. He practically grew up there. There aren’t too many famous people who can say that.
What about the Duke of Windsor?
Darling, don’t you know? The duke and duchess only stopped in Bermuda on their way to exile in the Bahamas after that embarrassing matrimonial situation in England, where he was born. Maryland, where she was born, could have cared less.
What I do know at this moment is that if someone lights a match in here, this thing’s going up like the Hindenburg.
Jane watches as a WOMAN IN A STRAW HAT AND PINK SHORTS walks by, followed by a WOMAN WITH A PINK POLO SHIRT AND A STRAW HANDBAG, followed by an OLD MAN WITH A PINK SHIRT, GREEN PANTS, AND A STRAW BOATER. Cut to three pairs of straw wedge heels passing by Jane’s POV.
Who was it that told us Bermuda was going hip? Seems pretty classical to me—also quicker to get to from the Upper East Side than Bridgehampton, South Beach, or even the Tribeca Grand on a Friday afternoon in rush-hour traffic.
Pay attention, my little hip-seeking darling. They said it’s going to be hip.
Lower your voice.
Dissolve to interior of the Bermuda airport. Jane is wheeling her suitcase and is joined by John, who has just bought a newspaper and is counting change.
This guy gave me change in Bermuda dollars.
I still don’t know, is it Bermudian? Bermudan? Bermudesical?
It’s cute that they have money, but really…. (Stares at it.)
You think a bank in New York is going to take a dollar that has, like, a picture of Bermuda shorts on it instead of George Washington?
I don’t know about that, but in all honesty I know pretty much nothing about this place.
Later that day outside the Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotel. It’s a typical summer afternoon in Hamilton, the capital and only semicity in Bermuda. Perfect blue sky, high temp, butterflies aflutter, and insurance executives exiting the several mirrored office buildings on their lunch hour. John and Jane are disgorged from a taxi. A CHIPPER DOORMAN with a round face and belly greets them.
Welcome, folks! Welcome to wonderful Bermuda! Where every day is paradise and all your dreams come true!
Thank you. Just point me toward the beach and I will be on my way.
The best beach is at our sister hotel. We have a shuttle that goes there. But we have the most famous happy hour on the island.
JANE (momentarily confused)
How happy an hour can it be with no beach? I told you we should have stayed at that 9 Beaches place where you have a little room over the water. I bet 9 Beaches has a beach. I bet there are, like, nine of them. I bet every guest gets his own beach. I bet they have cabanas and cabana boys. I’ve always wanted a cabana boy.
I told you they were booked up. Remember, this is our spontaneous weekend. As in we planned it two days ago, told no one who we were—yikes! journalistas! Or why we were coming—to investigate the role of hipness in Bermuda 2006. We can play cabana boy later. (To doorman.) Hey, do you know where The Royal Gazette is?
The Royal Gazette! Finest newspaper in tew-un. All the news that’s fit to print, I always say. Keeps you well informed and it’s not bad for wrapping a fish—
JOHN (cutting him off as Jane tugs on his shirt)
Great! Thanks! See you later!
SCENE 2: ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS
Fade in. Later that afternoon Jane and John are seated in the offices of The Royal Gazette in front of BILL ZUILL, editor of the newspaper. Behind him is an oil portrait of Commander Ridgeway, a member of the paper’s board of directors from a bygone era, and surrounding Bill are stacks of files, a Bloomberg machine, and a STAFF working on putting the paper to bed. The three are engaged in a discussion of the goings-on in Bermuda.
Yeah, I’d say I know the island pretty well. I can trace my ancestors back to the first man who settled in Bermuda.
When he settled, did he by any chance think it was ever going to be...hip? Or at least get an André Balazs hotel?
Let me explain. What John’s saying is we have sources who tell us Bermuda is on the cusp of hip. And we mean to find out if that’s true. Think of us as your ancestor—only we’re less interested in terra firma than in places that have mojitos and a parking space for Paris Hilton. If you were us, where would you go?
I know the biggest reinsurer on the island is having a party tonight. It should be pretty swanky. Tania! Come in here for a minute.
Bill goes into the newsroom to find TANIA. John and Jane exchange skeptical looks. But...you never know.
JOHN (raising his hand and looking around like a kid in class)
Excuse me. Reinsurance? Does anyone even know what reinsurance is?
It’s insurance for insurance companies. But hip? (Looks around, confused, and raises her hand as well.) What’s hip about reinsurance?
Camera pulls back to show John and Jane from Bill’s POV in the newsroom: They have their hands raised, like two third-graders who have to go to the bathroom. Close-up of Bill and Tania, who see this and exchange glances before walking back in.
This is Tania. Bermuda is really a perfect little quiet island to spend a weekend. It’s not, say, clubland. But Tania’s on top of what we’ve got here, hipwise.
John and Jane lower their hands.
Okay. Here’s what I’d do. Have dinner down at Rustico’s in Flatts Village. It’s really big with locals. Then I’d hit Hubie’s Bar—they have great jazz on Friday nights. And then there’s a new club called Splash right down the street here in Hamilton. Of course it all depends on your idea of hip. The essence of old Bermuda would be a place like the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club or the Coral Beach Club. But you have to be a member.
John and Jane nod gratefully.
Five minutes later John and Jane are walking out of the Royal Gazette building.
How come when you ask people for something fun to do they always send you to a jazz bar?
Okay, this reinsurance stuff—they do it in Bermuda because it’s one of those "offshore banking" havens? Reinsurance. The word just sounds like something Jack Abramoff would be talking about.
And who insures the reinsurers? I bet the insurance companies themselves. Don’t you see it’s just a hall of mirrors? It’s a circle. A circle of money. And we don’t even know we’re inside it! Welcome to the reinsurance merry-go-round, my friend. And you know what else—
Scene ends, cutting Jane off, suggesting this rant may go on for quite a while.
SCENE 3: THE OFFICIAL STORY
Fade in. Jane and John are sitting at a table at the Ariel Sands hotel pool bar with EWART BROWN, THE MINISTER OF TOURISM. The 52-year-old hotel is located on the southeastern coast of the island. It’s late afternoon and there are two beers and a tropical-looking drink on the table.
MINISTER OF TOURISM
Even this hotel is going to be renovated this winter. There will be condos and time-shares, the whole deal. This is going to be a very different island in three years. JetBlue started flying here in May. It’s changed the vibe. It’s younger. And we still have more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else on earth. And we don’t do high walls and armed guards, like some Central American countries.
What I love is that it’s closer than Miami and not as Miami’d out as Miami.
It’s closer than Miami if you live in New York.
Name one person we know who doesn’t live in New York.
MINISTER OF TOURISM
We like to say Bermuda has been a secret and now we’re taking the wrapping off. If you want a picture of what real island culture’s like, check out the cricket game tomorrow. (Stands up, gives the waistband on his pants a tug, and claps his hands together.) Listen. I gotta go. You guys try to make it to the game tomorrow. Very Bermuda. And next time you come to the island, let me know. I’ll make it even sweeter for you.
The Minister walks off toward the hotel.
SCENE 4: CRICKET MATCH
Fade in. The next afternoon John and Jane are walking from their car toward the pitch. They reach the ridge overlooking the field and see the great grass circle dotted with MEN IN WHITE UNIFORMS. It is surrounded by tents, and up on the hill nearby are makeshift bars where people are eating Bermudan cuisine. The cricketers go through the lazy motions of the game. It’s not a sport easily understood. The sun is beating down mightily and John begins to sweat profusely.
Let’s go into one of these bars. I could use a beer. And a bathtub filled with ice.
Cut to a little wood platform set on scaffolding overlooking the field. The platform is covered by a tent with a radio insignia on it. A batsman does whatever a batsman does, and the crowd cheers happily, in a much more dignified manner than anything you’d see at an American stadium. John and Jane, beer in hand, approach the platform and are beckoned inside by JIM WOOLRIDGE and his assistant, SHAWN, radio commentators who are calling the game in lilting, comfortable drawls. Jane and John climb in and introduce themselves. A moment later Jim gives them each a headset so they can listen to the commentating.
We have some special guests here. They just came over from America to watch this sport of skill and strategy, played better here than anywhere in the world. Welcome.
Am I talking on the radio?
JANE (into the microphone)
Hello, Bermuda. And thank you for the onions.
Well, folks, my new friends John and Jane are going to call the game for a while, give these old vocal chords a bit of a rest. Friends?
John and Jane look at each other, terrified. A prolonged period of complete silence ensues.
Well, the guy with the ball is running. Then he bounces the ball. Other people start running. But some stay still. Are they tired? Or did somebody bribe them to deliberately lose the game? Everyone’s wearing cute hats—
SCENE 5: THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
Fade in. John and Jane are in their hotel room getting dressed in evening finery.
You know, this place is growing on me. What do you say to buying property here?
Great idea. Invest in hip. You know, there’s a law that limits the amount of foreign-owned land to 2,000 acres, which means every blade of grass is more than you can afford. And Michael Bloomberg and Silvio Berlusconi—remember? That guy was prime minister of Italy—already own mansions here so that pretty much covers the 2,000 acres. We wouldn’t really be getting ahead of the real estate curve on that one. I bet we could scare up an adorable little cottage on, say, a square yard of dirt for a few hundred thou.
A few hundred thou? Who talks like that?
High rollers. That’s who. I’m leaving.
They exit, two people ready to tear up the town.
Cut to a montage sequence of Bermuda nightlife. Shot of John and Jane doing tequila shooters at the Swizzle Inn and then John booty bumping with a WAITRESS. Jane shakes her head.
Cut to John bumping with REINSURANCE EXECUTIVES at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess happy hour.
Cut to John bumping more booty at Splash Nightclub with TWO 21-YEAR-OLD GIRLS, who are uneasily inching themselves away. John doesn’t notice. He has his eyes closed.
Cut to John trying to bump with a MEMBER OF THE STEEL DRUM BAND playing on the street in Hamilton. TWO POLICE OFFICERS arrive and John tries to bump with them, too. Jane drags him off down the street. Fade out.
SCENE 6: THE ALL-IMPORTANT TOWEL
Fade in. Exterior of the Coral Beach & Tennis Club. John and Jane stand at the precipice overlooking the beach. Behind them, the club building sits quietly in the sun. Camera pans in on the patio, lobby, clubhouse, all surrounded by stone walls. It looks like a country club—neatly trimmed lawns and hedgerows, rooms of pink couches printed with green whales. Below stretches one of the most beautiful beaches the two have ever seen: pink sand, turquoise shallows giving onto deep, blue depths, all protected by a distant reef that keeps the waves knee-high. They strip down to swimsuits, stash their clothes behind a bush, and leave their flip-flops with the white tennis sneakers and docksiders on the landing that leads toward the private beach.
JOHN (under his breath)
Listen, if anyone looks at us funny, start talking reinsurance.
JANE (eyeing a woman in a pink caftan sipping a frozen drink)
I want one of those coladas, and the club sandwiches look damn good. Can we join, like, now? How much you think membership is?
As John and Jane sink into the soft and talc-y sand, passing the rows of turquoise lounge chairs under yellow-and-white umbrellas, they think, Heaven. Sheer heaven. Whether it’s hip or not. They could care less—it’s Bermuda’s raison d’être.
JOHN (spying two empty chairs with a towel on one)
Ooh! A club towel! I’ll take one—that way I’ll look official.
I’ll meet you in a minute. I’m going for a swim first. The water looks so nice.
John lies on the towel and closes his eyes. Camera focuses in on his face in the sunlight, the ambient sounds of the beach filtering in—surf, chatter—and then his face is darkened by a shadow. He opens his eyes to see a FEMALE LIFEGUARD standing over him.
You can always tell who the trespassers are because they don’t have a Coral Beach Club towel.
JOHN (relaxing, nuzzling into his towel)
Oh. Yes, you mean that woman who just jumped into the ocean. Now that you mention it, she really doesn’t look familiar. I know I’d feel a whole lot better if you got to the bottom of this. Good work, good work.
The female lifeguard walks down to the water where Jane is emerging from the surf. Words are exchanged and Jane gives John a searing look before grabbing her pale green towel and walking off in a huff toward the crowded public beach.
JOHN (to a passing staffer)
Oh, waitress! Can I have one of your famous piña coladas?
SCENE 7: THE GETAWAY
John and Jane are standing next to their luggage in front of their hotel, waiting for a taxi to take them to the airport.
So you’re taking off, back to the rat race. We’ll miss you here at hew-um, because once you come to Bermuda, it’s always your hew-um.
JOHN (ignoring the doorman, talking to Jane)
Did you hear that? Hew-um? Do you think when the big resorts come, they’ll make everyone lose this wonderfully quirky Bermudan accent?
Well, that’s when you know hip has arrived. Maybe it’s better like this, before everything gets gold-tapped and marbleized. Before someone says, "There’s no boutique hotel!" And then someone at the boutique hotel says, "Hey! I don’t have anywhere to buy Marc Jacobs!" Because right now the swankiest shop in town is Ye Olde English Linen Shoppe. And you know, I feel like I can find enough Marc Jacobs stores in Manhattan. It’s nice to come down here and not waste a beautiful day in a dressing room.
That’s the trade-off: When a destination gets mortally trendy, you can find a decent drink and a Sofia Coppola film festival. But you run the risk of losing all that nutty stuff that gives a place its identity. Stay tuned.
48 Hours in Bermuda
Catch the 9:15 p.m. JetBlue flight from JFK on Friday (one-way, from $129; jetblue.com), breeze past the steel drum band, hop in a taxi, and head to the Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda ($470–$2,850; 101 S. Shore Rd.; 441-238-8000; fairmont.com), on the island’s southern shore. It has a whiff of convention hotel about it, but the beaches are killer, the tennis courts plentiful and empty. The Elbow Beach, Bermuda ($475–$1,750; 60 S. Shore Rd., Paget Parish; 441-236-3535; mandarinoriental.com), managed by the Mandarin Oriental people, is a good, similar alternative just down the road. Shower, put on your kneesocks, and hit Friday- night happy hour at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess (drinks, $6, on the Princess Patio, from 5 to 9 p.m.; 76 Pittsbay Rd., 441-295-3000) in Bermuda’s capital. You’re not going to see Lindsay Lohan doing upside-down Kamikazes at the bar, but it’s as "scene-y" as the island gets. Next stop is the Black Horse Tavern (dinner, $90; Great Bay Rd., St. David’s Island; 441-297-1991) on St. David’s Island for a late-night dinner of fried everything, or go for some Middle Eastern food at the trendy Café Cairo (dinner, $80; 93 Front St.; 441-295-5155). Then stagger back to your hotel and sleep in. You can’t rent cars on Bermuda and taxis are murderously expensive (in one weekend we spent more than $300 on them) so hire a scooter for the day at Elbow Beach Cycles—unless two-wheelers aren’t your thing (deluxe scooter, $88 for two days; Elbow Beach; 441-236-9237). Begin the next evening seaside with drinks at the Aqua Seafood Restaurant bar in the Ariel Sands hotel (drinks, $8; dinner, $120; 34 Shore Rd., Devonshire; 441-236-1010) or at Mickey’s Beach Bistro & Bar (drinks, $12; Elbow Beach; 441-236-3535), followed by dinner at the retro-hauteish Newport Room (dinner, $220; the Fairmont Southampton; 441-238-8000). Ask for the Signature Menu and take all advice offered by the excellent sommelier. In the morning, do brunch at Fourways Inn (Sunday, $80, served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; 1 Middle Rd., Paget; 441-236-6517) if you want a variety of sushi, omelets, roast beef, and a chocolate fondue fountain. But if you prefer authentic, we recommend a Bermudan breakfast of codfish and rice at any of the restaurants in the Court Street area of Hamilton, where the locals hang out. When you’re ready to head home, a 1:15 p.m. flight gets you back to New York at 2:30 in the afternoon—plenty of time to rest up and prepare to show off your tan at the office.