We arrived in Hamilton in the afternoon of May 13. Our original itinerary scheduled us to dock in St. George’s on May 14. They switched to Hamilton early in the cruise (don’t know why). We were able to dock in Hamilton a day early because we left Horta much earlier than planned & the Captain pushed the ship in order to give us more time in Hamilton as compensation for missing Horta. It was raining a lot, however, & Mary wasn’t feeling well (we were both pretty worn down by the end of the voyage) so we didn’t go ashore on the 13th. The 14th was rainy off and on as well, and we had already been to Bermuda once, so we only spent a few hours in town. While we visited several buildings on our walk, the predominant impression was made by the profusion of beautiful flowers (it was Spring, after all).
The picture above is distorted, of course, because it is a panorama. The wall in the front is actually straight rather than curved. Prominent in this picture are the cathedral (top center), the Sessions House (top right with towers) and Front Street (nice old buildings filled mostly with tourist shops & restaurants) along the front.
We started out walking to the right down Front Street & soon came to the Cabinet Office. Hamilton has been the capital of Bermuda since 1815 (one of the world’s smallest, at just 1800 residents), so there are a number of government buildings here. This one had a nice garden in front of it (the green space just above front street on the far right in the picture above). In addition to some lovely flowers, there is an interesting memorial to the Bermudans who fought in WWI & WWII. It has seven plaques with a total of 3000 names & in the center is a sphere that constantly turns on its base. The sphere is not attached at all, so it must be supported by running water from underneath. There is also a striking sculpture that is a memorial to Sally Bassett, an elderly slave who was burned at the stake in 1730 after being convicted of attempting to poison the owners of her granddaughter. The sculpture shows her tied to the stake with kindling stacked under her feet. These are recent monuments: Sally Bassett was erected in 2008 & the war memorial in 2010.
We went on to Queen Elizabeth Park, formerly called Par-La Ville Park. It was laid out in the mid-19th century by the local postmaster, named Perot, who owned the Par-La Ville manor which is now the library. He collected plants from all over the world for this park & most are still there. It is a fairly small park, filled with colorful flowers, a fish pond, several roosters and a “moon gate” (a round gated portal of which Bermuda has several). Since 2007 it has also been a sculpture garden. Considered by many the premiere park in Bermuda, it is well worth a visit.
Next to the park was the Bermuda National Library & Museum. Its pretty small and unimposing for a “National” library, but it is known for its collection of Bermuda literature. In front of it somewhere is a rubber tree planted by Mr. Perot, in which Mark Twain once expressed disappointment because it did not bear hot water bottles or rubber overshoes. Inside is a collection of Bermudiana, including a doll dressed as a Gombey dancer (a Bermudan specialty) & the pocket trumpet of Vernon “Ghandi” Burgess, Bermuda’s most prominent jazz musician.
We walked on to the gleaming white City Hall which also contains the Bermuda National Art Gallery. The tower of the building appears to be a clock tower, but it actually tells the direction of the wind determined by the weathervane on top. The weathervane is supposed to be a model of the Sea Venture, the ship that brought the first settlers to Bermuda. It was trying to reach Jamestown (among the passengers was John Rolfe, who later married Pocahontas & was the first to plant tobacco in North America) but was wrecked on Bermuda in a hurricane. This well publicized adventure is said to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Anyway, upstairs in the City Hall was the Gallery, displaying a lot of very interesting Bermudian art. There was a bronze sculpture of a family reading a book sitting by the front door & on the first floor a sculpture of a group of men that pretty much defies description.
We visited the Anglican Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, a gothic structure dedicated in 1911 that dominates the skyline, as you can see in the picture at the beginning of this episode. Apparently there is a law against erecting a building taller than the cathedral. Inside was a very large pipe organ (we have seen quite a few of those on this trip).
The last building we visited before returning to the ship was the Sessions House, which is home to Bermuda’s legislative Assembly & also its Supreme Court (in the lower level). It was first built in 1819, but the tower & colonnade were added in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee (there is a medallion of Queen Victoria on the outside wall). The dial on this tower really is a clock. Bermuda’s is the 4th oldest active Parliament in the world, after Britain, Iceland & the Isle of Man. Inside they still conduct government (court & assembly) the old fashioned way, in wigs.
It was starting to rain so we walked back to the ship but were unable to avoid getting pretty wet, even though we had umbrellas. But we saw more pretty flowers on the way. We also noticed a sign threatening a harsh sounding punishment for trespassing (so we didn’t go in). Right after we got back the sky opened up and it really poured, so as in Ponta Delgada we luckily timed it to avoid the worst of the weather.
Happily the weather cleared up before our departure in the late afternoon, because the sailaway from Bermuda is lengthy (to avoid the reefs) & beautiful. We passed a lot of brightly colored houses that are characteristic of Bermuda, we saw the lighthouse high on a hill and we saw a lot of beautiful bright blue water as we left.
So after two more days at sea we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale early on the morning of May 17, tired but happy. I will include here pictures of some of the crew (you may have seen some of these before). Here are the cruise director, Gene; Captain van Schoonhoven, who was captain on the second half of the trip; Lisa the travel guide; and Firmin, the hotel director (also on our South America cruise), who was about to retire (and planning a cruise as a passenger . . . I don’t think I would want to be the hotel director on that cruise with Firmin aboard). Here also are our table waiter from Barcelona to Ft. Lauderdale with Arthur our assistant waiter for the entire trip, Willie the supervisor in the Lido, Endang our super head waiter, Gildas the manager of the restaurant, and the delightful Kiki, who was our waiter for most of the trip. Here also is the director of the Prinsendam orchestra (about 5 pieces), an excellent guitar player who looks a little like Pete Townshend (or at least I thought so). These musicians are really good; they accompany visiting acts, which requires them to be able play in every conceivable style with almost no rehearsal. They did a concert by themselves of demanding jazz numbers (John Coltrane & Miles Davis) the day before we arrived & it was really excellent. Finally, if you have been with us the whole way you may recall from the Lanarca, Cyprus episode the night when I was randomly seated at dinner next to the ship acupuncturist from Australia, Lisa, who turned out to be the aunt of an attorney who had worked under my supervision at the Federal Election Commission. It was a stunning coincidence & I am including here a picture of Lisa & me taken on the deck the day before we landed. All of these folks worked very hard to make this a tremendous voyage, and with great success.
So on May 17 we disembarked, retrieved our car & drove to Saint Petersburg, where we spent a couple of enjoyable & relaxing days with Mary’s aunt & uncle, Michael & Irene. They live on a canal where from the veranda you can watch boats and wildlife all day long. Not to mention that this meant an additional two days of gourmet food cooked by someone other than us!
After that brief respite we drove home (two days) to Arlington, Virginia. And it felt great to get home after all that time even if we did have to start cooking our own food & washing our own dishes. But, looking back on it, this was truly a phenomenal voyage that actually exceeded our expectations. It is hard to imagine any other way to visit so many iconic places we have always wanted to see – the pyramids in Egypt, the acropolis in Athens, Pompeii, Venice & Rome in Italy, Jerusalem in Israel, Hagia Sophia & Topkapi Palace & Ephesus in Turkey, Marrakesh and Casablanca in Morocco, the Alhambra & Gaudi’s buildings in Spain, the rock of Gibralter – all in one trip. On top of that were all the places with which we hadn’t been familiar that turned out to be so fascinating, like Taormina in Sicily, Antalya in Turkey, Taroudant in Morocco, Kotor in Montenegro, Dubrovnik in Croatia and Valletta in Malta. Traveling by ship has many advantages: unpacking once on a two month trip with a single all-inclusive ticket that provides transportation, hotel, meals, education & entertainment, without the hassle of scheduling all of those things separately. And you can develop friends among your fellow travelers with whom to share the adventure.
Of course nothing is perfect and the primary downside to travel by cruise ship (assuming you don’t suffer from seasickness) is that there is often insufficient time in a port to see and do everything you want. But there were so many places we never would have seen at all without this voyage and we did see and experience quite a bit in every port we visited. The fact that there are some places you (certainly we) would want to revisit at a more leisurely pace doesn’t really detract much from all that. There is no other way to see & do & learn all that we we did on a trip like that. And while it is far from cheap, when you compare the daily cost with all that was provided it is a pretty good value compared to other ways of traveling. (No, I wasn’t paid for this commercial.) For those who haven’t followed the whole voyage, here is a reprise of the map of our original itinerary (we missed about three of these ports, Naples was added en route & St. George’s was switched to Hamilton) & a picture of the Prinsendam that includes our stateroom window (2d window from the front on the walking deck just below the lifeboats).
So I hope you have all enjoyed following along on this blog, although there is no way you enjoyed it as much as we did. I would bet that, after all this time, a lot of you had given up on my finishing it, but although it took a lot longer than I expected, here we are at the very end! We are planning another voyage in July of 2014 that will take us to the icy north: Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Scotland & Amsterdam. Assuming that is long enough for me to fully recover (& forget how much work this actually required) I expect I will blog that trip too. If you are signed up for email notifications or RSS feeds from this blog you will automatically receive notification when we leave; if not you will just have to remember to check back in July if you want to tag along. I will leave you today as I have so often with another towel animal (one of our favorites that reappeared on the last leg of the journey) & a fruit sculpture (a watermelon shark). That’s all, folks!