The summer when I was 12, my father, who was a permissive, Peter Pan type and a Disneyland-divorced Dad, rented a cottage in Bermuda for three weeks. It was the first time I went scuba diving, the first time I hung out in a pub, the first (and only) time I snuck onto a cruise ship to watch a movie, and the first (but not the last) time I discovered that rum swizzles and sailing go swimmingly together, but only to a certain point.
When I returned this summer, via a super- convenient direct flight on JetBlue, I found much was the same, but much had changed. Trimingham’s, established in 1842 and the island’s mecca for preppy clothing throughout my childhood, is no longer in business, and the comical-looking cop in Bermuda shorts and tall dark socks, directing traffic at the roundabout, is a thing of the past. There’s more development, but none of what I saw was an eyesore, and some of it is a vast improvement, like the newly refurbished Hamilton Princess.
I remember the dowager empress of Bermuda’s grand old hotels having a certain musty, colonial charm back in the day, but the chintz upholstery was faded and a semi-tropical torpor had taken hold. Fast-forward to now, when it’s undergone an epic face-lift of tasteful proportions.
To begin with, there’s the art—a collection of contemporary works that includes artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Damien Hirst. There’s a giant sculpture of a mouse-like figure by KAWS that dominates the terrace, while one of the men’s rooms even has a Julian Opie hanging over the toilet.
The first order of business was to stock my room with necessities (vodka and rosé), but the trip to Miles Market also helped me to avoid a major tragedy back at home. As a proud gay man (and something of an Anglophile), I have made it a point to never have any dishwashing liquid in my kitchen other than the British brand, Fairy (by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, although I doubt she does her own dishes). A few months earlier, my husband, Sam, had pointed out that we were down to our last bottle, but Bermuda’s British sensibility saved the day; I stocked up like a hoarder at a dollar store. Crisis averted, I ambled over to the Waterfront Complex for dinner at Harry’s Bar, a restaurant with extraordinary food and an even more extraordinary urinal, shaped like a giant white flower, in the men’s room. (I swear I don’t have a fixation on men’s rooms.)
The Hamilton Princess’ Beach Club, a 20- minute jitney ride from the hotel, is located on the unfortunately named Sinky Bay, but it boasts a perfect crescent of beach facing a well-protected cove of gorgeous turquoise water. It also stocks enough cold rosé to keep a drunkard like me satisfied. Between reading my book, floating around like a colossal, bloated pool toy, and pausing to devour the most delicious wahoo tacos I’ve ever tasted, I had my hands full. Nevertheless, when friends texted me to meet them for drinks at the Coral Beach & Tennis Club, I agreed. The only problem: the club’s dress code requires a collared shirt, so my friends had their son, whom I had last seen as a toddler, meet me out front to lend me one. Being confronted by a strapping young man two inches taller than me and with a thicker beard made me feel unspeakably old, but a few Goslings on the rocks quickly erased the pain.
Back at the Hamilton, I was eager to sample the fried chicken—unquestionably my favorite food—at Marcus’, the hotel’s restaurant and brainchild of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. The dish lived up to the hype, as did the massage I received at the hotel’s Exhale Spa.
The rest of my vacation unfolded in a similar manner: beach, drink, eat, beach, eat, drink, with the exception of an afternoon I spent in the pool at a friend’s house. That’s why it was heartening to learn that, according to the digital scale in my bathroom, I was 6 ounces lighter when I checked out than when I arrived. So thanks for a lovely time, Bermuda. Now I just need to find a publisher for my diet book, Rosé All Day. ◆
Avez-vous dish? Dirt? A spectacular social occasion? Call J.S. at 617-859-1400, ext. 303, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.