Bermuda’s pretty pastel-shaded capital, Hamilton, named after Henry Hamilton—a former governor-hustles and bustles with local shoppers and sightseers. Although it is officially a city, boasting a massive 19th-century neo-Gothic cathedral, it is the size of a town and is inhabited by approximately 15,000 people.
The population swells with the arrival of cruise ships that berth downtown next to the main thoroughfare known as Front Street. Stretching along the harbor front, Front Street represents the main shopping commercial district. Bob Hope once joked, “Bermuda is so British, the whole island is shaped like a stiff upper lip.”
Throughout the town, British influences have blended comfortably with the casual island style. Take a ride in a quaint horse-drawn carriage to get a better feel for Hamilton. See the Georgian-style Sessions House, on Church Street. It dates back to 1815 and serves as Bermuda’s House of Assembly and Supreme Court.
Another must-see downtown is the “birdcage,” where Bermuda-shorts-wearing constables direct the traffic. Be sure to explore the South Shore where Gibb’s Hill
Lighthouse has been warning ships off the dangerous reefs since 1846. Today, the 117- ft.-tall structure is one of the world’s last standing cast-iron lighthouses with a beam that’s visible 40 miles away.
Complementing the scenic South Shore drive is historic St. George, a charming UNESCO World Heritage Site, not far from Hamilton.
The first person to write about Bermuda was Gonzalo Fernandez, who described “flying fishes in the island and Fowls called Meves and cormorants” in 1515. Adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh went on to speak of its “infernal sea for thunders, lightning, and tempests.”
The weather remained a source of inspiration, and the poet John Donne included it in a 1597 sonnet called “The Tempest”: “Compared to these stories, death is but apprehension / Hell somewhat light, Bermuda calm.”
But Bermuda hit the heavyweight literary headlines when Shakespeare used the islands as a template for The Tempest. His imaginary island may have been in the Mediterranean, but it was filled with pigs, noisy birds, and cranberry drinks. (The first settlers were reduced to making liquor out of whatever they could get their hands on, and Bermuda had plenty of cedar trees.) Shakespeare’s island could really only have been Bermuda.
The Bard may have only imagined the island, but Irish poet Thomas Moore set foot on it in 1804 and wrote: “Oh! can you look at the scenery dear / That now beneath my window lies,” while Americans may be more familiar with Mark Twain’s musings on the island – he regularly published in The Atlantic Monthly and helped make Bermuda a tourist destination. Eugene O’Neill, Noel Coward, and Rudyard Kipling also passed through, drawing inspiration from the island as they went. One of the most influential books from Bermuda was narrated by Mary Price, a slave. The History of Mary Price helped to end slavery in the British Empire.
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