It’s time for my annual non-travel blog in which I warn of the hazards of travel and extol the virtues of staying home. I feel it is my civic duty to make those of us stuck at home feel better, so I started this tradition last February with a post comparing today’s airport hassles with The Golden Age of Travel. While it’s nice to escape to someplace tropical when the Hollywood version of winter has deteriorated into dirty snowbanks and salt stained boots – sand, sea and sun await only those who choose wisely!
In this photo, you may see a picturesque cottage on the lovely shores of Bermuda, an island softly kissed by warm trade winds. It’s set high on a bluff – there’s a pink sand beach below with clear turquoise waters. Note the striking contrast between the coral and the blue of the pool and sky. It looks nice, very nice – everything you would expect Bermuda to be.
While I see a drafty old cottage with no hot water, banging shutters and howling winds, set on a steep cliff straight out of a Daphne Du Maurier novel.
This picture was taken the morning we left Bermuda – the only day of sun and warm temperatures the whole five days. You never want to go to Bermuda in February – believe me. It’s not tourist season. While I knew Bermuda was not as far south as the Caribbean, the travel agent was definitely an optimist. She assured us the average temperature would be 70ish – golfing weather, but it was really why-didn’t-I-pack-warmer-clothes weather.
And you certainly never want to arrive late on a Friday, when the proprietress hands you the key to your pretty little cottage and promptly disappears until Monday. There was no front desk and no restaurant, and it didn’t take long to realize there was no hot water either. There didn’t even appear to be a hot water tank. We left a message at the booking office. (This was in the days before people were instantly available).
I’m not that fussy when it comes to winter vacations – give me a pool to sit beside and read my books, and a couple of shore and sea excursions and I’m happy. Otherwise, pick an island, preferably one not too close to the equator as my hair can’t handle too much humidity. When you live in Canada, you don’t care where you go, it’s just winter you want to get away from.
We decided to check out the pool but it was hardly pool weather. As it hovered around 50 F all week the only pool sitting was the huddled-in-layers kind.
There was a slightly warmer reading nook up near the Adirondack chairs sheltered a bit from the blustery breeze.
There was no restaurant onsite, but the cottage had a kitchenette, so we treked a mile or two or five down the road, mopeds whizzing by, to a variety store, where we bought the worlds most expensive peanut butter and some white bread, plus coffee, tea and milk for breakfast…and I think there might have been a bottle or two of wine…Merlot most likely as it goes best with stormy weather. (This was back in the days when I was able to drink a little).
The main thoroughfare was like the Indy 500. Dare step off the curb and you’d get crammed by a moped going the wrong way, but then I’m one of those people who can’t tell right from left. We decided we weren’t brave enough to rent mopeds so we took taxis or the bus when our cash ran low and we were down to coins.
Most of the restaurants were closed, but we hailed a cab and found a pub for supper. The taxi driver informed us it wasn’t tourist season and many of the inhabitants were off-island this time of year. Really – is that why there’s nobody around? We had a nice meal, including a wonderfully rich English Trifle, which started my love affair with this dessert, and a very smooth sherry afterwards, (Bermuda is a British island), and thus fortified returned to the cottage immensely cheered – only to find it still had no hot water and there was no return message.
As I’m one of those people who can’t go to bed without having a hot bath first, I decided to channel my inner Laura Ingalls and set about boiling water on the stove, (being a British island, there was a proper teapot and tea kettle), just like my pioneer ancestors – thus providing me with about three inches of tepid water, enough to wash the travel grime off, but not enough to soothe my cramps. Luckily, when I travel I bring a whole pharmacy with me, so Motrin to the rescue.
When we woke the next morning it was still overcast. Turning on the radio, the weather forecast was for more of the same. After that came the lost pet report, where listeners could call in and report their lost dogs and cats. We got into the habit of listening to the Lost Pet Petrol every morning while drinking our coffee. It was in many ways a charming island.
Scrounging up enough cash for taxis was a challenge as there wasn’t an exchange place open anywhere and the banks were all closed on the weekend. Bermuda – one of the banking capitals of the world – go figure. (Yes, once upon a time there was no such thing as an ATM machine). The streets of the main town were pretty but deserted on the weekend.
The shopping was pricey and rather staid. I recall there being a Marks and Spencer-like department store downtown, where I bought a soft mohair afghan in bright pink as a souvenir – which came in handy as the cottage was chilly at night, (blame the British again for the lack of central heating or rather any heating). It also made a cozy pool cover-up.
The wind howled up on the cliffs – so loud I couldn’t sleep. There was a shutter banging loose somewhere. It was the perfect murder mystery setting, rich with Rebecca-like atmosphere. (In fact I think I might put it in my book someday).
On Monday when the owner returned, she switched on the hot water, the tank was hidden in a separate building – hallelujah! Never underestimate the rejuvenating power of a hot bubble bath. But the weather continued gloomy, (did I mention it was a British island).
We managed to find a restaurant open each night. One evening when it was raining, I wore socks with my sandals, a fashion faux pas, but I figured no one would notice – and they didn’t as we were the only ones there. It was like dining in your own private restaurant. I tried duck a la orange for the first time, not something I would ordinarily order – but with perfectly crispy skin it wasn’t half bad. Cherries Jubilee and Bananas Flambe for dessert – popular choices for high end dining back then.
We took a flat bottomed boat out to the ocean for lack of anything better to do, and watched them feed the hungry fish.
It was either that or some Indiana Jones cave expedition, complete with stalactites and damp claustrophobic caverns.
Where is the underground cave entrance……
We walked the beaches a lot….and talked a lot….solving all the worlds problems and our own, scheming and dreaming in the manner of younger souls.
The sky was pretty in a menacing kind of way (and no it was not hurricane season).
On Wednesday, our last morning I was so overjoyed to see clear blue sky and so annoyed about going back to work with the same pale face that I sat out in the Adirondack chair reading my book and soaking up the sun, sans sunscreen.
It was only for an hour or so before we had to leave for the airport, but I had on jeans with a cute white cotton top with a scoop neck and I didn’t want to get it dirty with greasy lotion. The warmth of the sun felt absolutely glorious after five cool and overcast days.
On the way to the airport the taxi driver commented how nice it was, 80 degrees and the same forecast for the rest of the week. Really – thanks for sharing. The plane was delayed by a few hours. By the time we disembarked in Toronto, my skin was starting to hurt and by the next day it was as crispy as that duck skin, so red it almost blistered, all from an hour in the sun. Stupid, I know.
Now I’m content to stay home. However, it wasn’t all terrible – despite the inclement weather, I didn’t come back with a cold the way I normally do, just a souvenir sunburn, and some bad dreams of Manderley.
(1500 words – next week will make up for it.)
PS. Book of the Day: Amazingly I found a classic copy of Rebecca, complete with pretty ribbon, at the January used book sale, a book I have not seen since high school, which begs to be re-read.
PS. Quote of the Day: “There’s nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” (Jane Austen) Especially true when winter winds are howling – pass the merlot.
PS. We might have missed a few things – which way to the Bermuda Triangle?
Song of the Day: Gordon Lightfoot – Triangle.
PS. Have you had any vacation experiences which turned out disappointing?