Monday, November 20, 2006

Bermuda 2006

November 7-14, 2006

Deal or No Deal

Our journey started when we went to a taping of Deal or No Deal (which you can play online). Sandy's friend tipped us off that they give away stuff to audience members during the taping of Christmas episodes. The sweetest plum was tickets on JetBlue to anywhere they fly. We were planning on going to Alaska, but JetBlue doesn't fly there. Our second choice would be for tickets home to Illinois, but their service to O'Hare doesn't start until 2007. They do, however, fly to Aruba, the Dominican Republic, and Bermuda, among others. The Bermuda Triangle called out to us, so we went for it.

New York

Battery Park

Our flight to Bermuda had a connection through JFK airport in New York. The layover was 4 hours- just enough time to do some sightseeing. Sandy was psyched about seeing the Statue of Liberty, so we took the train and subway over to Battery Park. Taking the subway was fun- we got to feel like real New Yorkers, and there were Dunkin Donuts for sale on the way. It was rainy, but we still got to see the Statue of Liberty and take a few pictures.

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Central Park

On our way back, we made a quick stop at Central Park (it was right by Penn Station, so we figured we'd have time).

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JFK Airport

By the time we got back to the airport terminal, we were moments too late for our plane. We ended up buying tickets out on another airline, and had to wait another 4 hours for the plane. We didn't leave the airport this time.

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Grotto Bay Beach Resort

Getting There Is Half The Fun...

We stayed at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort, which is just a few minutes from the airport. It was pouring rain when we landed, and we left the plane completely unprepared- we were expecting a indoor-type walkway to the gate, like the ones they have at big airports; instead, we exited to the outdoors, and went down a stair car. We had to rush to get our jackets on, and by the time we got inside, we were soaked. After we cleared customs and immigration, we found that nobody knew where our luggage was. JetBlue has only one flight per day, so they were gone, and since we arrived on a different airline, they didn't know where our bags went. We ended up going to the hotel with just our carry-on stuff: no luggage the first night.

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The next day was still pretty gloomy, and raining off and on. But Sandy got a hold of JetBlue and found our luggage- they had it in Bermuda and were about to send it back to LA, but we stopped them in time. They sent the luggage to our hotel, and there was much rejoicing. We ended up spending the whole day sleeping- there's a 4 hour time difference from LA- and watching movies. It was too wet and rainy to go out.

Eventually the rain stopped, and although it remained gloomy for the next few days, it was dry, and we were able to go out and about.

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One of the reasons why we chose Grotto Bay was because they said they had caves that you could swim in. Their website didn't have very good photos, so we didn't know what to expect. It turns out there's two caves that you can walk around in on the property, and another cave-like huge hole that had to be at least 50 feet deep. Apparently, we were right next d to the Crystal Caves, which we did not visit, but heard that they were just bigger versions of the caves at the hotel. We did go swimming, but not for very long- there was nobody else around, and it was a little creepy, though I imagine it's totally safe.

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The hotel's beach was quite nice, so we took some time to do island-paradise things, like sit on the beach and sip a Mai-Tai, and take some pictures to document the experience.

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Dining Room

Later we had a nice romantic meal at the resort's restaurant. We made our own "Bermuda Triangle" that meal by having the Bermuda Wahoo for the entree (not particularly tasty, but not bad), a Bermuda Swizzle to drink (which was pretty awful) , and a Bermuda Triangle-- a cake-like dish-- for desert (quite delicious).

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Culture Shock

Bermuda is part of the U.K.- you need a passport to get there, and so there were some differences. For one, they drive on the other side of the road. They have different currency- the Bermuda dollar- but it's tied 1:1 to the American dollar, and everywhere accepts both, so conversion was easy; also, on all their currency there is a picture of Queen Elizabeth II. Sandy was tickled pink at the friendliness of everyone- everyone says "good morning" or "good evening" when you pass them. Everyone speaks English, but accents vary- some have proper English accents, some have a Jamaican-like accent, and a few have some amalgamation of both.

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St. George

Tobacco Bay

Our first sightseeing excursion was to St. George, a short drive to the northeast. We walked around a bit and found ourselves at Tobacco Bay, so we took a look around. There are some cool rock thingies all around, and there was a big hillish thing that you could climb up to get good pictures. I took some panoramic-type pictures and stitched them together using a free program I found online called Autostitch. Now that I see the power of Autostitch, I wish that I took more panoramas of other places.

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St. Catherine

While on our walk around St. George-- Grandma Marion would call it "getting lost"-- we came upon St. Catherine's Bay, and Fort St. Catherine. At the beach (as well as everywhere else on the island) we found some seemingly wild roosters. I attempted to befriend them by blending into their society, breeding with their women, and in time, our differences will be forgotten.

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We went up to Fort St. Catherine, but they only accept cash, of which we were out, so we were unable to see any more than the outside.

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Unfinished Church

On our way back into the city, we came upon the unfinished church. It was built as a replacement for another church, but when it was mostly done the congregation decided to just restore their existing church. Some other people were going to finish it, but ran out of money. It had a roof at one point, but through storms and erosion, it's not there anymore.

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Veterans' Day Parade

Our only trip specifically to Hamilton was to see the Veteran's Day (they call it Remembrance Day) parade. We met a nice couple from New Jersey and split a taxi into town with them. Afterwards, while we were walking around town, we found a weird building (City Hall, apparently) that instead of having a clock, had a wind-direction indicator.

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Scuba Diving

The highlight of our trip was going scuba diving. Neither of us had gone before, and we were excited because there are both coral reefs and shipwrecks around Bermuda. There are a lot of shipwrecks- over 500, in fact. The closest diving company was Triangle Diving, which was actually on the Grotto Bay Resort property, right next to the beach. We took the beginner course which included equipment rental and instruction, so we just needed to bring ourselves. We had intended to both go diving, but Sandy had problems with claustrophobia. The Triangle Diving guys were really nice and let her come along with us on the boat and go snorkeling while we dove. The water was really salty in Bermuda- I asked our instructor and he said that Bermuda has the third saltiest water in the world.

The first place we went was a coral reef, which was really close to the surface and Sandy snorkeled around and took pictures while the instructor and I went down and swam around. The water was about 20 feet deep at that point, and pretty clear, so she got some good shots.

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The second place was a wreck called the St. George, which they explained was a dredging vessel that they sunk once it was at the end of its life in the 1950's. There was a more experienced group of divers with us, and they were able to go inside it in places. Apparently there's a barracuda, a lionfish, and a giant lobster regularly seen around the wreck, but nobody saw any of them. The wreck was about 50 feet deep, so Sandy wasn't able to see it snorkeling on the surface, so I took the camera below and took some nice shots.

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We took a ferry to the Dockyard because everyone said we had to go see it, but when we got there things were pretty dead, because it was off-season. There were a few places open, and we found the official tip of the Bermuda Triangle in the mall, but otherwise we didn't get much out of the Dockyard experience.

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Horseshoe Beach

One of our favorite places on the trip was Horseshoe Bay. For Sandy, it's because on our way there we met a cute little orange kitty that she named Magma. It was playing with a salamander that was either acting or actually was dead. Sandy fell in love, and spent a good half hour playing with them, taking pictures, and taking video. I think she was suffering from kitten withdrawal, since it had been a good 5 days since she last saw our kitties. Eventually I managed to get her to go to the actual beach, which was gorgeous. The sand was amazing- very soft, with little pink coral grains, and powdery. The water was decently warm once you got used to it, but we didn't have our swimsuits, so we couldn't go swimming anyway.

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Glass-bottom kayaking

Before we left we had to go kayaking in the glass-bottom kayaks that were for rent right by the hotel's beach. There are two shipwrecks in the bay- one about 50 feet from the beach (encircled in the picture below) and probably not more than 5 feet from the surface of the water, the other a little further out and to the right, and about as close to the surface.

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I wasn't expecting to be as close to the wrecks as we were- it was quite an amazing experience.

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All Good Things...

Alas, our week spent in Bermuda was finally at an end. We had an uneventful trip back home, and Sandy took some nice pictures outside the airplane window as we took off. We had a lot of fun, but we were happy to get back home to our kitties.

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