Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bermuda Shorts - The Last Post

      
Currency 

Bermudian money and U.S. money are interchangeable in Bermuda. If you must separate your cash, put all the pretty coloured bills and the coins with queen heads in one wallet. Place all drab green money and coins with president heads into another. This can be helpful because should you have any remaining  U.S. funds when you leave Bermuda, (highly unlikely) it will be more universally usable. Unless you want souvenirs, try to use the Bermudian money up while you are there (easy to do). 

  Food

I remember reading about the cost of food in Bermuda. Just as there are no rental cars, there are no fast food establishments allowed in Bermuda. The exception is a KFC which had arrived before the law was introduced. There was a suggestion on the internet that the least expensive place for dinner was at one of the hospital cafeterias. I say that if you feel you will need to resort to this, you can't afford to go to Bermuda.  Although it was not quite as bad as I had feared, finding reasonable and good food did require a bit of effort and asking around.

Since a basic hotel breakfast with 17% gratuity costs between $20-25, there needed to be a "Plan B". A little place called "Common Ground", http://www.commonground.bm/ was recommended by a souvenir shop owner in Hamilton. It was a charming cafe/deli/coffee shop with acceptable prices. I had a large toasted bacon and egg sandwich on whole wheat for $6.50. Tea or coffee was $2. Reasonable by any city's standards.

Another good choice was "The Hog Penny".  The Bermudian chowder is amazing although it didn't hurt that the waitress poured the equivalent of half a glass of rum on top of it.







                                      
                                                       
Here is my tripadvisor review.

Henry VIII pub and restaurant was ok, although I wouldn't particularly recommend it. It was near the hotel, pricey and not what I expected. My favourite part of the meal was the creme brulee and since it was so dark in the restaurant by dessert time, I took a flash photo so I could see it.

Here is my tripadvisor review.

My final word on the food would be to eat a larger meal at one of the pub type restaurants at noon and then stick to an appetizer or snack in the evenings when the more expensive meals and prices seem to come out of the woodwork along with the more formal clothing. About $100 a day, per person for food is not unusual.


Shopping

As unbelievable as it may sound, there are bargains to be had in Bermuda. If you steer away from the designer outlets and head for the department stores during the "off season", there are some great sales. Places like A.S. Cooper & Sons http://www.ascooper.bm/, Gibbons Company http://www.gibbons.bm/, and Marks and Spencer were good. Gibbons Company has a huge store in Hamilton and several smaller outlets in places like the Naval Dockyard and in hotels.

I purchased 3 things in Bermuda...a designer skirt which had been halved in price many times and now cost $15, a gombey ornament, and some Marks and Spencer fudge for hubby.

*** Helpful hint for those interested in the "authentic" Bermudian rum cake. Buy it at the factory in the Naval Dockyards. The duty free store at the airport is almost non existent, has very little of anything and is only opened briefly after the employees which have checked you in take and screen your luggage. The same employees then show up to unlock it and show you their lean duty free choices. I feel terrible...hubby had to miss out on his souvenir rum soaked fruitcake.

Festivities

The Bermuda gombey is a symbol of Bermudian culture influenced by African, Native American and West Indian cultures as well as the Bible, British Military and English Mummers. Originally, it was performed on the two days a year (Boxing Day and New Years' Day) when slaves were not required to work. In a gombey performance, costumed performers dance to a wildly energetic drum beat. The feathered headdresses, masks and tassels are meant to represent the plummage of birds. This dance is often seen at weddings and other celebrations throughout the island.

While at the hotel, there was a very fast moving gombey parade. My camera flash was off and it didn't capture the "full force" of the event.

One of the hotel managers explained about the hats which were created by a hotel chef in preparation for the Bermudian buffet breakfast.







Friday, March 30, 2012

Bermuda Shorts Part Two

There are no rental cars available in Bermuda. For the brave, there are mopeds and bicycles. Driving is on the left side of very steep and winding roads. Travel around the islands is not a huge problem since there are a multitude of ferries, buses and taxis.

 Short #2 - Transportation

The hotel included two types of transportation. Trolleys were on hotel grounds, but were not allowed on public streets. They delivered guests to the ends of various roads. They also dropped people off at the beach.
A hotel ferry, for guests only, took passengers showing hotel keys on a scenic ride to and from Hamilton, Bermuda a few times a day.                           

Taxis can get costly. They are good for short trips, when one is dressed up for the evening, or to remain safe from crazy moped driving tourists. For example, I went to a restaurant in the evening and took a cab from the hotel. It cost $7 including tip each way. Of course, it probably cost $5 just to get off the hotel grounds, but nonetheless, not a terrible deal.
The Bermuda buses and ferries are relatively fast and efficient. I bought a three day unlimited pass for $28. Showing the pass was simpler than using tickets and trying to figure out fare zones. One and two day passes were also available. Travelling around was easier once I remembered to stand on the proper side of the street. Hamilton is central and has the main bus and ferry terminals. Buses that stop at any pink bus stops will take a passenger toward Hamilton. Those which stop at a blue stops are travelling away from Hamilton.
The public ferrries are fairly luxurious.

    Of course, no matter what the mode of transportation, the scenery is always magnificent.




Bermuda is pink and white, with lush green
 vegetation and blue water.
 The sand really is pink.
The buildings are mostly white or pink.
                                                              

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bermuda Shorts

I recently mentioned to hubby that I was interested in attending to a weekend craft show in London. That would be London, Ontario. Perhaps it was the British connection, or the thought that it would cost as much to go to London as someplace better, that prompted him to say, "Why don't you go someplace good instead....like Bermuda?"

Well, you don't need to say something like that to me twice. I immediately researched Bermuda and learned much. I made lists and printed off sites, shopping, and restaurant locations. I selected a Westjet Vacation, 4 day, three night package and booked the second least expensive property available. As it turned out, using a Westjet Vacation was an extremely good choice. It included all transfers as well as hotel and tourist taxes...a considerable saving.

Short #1-Fairmont Southampton

The second least expensive hotel happened to be a Fairmont! There are high expectations in Bermuda.

The Fairmont Southampton sits atop a hill on 100 acres of property. It has a world class golf course, tennis courts, pools, a spa, superior restaurants, long windy roads, a beach and much more. I highly recommend this hotel if you are a thirty year old fitness instructor, an olympic athlete, or if you have successfully scaled Mt. Kilamanjaro at least once. From a "five minute" walk away and just off the property, it looks like this.

As you crawl up the hill toward the hotel on your way back from the "five minute walk", it looks more like this.
When you finally get to the lobby it looks like this.
And then when you arrive in the Jasmine Lounge desperate to rehydrate, it looks like this.
                      





Link from tripadvisor outlining details and my opinion of this hotel......
                                 http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g147261-d147867-r126767443-The_Fairmont_Southampton-Southampton_Bermuda.html#REVIEWS

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Raccoon Rivalry

"Raccoon" any of various related animals of the genus Procyon: nocturnal carnivore, having a masklike black stripe across the eyes, a sharp and a bushy, ringed tail, native to North and Central America (from www.dictionary.com).

Hubby is currently outside "battening down the hatches". In this particular case, he's enclosing any gaps between our shed, the ground and other potential openings. Considering the climbing, digging and ripping skills of the varmint against which he is preparing, his efforts might be considered meagre at best. Let me explain.

One evening about a month ago, our mini dog, went berserk. We were unclear as to whether she was barking at windmills,  yelping at flying lint, or angered by an intruder. We checked more closely and discovered it was in fact, the latter. A raccoon dared step onto our deck. Despite being on display by a large spotlight and barked at by a vicious dog, the masked marauder went about its business. It continued prying at the well sealed rubbermaid bin containing our winter stash of birdseed.


We determined that we did not want the critter to find our premises too cozy. I immediately picked up the dog (for my protection) as hubby went outside, grabbed some snow shovels, and "noised" the animal away with endless banging and clanging. It seemed to work. There were no more sightings.

Our neighbour had been away on an extended vacation. Last week, he commented that there were noises in his roof area which kept him awake all night. He also saw animal deposits on his deck. We mentioned the raccoon. He called an exterminator who came, crawled on the roof and set a one-way chicken wire trap. The animal could get out, just not back in. Everyone soon learned that this was a bad plan.


Not only did the raccoon refuse to use the exit provided, she, and we now know it is a "she", began to rip out the soffits and facia in her attempt to escape. This week, the exterminator came back. This is what he removed from the house. It could be worse. Raccoons often give birth to as many as seven kits. Unfortunately, mom is still up there, waiting for nightfall.


The plan is to entice her out, through yet another one way cage to retrieve her babies, who will be strategically placed on the roof. Since raccoons are nocturnal, she is expected to relocate them during the night. The only problem with this plan is that she will have to go elsewhere.

We were told that trapping or relocation by the exterminator is not allowed. We were also given his business card. Hopefully, this adventure will not be continued.

Old Lady, New Layout

I hate change. Although I didn't really mind it then, I have had to be flexible throughout enough of my life. Now I just want to carry on with the old and the familiar. I have managed to avoid most of the Facebook "new looks" and even now, I'm one of the holdouts on their timeline page. I dislike the timeline style of Facebook and won't peruse anyone's info if they have this particular layout. It's confusing, chaotic and hard to follow. My old Facebook page is linear and shall remain so. Odd, since it's not in my nature to appreciate things sequential and orderly.

I logged onto "Blogger" this morning because I have ohhhhhhh so much to write about and to share. I wasn't certain whether to begin here, or with more TripAdvisor reviews. After I signed in and read about Katie's latest adventures on my favourite blog "Baking My Way Through Germany", I  accidentally clicked on "Get Our New Look" which surreptitiously popped up while my eyes were still half shut. I am now attempting to make this work for me.

As I type, I'm thinking this is pretty simple and clear. All I have to do is find where everything has been relocated. I had a lot of "drafts" of thingwritings which were under construction. I hope I can still find those. Other than that, I'm satisfied with this very large new typing surface. All the options are still available. The page keeps expanding as my blog grows in length...works for me. Perhaps old and familiar isn't always best.

Now, I'd better run. There's a lot of raccoon activity happening at my neighbour's. He just borrowed a trouble light and I smell the potential for another blog. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Packing for Pack Rats and Pachiderms

I am currently procrastinating. I am fearful of packing for my three day weekend trip to Bermuda. I thought I had it all figured out...a carry on bag and a purse. I would colour co-ordinate my clothing and take only red, white and blue items, just like the British flag. Of course, the clothing pieces would be few, and all would be relatively conservative and multifunctional.

I have always admired people who could go on major vacations with only a small suitcase, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to try it. It certainly makes life easier, expedites travel and with some airlines, saves money. 

My friend just announced that she would be taking a "real" suitcase. She had a good argument. Lots of space in case you buy something. You never know what you might need. You don't know for sure whether it will be hot, cold or in between. Everyone else will have to wait for luggage before getting on the hotel bus, so we wouldn't save time.

Now, I'm conflicted. She'll have more "stuff" than me. I might be envious. After all, taking only a carry on bag does not allow for many things which some people deem essential. Corkscrews, scissors, gallon tubs of wrinkle cream, matches, knives, hair cementing products, drinks and spare cannisters of butane are definitely not permitted. On the other hand, they are fine in luggage, although, depending on the uniqueness of the item, there might be the risk of finding a government baggage inspection slip in your suitcase.

At the moment, I have set out 2 pairs of long pants, three jackets, 4 t-shirts, two camisoles, 2 dresses, one navy silk outfit, a bathing suit and wrap, one pair of shorts, two additional pairs of shoes, drugs, undergarments, socks, toiletries, cosmetics, hair products, makeup, camera equipment, a flashlight, money, tickets, passport and a c-pap machine. I wonder if that's enough for 3 days? What if it rains? Should I take an umbrella and raincoat as well?

I believe I've made up my mind. I'll try the carry on for my next overnight adventure. For this particular trip however, I too shall take a "real" suitcase.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cellular Deficiency and Old Age

I lost my cell phone. I never lose my cell phone, well, almost never. It lives in a specially designed telephone pocket in my purse. It's a lovely little sleeve type pouch, just the right size and shape for a cell phone. It also deposits the phone just far enough down inside my purse that either I don't hear it ring, or I can't get to it in time to answer before the ringing stops.

Once in awhile, my phone moves around the house with me in the pocket of my hoodie. In fact, at this moment I really can't say that it's truly lost. I know my phone isn't far. I know it must be around because the last time I had it, I was right here in the house. Despite my advanced years, I have a very clear memory of turning it off, as I always do in the evenings. I just don't have any recollection of where it went after that. It's too bad I turned it off or I could have phoned myself and followed the tone. Even though I never lose my cell phone, there have been times, when I've called myself simply to enjoy the harmonic sound of my cell as it rings throughout the house. Then I'd rush to greet the phone, pretending it had been lost.

A lost cell phone is not that big a deal to me. My fingers and eyeballs are not glued to this piece of technology. I don't suffer from withdrawal when I enter a public place that requires turning the device off. Frequently, it's not even turned on. I don't play games, attempt to watch a sporting event, view movies, read facebook comments, or use any of the many fabulous "apps". Even if I wanted to, and I don't, I wouldn't be able to see those things well enough on such a miniature screen. I simply use my cellular telephone for occasional texting and for Mr. Bell's original purpose. Why is it that for many, this fails to be the primary purpose of this equipment? Status perhaps?

I do find that text messaging is a really useful tool for those who have adult children. I have learned that they eagerly answer texts when emails and telephone calls, especially from mom, are ignored. Why? Because their fingers and eyeballs are always glued to their cell phone, of course.

Oh, no! What if I actually have an important text message from one of my children? What if they have some important news to share? What if one of them won an all expense paid vacation to Tahiti and wishes to take mom as a thank you for her many years of sacrifice? What if there's a new job, a potential mate, or a new home on their horizon? I'd better find my phone!

As I retrace my steps, it seems hopeless. How can I not remember where I left this basic black inconspicuous item? Could I have set it down someplace? I dump out my purse. I search my office. I look in the t.v. room. I go to the kitchen. No luck. I'll check the bedroom. Not on my nightstand. Not in the bathroom. Then I have an idea. There's a cavern...a wasteland...an abyss...a spot where all lost things are eventually found. It's dark. It requires crawling. I need a flashlight. Alas! The missing has been found. I located my hand sanitizer spray, my favourite pen, my lost earring AND my cell phone. All were under the bed, beneath the bedskirt.

I eagerly turn on the phone, listening to the all familiar tone. I see the monkey sitting on the bench. (see Sept. 30, 2011 blog) I wait for the signal that I have new text messages. It never comes. I toss the phone back into my purse and carry on with the day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March Madness...Literally

I was the December Facebook winner of a free night at Hotel Victoria in Toronto. My daughter and I  took advantage of the win to go downtown, shop, stay over and shop some more. We had a lot of fun although we were quite surprised at how quiet the city was on a Tuesday night. We decided to liven it up a bit.

In appreciation of the free night (and the $24 in breakfast vouchers which she won on the Hotel Victoria Facebook page), I wrote a review for www.tripadvisor.ca describing our experience. The review (page bottom) is pending approval. In the meantime, here are a few photos of "Girls Gone Wild".








4 of 5 stars



We found a Russian vodka bar called "Pravda". Will review it when I have time. That's us in the mirror.

Toronto flora and fauna




Hotel Review

"A Fabulous Find Near Almost Everything!"

I was thrilled when I won a free night at this wonderful downtown Toronto hotel. I was somewhat familiar with the historic Hotel Victoria since I've stayed a few times before. I phoned to book a date and was dealt with by Peter. He was friendly and welcoming.

I knew about the lack of onsite parking and did not require a car since the location is so central and convenient. It is a short walking distance from Union Station and many attractions. I am 62, so when I say walking distance, I mean it. There is parking nearby if needed.

My daughter and I arrived at 2 p.m., too early for check in, and wanted to store our bags so that we could shop. The wonderful desk clerk, Erskine, told us we were welcome to go ahead and put our things into the room since it was ready. Our room was on the 5th floor, small and lovely. It was stylishly decorated, very clean and comfortable with a modern bathroom. There wasn't much of a view but didn't care since we weren't planning on spending our time in the room staring out of the window. The hotel is smoke free and smelled fresh. Because of the modest size and the historic elements of this hotel, it does not have every convenience a larger, newer facility might have, however, any potential needs are addressed in the hotel information guide found in the room. We had a question on check-in and when we returned later in the afternoon, Erskine had resolved it in a more than satisfactory manner

Although there is a subway stop available near the hotel, we found the walk to the Eaton Centre for shopping to be quite short. ***Note to visitors...We discovered that "The Bay" gives a 15% discount to non-locals. We showed our Hotel Victoria key and saved quite a bit of money.

There are varied dining opportunities nearby from fast food to gourmet. After a leisurely dinner, we returned to find Brian, at the front desk of the hotel. He was knowledgable and helped us with directions to a major grocery store and gave us advice about nearby entertainment. Again, all was in walking distance. In the morning, we had breakfast at the onsite restaurant "Over Easy". It's open from early morning until 3 p.m. The menu included both breakfast and lunch items and was good value for the money. We checked out and were not yet ready to go home, so we appreciated having our bags stored gratis until we were finished with our city adventures later in the day.

Hotel Victoria is a terrific choice for people attending concerts, sporting events and shopping. Unlike some larger city hotels, it does not give you the feeling of being impersonal. The staff does their best to be polite, accomodating and helpful without appearing pretentious. This hotel is excellent value for the money. I wouldn't stay anyplace else. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Blast from the Past

At the end of March, this man will be celebrating his 78th birthday. Yes, he's still alive.


As I mentioned in an earlier blog (Fashion Fools, May 2011), I was a fan of Dr. Kildare, Richard Chamberlain, many, many years ago. I don't plan on delving into his accomplishments, lifestyle or history. I will instead relate an incident which surprised me...an odd but vivid recent memory.
 
As I age, I find it quite amazing when a memory is triggered. In fact, sometimes, I have recalled an experience which had totally disappeared from my head until a sound, a smell, a taste or an event helped me relive it. I suppose that's how memory works.

I wonder whether this happens more frequently as we get older. After all, we have so many more years of recollections and so much more information stored away in our wrinkled aged brains.

Last week, I went to a small local restaurant with a friend. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, we had a prime window table with a view of our historic town hall, and the music from the sound system was lovely. The tunes were calming, lilting and lyrical. The waitress informed us that we were listening to Sirius radio. As we sat, chatting and waiting for our breakfasts to arrive, an instrumental version of a song played. I immediately recognized it and waited. A familiar voice began to sing, but only in my head. My mind drifted back to my early teens as I enthusiastically announced to my friend, "Richard Chamberlain used to sing that. I remember it exactly. It's Hilili, Hilili, Hilo."

"Richard Chamberlain sang?" she questioned as she googled on her iphone.

"Yep, I'm positive, I responded. I can hear his voice singing it. I had totally forgotten," I said.

By this time, the music had changed. The memory lingered and there was a smile on my face. She placed the iphone in front of me. "Here it is," she said. "He made an album and apparently, it's extremely rare and hard to find now."

"The wonders of technology," I thought, as I viewed this youtube video on her tiny screen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9_whtCO5e0&feature=related

I thanked her. "I'll have to remember to listen to the song and enjoy the lovely photos on a larger screen format when I get home." I chuckled. Just then, our breakfast arrived.

I would like to borrow some words from another legend, Bob Hope as I now say to Mr. Chamberlain, "Thanks for the memories," and "Happy Birthday."