Chances are, when someone mentions Bermuda, your first thoughts are of a mysterious triangle or a pair of men's shorts (perhaps even worn with a pair of stylish knee-high socks, loafers, and a blazer). Along with some images of beautiful, pink sand beaches, that's really all we know about the country until we visited. We quickly discovered this little island is big on personality.

If you've already headed to Google Maps to search for Bermuda, let us help you; it's about 12,000 kilometres south of Cape Sable Island in Nova Scotia and 1,600 kilometres northeast of Miami. It's a three hour flight from Toronto or two and a half hours from New York. Although it's made up of 181 islands, you'll really have to zoom in. The main island, Bermuda, is only 53 sq. kilometres. 

Before we dive in to the many amazing things about Bermuda, here's a short history lesson: 

It's named after the Spanish captain Juan de Bermúdez, the first known European explorer to reach this (apparently) inhabited island in 1503. He didn't stay long, though, so Britain's Virginia Company permanently settled the island in 1609 when the passengers and crew from a ship took refuge from a hurricane here. The English Crown took over the island's administration in 1684 and made it a British colony in 1707. While the country remains a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda has its own dollar, which is interchangeable with the American dollar. Subtle hints of its British roots can be seen everywhere, including its geographical names, its street signs, and even its litter bins. 

The native-born Bermudians can trace their roots back to European settlers or those individuals brought to the country through the slave trade largely from Africa, or Native Americans from the Algonquin. Today, about 65,000 people live on the island, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world (though, it doesn't feel that way). About 30 percent of Bermuda's population is made of expatriate workers, mostly from Britain, Canada, USA, South Africa, and the West Indies. The economy relies largely on the insurance, reinsurance, and tourism industries. 

As a very small country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda has implemented some unique rules to make things run more smoothly:

  • There are no car rentals in Bermuda. In fact, each household it only permitted one car. There is an easily navigable bus system and scooters are very popular (especially among daredevils - the roads are narrow and winding, but Bermudians handle them like pros). 
  • By law, each household must collect its own potable water from rainwater. Every building has whitewashed, terraced roofs that direct water to underground storage tanks under the building.
  • The price of land in Bermuda is high (land constraints, combined with the cost of importing building material). As such, non-Bermudians are only allowed to purchase real estate from other non-Bermudians. Michael Bloomberg (the former Mayor of New York) was able to acquire his weekend getaway here. Oprah, however, was not.

Every travel book and website will suggest certain must-visit locations:

  • St. George is a quaint, historical town at the most northeast end of the island, complete with original stone buildings. Established in 1612, it is the oldest, continuously inhabited English town in the New World. 
  • Horseshoe Bay is a popular beach on the south side of Bermuda with pink sand and turquoise water. There are even beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent, and a café and washroom facilities nearby.
  • The Dockyards, at the east tip of the island, is home to the cruise ships. It has shops and restaurants, but is a great place to find gifts for everyone who didn't join you on your trip!
  • Crystal and Fantasy Caves were discovered by a pair of teenagers in 1907. You can tour both, but if you only have time for one we recommend Crystal Cave, which has a large pool of sea water and floating docks. And the tour guides are worth the entrance fee.
  • Swizzle Inn, but expect to swagger out. Order a Rum Swizzle or a Dark 'N' Stormy for a real Bermudian experience.

We are very fortunate to have amazing friends in Bermuda, who were able to introduce us to some of the more local parts of the island:

  • If you visit St. George, don't only stop in the town. Continue on to find some amazing beaches that have great snorkelling opportunities, such as Tobacco Bay or St. Catherine's Beach.
  • From Horseshoe Bay, walk east along the paths toward Warwick Bay. You will discover secluded, protected beaches, each more beautiful than the one before. You can take refuge from the sun under the rock formations on the beach and look for the parrot fish that come right up to the shore.
  • If you're looking for boats at the Dockyards, we recommend getting up close and personal by renting a small one from Blue Watersports at Elbow Beach and taking it to Castle Island. The little island has castle ruins and a deserted beach nearby that is perfect for a romantic picnic or the perfect photo. 
  • When you visit the Caves, make sure you have time for an ice cream from Bailey's Bay Ice Cream Parlour. You'll also notice the Swizzle Inn is conveniently located across the street! 
  • Whether it's at the Swizzle Inn, or anywhere else, you have to order a traditional Bermudian fish sandwich on raisin bread. We won't ruin the description here, just trust us. Other great dining spots include Bouché (try the pancakes, known by the locals as the fluffiest around), 1609 at Hamilton Princess (make sure you find the Warhol, Ai Wei Wei and Banksy pieces in the lobby), and Rosa's (you have to order the wings). 

If Bermuda wasn't on your bucket list before, it should be. The pastel coloured buildings are unlike anything you will see on any mainland. The turquoise water and the pink sand beaches are picture-perfect. But it's really the people who make the country truly special - friendly and welcoming, to each other and tourists alike. You may even catch yourself wishing you could move here (and continue getting a really good tan)! 



As much as we love Vancouver, sometimes even the locals need to become visitors. So we packed our bags and spent a week in Providence, Rhode Island. We were there to meet our new nephews (aka 'new'phews), which provided the chance to explore Providence through locals' recommendations. 

Providence was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, who had been exiled from Massachusetts for his religious beliefs. The city was one of the first to industrialize, and became known for its jewelry and silverware industry. While it has retained its manufacturing industry, the city is now known for its service industries thanks to the eight hospitals and seven higher-learning academic institutions that call Providence home. Providence has been rebranding itself as the Creative Capital to put more emphasis on its educational and arts community, which makes the city fun to visit and explore! 

The city is only 66 square kilometres in area (about half the size of Vancouver), but is divided into 25 distinct neighbourhoods, often grouped together by their character. The city is amazingly walkable, but also has an intuitive transit system (with very tourist-friendly drivers).

The East Side is home to the charming Hope Street, with  boutique shops and cafés. Some of our favourites on Hope Street include Stock Culinary Goods, a kitchenware store that has everything an amateur chef  could need, and Seven Stars Bakery, a bustling bakery with a great hidden garden patio. For a great sandwich, head to The Cook and Brown Public House, and then indulge in a cone from Three Sisters for dessert (we highly recommend Dirty Garden Mint). If you happen to be in the area on a Saturday morning, Tippet Park hosts The Hope Street Farmers Market every week between May and October. The stalls of local fruits and vegetables, seafood, baked goods and artisanal crafts cater to the large crowds that come out every weekend.

Downtown Providence is the city's urban centre, with everything from 19th Centrury Victorian architecture to post-modern and modernist buildings. We wandered up and down Westminster Street, which features tree lined brick sidewalks and suspended fairy lights. Small shops and restaurants open onto the street, providing lots of visual interest with window displays and people watching. The street is also home to the Arcade Providence, America's first enclosed shopping mall. Built in 1828, this Greek Revival structure is beautifully maintained, with shops on the main floor and micro lofts on the second and third floors. Living up to its moniker as the Creative Capital, Providence is proud of the large public art pieces on buildings all over the downtown core. Between The State of Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, The Public Art Committee of Brown University, and the Rhode Island School of Design's (RISD) emphasis on public art, there seems to be something to look at from every street corner. One of our favourites was the Providence Industrial Mural (50 Aborne Street) by Shepard Fairey, a RISD-educated street artist. 

And if you want to immerse yourself in academia, visit College Hill, an old residential neighbourhood that also includes the Brown University and RISD campuses. More interesting than the campuses may be the surrounding homes, many of which have historical plaques with the year they were built and the homes' first owner. Nestled among the houses at Prospect Terrace Park is one of the city's best lookouts - but try to get there before the tour busses arrive.  

The creative and academic population has also given way to restaurants and cafés that focus on local, high quality ingredients.  The small and aptly named Kitchen (94 Carpenter Street) in Federal Hill is known for its phenomenal breakfast and (with under 15 seats inside) lineup. If it's coffee (or tea) you're after, try The Shop in Fox Point. This small coffee shop focuses on quality and hospitality. Downtown, places like Birch Restaurant and Gracie's offer prix fixe tasting menus that feature local and seasonal items. Birch has a clean interior with exposed brick walls and a u-shaped table offering a communal dining experience. Next door, Gracie's hires staff from the local Johnson and Wales Hospitality School and serves up meticulously detailed meals as impressive in taste as they are in presentation.