You can't rent a car in Bermuda; you can take the bus, hire a taxi, or rent a scooter. My tips:
• You receive minimal instruction, and it's not enough. Before setting off, ask all the questions you can think of, and take time to practice in the parking lot until you feel comfortable.
• Lean into turns. Scooters are more like bikes than cars—you steer with your body as much as your arms.
• Focus your eyes on where you want to go; your hands will follow.
• Objects in the mirror are much closer than they appear.
• Don't tighten your grip on the handle if you panic—that's the throttle.
• Don't worry about people passing you: the speed limit is 22 mph.
• Locals use their horns to say hello to other drivers. It's not you.
Water-skiing's New Wave
The first time I went water-skiing I was seven years old. My dad, who was steering the boat, forgot to tell me to let go of the rope if I fell. My family laughed about it for years.
On a recent trip to Bermuda, I finally decided to have another go at it. No offense to my dad, but I figured Kent Richardson, of the Bermuda Water Ski Centre, might be better at explaining ahead of time how things work. He's been skiing in tournaments for more than 20 years and has represented Bermuda in seven world championships.
When I called for an appointment, Kent told me that all the kids want to "wakeboard" these days, not water-ski, so wakeboarding it would be.
But after I set eyes on the board, I began to think twice. It looked like a snowboard painted in a leopard pattern. Unlike those on skis, the neoprene bindings were set perpendicular to the board. As we got in the boat, Kent insisted that it was easy. I'd be doing a water start, with my knees drawn up to my chest and my arms straight ahead. When the boat started to pull the rope I was holding, all I had to do was let the board drop a bit and twist and stand.
My first try ended fairly quickly, but it didn't feel bad. The second go was better: I was out of the water, if only for a split second. My third try was much worse, but I could tell I would get it; and by my fourth I was up and gone. It took me a few more runs before I could cut across the wake, but each time I improved and was soon smiling uncontrollably. Before long I was zooming back and forth over the wake and catching some air—maybe not the big fat air that snowboarders talk about, but still—and I heard Kent let out a whoop. I'll be damned if I wasn't having a blast.
Returning to the dock, we saw dozens of fish jumping out of the water. I like to think I inspired them.
BERMUDA WATER SKI CENTRE, Robinson's Marina, Somerset Bridge; 441/234-3354; $120 per hour. Also available: barefoot skiing, tubing, and slalom courses. Richardson teaches from April through mid October.
Shop to It!
Bermuda Clayworks 7 Camber Rd., Royal Naval Dockyard; 441/234-5116. The Dockyard has typical shops in its Clocktower Mall; skip them. Farther along is this stark warehouse where they make pretty floral-patterned vases, dishes, and customized ceramic address plates.
Irish Linen Shop 31 Front St., Hamilton; 441/295-4089. Some of the linens are just too flashy, but other tablecloths, napkins, and sheets are appropriately demure. Love the cloths printed with vintage maps of Bermuda.
Marks & Spencer 17 Reid St.; 441/295-0031. H. A. & E. Smith's Ltd. 35 Front St.; 441/295-2288. Trimingham's 37 Front St.; 441/295-1183. Three sensible English department stores, all in Hamilton, for anyone who thinks that bright Bermuda shorts and kneesocks will work back home.
Pegasus Front St. W., Hamilton; 441/295-2900. The prints and maps, some well over 100 years old, are fascinating; every beach house should have a set of the seashell prints.
Tienda de Tabaco 69 Front St., Hamilton; 441/295-8475. Remember, you're not in the United States, so you can forget about that silly embargo on Cuban cigars (though nonsmokers may find the boxes more interesting).
The Island by Night
Pickled Onion 49-51 Front St., Hamilton; 441/295-2263. The best of Front Street's bars is an Ikea-influenced room where young people go to drink martinis and stand cheek to rosy cheek.
Hubie's Bar 10 Angle St., Hamilton; no phone. Locals cram into the red leatherette booths to catch the jazz band on Fridays. Cheap, dark, and lovely, it's a side of Bermuda day-trippers don't see.
Swizzle Inn 3 Blue Hole Hill, Hamilton Parish; 441/293-1854. "Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out" is the motto here. But the rum swizzles are so potent—they're like tropical Long Island iced teas—that the second half of the motto should probably be "Stumble Out."