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Footloose in Hamilton

Beautiful Bermuda Is Still in the Pink as Vacation Paradise

July 19, 1987|BEVERLY BEYER and ED RABEY | Beyer and Rabey are Los Angeles travel writers

HAMILTON, Bermuda — One look at this place and you begin to "think pink." Also buttercup yellow, periwinkle blue, salmon, peach and dusty rose for the homes and buildings that give this island its pastel hue of loveliness, and for the ever-present Bermuda shorts.

If you stir in dollops of British reserve, a low-key outlook on night life, plus a traditional preference for such civilized sports as golf, tennis, bird watching, cricket and field hockey, you begin to realize why Bermuda has long been the resort of choice for the Eastern Establishment, Harvard's Hasty Pudding actors, the Yale Glee Club, etc.

Few places on earth outrank the island in standard of living. There's little--if any--unemployment, pollution, illiteracy, billboards or neon. Further, cars are limited to one per family, none are for rent to visitors, and the Premier drives his Volkswagen at the prescribed 20-m.p.h. limit.

Yet things don't change much from year to year. These pink-coral beaches retain their appeal. And the newspaper still carries a notice of "lighting up time" on Page 1, the hour when horse-drawn carriages must fire up their lanterns.

Here to there: Pan Am will get you here in time for dinner with a change; American, Delta and Eastern also fly, but their connections are not nearly as good. You'll land at St. George, a considerable distance from Hamilton, so either make hotel arrangements for a limo pickup or plan on a hefty cab fare.

How long/how much? Stay a week if you really want to unwind and enjoy the beaches. Accommodations and dining run from moderate to expensive.

A few fast facts: Bermuda's dollar is pegged to ours, so forget our plunging buck on worldwide exchanges. Temperatures average 63 in winter, 85 in summer. Rain is spread evenly through the year. April to November is absolutely beautiful. Buses are large, immaculate and pink, costing $1 a ride, $2 across the island. Bikes and mopeds are readily available at moderate cost, but many visitors go sightseeing about the town and islands by taxi, as we did on several occasions. Don't forget about the $10 departure tax.

Getting settled in: Salt Kettle House (Paget 6-10; $72 double with hearty English breakfasts). All rooms in this fine establishment are cottages, four of them right on the water with views of Hamilton, and complete with fireplaces and full kitchen. Free sailboats and dinghys for guests, a ferry over to town every 20 minutes. Owner-manager Hazel Lowe is one of the most personable types you can imagine. Rooms in the main house cost $64 double.

Little Pomander Guest House (16 Pomander Road; $80 double, continental breakfasts) is a small, charming and homey pink-and-white house. It's also right on the water in Paget. Only five very attractive rooms, all with TV and refrigerator. Breakfasts are served at a communal table in the cheerful kitchen. It's a 10-minute walk to town; beaches are only minutes away by moped. Owner Patricia Harvey is another charmer.

White Heron Inn (Riddell's Bay; $138 double, including breakfast and dinner for two), a former manor house converted into a hotel, has tennis courts, pool and picnic area on a marina. Simple but neat rooms, and a pub that's a hangout for English expatriates where there's a Sunday jazz session.

Regional food and drink: Tables set a fairly typical American meal, although seafood is more plentiful, varied and divine when made into chowders laced with black rum and sherry-pepper sauce. A traditional Sunday island breakfast starts with Bloody Marys, follows up with codfish, potatoes and stewed tomatoes, and is usually served with bananas and avocados as a garnish. Bermuda exports practically nothing, including those marvelous onions, so you'll have to enjoy the incomparable onion sandwiches while here.

Black Seal rum is the relaxer, often made into a Dark 'n' Stormy with the addition of ginger beer. Another favorite, Bermuda Gold Liqueur made of loquats, is sweet beyond sweet.

Moderate-cost dining: Henry VIII (South Shore Road, Southhampton) is a combination pub-restaurant with its personality split yet again, very British and sedate in daytime, less decorum and a younger crowd at night. Victorian-clad waitresses will serve you such Brit staples as steak-and-kidney pie, curried seafood and fish chowders.

Herman's (South Shore Road) is known by every soul here for its informality and friendly prices. Join a bevy of suntanned folks, their mopeds parked outside, for indoor or outdoor dining on fish cakes at $2.50, fish sandwich for $4.25, and Herman's cheese steak with onions, $6. Not much in the way of decor, but that's not why it's so popular.

The Paraquet (South Shore Road) is another coffee-shop-informal place where we found the best selection of island specialties: Sunday codfish breakfasts, red bean soup, chowders and the lowly stuffed pork chops. Gardens in front, a few guest units with moderate prices.

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