Monday, March 09, 2009

Notes on Bermuda

As I mentioned last week, I recently spent a few days in Bermuda, before coming back to Boston where I was greeted this morning with a nice fresh blast of winter. The weather-makers have a sick sense of humor sometimes.

I spent about half of each day (Thursday through Saturday) attending conference panels, all of which were fascinating. Some of those I heard were "Slavery and Religious Practices in the Atlantic World," "The Collector in the Americas,"Bermudians in the Early-Modern Atlantic World, 1609-1775", "Manuscripts in an Age of Print," and "Marginal Orthodoxies in Colonial New England." There were many more I would have liked to hear, but for scheduling conflicts and the burnout factor (after half a day of panels, I was ready for some outside time). The panel I was on, "Transatlantic Cultures of Print and Exchange" was quite nicely attended, worked really well, and my paper seemed well received.

The other half-days, including Wednesday afternoon when we first arrived, I gave over to exploring the island. A bunch of us went up to St. George (the first capital of Bermuda, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and walked around there, and I spent much time wandering around looking at botanical gardens and national parks and beaches and things, as well as the interesting sites in and around Hamilton, the capital. I've posted a whole slew of pictures (probably way more than anyone really wants to see), here.

The weather was lovely (aside from a few passing showers which appeared out of nowhere and were gone just as quickly), with temperatures in the high 50s or low 60s most days, with a pleasant breeze (just my kind of weather, really). The Bermudians thought it cold, and kept asking me if I was freezing when I walked around in shirtsleeves. When I said I was from Boston they laughed in understanding. I found all the people there unfailingly nice and wonderful to talk to: I had a great chat with an elderly lady as we waited for a ferry, and a friend and I learned a great deal from two Azorean laborers working in Bermuda on landscaping projects.

The food was a bit pricey, but I highly recommend the fish chowder, which was delicious. The tap water (all gathered from rainwater, since there is no source of fresh water on the islands) was very nice as well. The conference organizers had arranged several receptions for us, including one at the Hamilton City Hall, another at the (excellent) Bermuda Maritime Museum at the Royal Navy Dockyard, and a closing event at Bacardi world headquarters (which some of us took to calling the "Bacardi Party"). The premier of Bermuda, Dr. Ewart Brown, spoke briefly at the final event.
I had a delightful time with the conference folks: it was great to see old friends from MHS and elsewhere, and to meet new people from around the country (and Boston in particular!) who are doing fascinating work.

All in all, a fascinating experience and a great vacation. I even found time to see seven new bird species, which was several more than I expected to get out of this trip. As we were taking the cab back to the airport to come home, the driver said to everyone "That guy in the middle [me], he must have had a good time, he's had a grin plastered on his face since the moment I saw him." Not too far from the truth, that.

Perhaps it's needless to say that aside from the plane rides I didn't get too much reading done, nor did I buy any books while there, since the few bookshops either weren't open when I visited or didn't have anything that struck my fancy. I did finish one book and start another, but that was the extent of it. There were too many new things to see and do.

Anyway, back to it now, but if you're looking for a place to visit, I highly recommend giving Bermuda a shot. Nice two-hour flight from Boston, great hotels, friendly people, and scenery to soak in endlessly. I'm already thinking about research projects that might enable me to get back there sooner rather than later. And several of us suggested to the SEA folks that having the meeting in Bermuda every four years might not be a bad idea!

1 comment:

Bob said...

A bookish person visiting Bermuda might want to take along a copy of "Dispatches from Bermuda: The Civil War Letters of Charles Maxwell Allen, Consul at Bermuda." Imagine yourself an Northerner in Bermuda during the Civil War, when most people in Bermuda were trying to trade with the South, and you get the story.