The footsteps on the cobblestone path were the first indication that breakfast was arriving. Then a figure in white, topped by a tall chef's hat and carrying two wicker baskets, emerged from around the cottage's side. With a broad smile, giving way to a cheerful British accent, he said "Good day," and, in typical Bermuda fashion, "all the best."
One basket was brimming with fresh, just-out-of-the-oven muffins, buns, sweet rolls and still-steaming croissants. The other held a bounty of island fruits and the morning's edition of Bermuda's delightfully informative Royal Gazette.
A quick foray to our suite's small refrigerator disclosed that the maid, when turning down the bed the evening before, had stocked it with a pitcher of cream, another of milk, and orange juice.
What a wondrous way to start the day!
But then again, it was Bermuda, considered to be the most civilized of the world's islands, and the suite was in one of the quintet of luxury duplex cottages opened in 1988 at Fourways Inn. They form a delightful addition to the complex that includes the popular restaurant of the same name and landmark Peg Leg's Tavern, both of which are local favorites.
Indeed, the level of service, and the many guest amenities at Fourways, located in the village of West Paget, are indicative of the changes taking place throughout Bermuda's 21-mile length, making the Royal Colony even more inviting.
It should be noted that Bermuda is not a single island, but an Atlantic archipelago comprising about 360 islands, of which 140 are large enough to build a house on. Hence, the use of "island" refers to the seven largest, which are connected to each other by bridges or causeways. While it has never been proved, many contend that Bermuda is the residue of an ancient volcano which rose from the Atlantic, and Harrington Sound was its crater. It is also the world's northernmost coral reef.
Bermuda's population of 56,000 are proud, friendly and well-educated. Almost all the permanent residents are in some way involved in tourism, which is the main industry. To understand how strong this involvement is, one need only know that Bermuda actually has overemployment, or an employment rate of about 108 percent. The island is without poverty, and according to the World Bank Bermudans rival the Swiss for having the highest standard of living.
Nowhere are the changes more apparent than at the island's two Princess Hotels. The Hamilton Princess, for 106 years the grand dame of Bermuda's hotels and the center of the island's tourism and social scenes, was refurnished wing by wing in 1989. Each year, this "pink palace on the water" is the rendezvous for the Newport-to-Bermuda Boat Race, her ballroom the site of most post-race festivities. Dinner reservations at the Princess' Tiara Room are coveted by locals and visitors alike.
Her sister hotel and the island's largest, the Southampton Princess, is Bermuda's meeting and convention headquarters. Unlike the in-town Princess, which is noted for her restored and refined Elizabethan elegance and grandeur, the Southampton is an up-to-the-minute, modern, self-contained resort. Its seemingly endless facilities include a private beach club, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, 11 tennis courts and a challenging 18-hole, par-3 executive golf course.
Bermuda has two other large and grand hotels. One is the Elbow Beach Club in Paget, with one of the island's finest beaches. Many longtime Bermuda devotees remember it as one of the highlights of the island's college weeks, which attracted generations of Canadian and U.S. students to revel in the sand and sun, stopping only for the always complimentary on-the-beach lunches. Elbow Beach also has been refurbished, with televisions added to all rooms, and an intimate "library bar" now graces the main guest sitting lobby, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic.
Castle Harbour, renamed Marriott's Castle Harbour Resort, was modernized to the tune of $60 million in the mid-1980s, including new wings and a ballroom and conference center. Fortunately, the rooms in the old portion still have their high ceilings and oversized closets. This past winter, all its rooms were redecorated and refurbished again.
One of the highlights of the all-new Castle Harbour is its surprisingly out-of-place Mikado's Restaurant, featuring Tepanyaki-style cooking. It is Bermuda's only Japanese eatery and extremely popular, since after-dinner live music is offered in the lounge next door.
The castlelike hotel sits high atop 250 rolling seaside acres in posh Tuckerstown, overlooking Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound. Its 6,435-yard championship golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, is one of the world's best-known and most photographed, with its signature first and 18th holes jokingly called the most expensive in golf because of the vistas of multimillion-dollar homes. In addition, there are six tennis courts, three heated swimming pools and two private beaches.