Last week, I spent four blissful days at Elbow Beach Resort & Spa on the South Shore of Bermuda. At one time, this landmark property was considered the grand dame of Bermuda, where well-heeled guests, honeymooners, and preppy spring break ivy leaguers mixed and mingled.
Today, Elbow Beach is a downsized version with less old money guests; they still visit, but it is a different generation. And as far as the spring breakers go, it is certainly a thing of the past. After all, we are talking about George Hamilton's era, when he starred in "Where the Boys Are," circa 1960. The spring break college kids of yesteryear are now in their late sixties and early seventies.
The assumption by many is that Bermuda is one island. It is actually an archipelago with six main islands: Boaz, Ireland, Somerset, St. David's and St. George's Islands. The largest island is Bermuda (21 square miles). It is among the smallest territories in the world; Monaco and Gibraltar are two others. The six islands are connected by bridges. In total, there are approximately 181 named islands, islets and rock formations.
Arrival: After landing I breezed through customs along with business men dressed in blue blazers with brass buttons. (Don't forget to bring yours. It is required to wear a jacket and tie to dinner.)
In a matter of 10 minutes I was exiting the terminal where there was a line of waiting cab drivers. The drive to Elbow Beach is about 25 minutes. Upon leaving the airport, we drove over a causeway where I got a good glimpse of the stunning turquoise water. It's different than the Caribbean in color; it's a perfect blend of blue and green. Don't forget, this is the Atlantic. Bermuda lies just 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina and is warmed by the Gulf Stream year round.
We passed pristine pastel pink, green and yellow houses along South Road before arriving in Paget Parish, where the driver hung a left at the entrance to Elbow Beach. The long sweeping driveway led to the main building, a lemon meringue colonial with a cake-icing roof, and white columns.
Taxi Tip:The hotel can arrange a driver to pick you up at the airport. I chose the taxi because it is less expensive. The customary tip for taxi drivers is 10%. The total was $30, including the tip.
My Garden View Guestroom: The bellhop drove us in a small van on paved paths down a sloping hill to room 751. Elbow Beach closed 200 guestrooms in the wing behind the main building and now provide 98 refurbished guestrooms in cottage-like dwellings. The famed resort now has an intimate vibe on a sprawling 50-acre property.
When I stepped into my garden view guestroom I was immediately drawn to the open concept bathroom. At first I thought it was lacking in privacy, but it didn't take long to get used to it. It is a design I haven't yet seen in other hotels. The floor-to-ceiling sliding doors close off the bathroom from the king-size bed, desk and bar area.
The shower, which is more like a small room, is encased with floor-to-ceiling glass panels. There are two shower heads: one placed on the ceiling for a rain effect and the hand held placed conventionally on an adjustable, vertical bar. Leave both on, close your eyes, and imagine being under a waterfall.
There is an old-fashioned tub, too. It is placed diagonally, so if you choose to view the flat screen TV while soaking in bath salts, it's possible. Side by side sinks with a spacious granite counter leaves ample space for toiletries. The commode is entirely separate in its own frosted glass enclosure adjacent to the shower room.
It turned out that the bed was probably the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in (at least in recent memory). There is a sofa bed for another guest, making it ideal for a family of three. And a walk-in closet was large enough to double as a dressing area.
In a matter of minutes, I walked down the hill passing the tennis courts leading to the half-mile pink beach, where on summer days guests spend idle days under blue umbrellas being catered to by waiters. Although it was a beautiful balmy day in the low 70s, the water temperature was too cold to take a dip in the crashing surf (the heated freshwater pool would suffice). My scuba dive was definitely put on hold for a later date. But it didn't matter: I wanted to be in Bermuda during shoulder season when the beach is virtually free of people and the island(s) are free of tourists.
The Spa: A completely refurbished, luxurious spa re-opened during my visit, where hand-crafted granite soaking tubs, personal rain showers and six private spa suites beckon the most discriminating spa guests.
The Restaurants: The Lido serves breakfast and dinner daily overlooking the ocean. (At night the beach is illuminated by flood lights making it a prime spot for a romantic dinner.) During summer and autumn months casual Mickey's Beach Bistro serves Mediterranean fare alfresco. And The Deep is an intimate lounge/nightclub with an attractive bar ("The Deep" was filmed in Bermuda.) All of the restaurants on the property are independently owned.
Getting there: Bermuda is extremely easy to reach from the East Coast. It is a short flight from Newark/NYC, Halifax, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Charlotte. This accessibility makes Bermuda ideal for a romantic weekend getaway or week-long family vacation.
Reservation Tips: When booking a reservation at Elbow Beach, ask about all daily fees and taxes that will be added to your bill. This will prevent billing questions upon check out.
WiFi: There is a charge for WiFi in all guestrooms. However, four computers are available off of the lobby in the library free of charge.
Cellphones: There is no need to get international service on your smart phone while in Bermuda. However, you will pay hefty fees in making calls. When I found out my provider's fees were $1.99 per minute, I turned my phone off.
Month of March: The Bermuda Film Festival
The limestone entrance at Elbow Beach Resort in Paget Parish Photo: Susan Fogwell
Flora and fauna at Elbow Beach Resort Photo: Susan Fogwell
A Moon Gate at Elbow Beach Photo:JH Fogwell
Elbow Beach Resort - Photo: Susan Fogwell
Elbow Beach Resort perched on a hill overlooking the Atlantic - Photo: Susan Fogwell
Follow Susan Fogwell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Susan_Fogwell