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'Bermuda- An Island Paradise'

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Bermuda- An Island Paradise
by
Tom Holbrook

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Judy and I had a tremendous get away to the island of Bermuda several weeks ago and it was a wonderful place to visit. It is small in size, approximately 21 miles long and 2 miles wide and currently has 68,000 residents. That compares with 25,000 back in the 50s. The water is two or three beautiful shades of blue, and the sand is pink. The entire island is comprised of one huge rock of coral with niches cut out to hold the many new hotels, residence clubs and accompanying well-groomed golf courses.

Tourism is Bermuda’s main infusion of cash and the residents are very friendly throughout the island. There are no car rental companies because the roads are too narrow and parking spaces are non-available. The law only allows one automobile per household and the speed limit throughout the island is 20 mph, or roughly 40 kilometers per hour. Many own or rent mopeds and/or scooters, which remind me so much of Italy’s swarm of little wasps darting in and out of traffic. It’s more efficient to drive one of the mopeds because when we were there the average price per gallon (not liter) of gas was $9.65. By the way, the exchange rate for American dollars to Bermuda dollars is 1 to 1. With all the restrictions and laws in Bermuda it is only natural that taxis are the transportation of choice and this month a permanent 25% increase in mandatory taxi fees will take effect.

While the brilliant green foliage, the multi-colored water and sand, and golf course fairways were beautiful, the thing that stood out in Bermuda to me were the stunning white roofs on all the buildings. Although there are some more modern roofs on commercial buildings that are other than white, 95% or better have the gleaming white, limestone (concrete) roofing systems demanded by law. They look especially beautiful on top of the many pastel-colored homes and buildings that are prominent in Bermuda.

For almost 400 years this type of roof has been the preferred system of covering the buildings. The Carter House in St. George’s, Bermuda was the first Bermuda Roof that was installed. The driver who took us on our tour of the Island told us that the roof design and weight makes it almost impervious to the often felt hurricane force winds that come through the area, while the unique construction of the roofs allows them to collect the much-needed water. He said because it takes approximately 30-gallons of fresh water per person, per day, in Bermuda, and there are approximately 68,000 full-time residents, the law requires that every house must collect at least 80 percent of the water that falls on the roof and store it in a private cistern under each house. Literally, there is no source for fresh water in Bermuda. Our driver said the cistern beneath his home holds around 32,000 gallons of water and only in the direst of circumstances has he ever come close to running out of water in the 60 years he’s lived in the house.

The slide-show of photos provided with this article shows some examples of the ingenious roof designs that are, literally, all over the island. The builders use local limestone slabs (‘slates’) mortared together on a hip—roof, with more mortar applied on the tops and edges of the slates. The roofs look like a gathering of steps that are all sending water down in a slower rate to the edges of the roof where it is collected in a long concrete trough/gutter, which carries the water into the filtering pipe leading to the cistern. The entire roof is then covered with a very thin coat of white cement.

The roofs were so vividly white I asked our driver how often they were re-painted. He said the law requires roofs to be painted at least every 2-3 years with a special non-toxic paint similar to a traditional lime wash, which helps clean and filter the rainwater as it travels to the cistern. Again, check the slide-show accompanying this article to see examples of the roofs.

Bermuda is a tiny, but demanding, island paradise, to those who live there, and who work extremely hard to keep it prosperous and beautiful for those of us who travel there to revel in its beauty. I want everyone who reads this to understand that Bermuda nowhere near compares to the squalor-ridden, crime filled Caribbean islands with which we are all familiar. It is a clean, safe, prosperous, well-governed paradise that awaits your visit with open arms.

I’ll end with these words of wisdom... “Be someone who makes you happy!”

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