On July 9, 2016, beloved Bermudian figure Johnny Barnes passed away. The 93-year-old Barnes wasn’t a politician or a local sports icon. In a way, he was much more than that — every weekday morning, rain or shine, Barnes (or “Mr. Happy,” as he was lovingly referred) would stand at the same spot on the Crow Lane Roundabout for hours, simply waving and saying, “I love you,” to whomever went by.
Barnes was immortalized in a Desmond Fountain-erected statue in 1998 and a soul-pleasing short film, Mr. Happy Man, from Matt Morris in 2011, but it’s his peerless smile and kiss-blowing gestures that will forever live in the hearts of Bermuda natives and vacationers fortunate enough to have been greeted by him. Mr. Happy personified what’s so special about this island.
When you arrive at L. F. Wade International Airport for your weekend getaway, make sure the cab driver takes you past Mr. Happy’s statue. It’s in the general direction of your hotel, Elbow Beach Bermuda, anyway. Hop out for a quick picture if you’d like, but we’re sure Barnes would be pleased with a simple smile as you drove by.
The grin should get even wider as you make your way up the private road to the property. A 98-room hotel plopped on 50 verdant acres, Elbow Beach operated under the guidance of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group before reopening as an independent entity in early 2014.
Because of its position on a slight hill, the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel doesn’t really have any bad accommodations — you may be farther from the waves in the Lanai rooms, but you can certainly still hear them. Still, if you have your druthers, score the Bird of Paradise cottage, 1,200 square feet of vaulted ceilings, coastal colors and uninterrupted looks onto the sand.
After taking in the smell of the hibiscus flowers and the sounds of the petrels, grab a taxi for the short ride over to the capital city of Hamilton. Get dropped off for lunch at Harbourfront Restaurant, a pleasant eatery where you can nibble on rockfish and Bermuda chowder (fish, onions, tomatoes, lots of love and spices) while watching small boats float by.
When you finish, walk down Front Street, one of downtown’s most vital arteries. With the water on your left, peek your head into the shops along the right side. Even if you merely browse by Astwood Dickinson jewelry or Lusso clothier, you owe it to yourself (and your spouse) to pull out your credit card once you get to Lili Bermuda, a perfumery that should be considered a national treasure in its own pear-flower-scented right.
Next, hail a cab toward the Royal Naval Dockyard. Ask your driver about how preparations for the 2017 America’s Cup are going. He should know all about the 10-acre America’s Cup Village being erected in the dockyard’s South Basin. He’ll tell you that, when construction completes, the massive man-made space will house stages, docks and more for next June’s yachting spectacle.
If your feet are up to it, do a little housewares shopping at Bermuda Clayworks before walking around the National Museum of Bermuda across the street. However, if you only have the energy for one activity, go to the museum—trust us, the perfume you purchased earlier will be more than enough of a souvenir.
Inside the museum, which is housed in Bermuda’s largest fort, you’ll find all sorts of reminders to the country’s nautical past, from exhibits that look at the evolution of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to an impressive collection of shipwrecked artifacts that date back to the early 1500s. (Tip: Your Facebook followers will appreciate you finding the statue of Neptune and taking a picture with it.)
You’ll also want to head to the top of the fort for 360-degree views of the stunning waters, dockyard and hidden pockets of sand where locals lay out. We’re certain it’s sights like these that made Mr. Happy so proud of his homeland.
By now, you’ll be pretty drained, so head back to the luxury hotel. In addition to anticipatory service and amenity-filled lodging, Elbow Beach Bermuda prides itself on its food and beverage options. Have a pre- or post-dinner drink at Sea Breeze. If you elect to pair your libation with, say, some Mediterranean olives or even some cucumber sushi, we wouldn’t bat an eyelash. However, if you got to Café Lido for dinner and don’t order the grilled tuna and prawns (or some other seafood entrée), you might get the side eye.
You’re on vacation so, technically, you could sleep in — but if you do that, you’ll miss one of the most breathtaking sunrises on the Atlantic. Get a closer look with a morning swim. Too much too early? Stay snuggled until your 10 a.m. reservation at The Spa at Elbow Beach.
As you walk down the stairs to the main sanctuary, a sense of calm will come over you and you won’t know whether it’s from the pineapple-mango scrub’s aroma or the gentle sounds of nature in the speakers. Either way, Amanda or one of the other masseuses will ensure that your muscles are ready for the day ahead.
Pop by Mickey’s Beach Bistro for barbecue chicken wings and a beer before leaving the property. Once you’re in the taxi, head north toward St. George’s Parish. The historic town of St. George, Bermuda’s original capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with old landmarks (St. David’s Lighthouse) and older buildings (Carter House).
In case those structures aren’t charming enough, the town is also home to St. Peter’s, Their Majesties Chappell, the oldest-operating Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere. Walk across the street from the chapel to find museums, gift shops and cute little places for a snack.
We’re hoping you don’t eat too much, though, because you still have a dinner commitment at Little Venice at 7 p.m. Freshen up back at your room because you want to look your beachy best at this prized Hamilton haunt.
For more than 40 years, this dining room has been filled with a mix of locals and outsiders, neither ever tiring of ordering glasses of 2010 Barolo DaGromis Gaja and plates of gnocchi Sorrentina. (What? You didn’t know Bermudians knew how to cook Bolognese?)
But it’s more than pasta that keeps people coming back to Little Venice. After witnessing how managers approach every table with small talk and big smiles — essentially, they’re showing the same kind of love that Mr. Happy did every day — you begin to realize that something else is being cooked up in Bermuda.