In the four times I’ve visited Bermuda, I’ve had the privilege to either stay at, dine at or celebrate at The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. Being a fan of Fairmont and Fairmont managed properties (such as this one), I felt very much at home at what the locals affectionately call “The Pink Palace.” Friendly, down-to-earth people work there, not letting the fact that they are within the walls of a grand dame rich with history give them lofty airs. Oh, and if those walls could talk.
They might quote Samuel Clemons aka Mark Twain, espousing his ideas of virtues while in his regular rocking chair on the veranda watching the world go by. They might spout a lyric from John Lennon’s Double Fantasy (he spent a couple of months on the island writing his seminal album), or might give away a secret recipe from many top chefs who have cooked here.
But perhaps they would also speak volumes as they allow one of the world’s most incredible private collections of modern art to simply hang out and be. And to me, that’s what Bermuda itself is all about, too.
All the best (art) people are here: Warhol, Kaws, Banksy – even Mandela have made their artistic mark with paintings, sculptures and other media. For this property located in the island’s largest city, modern artists are a key draw. Living among them is a bit mind-blowing; one minute you’ll want to take Ai Weiwei’s “Untitled” hollow wooden sphere in the lobby for a roll, the next, you’ll want to shake hands with Kaws’ 2-storey “At This Time, Companion Series” (or what I affectionately call the giant mouse) sculpture out in the courtyard. And don’t get me started on me suppressing the urge to hug “Miffy,” by Tom Sachs, a larger-than-human-sized white bunny sculpture tucked neatly in the curve of a staircase.
Just next to the staircase is the entrance to the newly minted Intrepid, the steak and seafood house that takes its moniker from the code name for Sir William Stephenson, who was based in Bermuda during the Second World War and was an acquaintance of Sir Ian Fleming. The author – James Bond, 007 is his creation – met Stephenson in Jamaica, and used the “spy” as inspiration for his famous character.
Under the direction of executive chef Antwan Ellis, formerly cooking in the kitchens at some of Walt Disney World’s best dining spots, he’s added his own twist to what modern Atlantic cuisine can be. Seafood, raw bar and steaks are the stars here, the American grill matched with helpings of Asian and Cajun flavours tossed into the mix. The decor, a nod to the Art Deco days gone by, feels luxe and modern at the same time, and the night we’re there, the bar, with it’s ceiling-height, bottle-lined glass and brass shelves, glows, reflecting the standing room only clientele of locals and guests having a nightcap. Themed cocktails come in wonderfully whimsical containers – an oversized catrina skull with a tequila concoction was on the menu – you’ll find me, however, sipping on a Princess 75, a fizzy refresher made with The Botanist Gin, guava, fresh lemon juice and Moët Chandon rosé.
But it wouldn’t be Bermuda without a visit to the pink sand beaches, so a trip to the hotel’s exclusive Princess Beach Club on Sinky Bay gives a good dose of water therapy. And it’s as simple as catching a ride on the shuttle out front. No dress code required, just flip flops, sunscreen and a smile are the essentials. The water at the Beach Club is all pastel, sky and turquoise blues at once, and many bathers are trying their luck with stand up paddle boards. There are a few hammocks that hover just above the surf; as the tide comes in, the ropes dip and provide a refreshing splash of sea on sun-soaked skin. A short walk up the shore, I discover the rock pools, big-sized puddles of stunning seagreen water that’s washed and refreshed with every wave. The water is warmer than the ocean, gently made so by the sun and the reflection of the dark rocks that surround the pools.
On a Saturday morning tour with a local gallerist of some of the 70+ works on display, I learned that it’s all part of the personal collection of the hotel’s owners – some 300 artworks strong – and rotates once a year. There are, however, a few that permanently stake their place on the walls (Jeff Koons’ “Monkey (Blue) takes pride of place over the lobby fireplace), the hallways (spot Girl with Balloon by Banksy), and the lawns – like the Kaws, as well as one of Yayoi Kusama’s joyous spotted pumpkins. Andy Warhol’s set of three “Reigning Queens: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, 1985,” welcomes guests at the front desk, a greeting fit for, well, the Princess. thehamiltonprincess.com