‘Above and beyond kindness’ keeps couple coming back
Kevin Chapman suffered the worst sunburn of his life on his first trip to Bermuda 40 years ago.
He was on his honeymoon with his wife, Sharon, and agreed to tough out the pain so they could tour the island as a couple.
The bus driver saw he was in agony and took pity on him.
“He pulled the bus over,” Mr Chapman said. “Then he jumped out and snapped some aloe for me. He said, ‘You need this.’”
It’s just one example of the “above and beyond” kindness that the couple say keeps them coming back.
The Chapmans have visited at least 30 times since their honeymoon in 1983. Their most recent trip was in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary on May 21.
“We had swizzles at the Swizzle Inn, met friends at The White Horse Pub in St George, and bought some celebratory jewellery for Sharon at Davidrose in Hamilton,” Mr Chapman said.
“We even got in some beach time and dipped our toes in the water inside the cave at Grotto Bay. We had a really nice time.”
The New Jersey couple have tried visiting other islands over the years.
Hawaii was just too far to fly from Newark; the Caribbean was nice, in its own way.
“But in the end, we just keep coming back to Bermuda,” said Mr Chapman, a lawyer and writer.
His wife loves that the island is “so beautiful and clean”. “I have been on public buses on other islands but it is not the same kind of experience,” she said. “I just feel so much more at home and calm and happy in Bermuda, so we tend to come back.”
The couple met the first week of their freshman year at Columbia University in New York, and were engaged the next year. Bermuda seemed a natural choice for their honeymoon because Mrs Chapman had fallen in love with it when she visited on a cruise ship with her parents.
“It was 1973 and there was only one stop light in Bermuda,” she said. “Bermuda still had an officer directing traffic in the Birdcage on Front Street. There was just something about the island that we loved. Everyone was just so lovely and so gracious.”
Things are busier now, with more traffic, Mrs Chapman said. Forty years ago Dockyard had not yet been developed as a tourist attraction.
“There was nothing commercial there,” she said. “That is the biggest change we have seen. It is so vibrant there. It is also convenient because you can hop on the ferry and go into Hamilton. We have stayed at a lot of different places. We loved the Sonesta Beach Hotel before they got rid of it.”
One thing that has remained constant is Bermudians’ friendly attitude.
“Everyone goes the extra mile,” she said.
Their favourite restaurant is the Swizzle Inn but they also like the Frog & Onion Pub and Restaurant. When the weather is good they love taking a sunset cocktail cruise or touring Hamilton with Ed Christopher, the Town Crier.
“He is such a wonderful guy and always gives a straight answer to different questions,” Mr Chapman said. “He does not sugar coat things.”
They took a cruise here one year but ran into stormy weather. The ship turned around and went back to New York without docking.
“We were disappointed but still had a fun time,” said Mr Chapman, who used the island as a backdrop for his book Lethal Voyage.
Published in 2020, it is about a murder on a cruise ship travelling from New York to Bermuda.
“A substantial amount of the book takes place in Bermuda, after the ship docked,” he said. “It was so much fun writing a story about Bermuda.”
Mr Chapman signed copies of Lethal Voyage at Brown & Co while he was here.
“I signed all my books that are in stock on the shelves there,” Mr Chapman said. “Anybody who buys them will now get one autographed by the author and dated 5/20/23 – Hamilton, Bermuda.”
Mrs Chapman, who works in compliance, has taken part in many road races here, the last being the Zooma Bermuda half-marathon in February 2020.
She started running years ago when the doctor advised her to lose weight. The hills almost destroyed her when she ran her first Zooma 10K in 2008.
“But two years later I wanted to do it again,” she said.
As much as the couple love coming to Bermuda their biggest challenge, sometimes, is just getting here, particularly in the off-season.
“We would have come for New Year’s Eve but there were no non-stop flights from Newark,” Mrs Chapman said. “This time we flew out of Newark and it was fine. During the summer time it is not a problem but in the winter it is more of an issue.”
One of the most important lessons Mr Chapman has learnt came out of his first visit: “I always wear sunscreen now,” he laughed.