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Our 50-year love affair with Bermuda

Enduring love: repeat visitors Gordon and Joan Stevenson(Photograph supplied)

Fifty years ago, Joan and Gordon Stevenson sealed their love for each other — and Bermuda.

Although originally from Scotland, they started a new life in Canada after they married in the summer of 1967.

Bermuda was the antidote to the homesickness caused by leaving their friends and family behind.

“A teaching colleague of mine suggested that we take a trip to explore somewhere warmer and different,” Mrs Stevenson said. “Bermuda was that somewhere and we booked for a week’s stay at Willowbank, which, unbeknown to us, was a Christian hotel for guests.”

As religion played “a significant part” in their lives, the Sandys hotel was a perfect match for the couple.

From there, they explored iconic Bermuda landmarks and “each and every little cut off the main road”.

“Bermuda was a very different place 50 years ago,” Mrs Stevenson said. “The roads were quiet and driving on the left was not an issue for us since we had grown up in Britain.

“Devil’s Hole, the Bermudiana Hotel, the old Perfume Factory, the original Teddy Tucker museum where we saw the cross that mysteriously disappeared so many years ago, are all gone now. The nightclubs with limbo dancing, female impersonators and island music with steel bands were so unique, fun and joyful on that first visit.”

The retired teachers, who are now in their 70s, returned in 1977. They also came back in 1995 and 2005, for their 50th and 60th birthday celebrations.

In 2010 they fell in love with Newstead Belmont Hills and the idea of fractional ownership. They’ve spent two months here every year since.

“We finally have our piece of this island gem,” Mrs Stevenson said.

Their morning read of The Royal Gazette is typically followed by a walk along the Railway Trail to Elbow Beach. The Toronto couple share their Bermuda tips with any tourists they meet along the way.

“I tell people that foot and ferry are the best ways to see the island,” Mrs Stevenson said. “The ferry is the most beautiful way to go but if you can walk, that’s the best way to get around. If you can get on the Railway Trail you can see an enormous amount of the island from there.”

While many of the landmarks they visited on their first trip have faded into memory, the couple continues to discover and create new traditions.

A visit in 2008 was mostly memorable for the recession that had taken hold of the island however the Stevensons discovered the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art that year. The Paget building had only recently been transformed from an arrowroot factory into a space designed specifically to showcase art.

The museum now holds a special place in their hearts, despite the Stevensons having visited some of the best around the world. They also enjoy the relationship they now have with its founder, Tom Butterfield.

“Tom’s knowledge of art, art history and its significance to his country is boundless. What is more important is his ability to share this with passion, enthusiasm, fun and a sense of adventure through his Sherlock Holmes-style detective journey,” said Mrs Stevenson.

Her husband added: “Growing up, our children were in museums, at the theatre and exploring different cultures. I really encourage museums to get parents to bring their children from a young age and let them experience the art without asking anything of them. You can learn so much about life from art and that there is no right or wrong as it’s very subjective. There’s room for personal growth and opinions that no one can deny. They can experience these things to make opinions of their own and not be afraid to speak up.”

Hard work over the past 50 years has paid off for their marriage, the Stevensons believe.

“The harder you work at it the greater the reward,” said Mr Stevenson. “There have been a lot of lows and highs but we always have communicated with each other. We grew up together and matured together and from the very start we always considered each other’s opinions. I don’t think a lot of couples do that anymore.”