Unless people have seen the pink sands and blue waters of Bermuda for themselves, they might not understand why Mark Twain once declared: “You go to heaven if you want -- I’d rather stay here in Bermuda.”

Visitors find a dreamy island landscape, pleasant weather and distinctive blend of Old World and New World cultures. Settled by the English, Bermuda remains loyal to the British crown. Its English heritage can be seen throughout the islands, from judges who don powdered wigs for trials to businessmen in Bermuda shorts, a legacy of the British army, which adopted the garment in the 20th century to deal with the oppressive weather of the tropics. Here in Bermuda, the shorts are not a fashion statement but an everyday uniform, worn with a jacket and tie.

The population of Bermuda is around 64,500. Since the late 18th century, people of African descent have made up the majority and comprise about 60 percent of Bermudans. Many of them are descendants of slaves brought over from the British West Indies. The rest of the population consists of Europeans (mostly Brits, then Portuguese) and the offspring of American Indians who also were forced into slavery. The language is a marriage of British and North American English combined with various West Indian dialects.

Bermuda is located less than 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina, and this proximity to North America has influenced the cuisine, which uses ingredients imported from the United States and Canada. It also borrows from spicy, well-seasoned Jamaican and West Indian flavors, making for a satisfying blend. Take Bermuda’s famous fish chowder, seasoned with curry powder (a West Indies influence), Worcestershire sauce (English) and peppers (Jamaica) and local black rum and sherry pepper sauce. Fish is the main ingredient in many Bermudan dishes and is eaten any time of the day. A typical Sunday breakfast is salted codfish with potatoes and local bananas.

English heritage is a cornerstone of Bermuda, where cricket is the game of choice and many churchgoers are Anglicans. The African influence can be found in the island’s music and dance, such as calypso and reggae. Altogether, this destination’s diverse cultures define what is uniquely Bermudan.

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