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We have a super special treat for you today! The Little Mail Carriers have visited the Postal History Foundation in Arizona (USA), and are here to show the important work they do there, bringing stamps (and excitement!) to classrooms. Let’s go!

The Postal History Foundation (PHF for short) is located just west of the University of Arizona, in a residential neighborhood in central Tucson. It’s a non-profit organization with a dual mission of research and education: they provide stamps and lessons to students across the country and the world! We were excited to hear about this cool initiative… so we invited ourselves over for a visit. 😊

The Little Mail Carriers visit the Postal History Foundation

The building was a church many decades ago but now holds a workroom, a contract US Postal Service station, a museum area, the philatelic sales area, and the education department… as well as millions of postage stamps! We were going to deliver some mail to the postmaster, but were immediately distracted by the beautiful old post office in their museum section of the building, which is located just straight ahead across the lobby.

The Old Naco Post Office

This old post office is from the town of Naco, Arizona, which is on the southern border of Arizona and Mexico. It was originally ordered as a kit and set up in a building in Naco in the 1890s. All the wood, glass, and metal parts are the original ones! Normally, the Old Naco Post Office is very popular during tours and also with the students in their field trips, but sadly these are suspended because of the pandemic.

Inside the Old Naco Post Office Inside the Old Naco Post Office

We got to see their old hand cancelling machines, self-serve stamp dispensers and even an old letter sorting box (the wooden structure that looks like a grid) from the town of Casa Grande. Above in the mail sorting box are some scales for weighing mail. Below you can see a collection of hand stamps from around the state, such as “Special Delivery” or “Return to Sender.”

Special rubber stamps and cancellation marks

After looking at all of the cool machines in the Old Naco Post Office we decided to go to the current USPS contract station, which is in a little room off of the lobby. When going into the post office, we walked past more post office boxes from Naco that were preserved for viewing in the lobby. Here, you’ll also find a vintage pedestal USPS postal box — we put a donation in there to help with the kids educational program. We delivered our mail and looked at all the current US stamps for sale. The colorful stamps at our feet are the new Lunar New Year stamps. Did you know that 2021 is the year of the ox?

Post office and stamps at the PHF Stamp Discovery program

The kids program at the PHF is called Stamp Discovery. Every year it supports over 13,000 students and teachers across the United States and other countries with stamps, and lessons using stamps. Of course, this year has been a little different because of the pandemic, but it was still interesting to see the variety of lessons that teachers and parents can order for their students. In the education file room, they are stacked on top of the files, in shelves at the left and the right of us. These boxes contain lessons and stamp packets for students. If a teacher orders a lesson, for example, “Three Branches of US Government”, the teacher receives a worksheet that they can copy for their students, and stamp packets for each student to use with the lesson.

Lesson plans and stamp cabinets

Above you can see the filing cabinets that line the room and continue into another room. They contain US stamps filed by Scott number and also foreign stamps sorted by topics. If a child wants “dogs” to add to their stamp collection, they can write a letter or fill out the order form online, and the people who work and/or volunteer here will send her/him some dogs on stamps. The volunteers who work here are super heroes — they are what enables the education program to function and support so many children and teachers! During a normal year, students would visit the museum for field trips and the director of Stamp Discovery would visit classrooms in the city and suburbs of Tucson. Several of the libraries in Tucson have stamp treasure chests, which inspire kids that visit the library to learn about stamps and the topics on them by checking out books connected with stamp topics.

We walked into the big room off of the lobby and saw all the desks where the sorting and processing of donations happen. The PHF receives philatelic donations almost daily in the mail or by people who drop them off. Volunteers sort through and distribute stamps to the education department for the kids and some of the higher value stamps are put in the sales department for collectors to buy.

Owney the mail dog!

Proceeds from the sale of stamps in our philatelic sales department are used to pay for the running of the facility and the education program. Stamps, postcards, and collectible covers are sold there. People donate to PHF because it is a non-profit that inspires kids to learn with stamps and start a collection, thus growing the hobby of stamp collecting, called philately.

Also, we were allowed to go into a display case and visit Owney the famous Mail Dog in US history. There are special pictures, statues, and covers about Owney in the case. It is near the Old Naco Post office so that when the kids tour the old post office they can say hello to Owney, the stuffed dog, and learn about his history from the 1890s. Many books have been written about Owney and the education program has lessons about him. His books are also in the library, which is our next stop!

Sales department at the PHF

After talking to volunteers and looking at the processing room, we went out the side door to the patio. The PHF also includes a second building which is the Slusser Memorial Library. This is a modern building dedicated to Peggy Slusser, a lady who lived and worked in Tucson. This building contains a basement full of archives, a reading room, and the stacks of books. Behind the doors to the right are over 30,000 books and journals about philatelic history and the US Civil War. This library is used by researchers, collectors, authors, and of course, school children during field trips. On the walls of the library are paintings commissioned for the library about western adventures in postal history and an exhibit case. You can learn more about the library exhibits and paintings on the museum section of their website.

Slusser Memorial Library

Well, our visit has come to an end. We were amazed at all of the stamps, donations, and the children’s program. The Old Naco PO is a little unique gem of postal history and the library is first class. Exploring around the world is fun, and if you can’t physically travel, you can explore the world through stamp collecting. We’re glad the Postal History Foundation is around to help children everywhere do just that!

Goodbye, Postal History Foundation!

Our huge thank you to Lisa Dembowski, PHF’s Director of Education who graciously took the time to show the Little Mail Carriers around. That was a really cool trip, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll go next!

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Where were we? When we last heard from the Little Mail Carriers, they were exploring colorful Manila… but there’s still so much to see from the Philippines! So today they’re back with the second and final report of their adventures in this fascinating country. Enjoy!

Our host Jom (aka jugatmos) had told us about the Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros, and we were really looking forward to it! Hundreds of thousands of Marian devotees and more than a hundred images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from different parts of the Philippines are paraded around the old city of Manila, in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The procession has been taking place since 1619, so for over 400 years — that first year, it lasted 15 days. The procession of beautifully and elaborately-adorned floats (called carrozas) bearing the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary starts at 4pm in front of Manila Cathedral and slowly makes its way through the streets of the Walled City.Have a look!

 The Little Mail Carriers check out the Grand Marian Procession
Note: these photos and videos were taken in December 2019 — the procession was cancelled in 2020.

On the left above, Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu accompanied by the parishioners from San Mateo, Rizal presented to the late Don Ado Escudero, patron of Intramuros and creative master of Villa Escudero with Cofradia de la Inmaculada Conception, Inc. Chairman and 2020 Gawad CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) awardee Danny Dolor.

On the right, the image displayed in front of the cathedral, a 19th century Philippine-made reproduction of the lost centuries-old La Purisma Concepcion of the old San Francisco Church in Intramuros that was destroyed during the Second World War.

Below you can see the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (Birhen ng Hapis), carried by the parishioners of Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish Church in front of the cathedral landing. The Laguna town of Pakil celebrates the September fiesta of their image, which is a small painting of the Sorrowful Virgin, with a frenzied dance procession that is believed to be another relic of pre-Christian times. The word “turumba” is from the Tagalog phrase “natumba sa laki ng tuwa” or ‘falling over in great joy’. You can see some of their dance here.

The Little Mail Carriers check out the Grand Marian Procession
Note: these photos and videos were taken in December 2019 — the procession was cancelled in 2020.

It is super impressive, and it goes on for hours! Our host Jom has been designing the event’s souvenir book for the past 10 years, and he usually comes in very early to Intramuros to deliver hundreds of copies to the committee. These are then distributed amongst the carroza owners.

Marian Procession and booklet
Nuestra Señora de la O, said to be a gift from King Carlos III of Spain, is presented among the Cofradia members and guests.

Recovered from all the excitement, we set off to explore Makati city, which felt super fancy! The 350-year-old city is busy with life — from shopping malls, restaurants and business hubs, it’s no wonder that the city holds the most coveted zip code. Indeed, Makati is known to be the classiest city of the Philippines most notably for the residents’ perpetually bustling, busy and ultra-modern lifestyle.

Views of Makati city

Makati got its name from an old tagalog word, “makati”, meaning receding tide. The city was bought for the hefty sum of 52,800 Philippine pesos in 1851 by an ancestor of Zobel de Ayala. Since then, the development of Makati has remained linked with the Ayala family, who has continued to develop the area over the years and as a result, continues to exert influence within the city. Colonised by the Spaniards and the Americans, Makati today is considered as somewhat of a Christian melting pot with so many of its denominations finding its home here.

Views of Makati city

Makati’s population fluctuates at various points of the day. By nighttime, the city has more than half a million residents, but the population can easily balloon up to five million during the daytime as people from neighbouring cities converge in Makati for either work or leisure!

But… how does one get around such a busy place? Turns out, pedicabs and jeepneys are never far away, and they’re super convenient to use!

Jeepneys and Pedicabs

The jeepney (on the left) is a favorite mode of public transportation in the Philippines, also known as “king of the road”. It was made from the surplus jeeps by the Americans left behind during the second World War. The lack of transportation at that time forced the Filipinos to get creative: they gutted and expanded the passenger seats into two rows. The real ones are usually adorned with decorations — we spotted some.

As iconic as the jeepney can be, on the other hand, the pedicab is a small road wonder, an ordinary bicycle that maneuvers a small carriage attached to it. It may look small and primitive but the job it accomplishes in the Pinoy’s everyday routine is enormous. It can ferry about four people to places where access to other public transportation is scarce. The pedicab is one of the most peculiar symbols of the Filipino culture, one that represents ingenuity and spiritedness. And, bonus points: they match the colors of our uniforms! 😍

Ayala Triangle Gardens

Using our jeepney and pedicab, we drove to Ayala Triangle, a park shaped like a triangle that sits right in the center of Makati city. Until the 1950s, this was the Nielsen field, Manila’s pre-World War II airport. After the airfield was closed, it remained a barren open space until it was developed more recently. Two old runways became new avenues framing a calming and beautiful contemporary oasis at the center of the Philippine business community.

This area is brimming with art sculptures, statues and important memorials. We briefly joined the revolution with General Pio del Pilar, who led a group of independentists when the Philippine Revolution broke out in the 1890s. Pio del Pilar was then a resident of an area called Culi-Culi, and as a result of his revolutionary efforts, the general has a barangay (a small district) in Makati named after him.

General Pio del Pilar and Narra tree

We took a rest on the trunk of a narra tree, Philippine’s national tree. The narra symbolises the Filipino people’s indomitable spirit and strength of character, thus the narra’s characteristics of sturdiness and durability.

Did you know that Makati is the selfie capital of the world? We tried taking a few, but it’s not our strong suit.😅 We’re at the Peninsula Manila, a hotel nicknamed “The Pen”. Built in 1976, its lobby quickly became the place “to see and be seen” of Manila’s who’s who, even military tanks have been seen coming through the front door, creating unforgettable memories and witnessed the variety of life in all its drama and excitement.

Little Mail Carriers selfies

Time magazine once categorised the Pen’s special dessert, Halo-Halo Harana (above, on the right), as the world’s “Best Legal High”, so of course we had to give it a try under the iconic ‘Sunburst’ sculpture by National Artist for Sculpture and Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture Napoleon Abueva. Halo-Halo Harana is a mouthwatering mix of macapuno, jackfruit, kaong, nata de coco, sweet beans, garbanzos, pinipig (pounded rice flakes) and ube topped with shaved ice topped with leche flan and ube royal ice cream; a type of Filipino ice cream, is typically made with creamy buffalo milk and purple yam. It’s an amazingly delicious yet complex dish, which seems to reflect in itself the nation’s complex history.

Meeting with Lulu Tesoro Castañeda

We jumped at the opportunity to meet and chat with Atty. Lulu Tesoro Castañeda, who told us about her mother, the late Doña Salud S. Tesoro. Doña Salud was the “Mother of Philippine Handicrafts”, a souvenir trade pioneer and a patron of local crafts. She was so influential that postage stamps were issued to celebrate her centenary, in 2015.

A visit to the Philippines would not be complete without a visit to the Tesoros shop, so we took our time browsing the lovely souvenirs!

Visiting the Tesoros shop

It’s almost time leave, and we’re a little sad at the prospect. To cheer us up, our host has been preparing a balikbayan box, so we can enjoy a little bit of the Philippines when we’re back home. 😊 Also called “repatriation box”, it’s a normal cardboard box containing all sorts of items sent by Filipinos overseas (also known as balikbayans) to their loved ones, returning back home. Oftentimes it is carried with their luggage or they send it to couriers that specialise in sending these boxes. The word itself “balikbayan” means ‘returning to one’s country’.

Packing the balikbayan box

Finally, we went to Makati Central Post Office, where Ms. Natz stamped our passport and declared us ready to leave the country. Sigh… Time for that last slice of buko pie (aka coconut pie) and off we go to new adventures!

Enjoying a last slice of buko pie

Thank you so much to Jom for this amazing report, and for taking good care of the little guys during the lockdown. Off they go… who knows where they’ll pop up next? 😊

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We’ve just received an unexpected report from the Little Mail Carriers, all the way from the Philippines! We don’t know exactly when they were there as mail has been slow to leave the country in the past year… but we’re definitely not complaining — there’s so much to see in this amazing country, and it’s a treat to get a glimpse of it through the eyes of our little intrepid wanderers. Join us for another fantastic report of their travels!

Our host Jom (aka jugatmos) told us that the late Carlos Celdran (a popular cultural activist and performance artist) used to say: “If you can’t find beauty and poetry in Manila, you’ll never find it anywhere.”

Manila is commonly used to refer to the whole metropolitan area (Metro Manila), which includes not just Manila City itself but also Makati, Quezon City and 14 other cities, merged together in a huge metropolitan area. Today we’re focusing on the City of Manila itself, the place with most of the historical and iconic landmarks in the Philippines.

Little P waves in front of the National Museum of Anthropology

In order to learn more about the history and culture of the country, we’ll make a stop at the National Museum of the Philippines, which is actually a group of different museums housing the nation’s treasures. First on our list is the National Museum of Anthropology, formerly known as the Museum of the Filipino People, located in the Rizal Park.

Laguna Copperplate inscription

Here we can see the Laguna Copperplate, a document that shows the use of mathematics, inscribed in the Shaka year 822 (corresponding to Monday, April 21, 900 AD) and the earliest known calendar-dated document used within the Philippines Islands. This document is demonstrative of pre-Hispanic literacy and culture, and is considered to be a national treasure.

Baybayin writing script

Baybayin can be seen on the windows of the museum! Have you heard of it before? This is one of the Philippines many ancient writing systems, used before the popularization of Latin characters in the archipelago.

Filipino traditional dresses Filipino traditional dresses

And look at that these traditional attires — they’re made of piña, which are the fibers from pineapple leaves. Early Filipino clothing used several different fibers, including piña, jusi and abaca. The Maria Clara gown on the right, sometimes referred to as Filipiniana dress or traje de mestiza, is a traditional dress worn by women in the Philippines. It is composed of four different parts: a blouse, a long skirt, a cloth to wear over the shoulders, and a knee-length over-skirt.

Fabric weaving demonstration

Live demonstrations of fabric weaving from the Maranao and Maguindanao people were taking place on the day of our visit, to a really interested crowd — look at how colorful those fabrics are!

After the National Museum of Anthropology, we took a detour to the National Museum of Fine Arts, to marvel at its architecture and take a peek at some famous paintings…

National Museum of Fine Arts — architectural details National Museum of Fine Arts — architectural details

…like the “Parisian Life” by Filipino painter and revolutionary activist Juan Luna, or “The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines” by visual artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco. This mural was specially commissioned for the entrance of Philippine General Hospital and was later declared a national cultural treasure.

The Parisian Life The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines

The last stop on our Museum tour is the Museum of Natural History, a building with striking architecture where we met Lolong, the world’s largest crocodile to ever be measured. After he died in captivity in 2013, he was brought to the museum, where his remains were taxidermied.

Natural History Museum in Manila Natural History Museum in Manila - skeleton of Lolong

No visit to Manila would be complete without a stroll in Intramuros, the walled city within the city of Manila (intra = inside, muros = walls) which today remains rich and intact in its cultural significant. It was considered to be the educational and religious center in colonial times, where original campuses of the University of Santo Tomas (the oldest university in Asia) were once located. As Filipino writer Nick Joaquin would say, “Intramuros! The Old Manila. The original Manila. The noble and ever loyal city…”

Casa Manila in Intramuros Historical Café Barbara's

Inside the walls of Intramuros we stumbled on Casa Manila, a museum depicting colonial lifestyle during the Spanish colonization, which is a copy of an 1850s San Nicolas House that was once located in Calle Jaboneros. We took a rest at the packed heritage café Barbara’s nearby, before gearing up to visit the magnificent Manila cathedral as well as the San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Manila Cathedral San Agustin Church

Below you can see the gates of Fort Santiago. Built in 1590, it remains as one of the most important historical sites in Manila, as many significant events took place in it throughout the years.

Fort Santiago gates

One of these was the imprisonment of national hero Jose Rizal. Rizal’s writings partly inspired the Philippine Revolution, although he was not involved in its planning. He was held in Fort Santiago before being executed by the Spanish colonial government in 1896 for the crime of rebellion, and did not get to see his home country gain independence just 2 years later.

Jose Rizal cell at Fort Santiago Jose Rizal memorial steps

Rizal spent his last 24 hours in a chapel converted into a prison, before marching to his execution in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park). There’s a memorial trail that traces his steps to the park, which we followed as night fell. There we found Rizal Monument, the final resting place of this martyr.

Jose Rizal National Monument

Entitled "Motto Stella” (Guiding Star), the monument by Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling is composed of a standing bronze sculpture of Rizal in overcoat holding a book that represents his novels Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo, with an obelisk commonly understood as Rizal’s masonic background with its three stars standing for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao (the three main island groups), set on a granite stone base inside of which his remains are interred.

There are at least 118 Rizal monuments in the Philippines with an exact replica in Madrid, Spain. Other similar monuments can be found in Wilhelmsfeld (Germany), Jinjiang, Fujian (China), Cherry Hill Township (New Jersey), San Diego (California), and Seattle (Washington), Reforma Avenue in Mexico City (Mexico), La Molina in Lima (Peru), Litomerice (Czech Republic), and Singapore to name a few.

We were told the monument has a “photo bomber”, an ugly residential building that peeks out on the right side, spoiling a lot of the photos… So we’re glad we decided to take our selfie there at night! 😜

This report is getting long already, but there’s still so much more we have to show you, so much to discover in the Philippines… So stay tuned for further broadcasts!

PS – Our huge thank you to jugatmos for this fantastic report, and for taking the time to show the little guys around so many interesting places!

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You might be wondering where the Little Mail Carriers went after their magical cruise in the Bermudas last year! The little guys jumped over the water to Mexico city, where exciting adventures awaited them… but then the pandemic hit and everyone big and small had to shelter and keep safe. When things reopened though, they donned their tiny homemade masks, and went out to explore a very special place in the capital city of Mexico: the Palacio Postal, or Postal Palace. Here’s what they wrote back:

The Little Mail Carriers stand atop an old safe
The Post Master’s office had an original safe, with the name of the office: Correos de México.

Hola everyone! 👋 Postcrosser Rose (aka Rousita) is our host for what was supposed to be a short stop in Mexico city earlier last year, but ended up being a long adventure! When she invited us over, she mentioned a “palace for all postal services”, and we were immediately intrigued and eager to check it out… wouldn’t you be?

Palacio Postal's facade
The main facade of the building.

The history of this place goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, when there was an important increase of demand of all postal services in the country. The President of Mexico was Porfirio Diaz, who was inclined towards European style architecture, so in 1900 his government decided to build a large building, close to the main plaza of the city, called Zócalo.

Palacio Postal's very fancy staircase
The elegant staircase, made in Italy.

He appointed Adamo Boari, an Italian engineer, as the head designer and the first stone was set in 1902. As part of the crew was also Gonzalo Garita, Mexican engineer, who oversaw the design of the metal structure that sustains the building. It was inaugurated on February 17, 1907, just three years before the Revolution war started in Mexico.

Palacio Postal's very fancy staircase

The building was designed to be functional, but at the same time, very beautiful. The architectural style is Spanish Gothic Revival (Plateresco), with a lot of other styles mixed in, in a wonderfully eclectic mixture. One of the most beautiful sites is the main staircase, made of steel. It was crafted in Florence, Italy by Fonderia Pignone and assembled all in site. All public activities take place on the first floor and the postmaster’s office is on the second floor.

Old typewriter on the postmaster's desk
From the postmaster’s desk, he could see through the window when the train arrived from Veracruz and brought all the mail to be distributed daily.
Library and antique postal scales
The library was really beautiful, and we even got the chance to play on the scales!

We were surprised about the height and elegance of halls and offices, the library and the postmaster’s office. It’s really impressive that this building has continued to work as a post office, after a century. Probably one of the most beautiful post offices in the world, and it has even been featured in several postcards and stamps over the years!

A selection of themed postcards about the Palacio Postal

Now that Mexico Post has resumed operations, it’s time for us to jump to our next destination. Stay tuned for more adventures coming soon!

Thank you Rose for giving the little guys a tour of this majestic post office, and to her partner, Dr. Martin Checa-Artasu, for taking such nice photos and letting us use them in the post! 😍

If your post office is especially neat, or you’d like to host the Little Mail Carriers and show them around your town, let us know in the comments below. We’re always looking for new hosts and interesting things to see — bonus points if they’re postal-themed!

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Some time ago, the Little Mail Carriers hopped on a cruise to exotic Bermuda… and like many others in that mysterious area, seem to have gotten a little lost. 😅 Luckily, a report of their trip has recently resurfaced, so check out their dreamy photos and even some exclusive tips about the best way to experience Bermuda!

Wopnin (“what’s happening?” in Bermuda slang), friends! Nearly three years ago, Michaela (aka ChaelaMonstah) took us on cruise from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New Jersey (U.S.A) to Bermuda! We’re excited to finally tell you about our adventure to the “Devil’s Isles”.

The Little Mail Carriers on a cruise ship!

The Celebrity Summit cruise ship was our home for 7 fun nights. The ship was captained by Kate McCue – she was the first American woman (and fifth woman overall) to captain a cruise ship! She took the time to tell us about her 20+ year career and about her cat, Bug Naked, who is with her during every voyage. Captain McCue was very excited to learn about Postcrossing and we were as equally excited to meet her and learn about her very cool story!

After three fun days at sea, we arrived at the King’s Wharf port in Bermuda. We were only going to be in port for two days, so we made sure to book as many excursions as possible in order to see the full majesty of the Bermuda islands (Bermuda is an archipelago of 7 main islands and about 170 additional named islets and rocks – it’s only 24 miles (40 kilometers) long and is less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide!). We hopped on a bus and began our 6 hour day-one journey.

The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

Our first stop on our adventure was Gibbs Hill Lighthouse – built in 1844 by Royal Engineers, it’s one of two lighthouses on Bermuda and was one of the first lighthouses in the world to be made of cast-iron. Oh – we forgot to mention that we were actually in Bermuda right before the 35th America’s Cup yacht race. More on that later!

Heydon Trust Chapel

We then visited the Heydon Trust Chapel. Heydon Trust Chapel was built in the early 1600s and with only three pews, it’s the smallest church in Bermuda.

On Horseshoe Bay Beach

As we drove the small, winding roads of Bermuda, our guide told us that due to the small size and limited natural resources, rental cars are not permitted. Tourists typically rent scooters, hail a taxi, take a picturesque trip on the public ferry, or catch a ride on one of Bermuda’s pink public buses (tip: for a great view of Bermuda’s stunning south shore beaches, hop on the Number 7 bus, which follows South Shore Road and makes stops at the island’s most popular slices of sand, including Warwick Long Bay and Horseshoe Bay Beach.).

During our own bus ride across Bermuda, our guide stopped by several beaches (including Horseshoe Bay Beach) where we got to catch some rays and take in the breathtaking views.

St George's Town

We also had a brief stop in the Historic Town of St. George and Related Fortifications, a UNESCO World Heritage site. St. George’s Town was founded in 1612 following the 1609 Sea Venture wreck and is the oldest surviving English town in the New World. Of course we had to send postcards from the St. George’s Post Office while in town.

Gombey Dance Troupes

In the evening, our guide took us to Hamilton, the capital of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. Hamilton is a major port and tourist destination, but it’s also the territory’s financial centre. Did you know that tourism accounts for only about 28% of Bermuda’s gross domestic product (GDP)? Our guide told us that international business (such as offshore insurance and reinsurance) actually accounts for over 60% of Bermuda’s economic output. About 80% of food is imported in Bermuda, so buying groceries or going out to eat can be quite expensive. Bermuda’s official currency is the Bermuda Dollar (which is fixed to the US dollar), but most shops and restaurants will happily take US currency.

We visited Hamilton during Harbour Nights – a weekly summer street party that includes famous Gombey dance troupes and a market featuring island art and local foods. The Gombey is an iconic symbol of Bermuda – it’s a unique performance art full of colorful and intricate masquerade, dance, and drumming. This folk-life tradition reflects the island’s blend of African, Caribbean, and British cultures. If you are lucky enough to hear the drums and witness a Gombey troupe, you’re supposed to throw coins as a sign of appreciation.

The Crystal Caves of Bermuda

The next day, we got up bright and early to visit the Crystal Caves. These caves were discovered by two Bermudian teenagers, Carl Gibbons and his friend Edgar Hollis, in 1907 while they were playing a game of the island’s favorite sport: cricket. This awe-inspiring subterranean world has inspired everyone from Mark Twain to the creators of Fraggle Rock – what a discovery!

In the National Museum of Bermuda

We spent the rest of the day exploring the National Museum of Bermuda. The National Museum of Bermuda occupies several historic fortifications in the Royal Naval Dockyard, including the Commissioner’s House, Casemates Barracks, and The Keep (Bermuda has 90 different forts!). We also learned that there are more than 300 shipwrecks in the waters surrounding Bermuda – there are even special snorkeling and scuba diving shipwreck tours you can go on! Michaela went on a snorkeling excursion, but she let us stay on dry land because we aren’t very good swimmers.

Bermudan Banana Dolls and Bermudan flowers

We came across some unique items for sale at the Clocktower Mall in the Royal Dockyard, including special Bermuda Banana Dolls. Bermuda is also home to many beautiful flowers. The Bermudiana is the national flower – we weren’t able to find it in the wild, but we did discover lots of other lovely plant-life during our trip.

Watching yacht racers practising

On the day of our departure, we got a special treat – we got to watch the Oracle Team USA and Great Britain (Land Rover BAR) teams practicing for the 35th America’s Cup. The America’s Cup, the pinnacle of yachting, was first contested in 1851 making it the oldest trophy in international sport, predating the modern Olympic Games by 45 years.

We only had two days to explore the extraordinary land of Bermuda, but we tried to see and do as much as possible. After visiting Bermuda in person, it’s easy to understand Mark Twain’s famous quote “You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.”

Thanks so much for hosting the Little Mail Carriers and helping to chronicle their adventure, Michaela! Who knows where they’ll visit next…

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