New Zealand: A Natural Beauty

Why traipse halfway around the world to New Zealand? Because it’s stunning! And you will have it practically all to yourself! Volcanos, rain forests, glaciers, mountains, bright-blue/green lakes and ocean, lovely vineyards, lush farmland, world-class fishing, white sand beaches, penguins and luxurious lodges. Road trip!

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Rippon Vineyard (photo courtesy of Julian Apse)

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Tunnel Beach, Dunedin (photo courtesy of DunedinNZ)

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Tongariro National Park (photo by Camilla Rutherford courtesy of Tourism New Zealand)

38773AM00: Aoraki / Mount Cook (3754m) and Lake Pukaki in winter. Mt La Perouse (3078m) left, Tasman Valley and Burnett Mountains Range right. Panorama with late autumn colours, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, MacKenzie District, New Zealand. Photocred

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, MacKenzie District (photo by Rob Suisted / www.naturespic.co.nz)

NZ is 2/3 the size of California with only 4 million people…that’s 16 people per square kilometer. So when you’re driving around NZ outside of its metropolitan areas, you will encounter no traffic, no competition to see its gorgeous sites, and lots and lots of peaceful space. Exhale…

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miles of undeveloped beaches (photo by Scott Venning courtesy of Tourism New Zealand)

SEE THE SIGHTS 

In preparation for our trip, I consulted with a friend-of-friend, who is a Kiwi (not a pejorative). He whipped out a map of his country and circled the places he thought we should see. He circled practically everything on the map! Message: All of NZ is worth seeing. Take Away: Choose a great hotel from the list below, consult its website’s Activities List, and take daily road trips from your lux lodge.

Canterbury (photo by Elite Images)

The following of NZ’s many sights are tried-and-true by Mimi’s Travel File:

South Island

  • Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park — home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers…alpine in the purest sense
  • Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers in Westland National Park — While you can walk up to the base of these huge Ice Age glaciers, helicopter up the mountain and walk on top of the glacier. Such a thrill! FJ’s glacier is 100 feet deep and packed with ice that is blue due to lack of oxygen.
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Fox Glacier near Franz Joseph (photo courtesy of Gareth Eyres)

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He-man heli-pilot on top of Fox Glacier: He is wearing shorts because the heliport, at the base of this mountain, is set in a rain forest!

  • Drive from Franz Joseph to Haast along the Haast River and beach — so beautiful!

(photo by Scott Venning courtesy of Tourism New Zealand)

  • Lake Wanaka — lovely hiking and home of the dramatically-situated Rippon Vineyard

Lake Wanaka

  • Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park — dramatic peaks, dark blue water, frequent downpours that create numerous waterfalls

Milford Sound (photo by Rob Suisted courtesy of Tourism New Zealand): We saw nary a cruise ship on our trip.

North Island

  • Rotorua — Mauri central; on the drive from Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua, you will see mountains, pastures on plains, steep, hilly terrain, sheep, cows, orchards
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Dairy is NZ’s #1 industry (photo courtesy of Helena Bay)

  • Wai-o-tapu (park with volcanic landscapes and the Lady Knox geyser)
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volcanic landscape

  • Lake Taupo (NZ’s largest lake) and Turangi
  • Napier and Hastings on Hawkes Bay
  • Coromandel Peninsula — rolling hills+tropical rain forest+mountains+ocean — the CP has it all! Its Pauanui, Cathedral Cove and Hahei beaches are especially stunning.
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Miles of tropical rain forests with two-story tall tree ferns! (photo courtesy of Whirinaki Forest Park)

  • Bay of Islands (144 islands, beaches, bays, whales, penguins, dolphins, sailing)
  • Heli­copter to Whakaari (White) Island and Mount Tarawera! White Island is sit­u­ated forty-eight kilo­me­tres from the east coast of the North Island and is New Zealand’s only active marine Vol­cano. Land­ing on the island’s crater floor, your pilot will guide you past the steam­ing fumaroles and boil­ing mud pools to look out over a steam­ing sul­phurous crater lake. The steam melted the coating off my mirrored sunglasses!
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Whakaari Island

This could be you, landing in the volcano on Whakaari/White Island! It’s expensive but well worth it. We had the island all to ourselves=heaven.

  • Tongariro National Park — Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a day-long hike with blue and emerald lakes &  a dual World Heritage site, ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world.

STAY

Here’s where you will want to stay, as these lodges get the most glowing write-ups in the travel media. Small buzz kill: They can be African-safari-expensive.

North Island

Cape Kidnappers Peninsula

Cape Kidnappers

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Farm at Cape Kidnappers suite: I could be happy here!

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dinner at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers

  • Craggy Range (Hawkes Bay) — a winery with attractive cottage accommodations, per Andrew Harper
  • The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs (north end of island) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Tablet Hotels; website looks beautiful
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Kauri Cliffs Lodge

  • Solitaire Lodge (Lake Tarawera, 20 minutes drive from Rotorua) — recommended by Small Luxury Hotels, Tablet Hotels, and Mimi’s Travel File (we stayed here in 2014)
  • Wharekauhau Lodge and Country Estate (Featherstone) — recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Eagles Nest (Bay of Islands) — recommended by Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels; website looks spectacular
  • Helena Bay (east coast, between Auckland and top of the island) — recommended by National Geographic Traveler Magazine
  • Hotel DeBrett (Auckland) — recommended by Mr.  and Mrs. Smith Hotels and Tablet Hotels; Auckland is an attractive city on the Pacific (light/bright blue water) with many sailboats, including several America’s Cup past contenders…watched a sailboat race there for two hours during dinner sitting outside at Euro restaurant

South Island

  • Azur (Queenstown) — recommended by Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Tablet Hotels
  • Kinross Cottages (Queenstown) — Travel+Leisure (2016) described it as “simple and tasteful accommodations on a vineyard that also has a popular wine bar.” It’s also relatively inexpensive. (see comment at the end of this post from my friend who just came back from Kinross Cottages; she was not pleased)
  • Blanket Bay (between Queenstown and Glenorchy) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Tablet Hotels, and Small Luxury Hotels
  • Edenhouse (Nelson, Abel Tasman region) — highly recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Te Waonui Forest Retreat (Franz Joseph) — We stayed here. While it is the best hotel in Franz Joseph, it is merely okay.
  • Eichardt’s Private Hotel  (Queenstown) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Tablet Hotels, Small Luxury Hotels, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Fiordland Lodge (Te Anau) — recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Lake Timara Lodge (Hawkesbury, Marlborough) — recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Matakauri Lodge (Queenstown, southern end of island) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels, Tablet Hotels and the FT’s How to Spend It magazine
Matakauri dining outside

Matakauri Lodge–The lodges in which we stayed all had great food!

WARNING: Do not stay at Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet (Lake Wanaka), as we did. As I was reaching for my first hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, I was told that guests were allowed to take only two each (strike one). Dinner was at a long, group table. For two nights in a row, we dined with the owner, which could have been fascinating. However, she talked exclusively about herself  and dominated the conversation (strike two). The small decks outside of the bedrooms are not private at all, so other guests walked right outside of the big glass doors by our bed (strike three)…and we paid the big bucks for this!

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Lots of good vineyards here! Click through to Tourism New Zealand‘s site for a suggested itinerary. Travel+Leisure (2016) likes:

In addition to being known for its lamb and venison, “The distinctive food and wine culture I found is vibrant — at once deeply rooted and globally attuned — and unexpectedly provided a glimpse of how the county has been shaped equally by its isolation and its transoceanic ties,” per Travel+Leisure (2016). Following is their list of best places to eat on the South Island:

  • Fleurs Place (Moeraki) — “Fleur Sullivan, the godmother of modern Kiwi cooking, draws diners from all over t her marvelously ramshackle seaside spot.”
  • Harlequin Public House (Christchurch) — “This is the place for platters of oysters, home comfort food, and a great list of New Zealand wines.”
  • Olivers (Clyde) — “serves some of the best food around”
  • Rata (Queenstown) — award-winning cuisine
  • Riverstone Kitchen (near Moeraki) — “a prime stop”
  • Roots (Lyttelton) — “a critically acclaimed bare-bones spot”

SHOP

The things to buy here are jade and sheep skins.

When to go: November-April is the best time to visit, though it can rain any season.

One last thing…ATM’s can be few and far between, so stock up on cash!

Horse-Treks

Though neither my husband nor I had been riding since our childhood, we saddled up in NZ and it was one of the most fun things we did on our trip. The huge, open spaces and gorgeous scenery made it soooo relaxing and memorable. (photo courtesy of Farm at Cape Kidnappers)

 

Cumberland Island Valentine

What better day to publish a post about a place I love than Valentine’s! I have been to Cumberland Island, Georgia four fabulous times and the following are 14 reasons I love it:

(1) The boat ride from Fernandina Beach, on mainland FL, to Cumberland Island, GA

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(photo courtesy of Gabriel Hanway)

(2) The trees dripping with Spanish Moss on Cumberland Island

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(photo courtesy of Gabriel Hanway)

(3) The Greyfield Inn, which is the only commercial establishment on the island. So lovely! So relaxing! Such gracious staff!

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(photo courtesy of Gabriel Hanway)

(4) The Greyfield Inn’s front porch swing and rocking chairs

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(photo courtesy of Gabriel Hanway)

(5) The Greyfield Inn’s living room, where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served before dinner, in front of the big fireplace

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(photo courtesy of Peter Frank Edwards)

(6) The Greyfield Inn’s dining room, where delicious meals are served. They grow much of their own produce AND they are into it…and that enthusiasm shows. Once a week, the Inn has an oyster roast outside in front of the porch. So much fun!

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(photo by Peter Frank Edwards)

(7) The GI’s 16 bedrooms

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This is the biggest bedroom but all the bedrooms are decorated in this old world style.(photo by Peter Frank Edwards)

(8) The views of the marshes

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(photo courtesy of David Wright)

(9) The burnt remains of the 100-year-old Carnegie mansion

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(photo courtesy of Gabriel Hanway)

(10) The wild horses that peacefully roam Cumberland Island

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(photo by David Wright)

(11) Biking and walking on the 17 miles of undeveloped beach…not a condo or house in sight! After breakfast each morning, go into the large kitchen to pick up your backpack filled with a sumptuous, portable lunch. You can eat it at the tables and chairs on the Inn’s big front lawn or on the beach or any old place you like.

(12) The path from the Greyfield Inn to the beach

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(photo courtesy of Gabriel Hanway)

(13) Gogo’s jewelry–The only retail on Cumberland Island, besides the Inn’s tiny gift shop, is Gogo’s. Gogo creates jewelry and some candle sticks and purses in a workshop adjacent to her home and is only open when she is “in residence.” Such beautiful things! All of her creations are inspired by the nature around her. She designed the wedding rings of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette.

(14) The old slave church where John-John Kennedy married Carolyn Bessette.

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(photo by Peter Frank Edwards)

Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cornwall, England: Three Magical Destinations

Cornwall is gorgeous! Stunning beaches, spectacular hiking, charming little towns and ancient history. Cornwall’s got it all. I highly recommend THREE magical DESTINATIONS in Cornwall–the Isles of Scilly, St. Mawes and Portloe–each different one from the other.

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Isles of Scilly (photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

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Chun Quoit, a 2,500-year old chambered tomb (photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

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(photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

ISLES OF SCILLY

There are 150 Isles of Scilly, of which five are inhabited by a grand total of 2,200 people. These Cornish islands are the westernmost part of England. They offer beaches, kayaking, sailing, birding, hiking, golf and biking. A lot of places offer these BUT what makes the Isles of Scilly magical? Their windswept wildness and natural beauty;  lack of commercialism, crowds and traffic;  wild horses gracefully meandering the heath-covered moors; children going to school by boat; and stumbling upon ancient stones while hiking its hills. Stay for at least three full days, but five would be so much nicer.

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(photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

Temp’s on the Isles of Scilly are above 50 degrees 360 days of the year, thanks to the Gulf Stream. Due to these temperatures, flower farming thrives here. Surprising flora and fauna (seals and puffins) live on the islands, due to their isolated location. It’s easy and fun to island hop by public boat service.

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Scilly puffin (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

Getting to the Isles of Scilly

  • FIRST take the Great Western Railway from London to Penzance (5.5 hours) “Rail hounds used to say the real name of the GWR was ‘God’s Wonderful Railway,’ and it’s easy to see why once the train leaves London and ventures into some truly iconic countryside. Castles, rivers, puffy clouds, thatched roofs, it’s all here. Sit on the left side” for best views. (Departures magazine, 2015)
  • NEXT take taxi or Isles of Scilly Travel Shuttle from Penzance (not particularly scenic) to Land’s End airport and catch the 20-minute helicopter flight west to St. Mary, one of the Isles of Scilly.
  • NOTE: Of course, if you want to be a party pooper, you can always fly from London to Land’s End.

STAY on the Isles of Scilly

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Hell Bay Hotel

  • Hell Bay Hotel (on the island of Bryher)—Bryher is two kilometers long by one kilometer wide, so the views from the hotel are of water and meandering wild horses on the surrounding moors. The hotel is very attractive (neutrals with enough splashes of color to add happy) with spacious bedrooms, a spa, heated swimming pool, bar, restaurant, large terrace for dining, and nice ambience. Bryher is traffic-free, w/ half a dozen houses, a bar, convenience store and deli. (25 suites, some with balconies, most w/sea views)
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Your room at Hell Bay Hotel

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View from your room at Hell Bay Hotel

SEE THE SIGHTS on the Isles of Scilly

  • Tresco Abbey Gardens–Outstanding! Tresco is the island closest to Bryher. These gardens are spectacular and feature highly unusual subtropical plants, thanks to the Gulf Stream effect and tall windbreaks constructed by the garden’s designers…all set in the ruins of a 12th century priory; five generations have built this garden over decades, collecting plants from all over the world specially for this garden. From its website: “Many of these tender floral gems would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Yet even at the winter solstice more than 300 plants will be in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.” It’s heavenly!
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Tresco Abbey Gardens (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

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Tresco Abbey Gardens: Note the tropical succulents growing on that arch (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

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Tresco Abbey Garden (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

  • Bronze age and Celtic ruins
  • Spectacular beaches, like the one at the top of this post
  • Wild horses
  • Bird watching is big here!
  • Hiking and biking.
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(photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

ST. MAWES

Back on mainland England, St. Mawes is a charming small town on an idyllic small bay, approached by classic narrow Cornwall lanes. I recommend you stay at least three nights.

STAY in St. Mawes

Hotel Tresanton–This is a smallish and comfortably sophisticated hotel. It is quite perfect! All bedrooms, which are beautifully decorated, have views across the little bay to the St. Anthony Lighthouse. It has a restaurant, bar, and very attractive gift shop.  (30 rooms, some with a balcony or terrace)

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Lunch, anyone? Yeah, baby!  (photo courtesy of Hotel Tresanton)

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This photo captures the Hotel Tresanton’s style: beautifully decorated throughout!

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Hotel Tresanton’s bedrooms are individually decorated.

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Note the view from the Hotel Tresanton’s dining room. We saw a triple rainbow from here, and ran out onto the adjoining terrace to check it out.

SEE THE SIGHTS in St. Mawes

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Charter the Hotel Tresanton’s gorgeous 8-meter classic yacht, pictured above, from May-September

  • Just  back from St. Mawes, my cousin highly recommended the hike to see St. Just in Roseland’s church, as well as The Watch House restaurant in St. Mawes.
  • See the bottom of this post for more sights to see near St. Mawes, which is nearish Portloe.

PORTLOE

Portloe is a tiny village that looks just like Portwen, the fictitious fishing village featured in “Doc Martin,” a public TV hit show. Portloe is nestled in a charming cove and tiny harbor, surrounded by cliffs and headlands. When we were there several years ago, Portloe had only two commercial establishments: a nice pub (good fish pie) and The Lugger Hotel. It was great, so genuine! I suggest you stay at least three nights.

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Portloe (photo courtesy of The Lugger Hotel)

Bespoke Hotels - The Lugger

Portloe (photo courtesy of The Lugger Hotel)

STAY in & near Portloe

  • The Lugger Hotel–Charming, updated 17th century inn located on the water, with an attractive restaurant. (22 rooms, some with a terrace, plus a 2-bedroom cottage available for rent)
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Your room at the Lugger Hotel: Can’t beat that view!

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breakfast room at The Lugger Hotel

& nearby…

  • The Nare Hotel–We walked along the spectacular Cornish Southwest Coast Path from Portloe to The Nare Hotel, stunningly located on a huge, undeveloped cove with huge, crescent-shaped beach. The NH has the cove all to itself! The Nare is not in a town but is self-contained with its own restaurant , bar and other amenities. (36 bedrooms and suites, some with balconies and terraces)
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The huge crescent beach in front of the Nare Hotel (above) is among the prettiest I have ever seen!

SEE THE SIGHTS in & around Portloe

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Cornish Southwest Coast Path (photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan
  • Tregothnan, the largest private botanical garden in Britain
  • St Just in Roseland (two miles north of St. Mawes)  is famous for its 13th-century “St Just’s Church, St Just in Roseland set in riverside gardens luxuriantly planted with semitropical shrubs and trees, many of which are species rare in England. The church perches on the edge of a tidal creek beside the Carrick Roads on the Fal Estuary just outside the main village. The path from the road to the church is lined with granite blocks carved with quotations and verses taken from the Bible,” per Wikipedia. My cousin just hiked from the  Hotel Tresanton to St. Just and reported that it was WELL WORTH the trek through some mud. She wished she had seen the Hotel Tresanton’s wellies, set aside for the use of its guests!
  • National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth
  • St. Michael’s Mount–This striking National Trust property  is the English equivalent of France’s Mont St. Michel.
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St. Michael’s Mount (photo by Mike Newman, courtesy of St. Michael’s Mount)

From the St. Michael’s Mount website: “By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, St Michael’s Mount had come into the possession of the monks of its sister isle, Mont St Michel in Normandy. In the 12th century it was their hands that built the church and priory that still lie at the heart of the castle today. From 1193 when the Mount was seized by Henry La Pomeray who disguised his men as pilgrims, through the Wars of the Roses in 1473 when the Mount was held by the Earl of Oxford, to the Civil War, when Royalists valiantly held back the forces of Oliver Cromwell – the Mount has weathered many times of battle. Gaze out across the rows of cannons which once drove a Napoleonic ship to its capture on Marazion beach or peer up to the top of the church tower where the first beacon was lit of the series that warned London of the approach of the Spanish Armada.”

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St. Michael’s Mount (photo by Claire Braithwaite courtesy of St. Michael’s Mount)

Literary Traveling Companions: “The Shell Seekers,” by Rosamunde Pilcher   and “Rebecca,” by Daphne du Maurier

DVD’s to Watch in Advance of Your Trip to Get You into the Cornwall Mood: “Doc Martin” PBS series

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Bermuda Bliss

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photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority

Going to Bermuda? Lucky you, because Bermuda is a happy, fun island, surrounded by bright blue/green water, and covered with hibiscus and lush jungle-green vegetation. Plus, Bermudians are all nice! I wonder if it’s because Bermuda’s population is only 60,000 people and the island is relatively small (22 square miles).

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Scooter around the island—It’s really fun! Plus, the speed limit for cars and scooters is only 20 m.p.h. (and everyone obeys it) so the likelihood of being run over is low.
  • Check out the island’s Bermuda National Trust gardens and historic properties. Elle Décor especially liked the Verdmont Museum (Collector’s Hill, Smith’s Parish), describing it as a “house museum treasure.”
  • Try out every beach: there are MANY, all gorgeous and uncrowded. They really are pink! That’s because tiny pieces of broken coral are interspersed with the sand.
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Stonehole Bay (photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

Western Bermuda

  • One of the BEST beach walks–is from stunning Horseshoe Bay to the Swizzle Inn. It’s dotted with many gorgeous coves, including heavenly Jobson Cove. Timing: This walk should be done at low tide because it includes a series of beaches interrupted by rocky promontories, most of which can be walked around at low tide but not at high tide. Note: While the Swizzle Inn is not great, you can sit on its road-side terrace and try a Rum Swizzle, the island’s signature drink.
Horseshoe Bay Beach (photo credit Bermuda Tourism Authority)

Horseshoe Bay Beach (photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

  • Gibbs Hill Lighthouse–built in 1844, this is the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world…it also provides GREAT big views of the island, as it is on a hilltop; one can also dine here.
  • Somerset Bridge–if you are into Lilliputian draw bridges, this sight’s for you! I must admit, it’s pretty charming. Its’ opening is 18″, just wide enough for a sailboat to pass through.
  • Royal Naval Dockyard–19th century dockyard with an excellent museum and fort…and beautiful, high-up views of Bermuda, plus shops and restaurants
  • Take the ferry from the Royal Navy Dockyard to St. George’s–it’s efficient, clean, inexpensive, and a great way to see all of Bermuda’s southern coast from the water; also, it motors inside the reef (no exposure to rough seas) so is quite comfortable.

Mid-Island

  • Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, is quietly attractive with pastel-painted buildings, but the main reasons to visit are the following……
    • Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute: so interesting!
    • Bermuda National Gallery (in City Hall, 17 Church St.)–lovely paintings of and by Bermudians and non Bermudians alike, like Winslow Homer
    • Royal Yacht Club (15 Pt. Pleasant Rd.)–is private but if you can get a letter of introduction, it’s worth it because it is old (built in 1844, one of the oldest royal yacht clubs in the world) and beautiful, w/a lovely terrace overlooking the very snazzy boats docked there
    • Fort Hamilton  (NE corner)— Civil War era fort that now features terraced gardens

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  • Bermuda Botanical Gardens (169 South Rd., Paget Parish)—36 acres of specimens. John Lennon named his “Double Fantasy” album after the Double Fantasy freesia he spotted here.

 Eastern Bermuda

  • Crystal Cave (8 Crystal Ca Rd.)–Floating pontoon pathways span a 55′ deep azure blue underground lake, beautifully lit up for tourists. Above the lake are gorgeous white stalactites, soda straws and helectite formations.
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Crystal Cave (photo courtesy of The Crystal Caves of Bermuda)

  • St. George’s–charming, historic town AND a UNESCO World Heritage Site; oldest continuously inhabited town of English origin in the New World, with fortifications built in 1612…lovely streets and houses with some decent shopping and waterside dining opp’s; be sure to visit!
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St. George (photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

  • St. Peter’s Church –Located in St. George’s, this is the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in the New World, est. 1612
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St. Peter’s (courtesy of St. Peter’s)

  • Mid Ocean Club–This private club’s décor is cold, though location is dramatically pretty. A friend of mine, who has been going to Bermuda for years, told me the MOC has the best golf on the island.

Seasonal Sights Of Note

  • Every spring, the Garden Club of Bermuda sponsors the Open Houses and Gardens Tour. Wouldn’t that be glorious?! www.bermudatourism.com
  • At midnight every New Year’s Eve, they drop a giant Bermuda Onion in the town square at St. George’s…think a MUCH tamer version of NYC’s Time Square ball drop
  • The 35th Americas Cup will be hosted in Bermuda in June of 2017
Artemis Racing practice session

photo courtesy of Sander van der Borch

STAY

  • Coral Beach Club (on the south shore)–Pure heaven! BUT, this is a private club, so you can only stay there with a letter of intro from a reciprocal club. Beautiful uncrowded beach, good food, dining and dancing on the terrace several stories above the beach, nice staff and happy rooms, some with balconies. The Crow’s Nest cottage is the best! Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill, wrote “Desire Under the Elms” and “The Great God Brown” in the Crow’s Nest. Tennis, putting, and croquet. CAUTION: If you like the beige, no-rough-edges at all, faux-luxury of a Ritz-Carlton, the CBC is not for you. But if you like old-world elegance with one or two very small imperfections, beeline to the CBC! (40 rooms)
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view from Coral Beach Club

  • Cambridge Beaches (on western tip of the island)–lovely, refined, off on its own, croquet, pink cottages with white roofs, putt-putt, beautifully and cheerfully decorated (87 rooms, in the form of cottages, spread out over the property)
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photo courtesy of Cambridge Beaches

  • Rosedon Hotel (w/in walking distance of Hamilton)–recommended by Elle Décor; a former family estate, the RH is surrounded by gardens and a pool; looks really pretty on its website! (39 rooms)
  • Rosewood Tucker’s Point (in Hamilton Parish)–The web site looks a bit cold but Travel + Leisure (2014) and Andrew Harper recommended it (2015), and Mr. And Mrs. Smith Hotels give it 4 (out of 5) stars. It has golf, a spa and a beach club. (88 rooms)
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Rosewood (courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

  • Granaway Guest House (Warwick Parish)–recommended by Travel + Leisure (2014) and Trip Advisor describes it as a “great value”; no beach but pool (4 rooms)

While the following don’t appeal to me because I prefer small hotels, they are mentioned in every travel article:

  • Fairmont Hamilton Princess (76 Pitts Bay Road, Hamilton Parish)–overlooks the Hamilton harbor and a five-minute walk to Hamilton. Not on the beach but it has a beach club (157 rooms)
  • Fairmont Southampton Princess (101 S. Shore Rd., Southampton)–HUGE w/all the amenities you would expect from a biiiiig resort. (593 rooms)

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Bermuda is not a foodie destination. In general, the restaurants serve mediocre, expensive food…and that is the ONLY imperfect thing about Bermuda. However, the island specialty is fish chowder, and it is mmmm, mmmm, good!

  • Marcus (Hamilton Princess Hotel)–I have not been here but plan to on my next trip because its chef, Marcus Samuelsson (of Red Rooster in Harlem, NY fame), is highly acclaimed!
  • The Dining Room (at the base of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse)–super spectacular views at night! The restaurant is small so be sure to make reservations.
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Coral Beach Club’s Dark n Stormy cocktail (photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

 SHOP IT!

  • Hamilton is Bermuda’s shopping hub.
    • William Bluck (4 Front Street)–GORGEOUS crystal and china, in biz for 160+ years; in addition to all the usual high-end brands, they have a several lovely Bermuda-centric china patterns, such as Bermuda Reef Fish and Bermuda Flowers, both by Herend
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(photo courtesy of Bluck’s)

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(photo courtesy of Bluck’s)

  • Island Shop (3 Queen St.)–The IS sells informal serving dishes, linens, home décor items, and all things Bermuda and bright.
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(photo courtesy of the Island Shop)

  • The English Sports Shop (49 Front St.)—reasonably-priced, traditional men’s (& some ladies’) clothes. “Since 1918, the home of the original Bermuda shorts,” per its website.
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They really do wear Bermuda shorts with blazers, ties & high socks in Bermuda! (photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

  • St. George’s
    • Lili Bermuda (5 Queen St.)–very sweet little perfume shop and adjacent tea room.
    • The English Sports Shop (30 Water St.)

WHEN TO GO

May to October is universally recommended but we also went for Easter & New Year’s Eve and had lovely weather.

WARDROBE

Bermuda is more formal than the US, so consider that when packing. That said, the only places I encountered a dress code were private clubs.

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(photo courtesy of Bermuda Travel Authority)

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(photo courtesy of the Bermuda Travel Authority)

Stonehole Bay Beach (credit Bermuda Tourism Authority)

Stonehole Bay Beach (photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)

-posted July 2016

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Maine’s Coastal Charmers

If this is what comes to mind when someone says, “Maine,” you will not be disappointed because it really is this beautiful!

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(photo courtesy of the Pentagoet Inn)

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Hiking near Blue Hill, Maine—lots of blueberries! (photo courtesy of the Pentagoet Inn)

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You will see lots of classic old sailboats in Maine (photo courtesy of the Pentagoet Inn)

Based on articles in my file, my husband’s multiple sailing trips along Maine’s coast, and our trip a couple of years ago, following are Maine’s most charming coastal towns:

Castine

MOST perfect! Historic, not touristy, peaceful small town, with beautiful houses, situated on the tip of a peninsula overlooking Penobscot Bay. The best introduction to the village of Castine is to read the history and then to follow the self-guided walking tour in the “Welcome to Castine” brochure, which describes historic sites and homes, and anecdotes about early citizens. It’s fun, easy and relaxing…oh, and a bit educational to boot!

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Castine’s history is amazing!

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Having lunch in Castine (photo courtesy of The Castine Inn)

STAY in Castine

  • Castine Inn–What could be more welcoming than the Castine Inn’s front porch, below?! Built in 1898, one block from the harbor, wraparound porch, gardens,  and its own pub. 19 rooms with private baths
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The Castine Inn (photo courtesy of The Castine Inn)

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room at Castine Inn

Blue Hill

Lovely, lovely!

STAY in Blue Hill

  • Blue Hill Inn–Such a classically pretty inn! The bedrooms look every bit as nice, so check out BHI’s website for photos. Located on an acre of land in the center of the village of Blue Hill and a block from the head of Blue Hill Bay, the inn, built in 1835, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Blue Hill Inn—oh, those rhododendrons!

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Blue Hill Inn’s parlor

EAT in Blue Hill:

  • Wonderful Restaurant: Arborvine
  • Excellent Carry-out: Blue Hill Co-op
  • Kitsch-at-its-best diner: Fish Net (no web site, of course!)
  • The Boatyard Grill: It’s a fun one! (no web site for this one, either)
  • Blue Hill Country Club: The house we rented came with use of this private club, whose upscale casualness charmed us, so you might want to see if your club has reciprocity with the BHCC, which has golf, tennis, etc.
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photo courtesy of the Wooden Boat School

Stonington

Perfectly charming! Stonington is one of the few working fishing villages left in Maine and boasts one of New England’s largest fishing fleets (lobstering, fishing, urchining, scalloping, clamming and musseling). Stonington sits on the southernmost tip of Deer Isle, with lovely panoramic views of fir-dense islands. What to do in Stonington and Deer Isle: hiking, kayaking, tennis, golf, bird watching, jogging, biking, and fishing.

STAY in Stonington

  • Inn on the Harbor-This is not a fancy place BUT it is perched right on the edge of lovely Stonington Harbor, has a great view of the Penobscot Bay islands, and was built in the 1880’s. It is a bed and breakfast, with 13 simply furnished rooms, 10 of which face the sea, and a spacious flower-covered deck extending out into the harbor. Several rooms have wood burning fireplaces and/or private decks; all with private baths.
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Inn on the Harbor

SEE THE SIGHTS in Stonington

  • The Inn on the Harbor’s innkeepers will introduce you to Captain Walt Reed, who takes 1 to 4 passengers aboard his 21′ vessel to explore around the islands, see lighthouses, seals, and water birds. He will let you create your own tour, including the timing thereof. Stonington harbor is the departure point for daily cruises (by the Isle au Haut Boat Company) around the islands and to Isle au Haut, part of Acadia National Park, which offers hiking trails, rugged beaches and gorgeous sea vistas.

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EAT in Stonington

  • Aragosta–Breaking news: My cousins just visited Stonington and highly recommend this farm-to-table dining overlooking Stonington’s beautiful harbor.
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photo courtesy of Aragosta

SEE THE SIGHTS

In nearby small, sweet Brooklin, Maine (setting of E.B.White’s  “Charlotte’s Web”):

  • Brooklin Inn:  has a good restaurant
  • Brooklin Boat Yard, where E.B. White’s grandson builds beautiful, classic boats
  • Wooden Boat School: great gift shop (selling boat models and books) & gorgeous location on a 64-acre campus on the water where you can learn to make your own wooden boat
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photo courtesy of the Wooden Boat School

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regatta as seen from the shores of the Wooden Boat School

SEE THE SIGHTS

A little farther afield:

Miscellaneous well-rated hotels in Maine:

  • Whitehall (Camden)–My cousins-with-good-taste recently returned from Camden and, while they agree with my sailor husband’s description of the town (“not bad, a little touristy”), they loved this hotel. And you will see why when you go to its website. Here are some photos to whet your appetite:
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Whitehall (photo courtesy of Lark Hotels)

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Whitehall (photo courtesy of Lark Hotels)

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Whitehall (photo courtesy of Lark Hotels)

  •  Camden Harbour Inn–This is a Relais & Chateaux but as we all know, the hotels in that group are only guaranteed to be great in France. Outside of France, sometimes they’re great, sometimes not. The CHI’s website looked okay, with only a few hints of tackiness.
  • The White Barn Inn (Kennebunkport)–This is the only hotel in Maine recommended by Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who have good taste. Here’s what they say, “Set on a prime plot of Atlantic coastline, The White Barn Inn hotel in Kennebunkport, Maine, captures the region’s nautical spirit without resorting to sailor stripes and ship-inspired design. The airy riverfront cabins and 19th-century guesthouse often include dual-sided fireplaces, marble bathrooms and antique furniture. As for the namesake barn, it’s home to a local-centric restaurant, which serves some of the best food in all of New England.” Based on a few articles I have read, I worry that Kennebunkport might be touristy, though I haven’t been there.

From  Andrew Harper‘s always-helpful website (April 2016):

“Contrary to popular belief, not all of the Maine shoreline is rocky. Many of the beaches in the southern part of the state offer sandy shores.’Goose Rocks Beach is one of the best beaches in Maine, and quite possibly in all of New England,’ says Justin Grimes of Hidden Pond. ‘It’s protected by two small islands that shelter the bay and make it especially great for swimming.’ In case you think it’s too cold, Al Black of The White Barn Inn says water temperatures are typically pleasant from late June through early September. Plus, you get two-for-one in Kennebunkport: From the coast, drive a mere mile inland and you’re in the thick of the forest.”

AVOID BECAUSE PACKED WITH TOURISTS: Bar Harbor

AVOID BECAUSE STRIP-SHOPPING CENTER CENTRAL: Freeport

Reading companions to get into the Maine spirit: any E.B. White books, but especially E.B. White’s “One Man’s Meat” (witty essays on daily life at his Maine farm on Allen Cove, between Blue Hill and Brooklin) and, should you want to re-live your childhood, “Charlotte’s Web,” part of which is set in Brooklin

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photo courtesy of the Wooden Boat School

-posted June 2016

Old Florida: Gasparilla

Gasparilla water

The second you cross the bridge over the wide-water-views onto Gasparilla Island, you will be happy. Gorgeous Bermuda-blue water, relaxed vibe, small town, more golf carts than cars, though GI is not golf-centric. The preponderance of carts are populated by a human driver and a canine passenger…charmante! Most of the houses here are in Old Florida cottage style, pristinely-renovated, and none over two-stories tall. Lots of “financial wherewithal” here but almost no ugly McMansions. Also, no crime, as reported to me by two, long-time residents. Soooo relaxing!

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STAY

  • Gasparilla Inn: beautifully decorated (if you like happy colors, shells and lots of tropical references, which OF COURSE you do!), immaculately landscaped, expensive and worth it. Here’s the façade (below):
Gasparilla Inn
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Interior of Gasparilla Inn

  •  The Innlet: less expensive (by more than half) affiliate property of the Gasparilla Inn. The reason its less is twofold: (1) The décor is simple & not as stylish as the GI & (2) It is farther away from the center of Boca Grande, but not by much. While I have only viewed the rooms on the website, I have seen the outside in person, which is neat and cheery.
  • Rent a house via Parsley-Baldwin Realty (1-800-741-3074) in the historic district, where they’re prettier and the walk into town is short.

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • The beach–long walks on white sand, good shelling, no building over two stories, really low-key
  • The town…the only town…on Gasparilla Island is called Boca Grande. It is tiny, quiet and very cute w/charming houses. Walk down Banyan Street to see the 100-year old Banyan trees–so evocative!
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Banyan Street, between Gilchrest and Park

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One of several beautiful houses on Banyan Street, between Park and Gilchrist

  • Bike the trail that runs the length of the island (more interesting riding around town and south) and to the two lighthouses at the south end, especially Port Boca Grande Lighthouse (circa 1890) & its museum.
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Port Boca Grande Lighthouse

  • Boating/fishing: Boca Grande is known as the “tarpon capital of the world!”
  • Boca Grande Historical Society Museum : very small but interesting.
  • Golf: four courses.
  • The Boca Grande Community Center offers good lectures, yoga, and a small fitness room. During the week we were there, the CEO of the National Geographic and a railroad history expert spoke. In addition, a recorded performance of the Broadway play “War Horse” was being shown in its auditorium.
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Boca Grande Community Center

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

  •  The Gasparilla Inn (500 Palm Ave.): pretty, old-fashioned dining room with sophisticated tropical décor. Food is good. Go to the Inn’s attractive bar for your pre-prandial libations!
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Gasparilla Inn

  • The Temptation: very good food and Old Florida ambience, friendly bar and two adjacent dining rooms. The best DR is the front one, with uplighting on its blue walls painted with old Florida scenes=retro and transporting. It is waaaay more fun than this photo conveys!
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The Temptation’s interior

  • 3rd Street Café (Third St. & E. Railroad Ave.): Sometimes excellent and other times unremarkable food here, but I like it a lot. Eat in the outdoor courtyard with its pretty banana leaf/palm tree garden, up-lit dramatically. It has a small attractive bar and good service.
  • South Beach Bar & Grille (777 Gulf Blvd.): GREAT place to watch the sunset. This is a simple, non-fancy restaurant on the beach all by its lonesome…no competition and no need for it. Go to the bar, buy your drink, and toddle on out to the Adirondack chairs as you watch the sun go down. Very peaceful!
  • Gasparilla Island’s signature cocktail is the Hummer, made with vanilla ice cream, Kahlua and Rum. It is not listed on all drinks menus but ask the bartenders. They’ll know!

SHOP IT

  • The Palm on Park (444 4th St.): Lilly! Need I say more?
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The Palm on the  Park

  • Grapevine Gourmet & Gift Shop (321 Park Avenue): excellent carry out cocktail food, PLUS really attractive ceramic dip-bowl-attached-to-plates, like Lilly Pulitzer would’ve used to serve Fritos and onion dip.
  • The Inn Boutique (at Gasparilla Inn) has a good selection of pastel beach dresses, tops and pretty jewelry (e.g., Meg Carter)
  • The Gasparilla Inn hosts frequent trunk shows open to guests and non-guests, alike.
  • The Patio Shop at Fugates (4th St. & Park Ave.)–is chocked full of cheery resort wear and cheery staff to match.
  • Newlin’s (446 4th St.)–upscale carry out (one entrée per day is made and residents reserve them in advance; when I was there, they offered chicken pot pie, coq au vin, shrimp and grits) plus attractive dish ware for purchase.
golf carting in Boca Grande

Of Note: This is a happy, fun place. The natives are friendly. It is small. Few street lights at night and few cars, too. It can be dark walking back from dinner but that makes it easier to peer into the cozily lit-up houses (so MANY attractive tropical-cottage-style houses). No crime here, so the darkness is not spooky. If you like a go-go pace, this is not for you. We spent two, relaxing weeks here, never bored.

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-posted February 2016

Palm Beach Beauties

 

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Palm Beach bound? Lucky you! Following are recommendations from articles in Mimi’s Travel File and my 2015 trip to PB.

STAY

The following are my top two fav’s (additional hotels listed at the end of this post)–

The Colony (155 Hamon Ave.)–Love it, love it, love it!

5e Premium Suite Bedroom

  •  80 rooms plus “villas.” The villas have two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and balcony.
  • On-site bar, restaurant and pool
  • What makes it unique: The Colony has a very attractive, “intime,” 1940’s-style nightclub, with little-shaded lamps on tables for two and four, and a small stage…like NYC’s Café Carlyle.
  • The dėcor screams, “Welcome to the fun, happy, tropical-glam Florida!” The guest rooms are individually decorated in sophisticated splashy colors. No beige here.
  • Great location: The beach is a block away (chair/towel in nifty, lightweight backpack provided by the Colony), as are Worth Avenue’s restaurants and boutiques. The Colony is located in a pretty neighborhood, which is excellent for house-ogling, on foot or bike, available at the hotel.
  • Nice touch: Their car will transport you (gratis) around town, within limits.

The Brazilian Court Hotel (311 Australian Ave.)–lovely! It is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group and Historic Hotels America. If you prefer muted-Mediterranean color schemes to splash, stay here.

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  • On-site bar, glamorous restaurant and pool
  • Location: two-blocks from the beach
  • 80 studios and suites

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Top Two
Café Boulud (as in, the famed Daniel) at the Brazilian Court (301 Australian Ave.) : beautiful, intimate, Hollywood Glam courtyard setting with good food, sophisticated menu, and friendly staff. Near The Colony.

Brazilian Court-Courtyard wide

Renato’s (87 Via Mizner): Charming location in one of the courtyards off of Worth Avenue; lovely, romantic Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and good food; near The Colony & Brazilian Court.

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Renato’s lovely courtyard

Honorable Mention
Surfside Diner (314 S. County Rd., near The Colony & Brazilian Court)–classic diner food and décor, best for breakfast; recommended by an Elle Décor article (March 2015).

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • The sun, sand ‘n’ surf of the wide, Atlantic Ocean beach, of course!
  • Flagler Museum: Built by PB’s founding father in 1902, the FM gives interesting background on the development of PB. Right next door, but not open to the public, is PB’s oldest house, Sea Gull Cottage, built in 1886. Right next to that is the beautiful Royal Poinciana Chapel.

Flagler Museum Facade from NE Corner RGB 72 1000px W

 © Flagler

  • Norton Museum of Art (a jewel, according to my in-the-know friend, and also recommended by Elle Décor (2015)

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SHOP IT

Worth Avenue: Some truly wonderful PB-unique boutiques are located in between the ubiquitous, upscale chains, as well as in the NOT-TO-BE-OVERLOOKED charming, small courtyards off of Worth. Specifically:

HIBISC INTERS SHOPPERS

  • Susan E. Riley (240 Worth, in the Hermes Courtyard)–custom-made lace dress (& other treasures) shop
  • Il Sandalo (240 Worth, in the Hermes Courtyard)–handmade, STYLISH and feminine sandals, Italian, of course
  • Kassatly’s (250 Worth)–since 1923, selling BEAUTIFUL linens, nightgowns and robes, as well as a sprinkling of men’s clothes
  • Maryanna Suzanna (313 Worth Avenue, in a courtyard)–beautiful, beautiful Italian ceramics
  • Trillium (315 Worth)–a nice, upscale traditional men’s clothing store, with some women’s clothes; recommended by Elle Décor (2015)
  • Pomponner (Via Mizner, in the same courtyard as Renato’s restaurant, off Worth)–great beaded clutches and feminine, gauzy tunics, small and wonderful.

Antique Row Art & Design District (South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach)–Gotta get in a car for this BUT Elle Décor (3/2015), Travel + Leisure (12/2013), and other respected travel pub’s highly recommend it. What’s there? Antiques shops, galleries, restaurants and upscale resale boutiques.

Studio 1608 (1608 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach)–Housed in a former 1930’s car dealership, this is a collection of local artist studios, located between the Norton Museum (2 blocks) and Antique Row. Recommended by Travel + Leisure article (December 2010: old article but Studio 1608’s website looks promising).

Circa Who (531 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach)–My design-savvy friend highly recommends this store, which specializes in stylish vintage Palm Beach furniture and decorative items. Excellent web site. Can’t wait to check out the store in person!!

CircaWho interior

USEFUL TO KNOW: PB is 16 miles from north to south and about half a mile across at its widest point, and is made up of three distinct neighborhoods–the north end (The Breakers), the south end (Four Seasons & Eau), and the middle (The Colony, Brazilian Court & Worth Ave.).

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Mid-island PB (Worth Avenue/Colony area) has it all–the beach, nice restaurants, shops, galleries and hotels–within walking distance.

MORE HOTELS

NORTHERN END of PB
The Breakers (1 S. County Rd.)–This is PB’s famous resort. It’s an old-but-not-faded (they spend $25 million p/yr. on renovations!), grand dame hotel on the beach (though its beach is small) with 140 acres of grounds, including a golf course and four pools, tennis, restaurants, and a nice staff. All good but if you want to have the pleasure of walking around the ‘hood and exploring restaurants, shops and cultural sites, not happening. The distance from the front door of The Breakers to the street is not short. If you don’t mind that, the area around The Breakers is not particularly fun or interesting. IF you aren’t interested in exploring PB on foot and would prefer to totally relax in a HUGE resort setting, The Breakers is your place. 538 rooms

SOUTHERN END of PB
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (100 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, FL)–Ever heard of it? Probably not BUT this is the former Ritz that super-successful and cheery-with-a-capital-C interior designer Jonathan Adler recently re-did and the photos look grrrreat. Happy rooms and tropical chic! The Washington Post featured a glowing article (9/6/15) on it, as did Travel + Leisure (12/2014). 309 rooms

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Photo credit: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

MID-ISLAND
The Colony–The best! (see top of this post)

The Brazilian Court Hotel–Top Pick (see top of this post).

WARDROBE TIP: In the Fall and Winter, the stylish locals wear F and W colors in temperature-appropriate fabrics.

-posted January 2016