Old Florida: Apalachicola


photo by John Solomon

Fly, rent a convertible, take a spin around Old Florida! No highways, no big cities, no depressing strip shopping centers in Old Florida…just character and authenticity.


Apalachicola sits on water that looks like the shrimping scenes in “Forrest Gump.” It is a small, off-the-radar town at the confluence of the Apalachicola River and Bay. We’re talking big, wide expanses of undeveloped water with marshes. On the Florida panhandle, believe it or not.


photo by John Solomon

The buildings along Apalachicola’s waterfront look rundown at first glance.


photo by John Solomon

But closer inspection reveals an interesting mix of commercial seafood shacks, two-story brick buildings at various stages of renovation, a small park, some docked boats and a couple of restaurants—all facing lovely views of peaceful water and marshes with graceful birds swooping in and out. An occasional shrimp boat ghosts by. Most of the town’s buildings are historic. It is a quiet place with a hint of its heyday as one of the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico in the 1800s. Today, the town closes up at 8 p.m.


Downtown Apalachicola


  • Houseboats at River Watch: Karen Hoff rents three nice houseboats on a nightly basis via VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). We stayed on Southern Comfort (property # 586285), docked on the Apalachicola River in town. Spotless, plenty of room for two people, full kitchen, heat, TV, two “land-worthy” bathrooms (i.e., no funky boat plumbing) and knock-your-socks-off views. Every now and then, a shrimping boat passed 30 feet from our deck! Great experience … like having your own boat but more comfortable and with better views, as you sit almost flush with the water versus several feet above it. FYI: The boat doesn’t go anywhere. It is just docked.

Houseboats at River Watch

  • The Consulate (76 Water Street): Across from the small, riverfront park sits The Consulate. This place is a deal! It consists of four suites on the second floor (no elevator, 22 steps) but worth lugging up your suitcases because the two river-facing suites (Ambassador & Consul) are huge, attractively decorated (despite the unflattering photos on its website), full kitchen, washer/dryer, clean and reasonably priced. PLUS! Each has a very large balcony overlooking the lovely Apalachicola River. And, The Consulate has a fascinating history.

The Consulate, photo by John Solomon


  • Richard Bickel Gallery  (81 Market St.): Stunning, stunning, black-and-white photographs of life in/around Apalachicola, mostly on the water, plus a smattering of photos taken by Mr. Bickel around the world. Lovely!

photo by Richard Bickel

  • Forgotten Coast Used & Out of Print Books (236 Water Street): Good location, good selection of books, knowledgeable and friendly owner. A pleasure!

photo by John Solomon


No gourmet restaurants here, just lots of fabulously fresh oysters, shrimp, grouper, etc. Wander and taste …


photo by John Solomon

  • Bowery Station Bar: This looks like a biker bar from the outside—but go on in. They often feature good, live music, host clientele of all ages and close at 8:00. Hardly threatening and lots of fun.

photo by John Solomon



  • Apalachicola Historic Walking Tour: Take the self-guided walking tour, if you’re curious about all the old buildings; the town was laid out in the first half of the 19th century. Pick up the brochure at the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce (122 Commerce St.).

photo by John Solomon

  • Charming, beautiful houses: Stroll through the neighborhood between Bay Street and Avenue D and between Market Street and 14th Street, where most but not all of the fine, old houses are located—polar opposite of “downtown” Apalachicola’s rough (but not scary) edges.ApalachicolaHouse2
  • Apalachicola Maritime Museum: Pay a short visit because this little museum provides a decent summary of Apalachicola’s maritime history, boat rentals and tours.
  • Camp Gordon Johnston Museum: (The local bookstore owner in Apalachicola says this museum is a good one! We did not have time to go here but plan to do so next time.) Located nearby in Carrabelle, Florida, the museum’s role is to preserve the heritage of the men who trained at the this camp during World War II. Opened in 1942 , Camp Gordon Johnston trained a quarter of a million men before closing in June of 1946.
  • Kick Back: The very best thing to do in Apalachicola is to watch the river traffic from your deck on your houseboat or at the Consulate! You’ll see a few shrimpers and pleasure boats, plus pelicans, cormorants, ducks, etc.: the birds outnumber boats by far.

OF NOTE: We have visited Apalachicola twice, both times in the winter. It may be busier or more crowded in the summer but I can’t imagine it would ever be unpleasantly so. I recommend 3 nights.

-posted April 2016

Palm Beach Beauties


Colony Photo Use in Ad_

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


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.

BC Canopy Entrance (TB)-2

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


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.

Sargent Photography

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).


  • 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)



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:


  • 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.


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

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


Photo credit: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

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