By Sarity Gervais
The first time I laid eyes on Palm Beach proper, I fell in love with it. I was struck by the warm, balmy weather in the early spring, the ocean breeze and Palatial mansions nestled by the shore the Atlantic Ocean. We parked near Worth Avenue and the last layers of winter became a thing of the past.
We came down from New York, leaving behind snow up to an adult’s waist and an icy 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Still wearing fur-lined parkas, we got off the plane at Fort Lauderdale. It was early March, but within a few short hours by plane, we landed in what seemed like a different planet, a paradise on earth. In our rented car (we were given a convertible for the price of a standard rental) we headed to our hotel in Palm Beach. We took the scenic drive by the ocean and in no time, arrived in Palm Beach. The gentle sun defrosted our bodies and our spirits soared.
It was early so we decided to visit Palm Beach prior to check-in.
- Worth Ave was filled with locals as well as tourists. You could tell the difference by looking at the eyes of first- time visitors. They were wide as saucers as they stared at the American dream, the unspeakable wealth and glamour. Understated, as serious wealth often is, Worth street is full of art galleries, designer boutiques, high-end jewelry stores, and rarified air. Even the stores had an expensive scent. I visited every shop, every gallery. I saw some favorite original paintings by World Famous artists like Fernando Botero. Some galleries had a playful mix of contemporary artists and Old or New Masters. My heart was pounding a March of Joy, and I have never felt more at home anywhere in my entire life. I then tried on designer Haute Couture (stunning!) and I must admit that I was transported to a different time and space. Old money has a way of being understated and classy. The gaudy stuff displayed elsewhere is neither shown nor worn by locals. Casual clothes, often worn by tanned, well-groomed people. They were nice, smiled a lot and were easy to talk to. Some chauffeured vehicles dropped off their charges for a meeting or shopping. Others parked their small luxury cars and with an air of confidence went about their tasks. I saw and tried on the best stuff, including a stunning bracelet, a mere $20 million, on sale since the owner was a distant family friend. The price tag said 25,270,000 US$. Behind the main street, there were charming courtyards hidden from the main street, with benches, ice water, and stores that have treasures of every kind. Worth Avenue is a Must Visit.
- Back to exploring the glittering beauty of the town. To those of us who passionately appreciate luxury, the breath-taking architecture of the Great Mansions, will be a mind-blowing experience. If you don’t have permission to visit the inside of these beauties, drive along the trail by the ocean and let yourself go on a flight of fantasy.
- The Flagler Museum.
0n 1 Whitehall Way, you’ll find one of the worlds’ most magical palaces. This Gilded Age Estate was built in 1902 by Henry Morison Flagler as a wedding present to his third wife. The railroad tycoon spared no expense, This 75 room, 110,000’ foot private dwelling-palace is considered more magnificently grand than any other private estate in the entire world. Even the stunning private European castles of old are less magnificent in glory, comfort, and grandeur. Massive, white marble columns, and a basement designed to eliminate humidity (few homes in Florida have basements let alone functional ones to heat and dry the air for the comfort of dwellers.) Wrought iron fences protect the estate that was designed by the geniuses Carrere and Hastings. The building which used to be a gathering for Society’s Upper- Class has managed to withstand damage from salt air by the careful upkeep it has enjoyed for 120 years. It has direct access to the clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as Lake Worth Lagoon to the home’s west, which made swimming pools unnecessary. Nevertheless, in 1950 the pools were added. The Whitehall Flagler building is now a museum, with access for everyone. During certain hours the entrance is free. It has wheel-chair access. The museum opened to the public in 1960 and was declared by the New York Times “The most glorious palace in the entire world”
Now to the museum itself: Every year the museum has a fascinating array of exhibits. Art exhibits, a regular yearly celebration of the Gilded Age artifacts, like clothes and jewelry from the early 20th century. Women’s catalogs which take you back in time: foundation garments, shoes, and flimsy couture masterpieces to dress the high society ladies of that time. Then, of course, there are traveling exhibits: Once I was in Palm Beach when one exhibit left and a new one took its place. The furnishing is baroque, stunningly glowing and unblemished. Please look up the time of your stay to decide on the exhibits you wish to see.
- Norton Museum of Art;
Another magnificent art museum. It houses permanent collections of American, Chinese and European art. There are stunning Impressionist art pieces-I could spend endless hours enjoying the beauty of the collection.
- The Palm Beach Zoo and conservation.
Fun for the entire family. The trees are typical to southern Florida and look like mind-blowing natural sculptures. The zoo is enticing and fun and displays indigenous animals
- The Beaches
Palm Beach has the cleanest and most comfortable beaches that can be found anywhere. Sea-side cabanas. Luxury service, towels, comfortable sun chairs, umbrellas, soft sand, and warm blue water. In other words, all the comfort to please the most discerning visitor.
- Sawmill outlet and the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.
If you feel like visiting the charming town of Fort Lauderdale or Boca Raton, the distance is minimal. Outside the center of town, you’d find the largest outlet complex, where all your consuming dreams will come true, at a fraction of the retail price. Must not miss.
- Miami is just another half an hour south. South Beach is full of the best examples of Art Deco buildings and has an irrefutable charm to it.
Franklin Ave is the land of Art galleries, outdoor cafes and is like a large walkway fully blocked to traffic. You can spend an afternoon soaking in the atmosphere. I adore this part of Miami Beach.
- Of course for the Nature lovers and adventure seekers, a short trip from Miami to the largest ecosystem, where crocodiles keep popping their heads to look at you on your guided tour boat. Just remember to wear mosquito repellent and you’ll have an amazing time.
- These suggestions were all heading South of Palm Beach. If you are a road Warrior and are willing to drive for 2 hours each way, Cocoa Beach and NASA await you. You’ll see the history of space exploration, pretend to be an astronaut and the kids and kids at heart will have a ball.
- Last but not least: if you’re here already, perhaps you’ll decide to visit Disneyland and the magical Epcot center. For Shamu fans there is Sea World. These will appeal to everyone and will bring out the child in us all.