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Saturday, March 31, 2007


Taking another route this month. Here's my Florida journal. We had a great two weeks and took some terrific photos. Too great to share in one issue. Here's the daily scoop, and I'll fill you in on particulars in the coming issues. Remember that if you click on a photo, you'll get a bigger shot. Those pelicans were wild! I'll be back with books, restaurants and tips next month.


Real Day 1 Monday

We slept well last night. The night before was chaotic as we left our house long before dawn to catch Saturday's
Auto Train at Lorton, VA. Overnight on the train. (a great adventure which I’ll tell you about separately) Yesterday we drove from Sanford, FL to Singer Island for a two week vacation. After checking in, we headed to Publix, stocking up on two weeks' necessaries. We unpacked and settled ourselves, enjoying the view of the beach and ocean. We were ready for today.

We're staying at Palm Beach Shores and Resort in Palm Beach Shores, Florida. It is a Gold Crown Time Share on the beach of beautiful Singer Island. (I'll cover the resort separately.)

It’s a day to explore. A brief walk across the island brings us to the
Sailfish Marina where we feed the fish with bread we’ve brought--fish in a zillion colors and sizes that swim along the seawall folks call, quite accurately, the "Seawall Aquarium." Sounds of seabirds fill the air. Pelicans perch on the pilings; boats are primed for charter. There are water taxis to take us on tours to Peanut Island or to Palm Beach or to West Palm Beach. It's beautiful. The sky is a cloudless blue. Boats and ships of all kinds enter Lake Worth Lagoon through the inlet. The Marina is part of Sailfish Marina Resort, and there is a lovely restaurant overlooking the docks, The Sailfish restaurant, and we have breakfast there just watching the bustle around us. We will be back-maybe on bikes.

From our vantage point we see
Peanut Island site of JFK’s bunker for the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It’s right across from Palm Beach, so it was just a hop, skip, and jump from “home” for the President. We're going to take a water taxi over there to picnic and to snorkel. We're told the snorkeling is particularly good off Peanut Island. The clear water hosts an artificial reef as an invitation to sea life. We're also within shouting distance of Palm Beach Island with its magnificent homes and notable denizens.

Back at Palm Beach Shores Resort, we reconnoiter to get the lay of the land. The pool is big and inviting, and there is a spa next to it. It's really kept as a hot tub, nice and hot (we guessed 104º), which is not always the case. We like it because the temperature keeps a lot of people away, particularly kids. Works for us. Along side the pool is a big friendly bar, its roof thatched with palm fronds. Very Florida, and I like that. It's cool under the protection from the sun. Live music plays most of the day—steel drums or Jimmy Buffet-ish. Great atmosphere. There is a new restaurant I'm sure we'll try. We had a "welcome drink" last night as well as a sampling of the restaurant's offerings. That's how I know we'll be there again. A wooden boardwalk over the dune leads to the expansive beach. It’s wide, white-sanded, and inviting. We pick up a few towels from the attendant and head that way. Naturally.

What a wide, beautiful beach! Parking ourselves by the water, Rob and I quickly check out its 73º temperature. Wishing it were a tad warmer, we decide that later in the day, going in slowly, the temps will be fine. After all, what is summer water temperature on the Jersey Shore? The ocean will wait; right now we want to sit, close our eyes and open our faces to the sun and listen to the whoosh of the waves gently smoothing the sands.

Day 2 Tuesday

Although its early, the temperature is already around 70º, and after breakfast we take some time to make a list of things we'd like to do while we're here. It's Spring Training, so we go online and get tickets to a Florida Marlin/Baltimore Orioles game for next Tues. Today's game is sold out! Our “things to do” list has 11 possibilities. We'll see how often we can tear ourselves away from the beach. Vacation is an adventure game anyway, so it will be fun to see what happens.

Now it's time for the beach!

It's glorious--wide and clean, soft white sand, cabanas if we want. We're sun-starved and want to feel heat on our NY cold bodies. There's a slight breeze just warm enough to remind us to be aware of the sun's rays. The sun doesn't feel as strong as it is.

That relaxed, tension-released, well-being feeling initiated by sun and lapping sounds of waves bubbling white on the shore envelopes us immediately, and Rob and I look out over the water, a sea foam green darkening to teal and darkening and darkening as the Atlantic becomes deeper and deeper. It is beautiful and irresistible.

BUT just as we reach water's edge the Beach Patrol drives by, red flags go up, and swimmers hasten from the water. SHARKS! We can see them--dark, ominous shapes barely below the surface decisively reminding us that we are the invaders; the ocean is theirs.

We hurry alongside one who is no more than ten feet offshore, following him north. He never comes up high enough for a photo. Sorry. Helicopters fly overhead tracking the sharks’ movement. Even from shore, we see many.

I watch a fishing boat out on the ocean, one man sprawled across the bowsprit pointing into the water. I'm waiting for that scene from Jaws! I'm amazingly titillated by some people running back into the water, splashing and kicking. I'm mesmerized, watching for disaster. We're still pointing out those very visible dark shapes not 50 feet away gliding silently like long, black, lethal submarines guarding the shoreline. I'm also calculating when I will be mentally tough enough to go into the water and how deep I'll venture.

This rush of jumbled thoughts is exciting, really because my danger is imagined (the best kind) but memory making just the same--like the shark that swam alongside our sailboat in the Bahamas. I even think of human sharks I know, but the salubrious breeze brushes them from my consciousness.

PS I do go into the water later. It feels great! I do not go too deep.

Day 3 Wednesday

Besides the beach and the ocean, a really special and particularly nice event occurs when we have dinner with my cousin Phyllis and Michael. It’s always great to see them, and it’s never often enough. The discussion leads to snorkeling off Peanut Island. Michael warns of sharks and barracudas--particularly warning that barracudas attack shiny objects so we are to avoid wearing watches, rings or any shiny jewelry. I think I'll take the advice of a native, but my spirits are a bit dampened. I wonder if I’ll chicken out!

Day 4 Thursday

Idyllic! Today is the kind of day dream vacations are made of. The water is gloriously warm, and though I get mightily tossed by the waves as I try to get out of the ocean, it's all pretty exciting. This becomes a real problem; between the rough surf, the undertow, and a rip tide, I, and a lot of others, cannot get out of the ocean without a struggle and a bathing suit full of sand! It’s more embarrassing than scary. The evening is spectacular when Rob and I join Sailfish Marina Resort's Sunset Celebration. (I'll tell you about that separately.)

Day 5 Friday

How many great days in a row can we have????? On the beach, in the water, and then back to
Downtown at Palm Beach Gardens, a great mall with super restaurants, open courts for entertainment and lots of opportunity for people watching. We are there for dinner at TooJays and some jazz music under the stars.

Day 6 Saturday

Today begins perfectly. Rob and I put on our walking shoes and pedometers and head out to a path made just for walkers in Palm Beach Shores. We exit the hotel and walk down Bamboo Lane to Bamboo Crossing where the path begins. Along the way there are fountains, benches, interesting, twisted banyan trees, and a butterfly garden. We pass many walkers along the way, but not one without getting a "good morning." What a way to begin the day!

But the beginning of the day has nothing on the end of the day. Our good, long-lived friends, Diane and John live on Prosperity Lagoon in North Palm Beach, and it is to their home we head in the afternoon. The two years since we've seen them immediately melt away. We laugh, reminisce, and catch up over Maker's Mark Manhattans. Rob and John make the run to
Carmine's Gourmet Food Market and return with steamed lobsters and snow crab legs. Under the warm sun, we eat on the patio by the pool overlooking the beautiful lagoon where an osprey perched high in a tree turns the conversation to the myriad waterfowl we've all seen. John loves to watch the birds that make their homes or meals at the lagoon. In this slice of heaven it is peaceful and beautiful and full of promise and warm friendship. As we four fill the air with talk and laughter, the Florida breezes keep us cool. Here is the difference between warmth-craving northerners and 20-year transplanted northerners. As evening sets in, they bundle up in polartec against the chill; we leave the house with the top down on the car. Parting is sweet sorrow, but we make plans to get together again next Sat., and that makes it all bearable

Day 7 Sunday

A treat today. We're off to the
Lake Worth Playhouse to see Arthur Miller's View From the Bridge. I'm an Arthur Miller fan anyway, believing Death of a Salesman speaks to us all the time, but this is the first time we've seen this play. Not enough of a treat? My cousin, Phyllis, is the Stage Manager. It is so cool to see her bio and pic in the Playbill as well as her name in the list of credits. Love that. She is out on stage during intermission getting everything ready for the second Act, and after the show we go backstage, meet the actors and get to thank everyone for the performance. There is such a thrill in theater! It is also amazing how Miller's play is contemporary. It speaks to today’s world in a myriad of ways, and I find it impossible, as always, not to marvel at his genius.

The four of us spend another wonderful afternoon and evening together and make plans for still more quality time. I'm beginning to think that two weeks down here is insufficient!

Day 8 Monday

It's getting ridiculous to keep saying "This is a great day" or "It's idyllic," but we really have a virtually perfect day--AGAIN. Rob and I take the water taxi over to Peanut Island for a day of sun and snorkeling in a beautiful, peaceful setting. There's so much to say that I have to write a separate article next month. Barracudas—you betcha! But if you're in this area, it's a must do!

When we return to Bayside Marina (taking the last water taxi back), we find ourselves just in time to watch a charter fisherman cleaning freshly caught fish for his client. He is masterful, working swiftly and surely, filleting, cutting steaks and chunks and putting the fish in Ziploc bags for the lucky fisherman who shares his catch with some thankful tourists. BTW, take your catch to Bayside Marina Restaurant, and they'll prepare it for you. How cool would that be!!!

Anyhow, his artistry isn’t the best part. The pelicans gather!!! The fisherman feeds them some of the fish, and they stand by him, old friend that he is, waiting for him to share his treasures with them! Some pelicans perch on the roof of his cleaning station, their heads peeping under the roof at him. Another stations himself on the piling opposite the cleaning station periodically spreading his wings readying himself to leap into the air to catch morsels tossed at him. Below, along the seawall, schools of jackfish wait for heads, tails and miscellaneous chunks tossed to them. The pelicans cannot be more people-friendly had they been house pets. It is astonishing and wonderful to watch.

The sun is quite low in the sky as the pelican show reaches its finale, so Rob and I take our beach and snorkeling paraphernalia and perch at an outside table at the Bayside Restaurant. Two beers, please, we order, and a bowl of New England Clam Chowder for me and a bowl of Conch Chowder for Rob. It is a perfect ending for the day, and we finish just in time to catch the trolley back to our hotel.

Day 9 Tuesday

Some say baseball is no longer our national pastime, but it seems almost un-American to be in Florida during Spring Training and not go to a game. Not 15 miles from us in Jupiter is
Roger Dean Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. We're off to see the Marlins play the Baltimore Orioles.

It's a lovely stadium, seating 6,800 people, and there are a large number of fans decked out in Baltimore colors and gear. Guess these are snowbirds. It's great to be so close to the field. There's not a bad seat in the house, and at the end of the game (Marlins win), we watch the Orioles do their stretches, sign autographs and take pictures with fans. The atmosphere is low key; the baseball is good, and there's none of the removal one feels in Yankee Stadium. No binoculars needed here!

On the other hand, Spring Training can do a spring cleaning on your wallet. By the time we buy our tickets through Ticketmaster (since our first choice was sold out), some beer (at $6.50 a cup) and a sausage and pepper sandwich, we spend more than $75.00. We parked on the street, but parking would have been an additional $7.00. While it's not as costly as a Yankee game, all tickets other than the $10.00 bleacher seats are in the mid to high $20.00 range. It's not the same as attending a minor league game. We checked the other games across the state, and this is not unusual. But what the heck, it’s baseball and it’s fun!

One other thing--there is a definite lack of excitement in the stadium. While the Marlin mascot comes out once, and once some stuffed animals are tossed to the crowd, there are no waves and no jumping up when out-of-the-park homeruns are hit. Quite low key overall, but definitely something we'd do again.

After the game we drive over to see the
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and decide not to take the tour. It's a lighthouse. Period. But we do go over to Jupiter Island, the wealthiest town in Florida, and that is a lovely drive. I like Jupiter Island more than I like Palm Beach. It is beautiful, homes shielded from the road by magnificent flowers and hedges. The 30 mile an hour speed limit allows for bicyclists and golf carts. It appears much more laid back than Palm Beach, and that is nice.

Days 9 & 10 Wednesday and Thursday

Beach. Beach. Beach. It's windy but beautiful, and neither one of us has any urge to leave. Phyllis and Michael join us on Wednesday night for pizza from Max & Eddie's as well as some good conversation.

Day 11 Friday

More beach, but with a twist. The powerful surf continues having a field day with me. No problem getting in to the water, but a heck of a time getting out. Yesterday, however, I finished a book my son Michael suggested, Oprah’s Book Club choice, The Secret (to be reviewed in a later issue), and I made up my mind to put it to work! No problem getting out of the water. Not once (that might have been luck) but twice. Boy, did I feel good! I was the engine that could….

We come in from the beach at 3 to get ready to meet our friends June and Sid in
Mizner Park down in Boca Raton. Moments after we enter the suite, the skies open up with torrential rains whipped toward the ocean by 40 mile an hour winds. Hail pelts our car, however, and so I have some nasty, unasked-for souvenirs. This was the first bad weather we've had on this vacation, so is hard to complain. It’s over by the time we leave, and that’s the end of bad weather for us!

Anyway, dinner at
Gigi's was wonderful and seeing June and Sid is beyond wonderful. Here’s another example of years simply melting away when we’re with friends. Mizner Park is an interesting development--a combination of upscale shops and restaurants on a beautiful plaza. There are condominiums as well, and as June said, she'd love to have a pied-à-terre here. There are several parking garages with free parking, so the area is welcoming and very attractive. Another great day.

Day 12 Saturday

What a way to end a vacation!!! We go up to North Palm Beach to Diane and John, and they take us out in their boat to see what there is to see. From the Prosperity Lagoon, we see magnificent homes. Across from theirs in the Catafulmo home, owned by one of the biggest builders in the area. We learn about him because of a special vote taken while we were there. His name is on most of the construction of million dollar & up condos we see along the beach at Singer Island. We head up the Loxahatchee River, past a sandbar where St. Patrick’s Day revelers (recognizable by an abundance of green!) have anchored and are cavorting—playing games and loving the atmosphere, to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, but now we see its stately shape from the water! Fantastic! What a great ride—water, scenery, and good friends. At home, Diane has the corned beef and cabbage simmering. John whips up a rum punch that adds a tremendous amount of zip to the party, and the four of us settle in. We’re leaving in the morning and don’t know when we’ll be back in Florida, so this is really a goodbye dinner too.

Day 13 Sunday

We’re up early because we missed packing on Saturday night, but we’re out early enough to get back to Sanford with time to spare for the Auto Train. Another great vacation. I really wonder if two weeks are enough.