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Archive for January 12th, 2007

Pool View

The pool photo above is taken during a break from my rigorous morning of reading and dozing off in a chaise. When you need a break from the gloom and rain of London, you could do worse than find a pool in Florida in 80-degree sunshine.

During Phase 2 of our trip back to the US, Jon and I spent a relaxing, sunny five days with Jon’s family near Palm Beach.

From what we could tell, everyone in the area either stays in a hotel or has a home in one of several newly-built, sprawling, gated country club communities. The community in which Jon’s parents bought their house gleams with newness and bustles with community members walking, running, playing tennis, going to the gym, and, of course, riding golf carts.  You can even have a golf cart garage in your home.  We would have loved it if the community had been named Del Boca Vista, but of course we aren’t talking about old retirees, as Jon’s parents would have you know.

The Palm Beach area in a nutshell: sunshine, swimming pools, routine and retail.

I think to anyone but a Jersey girl comme moi, Palm Beach County can only be described as an environmental disaster. Palm Beach County MapBut if you like to shop (and have a car – this is America!), then here is where you’d want to retire, too. Everywhere you look, there’s a shiny new shopping mall or big-box strip to suit every style and wallet.

The day after Christmas, I went to three different malls if you include Worth Avenue in Palm Beach as a(n) (outdoor) mall. At a quick glance, Worth Avenue looks like it’s going to be another cheesy Florida faux-Mediterranean mishmash of a strip with its pastels, tile roofing and stucco-looking exteriors, but then you walk down the Avenue, and the stores are just too expensive for you to write the street off as total kitsch. Closest to the beach, there’s a large Neiman Marcus and Saks, and then all the “small” stores run along Worth Avenue away from the beach: Bonpoint for all your luxe kiddie needs; Jimmy Choo for that must-have footwear; jewelry stores specializing in golf-ball diamonds; and art galleries to decorate that nice, big home. I’d always pictured Palm Beach as an old-school wasp stronghold (i.e., not so big into bling), but I guess for all its talk about “tastefulness” and restraint, high-end shopping appeals to that demographic, too.

Jon and I easily slipped into the routine that seems to define snowbird life in Florida. For example, we quickly became obsessed with getting free bagels offered for breakfast at the community clubhouse, which disappear at 10 am, sharp. So, every day, we woke up in time to be part of the last-minute 9:45 rush of people at the clubhouse.

Because this part of Florida is the Tristate area getaway of choice, the bagels were outstanding – crispy crust, chewy center. No rolls with holes here!

Following bagel breakfast every day, there’d be some exercise time, followed by lunch. Given the generally expensive and mediocre food at area restaurants we tried, I’d say the best lunch we had “out” was at the clubhouse buffet, where you could make your own salad or have custom-made sandwiches.  And so I began to see how easy it is to be sucked into spending the whole day in a gated community.  After lunch, we’d spend some part of the afternoon alternately shopping and sitting by the house pool.   Then we’d eat dinner at either a variety of nearby restaurants or at home and close out the night with time in the hot tub.  And that, you see, is the Florida Routine. God bless America!

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