Midway into the early lockdown, the CE and I started planning: where would we go when this was over?
(Over? Hah! Anyone remember “15 days to flatten the curve”?)
Okay, maybe “over” is a euphemism. Other than Norway, Sweden and Florida, no one seems to want it to be over.
But wait, did someone mention Florida?
Rome was our top choice but overseas travel seemed daunting at that point. Hawaii was, of course, the itch we had to scratch first and luckily for us, we parachuted in and out before their governor, overwhelmed, begged travelers to stay away.
But the other travel memory that kept re-surfacing as we padded around the house during the infernal, eternal lockdowns, was of our time back in 2014 at The Breakers in Palm Beach. That oceanfront room. The sweet thunder of the waves breaking below us. The impeccably gracious hospitality that is on as grand a scale as the hotel itself. This place is amazing!
“Once you stay, you’ll understand” promises the hotel’s current tag line. Maybe not the most compelling advertising but absolutely true. There is no place like it and, a week after we reluctantly checked out, we’re already dreaming of a return visit.
We found The Breakers to be every bit as alluring as it was when we visited seven years ago. Astonishingly – and we have no idea whether it was coincidence or more Breakers hospitality wizardry – we were given the same room we stayed in before. Yes, it seems nice enough…
But you have to look out the window to truly understand…
Maybe some of my affection for The Breakers is its dowager status. Henry Flagler, the dynamo behind Florida’s emergence as a place to be and a place to go, opened the doors of The Breakers, originally called the Palm Beach Inn, in 1896:
The hotel burned in a 1903 fire, as did the next iteration in 1925:
Third time’s a charm, it seems: rebuilt in 1925-1926 the hotel underwent a major renovation in 2011 and seems to glory in its grandeur.
Nothing here is done on a small scale. That includes the room rates, regrettably, but once you’re immersed in the Breakers experience, you somehow forget about trifling matters like bank accounts.
There is the entry floral display:
The Circle breakfast room is an excellent reason to get up every morning:
So many pools to choose from, and, of course, the beach:
And, of course, the only civilized way to end each day is with Baked Alaska in the HMF lounge:
As hard as it was to tear ourselves away, we did explore the town of Palm Beach a bit. The last time we were here it was the sweltering month of August. I must say that Worth Avenue has far greater allure by the time things begin to cool down in late October.
Homages to NYC’s Upper East Side abound, including a replica of La Goulue restaurant and a Café Boulud where we had dinner one evening to assuage the loss of the one that recently closed in the city.
The Dover Sole was divine:
Trevini’s, whose Tagliolini Norcia may have been the best pasta I’ve ever had outside of Italy,
and Palm Beach Grill, an outpost of the Hillstone Restaurant Group, where the prime rib was so generous a cut that we carried half of our order across the country the next day to gift as a peace offering to Lily. The only restaurant that didn’t really measure up was The Breakers’ own off-site Henry’s Palm Beach, which on the inside resembled a glorified (and very expensive!) coffee shop and where the outside tables are so dear one must undertake a serious negotiation to snag one.
But man cannot live by bread (or prime rib) alone. After every meal, we rushed back to our room to drink in the sound of those waves crashing on the shore. If this could be the reward for every lockdown, I might be convinced to join the crowd that wants this all to go on forever.