The miles and miles of Interstate 95 will probably drag by. Most of your journey will be spent alongside the other southbound passengers, with exits for Daytona Beach, Titusville, Port St. Lucie whizzing by your window. Just a few miles inland of the Florida coastline, it isn’t an exciting drive. But what’s waiting for you at journey’s end is well worth the hours. I was born and raised in the Florida panhandle, but this trip was my first encounter with The Palm Beaches. And it didn’t take long for me to be certain that I would be back. My stay started at the Hilton West Palm Beach, a hotel among the high rises of downtown and across from one of the city’s most populated shopping districts, Rosemary Square. Eager to get the weekend started, I dropped off my bags and made my way over to Grandview Public Market.
Grandview Public Market had obviously previously been a large warehouse, but the now-white building was teeming with guests lounging on cushioned chairs and benches with drinks and plates. Inside was a maze of different little food vendors – everything from craft cocktails and coffee to Southern staples and pizza to desserts and ice cream. I spent some time just wandering about, taking it all in and resisting the urge to buy adorable gifts while I waited for my food. With a large bag of chorizo tacos, chips and salsa, and chicken n’ waffle bites in hand, I made my way back to the hotel to settle in and explore the space.
October was Spa & Wellness Month for The Palm Beaches, and partners throughout the surrounding communities came together to promote wellness through a variety of health and wellness events and activities that encourage active living. Hilton West Palm Beach offers 27 classes throughout the month for guests and locals alike, and they support the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink initiative. It was with this cause in mind that they offer a “pink package” for guests that supports the cause. So when I walked into my room, I was greeted by a pink bedspread, a pink bathrobe and towels, a pink chair to relax in with a pink rug underfoot. Elle Woods, eat your heart out.
It was tempting to do nothing but snuggle up in the bathrobe for a few hours, but the pool and my private cabana were calling my name. Hidden away from the poolside hustle and bustle by some sheer pink curtains, I sipped on a Rum Runner (that I ordered without realizing it came in a pineapple). Sitting here, it was hard to believe that you’re in the middle of a city. The hotel exudes a resort atmosphere despite being surrounded by slow-moving traffic and towering skyscrapers. It’s quiet and peaceful even though you know that the hum of a city is just beyond the walls.
The pool time was short-lived, though, because I had a spa appointment to go to. Bella Reina Spa is just a short drive south to Delray Beach and well worth the trip. The “Pure Bliss Fassage,” as they call it, started with a massage and ended with a facial – one hour of total relaxation geared toward my body and skin’s needs. The aesthetician and the massage therapist asked a lot of questions about my own skincare routine and lifestyle, taking the time to make sure that each part of the treatment was not only relaxing but useful. Even though both treatments were fairly abbreviated, they weren’t one-size-fits-all. And it was over much too soon.
But alas, I was due back at the hotel for dinner at Galley, the restaurant in the hotel lobby. Lively and humming inside, I was guided to the chef’s table where I had a view of the culinary experts on the grill. My server, Tajohna, walked me through the special wellness menu – cocktails, entrees, and appetizers created with health in mind. They were fruit and veggie heavy, healthy and light but without sacrificing taste. With all the wellness ahead of me this weekend, Tajohna suggested a decadent cinnamon roll for dessert.
The next morning dawned bright and early with an oceanfront yoga session at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa. Our instructor Danielle’s voice seemed to follow the ebb and flow of the crashing waves as a group of us greeted the day on the resort’s lawn. The class was small, a resort guest and a couple of local residents. It wasn’t an easy session (by any means), and we were all sweating by the time Danielle wrapped, but with the rising sun and the glimmering ocean in our sights, the stunning vista made the yoga session all the more serene. A perfect preparation for the next item on the agenda – a food tour with Savor Our City.
Denise Righetti started Savor Our City only about five and a half years ago in the beautiful small town of Delray Beach but has already expanded all over the country and a few locations internationally. Our tour started out at an out-of-the-way (but definitely packed) little spot called Over the Bridge Cafe for sticky buns and mimosas. The joyful sounds of Saturday brunch surrounded us, and a local artist played music off to one corner. The mimosa menu was wide, with flavors for every palate. I fully admit to being unable to finish the sticky bun, but in my defense, it was delightfully rich and certainly oversized – and we had quite a ways to go, food-wise.
Next came a brief detour into the Colony Hotel and Cabana Club; Delray has a lot of history, and Denise is full of knowledge, so much of the walk was spent learning about the years past (unsurprisingly, our own Henry Flagler made a frequent appearance). A sea of tropical colors and rattan greeted us, and a painting from our own Vaughn Cochran’s Bright series graced one of the far walls. Then a turn off the main thoroughfare led us to The Original Popcorn House where I grabbed a take-home snack to enjoy later on.
Back on Atlantic Avenue, we came upon a collection of cafe tables. The interior of The Wine Room was cozy but sophisticated. Alongside stacks of emerald bottles, gleaming wine machines lined the walls letting you choose the ounces of your pour from dozens and dozens of wine selections (every region and variety you could ever want). But even though wine alone would have been plenty to please this particular culinary traveler, wine’s perfect pairing was also on offer. The Wine Room gave us a cheese plate, masterfully assembled by Max McCalman, the resident Maître Fromager. He walked us through his selections as well as his suggested wine pairings and demonstrated just how deep his knowledge of cheese truly was. He may just have my dream job.
A short walk took us to Death or Glory, a whimsically edgy bar filled with a cast of colorful characters. As we were there just before Halloween, the colorful characters included a number of dogs in wild costumes. Even these costumed canines couldn’t distract from an addicting chickpea appetizer and a Cuban empanada. The New Vegan, a restaurant founded to make vegan cuisine more accessible (and that does so deliciously) introduced us to an incredible and unforgettable vegan platter. They not only create vegan foods for their patrons, they educate the community about vegan living.
Then finally The Foxworth Fountain, a retro soda fountain within Delray Shores Pharmacy, was our decidedly less healthy end to the tour. Classic flavors, methods, and decor transport you back to the days of the Fonze and Potsie. With so many options and a delightful guide at my side, the tour was certainly a highlight of the weekend. If I ever get a chance to go back to Delray, I certainly won’t be at a loss for dining delights. And that, truly, is Denise’s purpose. She gives you just a taste of the town and its beautiful history as she guides you through the dining rooms of Delray, and lets you venture to the spots on your own when you inevitably discover something that calls you back.
A packed culinary tour like that one can certainly have you wanting to just go take a nap afterwards, but an active afternoon isn’t a bad choice either. So I went over to Palm Beach to do a little exploring. The inevitable afternoon thunderstorm threatened the bike tour of Palm Beach with Leslie Diver of Island Living Tours, but we persisted and avoided the downpour while Leslie chatted amiably about the local history and most intriguing stories of Palm Beach’s most famous residents. Palm Beach has a gorgeous bike trail that follows the water, whizzing past the gates of enormous private residences. A cut through one of the many hidden European-style courtyards led us to the formidable facade of the elusive Everglades Club then along to Worth Avenue. There’s little surprise why the world’s wealthiest (including a shocking 35 billionaires) would choose to call this beautiful city home.
Still recovering from the culinary tour, I welcomed the light and fresh wellness menu at Florie’s in the Four Seasons Palm Beach. I knew that I would be on board with any restaurant that serves their bread with a poem garnish. Heirloom Tomato and Peach Carpaccio was followed by Wild Florida Red Grouper and a Marinated Exotic Fruit Salad for dessert. My server, Rick, deserves a special mention for rolling with the punches when a group of realtors wandered over and begged me to join them rather than dine alone. But even their lively chatter couldn’t overshadow a brilliantly-prepared and delightfully fresh meal.
The next morning required one more stop before departing for home – a barre class with Ciana at Fitness Hub Studios. I’ve never done barre before, and Ciana’s enthusiasm was the only thing that kept me from collapsing. My legs were like jelly the next day, but I suppose that’s a sign of a good workout. And maybe a sign I should work out more.
The class, though, was the perfect end to a busy but rejuvenating weekend. I left invigorated and already making plans to come back and explore The Palm Beaches.
Learn more about The Palm Beaches by visiting www.thepalmbeaches.com.