While those of us who call the Cayman Islands home do indeed live in paradise and our own little slice of heaven, sometimes it’s nice to get off the rock and rub elbows – sort of – with the rich and famous.
NORTH PALM BEACH, Florida – Leaving Grand Cayman and heading to Miami is quite a normal activity for many who live here.
We make the trek to shop, to play and to continue on to other destinations via the airport.
But just a short drive north of Miami is a playground for the most discriminating traveller, Palm Beach.
It’s easy to get their, just hop on Interstate 95 and in less than an hour you’ll find yourself settled in to your hotel, looking through tour material and asking the concierge for directions.
We easily found our hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton on PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens, called a friend and met him at Brio Tuscan Grille at the Gardens Mall, an excellent choice.
Rain kept us lingering over lunch a little longer than expected, but it didn’t put a damper on our day.
We left Brio and headed back to the hotel to check in and happily accepted their trademark warm chocolate chip walnut cookies, found our room and began the task of deciding what to do next.
The hotel is in a lavish, upscale community, just minutes from West Palm Beach. Visitors can dive into the sparkling swimming pool, shaded by towering palm trees and vibrant hibiscus flowers; tee off with championship Palm Beach golf at its best; or take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service to explore area attractions. The Doubletree is near world-famous tourist spots, a fine selection of museums, upscale boutiques and much more.
Our friend made a few suggestions:
Roger Dean Stadium is where the St. Louis Cardinals undergo spring training and only four short miles away from the hotel. A game was scheduled at 1pm the next day and we made plans to attend.
There’s nothing like being in Florida for the annual rite of spring training and Roger Dean is one of the better stadiums for taking in a game of baseball. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals share the facility, which is one of only four facilities in the country that has two Major League teams during Spring Training. The Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League (A) make their home at Roger Dean Stadium from April through August. The stadium is the only one in the country that hosts two Minor League Baseball teams on a permanent basis.
While the game was rained out, we still had plenty to do.
What better way to spend the afternoon than people watching on Worth Avenue. The avenue is steeped in history and the shopping is to die for.
It all started with the Everglades Club, built in 1918 at the foot of a dirt road.
By 1923, tenant disputes over rising rents at the then-fashionable Beaux Arts Building on Lake Trail, just north of the Biltmore Hotel, prompted merchants to flock south. Fashionable condominiums now occupy this historic piece of lakefront property that was once the centre of town.
The Everglades Club staged weekly luncheon fashion shows where the latest clothes from around the world were paraded on enormous runways. At a time when saleswomen acted as personal wardrobe designers for their customers, Worth Avenue “traffic” came to a virtual standstill to accommodate the crowds.
Among others, Elizabeth Arden, Sarah Fredericks, Martha’s, Bonwit Teller and Saks would take turns outfitting the shows, representing the latest fashions from Paris and New York. Inspired by what they saw, those in attendance would afterward shop. These weekly “tombolas” (named for the lottery-cage apparatus used to select the winners of door prizes) served as a launch pad for designers like Valentino, Blass, Givenchy, Madam Greis and Pauline Trigere.
There was even a fashion that started in Palm Beach. It came in the 1960s from Lilly Pulitzer, with her inventive line of colourful designed cotton print dresses, slacks, shorts and skirts. Pulitzer’s clothes became an instant hit as ladies from Palm Beach to the Hamptons began sporting her signature togs. In 1995, Pulitzer’s line was introduced to a new crop of Palm Beachers in a nostalgic relaunch.
Today you can buy Lilly Pulitzer wear at The Cabana in Camana Bay on Grand Cayman.
Worth Avenue now boasts more than 200 shops, offering everything from world-class designer jewellery, clothing and shoes to internationally acclaimed paintings and antiques.
After our fill of people watching and shopping it was time to take some nourishment.
We took our friend’s excellent advice and tucked in to Ta-boo along Worth Avenue.
The palm tree print wallpaper, carved wood mantel fireplace, rattan and cane chairs, fishtail palms and delicate chandeliers create a sense that you’ve slipped through another dimension and are dining somewhere in a D.H. Lawrence novel, with or without Lady Chatterly.
Manager Mark Mariacher says the walls at Ta-boo could surely recount some fantastic tales. The mythology alone could spice up your lunch, like the story about the German submarine commander who came ashore for a couple of drinks during World War II, or gossip about Joseph P. Kennedy locking himself in the ladies room with Gloria Swanson for an evening. One story claims that the Bloody Mary was invented one morning by a Ta-boo bartender, upon Barbara Hutton’s apparent need for a hangover antidote. The place has played host to Kathleen Turner, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Frank Sinatra.
With all of the stories of the famous and infamous cavorting inside, Ta-boo continues to be an Island staple, as well as a haven for loyal regulars. The food is consistently excellent and the menu offers something for every sort of taste (and pocketbook). For lunch, the enormous cheeseburger is fantastic, but so is Ta-boo’s trademark lobster tail and Island chicken salad with fresh fruit and mango chutney. Another excellent choice is Ta-boo’s warm grilled chicken and pears over mixed greens, with walnuts, Gorgonzola and orange-walnut vinaigrette. Pizzas make a delightful meal as well, especially the one with savoury grilled portobello mushrooms, pesto, mozzarella and onions. Keep one eye open; you never know who may end up seated next to you.
We found that out the next day when we ventured to Jupiter and stopped in at the Dive Bar and Restaurant for oysters on the half shell.
While sipping on cool drinks a woman, her two children and friends walked in and stood behind us while awaiting a seat on the deck overlooking the yacht club’s harbour – it was Elin Nordegren Woods, Tiger’s ex. While she was waiting on a table we were watching Tiger playing golf on one of the many televisions in the restaurant.
The raw bar is fabulous and the sushi offerings plenty. One of the highlights is watching the sushi chefs prepare your order. By all means, order the lobster roll.
After Jupiter we decided to head ‘south’ down to Singer Island for more people watching.
Singer Island was named for Paris Eugene Singer, the famous developer of Palm Beach and 23rd child of Isaac Singer, the sewing machine magnate. In 1920, he visited Palm Beach and met Addison Mizner.
He agreed to pay the architect a $6,000 a year retainer for life if his work was confined exclusively to the Palm Beach area. With Mizner, he created the Palm Beach we know today with its Spanish architecture, picturesque streets and exclusive shops.
Singer often took his friends on picnics to the beautiful island directly north of Palm Beach. In anticipation of the Florida real estate boom, he and Mizner planned to develop a luxurious resort (the Paris Singer Hotel) on the south end of the island and a modest hotel (the Blue Heron) on the north end with a 36 hole golf course between the two structures.
Singer Island’s long sandy beaches are considered by many to be the best in Florida. There you can simply relax in the sun, enjoy boating, cycling, snorkelling, sailing, scuba diving and blue water fishing.
Full of charm
From there we ventured to West Palm Beach to take in a little more history of the area and found a charming shopping district that is coming back into its own off North Dixie Highway.
West Palm Beach is home to the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park, the South Florida Science Museum and world-class beaches and fishing. SunFest, Florida’s largest waterfront music and art festival, takes place in West Palm Beach each May.
For theatre and performing arts, the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is the premier location in West Palm Beach to spend an evening. The Norton Museum of Art houses a world-renowned collection of European, American, Chinese and contemporary art, along with rotating exhibitions.
The Downtown Retail and Entertainment District is a vibrant area lined with fashionable martini bars, trendy nightclubs, elite boutiques and fine restaurants.
Take in history
While you’re in the area, be sure to visit the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum on One Whitehall way in Palm Beach.
This month Children are invited to hunt for more than 5,000 eggs on the Museum’s South Lawn. The Museum grounds will be sectioned off into age-appropriate areas so everyone, including toddlers, will have an opportunity to participate. Museum gates open at 9am when children may have their picture taken with the Easter Bunny, and create Easter-themed art. The egg hunt begins promptly at 10am.
After the hunt children are invited to join in special games, including the Gilded Age game of egg rolling. Egg rolling began on the South Lawn of the White House when President Rutherford B. Hayes welcomed children to the first White House Easter Egg Roll in 1878. Wooden egg rolling spoons will be provided.
In March 30, 1902, a story in the New York Herald described Whitehall, the Palm Beach home of Henry Flagler as, “More wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world…”Flagler built the 75-room, 60,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion, Whitehall, as a wedding present for his wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler. The couple used the home as a winter retreat from 1902 until Flagler’s death in 1913, establishing the Palm Beach season for the wealthy of the Gilded Age.
Tours are free and can be taken in one of three ways – with a docent, an audio tour or a printed self-guide brochure.
A must-see exhibit that is running until 22 April is the “A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls”, which presents groundbreaking research that sheds light on the many women who played a crucial role in the design and creation of Tiffany Studios’ masterpieces, in particular, Clara Driscoll (1861–1944), head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department. Driscoll’s recently discovered correspondence, written during her employment at Tiffany Studios at the turn of the century, reveals that she was responsible for many of the firm’s most iconic lampshades, including the Wisteria, Dragonfly and Poppy, as well as numerous other objects made with glass, bronze and mosaic.
In addition to designing, Driscoll managed a large department of young women, known as the “Tiffany Girls,” who specialised in selecting and cutting glass for windows, shades and mosaics. The exhibition presents the renowned works of Tiffany Studios in an entirely new context, focusing on the women who laboured behind the scenes to create the masterpieces now inextricably linked to the Tiffany name.
The exhibition includes more than 50 objects, including Tiffany lamps, windows, mosaics, enamels, ceramics, and pages of recently discovered correspondence written by head designer Clara Driscoll. Organised by the New-York Historical Society, the exhibition previously travelled to Laren, The Netherlands, Munich, Germany, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a successful international tour, the Flagler Museum is the final opportunity for visitors to see this fantastic collection.
And of course if you’re in Palm Beach you have to take in a game of golf.
Grab your clubs and experience paradise at the Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course. Beautiful landscaping along with lush, green and drought/salt water tolerant Paspalum turf creates a stunning tropical setting.
With breathtaking views of the Intracostal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, the Raymond Floyd-redesigned Par 3 offers elevations and curves previously unseen with new challenges and views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
All in all, the goal is to provide a quality experience that includes exceptional service and a comfortable atmosphere. Designed by world renowned golf course architect, Dick Wilson and his apprentice Joe Lee, the Palm Beach Par 3 was built by Michael Phipps and opened for play in 1961. It was privately owned until 1973, when the Town of Palm Beach purchased it for $5 million.
The course was renovated and redesigned in 2009 by Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd.
There is a lot more to do and see in the Palm Beaches of Florida and it’s only a short plane and car ride away from the rock of Grand Cayman.
Cayman Airways flies to Miami every day during the summer months. Pick up a hire car at the airport, head north on Interstate 95 and you’re on your way.