I rang in the New Year with old friends and some new, back in my hometown of Palm Beach. I wasn’t born there, but spent 15 years soaking up the island sun and dancing on every table in town from Bradley’s to LuLu’s, 264, and of course, Au Bar. Three days there was a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, visiting old friends, driving past my old apartment, and seeing how much has changed while so much has stayed the same. That’s the beauty of this magical place.
Considered a local, admittedly I turned my nose up a bit at staying down the road rather than in the center of town. However that attitude vanished when I checked into the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan. Placed directly on the beach, the divine ocean views and waking up to the sound of waves lapping the shore sold me. Endless beach walks, sunset ocean dips, and cocktails outside by the fire pit were some highlights. Not to mention the seriously good sushi served in the lobby bar. Rooms are standard Ritz Carlton fare: neutral tones, balconies, perfect bathrooms and maybe the most comfortable bed in the business. Shoot, have I mentioned the most incredible spa? Wicker chair orbs suspended from a trellis over a shallow pool, anyone? Sublime.
Buccan is the new ‘hard to get in’ restaurant in town and it serves up truly delicious food in a contemporary and comfortable setting. I feasted on everything from tuna tartare to pizza while seated on a cozy sofa in the lounge with friends. Worth making the res.
I started my mornings with cinnamon toast and fried eggs from Greens Pharmacy and Luncheonette. This mostly ‘locals only’ hideaway dishes up diner food at the counter in the middle of a pharmacy alongside sunscreen and beach pails. Might be my favorite PB destination and no trip there is complete without it.
Further south near the Ritz is the Dune Deck. Located on the public beach north of the hotel, I loved walking there on the beach and enjoying a BLT seaside.
Go to Hamburger Heaven for an egg salad sandwich, or a burger and a shake. Hasn’t changed a wink since I frequented here 15 years ago. Can’t beat counter seating. Old school PB.
Testa’s (strawberry pie and steak for two), Bice, Renato’s and Chez Jean Pierre are still island faves, and try the new pizza spot, Pizza Al Fresco, started by the folks from Renato’s. Located in Via Mizner, this always busy pizza under the stars was a welcome newcomer for me.
Leta Austin Foster is the stepmom to an old beau of mine, and a seriously cool woman. Never mind that she can finish the NYT crossword in about five minutes, she also has seriously good taste. Check out her shop in the Via Mizner for toney giftables, linens, and all things chic.
I love that Vivi’s Stationery is still in its home tucked in the Via Parigi after all these years. Go here to have a box of custom paper luggage tags made with your last name in your choice of colors. Use a new one for every trip and spot your bags on the carousel from a mile away.
No trip to Palm Beach is complete without a visit to Lilly Pulitzer headquarters aka C. Orrico. Owned by my favorite three sisters, this is your destination for all things pink and green.
Palm Beach is unlike any place you’ve ever been, with its manicured hedges, Mizner architecture, coquina stone and perfect setting between the intracoastal and the ocean. Definitely take a walk along the Lake Trail (a great way to be a voyeur and see how the other side lives), and take a drive down Ocean Drive ogling the grand Mizners. Don’t forget to peek at Donald Trump’s place, Mar-A-Lago, the former manse of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Don’t go in though . . . today it’s a members-only club.
Most of the street signs now are green, but when I lived there they were chic chic chic black with white letters. Keep your eyes open and you may see one or two left. Another peculiarity to Palm Beach are the real estate signs. If you are looking to buy, you better squint. Realtor signs are hung on pencil thin rods and are the size of your smart phone.
Fun Fact: When I first moved to Palm Beach around 1985, the wall that surrounds Mar-A-Lago still had broken glass bottles affixed to the top as a sort of olden days security system. The old school version of barbed-wire, it was insanely beautiful and dangerous. The town (or The Donald) removed it sometime in the mid-eighties, so now it’s just a memory of another era.