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I’ve just returned from a quintessential East Coast summer weekend in Fishers Island, NY. Never heard of it? You wouldn’t be the first. This spit of an island is only nine miles long by a mile wide and without any hotels or restaurants, you will likely only make it there if invited by friends for the weekend. Luckily, I have such friends and therefore had the pleasure of enjoying this island idyll where the cars have hood ornaments (think flying pigs or racing hares) and screen doors squeak with the familiar sound of summer.
At home with friends! With a single grocer on island, a couple of members only clubs, one deli, and maybe a single restaurant, having friends for a sunset BBQ and a signature cocktail is the way to go (dark and stormy). The families here have known each other for generations and like an extended family, everyone brings a dish, a bottle (Gosling’s anyone?), borrows flatware, and helps clean the kitchen late night.
The island-long bike path – added just two years ago – was a highlight for me. A mostly flat ride along boardwalks and pavement where you are assured bunny sightings and perhaps a turtle crossing, and alongside water where swans wade. Look for platforms on the overhead telephone poles where ospreys make their homes, and check out the paintings on the main road. A friend explained, ‘we are allowed to paint the road here, so we do!’ (This apparently happens at 3 a.m. and had me flashing back to memories of my own childhood when we’d ‘borrow’ golf carts and race along the fairways under the moon).
Don your tennis kit and get a match in at the newly renovated Community Center, or hope your friend is a member of the club.
Get on the water. Let’s hope said friends have paddle boards, or better yet, a boat. After living for 14 years in Venice Beach where I lived alongside the water but only ventured in a handful of times, it was wonderful to be on the water, all hair blowing and salt spraying. A special kind of heaven I’ve missed being out west all these years.
Beach of course! Check out Isabella, Chocomount, South Beach, or just park under the iconic blue and white umbrellas at the ‘big’ club. And if you are club bound then leave your mobile at home or be prepared to only use it in the cheeky red phone booth provided for this purpose at the club entrance. Another option is to swim in the ‘tank,’ a perfect old school ‘swimming hole’ located at the end of a dock and complete with a diving board and swimming platform. Members only.
Every island house I visited had piles of books, old board games, sea glass collections and binoculars for bird watching. It took my breath away to see red cardinals streaking across the clover covered ground.
Go see the gardens at Hooverness and take a peek in the glass house to see such works as ‘Sparta’ by Mark di Suvero.
Kinda nothing better than an island bar, especially if it’s the only bar on island. We capped our evenings with dance marathons at The Pequot. A seriously awesome dance floor that lights up in multiple hues a la Saturday Night Fever had me dancing until the wee hours.
Shop The Beach Plum for pink and green island prep and house essentials like beach bags, monogrammed towels, and tumblers or bumper stickers stamped with the iconic image of Fishers Island. For hurricane lamps and a touch of the island sophisticate, hit The Pickett Fence next door and pick up the perfect gift for your host.
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.