A Piece of Camelot on Peanut Island

It’s well-known that JFK and the rest of his family loved Palm Beach. The Kennedys had a home there for many years, and members of the family often visited. A few of the most iconic images from the Kennedy administration were taken on the island.

A little less well-known are how many steps the secret service put in place so that JFK and his family could enjoy life in South Florida at the height of the cold war. Among those things: the government nuclear fallout shelter built just for the Kennedys on a small island just across water from Palm Beach herself. Today, the shelter is a tourist attraction on Peanut Island which is a county park where people can spend the day sunbathing, picnicking, hiking, and more.

We visited the bunker on our last visit to Palm Beach. It’s the crown jewel of the Palm Beach Maritime Museum. After a short tour of the old coast guard station on the western edge of this manmade island, a tour guide led us to a small hill and then underground to the shelter that government officials hoped would keep Kennedy and his family safe should a nuclear attack occur on Washington (or another high value target) while the president spent time at his family’s South Florida retreat.

The shelter isn’t very big, and spartan at best.  We’re talking about one large room a few feet underground, along with a few beds, storage for non perishable food, room for a desk, and not much more. The shelter could house people for up to 30 days in case of a nuclear fallout, but our tour guide said most agents expected it to only be used about four days.

Still, its fascinating–and a great example of a time long gone, a time when this kind of event seemed imminent, and preparation was prudent. Add to that the fact that Kennedy presided over the Cuban Missile Crises, and it’s enough to send chills down your spine.

So, if you have a chance–check it out. History is important, and this shelter is certainly a part of that. It’s worth seeing, and a side of Camelot people don’t normally remember.

Ancient Rome or Southern California?

Tucked into the hillside around Pacific Palisades, just before the edge of Malibu, lies one of the most gorgeous museums I have ever seen.

The Getty Villa is amazing. Full stop. It’s even better than I expected, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s visiting the Los Angeles area. In fact, I like it better than it’s more famous sibling, the Getty Center.

This is an interesting fact, since I usually favor museums with an impressionist and modern art focus. Not this time, though. The Getty Villa is all about antiquity, and I loved that about it. I’m hankering to go back. This is partly because J. Paul Getty built the villa with a specific focus. He wanted to create a place that would complement his collection of treasures from Ancient Rome, Greece, and Persia, so he designed a museum that mimicked a countryside villa in Ancient Rome, likely near the city of Pompeii.

He succeeded.

We spent half a day there recently, and I found it unforgettable, peaceful, and beautiful. Not only did we learn more about antiquities, but the museum helped me appreciate that era in a new way. It was also fun to traipse around the grounds, enjoying the gardens and the villa underneath the California sunshine.

In all– totally worth it! Put this museum on your ‘to-do’ list! Plus, admission is FREE!

PGA National Resort and Spa: A Floridian Gem

Next week, a number of golf’s greatest players will gather in South Florida for The Honda Classic, a fun tournament that also raises money for Children’s Healthcare Charity, Inc.

Now, I’m no golfer, but I do know an awesome spot when I see it. PGA National Resort and Spa is one. No doubt.

A series of unfortunate events last month led us to the resort while we spent time in Palm Beach, and honestly our day there became a highlight of the week. The resort sits on hundreds of acres of fine real estate in Palm Beach Gardens, and a luxury neighborhood surrounds it–one that gives new meaning to the word “retired”.

My husband and I enjoyed lunch with a view of the pool, and I tasted some of the best conch fritters I’ve ever had (I’m a bit of a connoisseur). We also got a glimpse of a plush accommodations the property features, and took a short walk around the grounds. Most fun of all–we caught the setting up the grandstand for the tournament itself.

I’ll admit–it made me want to watch some golf next week! I also put it on my list of places I’d like to return to one day!


My Palm Beach Essentials

Ahhh, winter.

I don’t like it. It’s not the snow that bothers me, or the cold… it’s the endless days of both. When show first falls, I love it, but once it hangs around for more than 48 hours. I’m over it. I need a break to somewhere warm, sunny, and beachy.

For the last five years, that place has been Palm Beach, FL. We started going in 2011 (ironically the island’s centennial) and fell in love. My husband and I begged each other to go back as often as we could, and I’m thankful we’ve been able fulfill that wish.

A short (or long) escape to Palm Beach comes with its own tips and tricks. It truly is a different world there–a beach town that’s never really buttoned down, but a place that is also what full-time resident James Patterson calls “Disneyland for adults.”

Over the last few years, I’ve cultivated essentials for a trip there–a few things I can throw in a bag and use to get by no matter what we get into on that island.

Today, I’m sharing that list with you. Hopefully, it will also give you some ideas for your next beach vacation, wherever that might be. Without further ado, here’s my list of Five Palm Bach Must-Haves:

 1. A Lilly Pulitzer Scarf. It’s practically a sin to step foot on Palm Beach without some Lilly in your bag, and a light-weight, versatile scarf does the job beautifully.

2. Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. Has there ever been a better lipstick invented in the history of man-kind? This shade looks fantastic on everyone, and goes from day-to-night in a snap.

3. A classic pair of Palm Beach Sandals. Jackie Kennedy loved them, and she started a timeless trend that keeps going strong even today. These sandals aren’t just comfortable, they are easy to dress up or down. Your feet will also look and feel great, which is the number one rule.

4. An oversized straw hat. Skin cancer is real, folks, and apart from lathering on the SPF (which you should do every day no matter where you live), a large straw hat can give you an extra boost of protection and a dash of fashion right along with it. You can never go wrong with one!

5. A simple tote. You’ve gotta have something to take around the island as you shop for finds and stop by the beach. I love a simple, crisp tote that goes from beach to lunch. Can’t leave home without one!


The Drake Hotel: Romance in the Heart of Chicago

A few weeks ago, a trip to Chicago had us hunting for the perfect hotel stay in the Windy City’s downtown. We found it at The Drake.

Of course, right?

 You might have heard of The Drake. I certainly had. Over the years, I’ve read about it in books, and heard it referenced in films. I know the hotel has a storied history, but nothing prepared me for the stately place that it really is in person.

We stayed two nights in a room with a king-sized bed, and in most hotels the size of our room would have qualified it as a junior suite. Amenities included two full bathrooms, a large sofa and seating area, a mini bar, bathrobes, and super-soft sheets. When we walk through the small foyer, I almost never wanted to leave.

But leave, we did.

And the rest of the hotel enchanted me as well. From drinks at Cog D’ Or to breakfast at The Drake Bros, this hotel is one of the most romantic hotels in the city. We topped off our visit with dinner at The Cape Cod Room, a legendary spot where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio carved their initials in the bar.

So what I’m saying is–go.

You won’t be sorry that you did.

Vino and a Visit to Southeastern Indiana

Most people wouldn’t consider Southern Indiana a hotbed for wineries and vino, but over the last two decades or so, the region has curated a number of vineyards. One of the best examples is Ertel Cellars Winery, located just outside the charming town of Batesville.

The vineyard can be found just short of a hour’s drive away from Cincinnati, and the property stuns immediately. Situated on rolling hills and surrounded by forest, Ertel’s  could easily be found in Sonoma County or Canada’s Niagara Falls region, but it’s not. It’s Indiana. And it’s beautiful.

Walk inside the main structure, and you find an inviting atmosphere. The tasting room offers more than a dozen wines, and tasting are complimentary. Yes, you read that right. Complimentary.

The winery also features a delightful dining room serving gourmet meals. We dined on ribs, French onion soup, salmon, pasta, and fresh bread. Servers suggested wine pairings for dinner, and our table ended up splitting a bottle. The best part, though— the chocolate basket. It’s a beautiful and tasty treat that blends chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries.

We drove home with full bellies, a new perspective on the region, and several bottles of wine. Perfect!

Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel Stuns

In the world of hotels, some are just simply in a class by themselves. You know it when you find one–lots of classic details, unique decor, understated elegance, fine dining, and world-class service.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel hits all of these marks and more.

The hotel is one of Seattle’s most celebrated landmarks, and it sits on a prime location in downtown, a short walk away from dozens of sites, Pike Place Market, and the famed Seattle waterfront. Once you step inside the Fairmont, though, you don’t want to leave. The grand lobby instantly invites you to relax.

We visited the Fairmont for a drink at the hotel bar during a recent visit to Seattle, and we didn’t just enjoy the wine, we loved people watching from a small table in the grand lobby. While there, we watched the comings and goings of a wedding party, and got a glimpse of the reason why the hotel is called one of the most romantic in the city.

In other words, if you’re in the PNW, don’t miss it!

Bainbridge Island: Small Town Charm

Finding Bainbridge Island only takes a short ferry ride across Puget Sound. It’s worth the ride, and should top anyone’s list of “must-dos” during a visit to Washington State.

Bainbridge is a commuter town and bedroom community in metro Seattle, but it is also so much more than that. Downtown Bainbridge (formerly called Winslow) features a myriad, of shops, restaurants, wine rooms, art galleries, parks, and hiking trails. The island has a lot of natural beauty, and the community also as taken pride in creating a garden atmosphere throughout the community.

On our visit, we rode an mid-morning ferry across Puget (which features amazing photo opportunities of downtown Seattle from the water) and arrived on Bainbridge in time for lunch. A short walk from the ferry took us to downtown, and we chose to eat lunch at Isla Bonita Mexican Restaurant. After lunch, we explored the downtown shops and walking trails, indulged our sweet tooth at Gelarto Italian Ice Cream, and made our way to the waterfront park and trail, which featured gorgeous views of the city dock.

We ended our afternoon with a wine tasting at Island Vintners before boarding an afternoon ferry back to downtown Seattle for dinner.

In all, a worthwhile day. Bainbridge Island is a great way to see another “side” of Washington without having to too far outside of Seattle to get it!

Islamorada: A Gem in the Florida Keys

Before my husband and I started watching Bloodline on Netflix, neither one of us had heard of Islamorada. Key West, yes, Marathon, yes, Key Largo, yes, but never this other community right smack in the middle of Florida’s famous trail of islands.

The longer we watched that show, though, the more we wanted to travel there. We finally did in May, 2016.

It turns out that Islamorada is pretty fantastic, and during the “shoulder season” for the Keys, it is pretty quiet. Travelers find Islamorada about 40 minutes south of Miami, right between Key Largo and Marathon. Like the rest of the islands, Islamorada is known for great fishing, diving, snorkeling, resorts, seafood, and gorgeous sunsets.

We stayed at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, located on the east side of the island. The property features a 9-hole golf course, private beach, three restaurants, a tiki bar, two pools, a spa, fitness center, and daily watersports.

It’s amazing.

While there, we discovered this resort is a longtime favorite of President George H. W. Bush, and we didn’t have a hard time seeing why he often past holidays there. Cheeca offers understated elegance and a high level of service (see the complimentary champagne offered upon check-in). Once the car is parked and luggage is safe inside a hotel room, relaxation begins immediately.

Islamorada offers a number of other resorts, too, and many of them are also upscale. The big secret is that it matters what time of year a person travels to the Keys. Winter is obviously the high season but by May, the snowbirds have gone home, and the rates for many of the hotels decrease. We found Cheeca, for example, on Hotels.com one night as we searched for a unique place to stay.

If you go, be sure to check out the vibrant culinary scene in the area. The Green Turtle Inn recently was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Islamorada Fish Company, Islamorada Shrimp Shack, Woody’s, and more provide great places to start.

In short, if you have a chance to visit… do!