My husband’s birthday was in early February so about three weeks ago I asked him if there was anything special he would like to do. He replied that he would like to go somewhere where the climate was warmer than in Georgia. That day it just happened that AirTran airline had a two-day special fare for flights from Atlanta to Florida - $46 each way (33 Euros or 29 British Pounds.) The choices were: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, Sarasota, Tampa or West Palm Beach. Since we had already been to 5 of the choices I took a closer look at West Palm Beach. I found out that there is a great museum, a couple of places to see wildlife and it is not too large a town where we could easily spend four interesting days. I booked a room with a special 25% off the weekday rate and a rental car for $15 a day with my AAA club rate plus my corporate discount. So we went last week.
Map of Florida (West Palm Beach is on the bottom right, five towns up from Fort Lauderdale)The temperature was 72 degrees F (22 C) when we arrived– quite pleasant. Our room was large and the little Ford Focus did not use much gas (only spent $18 on gas the whole time.) We drove around a bit and liked what we saw. Many palm trees, very tall.
Seal of the city of Palm Beach
Seal of the city of Palm Beach
In 1878 a cargo ship named “Providencia” on a journey from Havana Cuba to Barcelona sank off the coast of Florida. It had a load of 20,000 coconuts. The shipwreck washed ashore and the settlers planted the coconuts, which were not native to Florida. They grew to tall palm trees (hence the name Palm Beach.) Actually Palm Beach is a barrier island about 13 miles long. Three bridges cross the Intracoastal Waterway for access to the city of West Palm Beach. Palm Beach has about 10,000 inhabitants, a small downtown, many beautiful houses and large condominium buildings.
In my collection of vintage postcards I have one which says “Jungle Road.” I did not know where this was until we walked on the avenue along the beach and saw a street called Jungle Road.
The Breakers Hotel was built on the beach side portion of an earlier hotel called the Royal Poinciana Hotel. This latter hotel had been built in 1894 as a winter retreat for the wealthy elite. The hotel claimed to be the largest wooden structure in the world at that time with 1700 employees and accommodations for 2000 guests. It closed during the Great Depression. Below is a postcard showing the Royal Poinciana Hotel.
We decided to walk on the beach. There was no one in sight - just a little seagull. This was curious since it was a sunny day but by then it was a bit cooler.
Boats were passing by, jumping in the waves.
We drove through the little downtown and we passed a small independent bookstore. So we stopped to check it out. It was called The Classic Bookshop. We parked by an interesting fountain, almost longer than downtown.
I bought a couple of postcards and my husband purchased an early Valentine present for me – a beautifully illustrated book by Deborah Pollack entitled “Laura Woodward.” Laura was an American artist who started painting in the late 1800s. The book contains so many lovely illustrations and gives the history of early Palm Beach. I am reading it and in future posts I should be able to relate more about the history of Palm Beach and Florida.
I noticed that very often the front door of the houses in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach had a couple of columns on either side, like below.
Also a great number of houses had very thick and high borders around their houses made of privet shrubs, some as tall as walls – up to 10 ft tall. These are pruned in a formal hedge for privacy and security I guess. All the shrub privets we saw were well manicured and resembled smooth walls so dense that it certainly was difficult to see the houses behind them. Many garden professionals are needed to keep these hedges trimmed closely for them to look so neat – providing some good jobs in the area for garden professionals.
As a coincidence about a week before we flew to Florida I had read a post on the blog “My Carolina Kitchen” which showed a nice market in Palm Beach Gardens. On my map I saw that it was not very far so we drove to this market called Carmine Gourmet Market. It is a market which started in 1972 and is now selling quite an array of produce, gourmet products and other delicacies. We walked around the market and wished we had a kitchen to cook the beautiful seafood they showed on their shelves. Or take home some of their appetizing salads or hot Italian dishes.
By then it was getting dark so we decided to call it a day plus I wished to read more on Palm Beach to plan as much as possible for the next three days.