Guys get their golf weekends and their fishing trips. It’s time for a ladies’ getaway! Get the group chat together and set your email to out-of-office! Your next weekend of fun and adventure is calling.
If New Orleans is called the “Big Easy”, then Palm Beach should be the “Big Elegance”. An island enclave of wealth, from luxurious mansions to the rows of high-end shops on Worth Ave, Palm Beach exudes wealth and luxury.
Stay? I have two words for you: The Breakers! This century-old landmark towers over Palm Beach and the rooms (I loved our suite!) are elegance in excess! Personal concierge, plush robes, complimentary chauffeured Tesla, ten restaurants, 36 holes of golf, oh my! Tampa Tip: Treat yourself to an ocean view room. If you prefer boutique hotels, the choices are the Colony (a classic), but I’d opt for the new White Elephant because I’ve stayed at their luxy digs on Nantucket.
Spa? I’m a believer in hotel-based spas, because you can go back to your room to recover and refresh. The Breakers Spa is spectacular, and I selected Tata Harper’s Ultimate Facial. A series of masks and serums for hands, scalp and decollete, ending with a facial massage, left me ready to tuck into one of the Breakers beach bungalows with my own concierge.
Dine? Start your day at Green’s Pharmacy, a vintage luncheonette where the cinnamon toast was a favorite of John F. Kennedy. Lunch? Since we are shopping Worth Ave, our Tampa Tip: is Pizza al Fresco. Look for the tiny gravestone for Johnnie, eccentric 1920s Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner’s pet monkey, while munching thin-crust pizza Margherita. Dinner? Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud. Tampa Tip: miss the gnocchi and you’ll regret it. If you’re a member of a Tampa-area yacht club or country club, you’ll likely have reciprocal rights at the exclusive Palm Beach Yacht Club, where Chef Lalli’s vichysoisse is a must.
Shopping? Too many shops, too little time, but you absolutely must start your spree at Lily Pulitzer’s for brilliant colors.
Tampa Tip: If you love paper like I love paper, Il Papiro has Italian-marbled writing paper to die for, and Assouline for spectacular coffee-table books presented by white-gloved staff. But not all shopping is about new goodies, and nothing strikes my fancy like an afternoon on Antique Row on Dixie Highway (yes, it’s off the island) where shop after shop is packed with vintage furnishings and clothing. Don’t ask, but a lot was shipped home!
Drink? After savoring the Tangerine Tangos (vanilla vodka, tangerine juice, coconut milk) at the Seafood Bar in the Breakers (with swimming fish in the bar!), I was glad my room was nearby! Other PB watering holes I approve are the courtyard at the Brazilian Court, or an afternoon wine (2000 bottles!) at Café L’europe.
Excursion: From the moment I stepped aboard Legacy, I couldn’t take my hands off the syrupy smooth varnish (sorry, Capt. Brandon, fingerprints everywhere!). This Hinckley Picnic Boat is an impeccable classic, with comfy couches in the cockpit. Our skipper made our trip memorable, from the hors d’oeuvres to the seemingly endless bottles of champers. We chose a dusk outing, as the lights came on among the villas, but Flagship Charter Group also tailors picnic cruises with lunches. One word: elegance!
Get out your credit cards, and let’s go!
The Big Easy is pure decadence: in food, drink, jazz and adventures. Locals call it NOLA, we call it fun!
Stay? Great boutique hotels, and the Monteleone is always mentioned, as is the new Four Seasons, but I cherish the elegant and grand Windsor Court, walking distance to the French Quarter. Tampa Tip: book a river view room on the club level. (your own concierge!)
Shopping? You can find every possible shop in NOLA, but I was weary of Rodeo Drive/Fifth Ave. luxe shops. My Tampa Insider Tip is to head for Magazine St., where you’ll find boutiques, record shops (vinyl!), vintage clothing—a mélange of fun browsing for a day. Betcha can’t leave empty handed!
Food? Oh, my! NOLA is about food! You must sample beignets, jambalaya, gumbo, My Tampa Tip: The place for beignets is Café du Monde—have yours with a café au lait. Savor king cake French toast at French Toast (no calories if you close your eyes!), MaMou in the French Quarter for unbelievable escargot tartlets, Brennan’s for Bananas Foster, and Commander’s Palace (dress code!) for bread pudding soufflés.
Afternoon tea is a must in NOLA, and I think the Davenport Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton is proper London: delicate sandwiches, petit pastries and champers.
Jazz? Frenchmen St. is lined with clubs, but my Tampa Tip is the Spotted Cat Club for serious jazz, or Tickler’s for dueling pianos. The Court of Two Sisters has marvelous jazz brunch buffets.
Spa? I followed my edict: spa where you sleep. The Windsor Court Spa has Whisper Rooms for meditative massages, facials, manicures, get everything done!
Drinks? We started at legendary Pat O’Brien’s for a Hurricane (or two), and I remembered to toss coins in their Devil’s Wishing Well. The Carousel merry-go-round bar (French 75s) in the lobby of the Monteleone is a giggle, and Tujagues makes mean Ramos Gin Fizzs. For French 75s, the Chandelier Bar at the Four Seasons: spectacular! Tampa Tip: Don’t miss Molly at the Market for frozen Irish Coffee (creamy and potent!).
Learn? At Tijon Perfume classes, you create 3 fragrances and bottle one to take home. My choice was light and citrusy. The New Orleans School of Cooking offers hands-on knowledge to create a full dinner from chicken gumbo through jambalaya to bananas foster. Yum!
Excursion: Walking up the gangplank of the steamboat City of New Orleans (remember Arlo Guthrie’s song?), I was transported back in time and wished I hadn’t left my hoop skirt at home. A four-deck paddle-wheeler, we opted for the jazz cruise (brunch cruises, too) with the Grammy-nominated jazz band Dukes of Dixieland.
Tampa Tip: skip the buffet—it takes too much time away from wandering the three decks (bars on each deck!) and savoring ol’ man river at dusk. Sip craft cocktails, inhale the passing lights. Where’s Rhett?
After a few days in New Orleans, you’ll be glad that Thomas Jefferson opted to make the Louisiana Purchase!
Rhea Caswell is the wife of Tampa travel writer Chris Caswell and, while she is widely traveled from the Scottish Highlands to the Greek Isles, her fave travel is a girl’s getaway.
Missed out on our International Travel Story? Check out Nonstop London.