For those of a certain age the mystique of Ft Lauderdale, Florida, is associated with the teen movie and song of “Where the Boys Are” ~ all about college spring break. While that is still ingrained in many of our minds, I can now think of Ft Lauderdale as where the joys are. Joy need not be a big expansive feeling, but one of peace, security and a care free mood. In Ft Lauderdale I found that kind of joy in beach side accommodations, perfect weather, vistas of ocean, sand and palm trees, dazzling cocktails and a range of dining options.
My home base was the Westin Beach Resort with only the calm traffic of Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. between it and the beach. The high rise ocean side room with expansive windows teased me into staying in the room longer, perhaps than I should have. With sunrises and moonrises and the ever changing color of ocean and the variety of people watching, can you blame me? Outside poolside dining at the Waves Bar and Grill was friendly and satisfying with a Mahi Mahi Sandwich and rum drink, as was the sunset beverage at the beach level Shula’s on the Beach bar later that day. And while I missed the tricky scheduling of drink with the sunset ~ setting early in the evening during my visit before the bar opened ~ it is a challenge I recommend.
Just because I was staying at the very comfortable and chic Westin Beach Resort did not keep me from exploring other hotels and lounges along the coast, as the Westin is in the middle of the action. Almost next door is the upscale Living Room Bar on the second level of the W hotel, again with expansive patio views of ocean and sky. I had a delicious Kobe Beef slider with a Pear Martini that fit my mood perfectly ~ so much so I came back the next evening, to try their Belvedere Raspberry Champagne martini. The W pool is a floor above the bar and is only available for guests of the hotel, with the special stairway down to the Whiskey Blue bar offering underwater views of the pool.
In the opposite direction on Fort Lauderdale Blvd. I found the Gallery at Beach Place, with a Sonic fast food spot, complete with roller skating wait staff and views, once again of the ocean and beach. On down in that southerly direction is the Bahia Cabana, an old time Ft Lauderdale tradition. Here I had a fish and chips and their specialty drink of the day, complete with views of the inland marina. Despite a gusty wind, the casual dining experience, where I met a long time friend, was a highlight of my casual time in Ft. Lauderdale. Sky, water, sunshine, boating activity, congenial conversation, satisfying food and drink: what more joy is there?
I took a water taxi back to the Westin from Bahia Cabana and got a glimpse of the inland homes and boats of the area. The water taxi is a boon for tourist without a car, especially those who have time on their hands to wait for the next boat and do not want to walk long distances. My wait was worth it, and I’d take it again, more extensively had I had more time.
For historical significance you can visit the Stranahan House, the oldest of the residence of the area. Times of entry to the house museum and tours are quite strict so pre-planning is a necessity. There’s the Galleria Mall for traditional shopping and the Las Olas Boulevard for upscale art galleries, one of a kind shops and casual street side dining. And one should not forget to visit the International Swimming Hall of Fame, preserving the awards and memorabilia of that sport.
Far inland at Plantation, Florida, is the Mosaic Theatre where I took in a Southeast Premiere of a play called “Lombardi” ~ of course about the famous football coach. The intimate professional theatre experience was rewarding. It was ironic that outside the theatre that very night there was an intensive high school football game in progress.
Talk about art imitating life! Small joys are what many of us search for in holiday vacations and the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood airport makes it all the more easy to enjoy the joys of Florida.