Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jean's Palm Beach Fling

It's Jean, here, kiddies, to narrate the story of my latest trip to Florida. For the second year in a row, I escaped the winter chill and headed to Palm Beach Gardens with five friends I first met 47 years ago when we started college together.  Here's the rogues' gallery above (left to right) as we got ready to grab a bite to eat on the evening we arrived: Mary Joy (our hostess with the most-est), Rosemary, Peggy, Ginny, Elaine and yours truly.

Below, we're all dolled up to go out to eat at Renato's in Palm Beach: Elaine, Rosemary, Peggy, Ginny, Mary Joy and me (in my Amy Downs origami hat that folded flat in my suitcase!).

We went to London together in 2000 to celebrate our 50th birthdays and are trying to decide where we'll all go for our 65th birthdays. Here, we're getting ready to eat at the Palm Beach Grill: Elaine, Ginny, Peggy, Rosemary and me.  (What's this, asks Valerie.  Is Jean the only person who goes to Florida and takes off her shades?)

We had so much fun last year, we decided to go back to the Palm Beach Winter Antiques Show in West Palm Beach. In the booth run by Fabulocity (don't you just love the name?) from Miami Beach, we spotted this rhinestone flapper's headpiece and a beautifully carved art nouveau flower medallion.

Fabulocity also had a great selection of carved necklaces and jewelry.

I was thrilled to see Adrienne Astrologo again and her booth LadyBag International which carries vintage name-brand handbags and accessories. We both agreed it was the perfect time to be down south as the "Polar Vortex" gripped New York City and the northeast in bone-chilling single-digit temperatures.

Poirier-Schweitzer Arts Decoratifs du XXieme Siecle from Montreal had this terrific handbag with hand-painted handle.

In the same booth, I totally swooned over this art deco picture frame with photo of Gloria Swanson circa 1918 flanked by two carved swans.

The gents who ran the booth were absolutely charming. Michel Andre (left) and Robert were very funny and quite entertaining and indulged me by speaking in English instead of their native French. When I told them I would be in Montreal in June for the Formula 1 car race, we agreed to rendezvous. When Robert told me that Toque, one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Montreal or any other city, features a painting by his partner, I vowed to pay particular attention when I made my annual pilgrimage.

How about this colorful duck pitcher?

A couple of days later, we went to downtown Palm Beach to check out the shops on Worth Avenue, cruising in our Enterprise red mini-van (it was the only rental that could accommodate all six of us) alongside the Maseratis, Bentleys, Jags and Ferraris! First stop: right across the street from the parking lot on Hibiscus, we discovered Balatro Vintage Gallery, with amazing red lacquer floors, lots of vintage clothing, hats, jewelry, furniture and bibelots.

I was threatening to take this adorable crimson mini-Mercedes out onto Worth Avenue to better "blend in" with my surroundings.

Remember paper dresses? Balatro had a whole selection.

We stopped in Sequin on Worth Avenue so Rosemary could look for a necklace for her niece to wear with a bridesmaid dress and met the owner herself, Kim Renk. She not only looks terrific, but also supports good work near and dear to my heart: animal rescue! On weekends, her shop provides a home base for local animal shelter volunteers to showcase their adoptable dogs, wearing tee-shirts identifying their agencies. On the day we visited, the tri-county humane society was walking a couple of adorable dogs, one of which looked like a Corgi-Dachshund mix. I promised to get Kim information on where my own favorite Social Tees Animal Rescue on E. 5th Street in New York gets its "Adopt Me' vests for their dogs, so everyone knows they're available for adoption. In the photo: Mary Joy, Peggy, Kim et moi!

We scooted next door to Taboo, a Palm Beach dining institution, to meet one of Peggy's friends, Ted, and his wife Jane for cocktails and a nosh. While we were chatting, models cruised by the tables to show off clothing and accessories from the local shops. My appetizer crab cakes with the name of the restaurant emblazoned on their mango sauce were an absolute hoot. I noticed after holding the plate up to show them to the rest of the table (luckily after I'd taken my photo) that the lettering started to slide to one side. (FYI: They were scrumptious!)

Off the main street are little courtyards, designed by Mizner, one of the better known local architects, who favored Spanish-style tiled roofs, and gardens and fountains, like this one near Via Amore.

Back at the house one afternoon, we were sitting around the pool and decided to open the large patio umbrella for some shade. Half way through the process however, we noticed a family of frogs that had taken up residence in the mechanism. Elaine and I retrieved most of them by hand, starting with the albino Big Daddy shown here (who peed all over my hand as I tried to extract him). We either removed or coaxed all 7 of his family members -- and a tiny lizard -- out to the garden before we proceeded.

When we went for our morning walks, we ran across a lot of local wildlife, including this contingent of what we thought were egrets. This group of bad boys kept their distance, but only just so.

Ah! It was so nice to sit in the jacuzzi and contemplate all those New Yorkers digging out of the snow and freezing weather.  Due to a snowstorm hitting from the Midwest through New England, all our Tuesday return flights were cancelled. A travel advisory was again issued on Wednesday, so we switched our flights to the next day and enjoyed the extra time in the warm weather.  The logistics of getting six women who live in four different states home to three different airports - with one rental car -- are mind-boggling, but we got through it all with good humor.

We all finally got flights out on Thursday. While waiting for my Delta flight back to LaGuardia, I met a couple of live wires -- Ruth and Ann. They were utterly adorable, confessing that they were salsa dancers who had come down to Florida to celebrate their 77th birthdays with their friends, who were also avid dancers. Ruth showed me shots on her smart phone of tall, suave octogenarian male friends who were their dancing partners and of female friends who also looked terrific and obviously enjoyed the positive, restorative effects of their dancing.

All too soon, the glamorous trip was over and I was back to reality - with a vengeance. I landed at Terminal C at LaGuardia where the air temperature was 16 degrees. Unfortunately, my luggage (which had my heavy coat) ended up at Terminal D -- a long slushy walk across the taxi-cab parking lot! Oy! Welcome to New York, kiddies!  But there's always next year ...


  1. What a lovely adventure, Jean! Interesting that you all have kept in such close touch over the years.

    BTW just to correct, that is actually a toad and the birds are white ibis. I know virtually nothing about vintage fashion though!

    1. Robert Shapiro's pal at the Bronx Zoo confirmed that it is actually a Cuban tree frog (which comes in many different colors). We'll take your word for it regarding the Ibis.

  2. Oh, how I love your Amy Downs origami hats! Looks like just a wonderful time with 'old' friends in sunny climes. Welcome back to the harsh reality of a northern winter--I'm in Canada--I think it might be worse here! ;-)
    jill in Ontario

  3. What fun! I love that Gloria Swanson photo.
    Hat idea -- for me!

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