I embarked on this journey with 3 girlfriends. The excitement buzzed in the warm and sparkling South Beach air. Step one to having a great girls’ weekend getaway is to choose friends that laugh easily and let things go.
Just so you know, I’m the type of traveler who tries to scrape by with the minimal requirements for lodging, namely air conditioning and a bed. I never look for something fancy. But this weekend was different. It was a treat. And obviously not chosen by me, good thing.
Turning into the drive of The Raleigh Hotel, we are enveloped by the shade of lush green palms and cabana strips. I instantly feel like I’ve arrived. Arrived where? Arrived at life. Because of many years of knowing myself, I immediately sit myself down for a talk. “Now listen,” I say lovingly to myself, ” I know this is new and your blood is hot. You’re ready to rush in there and touch everything. Be calm. Absorb. Nothing is going anywhere. Take it easy.”
I’m relieved to find that the valet is welcoming. He laughs at my joke and seems genuine. Not bad. So far, so good. I walk in through the doors and have 3 heart attacks.
The Releigh Hotel is one of those places that impresses and sometimes intimidates the unaccostomed. My eyes see chairs low for lounging and sea foam colored velvet couches. I smell good coffee. “Control yourself, Lyz,” I say to myself. We gather at the front desk where a sweet young lady is smiling sweetly and speaking in a sweet voice. I don’t say this sarcastically. I didn’t grow up luxuriously and having positive reinforcement that I’m not among snobs makes me feel good. I start sliding away from my friends. I wouldn’t stay in one place for very long, and everyone knows it.
My goal: get my fingers and booty on that couch, and it isn’t long before I’m carassing it shamelessly right there in the lobby for everyone to see.
The restroom in the lobby is impressively old. Not like, “Oh look at this charmingly dingy Victorian toilet.” It’s more like, “Seriously? No one thought anywhere through these past 30 decades that it was time to spruce this baby up?” Of course, 50 years from now, folks will walk in and admire the dingy charm of this 1980s toilet.
Through the lobby and out the door brings me face to face with a large gnarly tree that one would want to get married under. Or, if you’re averse to marraige, have a dreamy dinner party under. The pool is expansive and heated. They had me at heated. The palm trees around this place look as if they probably come with pedigree documents. Their lineage cannot be challenged; they are superior, indeed. I don’t care how politically incorrect that may be to say. I don’t mind myself a mutt dog; I’ve had a few and they are fantastic; but these trees make me feel like royalty, and a girl needs that now and then.
After a couple of hours of mojito-infused shenangigans by the pool, it’s a short stroll to the beach.
Being from South Florida and having lived here all my life, lounge chair-lined beaches scream tourist unloading zone. They may as well put up a sign that says ‘Middle America Safe Zone’. I normally keep it moving past those sections, but just like tourists, we want to ‘stay close to the hotel.’ Within 10 minutes we are all digging for the tiniest cutest seashells. Darn it, they got us.
After a long night of dancing, our plan to find a cute spot for breakfast is cast aside and we order room service on the terrace. So worth it. We lounge like lizards in the sun, soak in the view and sip fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee. Everyone’s food is as delicious as it looks. I know because I try it all. My omelette is so stuffed with goodness that I have to remove the plate from my presence to ensure full functioning for the day ahead.
The day ahead includes a 15 minute car ride from the hotel to the dock where our chartered boat is awaiting us. We spend the next 4 hours dancing, paddleboarding and swimming the waters of the intercoastal. Okay, there is champagne too. Our captain is very knowledgeable, letting us know who resides in which Spanish-styled, Modern-styled or Italian-styled mansion. If you’re a fan of architecture and design, a tour of the various islands should be in order.
We got back to shore at the end of the day sunbaked and sufficiently cleansed by the water. When everyone’s tan has worn off and our hair is washed, the memories will be the longest lasting gift that this trip had to offer.