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Palm Beach, Florida

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Palm Beach, Florida - Page Text Content

S: Palm Beach, Florida, April 15-20, 2011

FC: Palm Beach, Florida, April 15-20, 2011

1: West Palm Beach, Florida, from the Flagler Museum

2: During our beach walk we passed a couple sitting in chairs with their dog. On the way back past them, the dog suddenly came running to us, like we were his long lost best friends. We petted him, and he put his head down, butt in the air, tail wagging, all the time pressing against us. Then just as suddenly he spun around and ran all goofily back to his masters. They said, "You'd | think he never gets any attention!" (To dogs, we must just look like people who love dogs. Maybe they can sense that we love them.) | We laughed about that goofy dog all week; Matt does a great imitation of that dog's funny run, which was kind of like a puppy's, and kind of like Moses', but the dog was 7 years old. | Seaspray Inn | Singer Island's Atlantic Coast | The View at Coconuts Restaurant | We were 2-3 hours early for check in, and I don't think I've ever been so glad to hear the words, "Your room is ready." We both took a nice long nap. And wow, that little hotel room sure did feel big compared to the boat. | After we awoke from our boat-dizzy sleep, we went driving around looking for someplace to eat. We found one of the 3 restaurants on Singer Island, "Coconuts," at the Hilton Hotel. The food was awesome. Who would've thought cranberries and mushrooms would be good in chicken quesadillas? And they | had the best sweet potato fries I've ever tasted. They had a 50th birthday party and a wedding going on. We enjoyed the fashion show as people walked past us into the wedding reception area, and we mostly just said, "Whoa!" at some of the crazy weird clothes some people think look good.

3: After stocking up on groceries at an expensive Winn Dixie (in the hood), we took a walk here at Juno Beach, hoping to see some turtles nesting. | Though the Floridians are doing a good job keeping the beach free of lights, we still didn't see any signs of nesting turtles. | It's good to see green. | These were the best smelling flowers.

4: We spent the morning on the beach. Seaspray Inn isn't much, but it is located right on a beautiful beach, and for that, I'd go back there. | The Beach at Seaspray Inn | This was a handy spot when we needed shade, and the view is gorgeous.

5: The View from Seaspray's rooftop restaurant, "Top O' Spray" | The food there was kind of funny. Our Caesar wraps were made with Italian dressing, and when we asked about dessert, they didn't have any. Ice cream goes bad before anyone eats it. They are only open for breakfast and lunch now, due to lack of business. But the view is nice. One night we had our own picnic up there.

6: It is simply gorgeous! We headed downtown for our Segway tour and Wow. You can tell there's some money there. There are fountains and hanging bench swings and large community areas and well landscaped sidewalks full of beautiful flowers and quaint shops. I was impressed. (The "World of Beer" serves no food but allows take-out to be delivered from other restaurants. We didn't bother going in there.) | Downtown West Palm Beach, Florida | Saturday, April 16, 2011

7: There's no shortage of luxury cars and boats in West Palm Beach. That blue car at the top is our rental car (the one with Matt in it), We were very pleased with our Mazda 3, except that it didn't have cruise. On to the funnier side of Palm Beach - note | Just in Case you need any help finding someplace... | We were very thankful for our GPS every day. There were a lot of weird turns and one-ways. It was awesome to never need a map. | the signs we passed every time we rode downtown. In between the ocean and the city, there's a large population of Haitians and Central Americans who do not live in such wealth. (Yet some of them obviously do own loud stereos.)

8: Wow, was this FUN! | Part of our training included winding around each of these cones. | The Breakers Hotel

9: They probably spent close to an hour training the 8 of us, and they said we finished in record time. I was most worried about Liz and Jean. Jean was heavy and walked crooked; Liz appeared to have Parkinson's. Yet they did fine. The only person who fell off the Segway was Matt. I wasn't quite getting it until Matt said, "Whichever way you move your pelvis is the way you'll go." From there on out, I felt like a pro. (They told us that we would feel like pros but that we're NOT!) Segways can reach 15 mph, but I don't think we approached nearly that speed. | Liz & Jean

10: The tour was absolutely beautiful. The weather was perfect - warm and sunny with a nice breeze. In the above photo (left), you can see that they've staked out an area in the water. That's where they are creating a man-made island, ironically to make the area look more "natural." They plan to plant mangroves and other trees. The $35 million dollar project is just to make the already pretty area look even prettier. We rode past an outdoor church area, with seats and a baptism. That property is for sale for a mere $32 million. The "boardwalk" along the intercoastal is fabulous. Lots of really big fancy boats are docked there. And the east island is full of mansions owned by famous rich people. During a break (when one Segway machine broke), Liz and Jean told me about touring the Flagler mansion and the Breakers Hotel, which we did the next day. In the background of that photo of Liz & Jean (to the right), if you look close, you can see Matt standing on the ground, trying to remount his Segway after he fell off. He insists it happened because he was spinning around and hit a dip in the grass. I think it might just be genetics. | The Flagler Mansion, a gift to Flagler's third wife | Stakes mark the future man-made island

11: Flagler's gift to his first wife | Kapok Tree from Madagascar,, 150 years old | Beautiful Trail along the Intercoastal | Us sitting on the Kapok Tree

12: We rode past Jimmy Buffet's house as well as the home of the owner of Reebok. Every year on Halloween, he gives all the trick-or-treaters tennis shoes instead of candy. We Segway-ed past "Bankers' Row," the street so named for so many investment banks located on it. It's beautiful, and fitting in such a wealthy neighborhood. We were especially impressed with all the huge manicured hedges. We'd never seen anything like them. They are quite effective for privacy, to say the least. Sadly, a lot of these multi-million-dollar homes sit empty most of the time. Each is a second, third, fourth, or fifth, etc. home of its very rich owner. Someone on our tour asked, "Did the inventor (of the Segway) really drive one off a cliff and die?" The surprising answer was, "No, it was the company owner who did that." Good to know.

13: We ate dinner at Bradley's Saloon, and the food was awesome - quesadillas and some of the best chocolate cake on the planet. Then we walked around that beautiful area for a while. There was supposed to be a laser light show, but it didn't happen for some reason. A couple days later we ended up returning to Bradley's for my birthday dinner, just to get some more of that amazing rich chocolate cake. | You know a city is wealthy when they install a drinking fountain on the sidewalk, not just for people, but also for dogs.

14: The Flagler Museum is one of America's most beautiful homes and Florida's first museum. It was built in 1902 during the Gilded Age (1865-1929) by Henry Flagler (1830-1913) as a wedding gift for his third wife, who asked for "a cottage on the sea." At about 64,000 square feet, it has over 75 rooms. It was completed in just 18 months, and was built with the best and latest technology available, including indoor plumbing (17 bathrooms!), telephones, and electricity, which was only about 12 years old at the time. Mr. Flagler even had a telephone installed in his master bathroom. Each room had its own thermostat and call bell for the servants. Nearly every room had a fireplace. In 1844, Henry Flagler, the son of a Presbyterian minister, left his home in Hopewell, N.Y. at age 14 to seek his fortune in Ohio. He worked in the store of some relatives for a while and then pursued business ventures in the grain industry and in salt mining in Michigan. Neither were terribly successful. But in then 1867, Flagler joined John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews as a founding partner in the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller considered Flagler to be the "brains" of the operation, and Flagler helped create the form of the modern corporation today by establishing a business trust, making it possible to conduct business in many states from a single corporate office, which was an entirely new concept then. In his 50's, Flagler's interests turned to Florida. By 1912, Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway and the luxury hotels he built along the way linked the entire east coast of Florida from Jacksonville to Key West, establishing Palm Beach as one of the world's great winter resorts. Flagler developed agriculture and tourism as the foundation of Florida's economy, and it has remained so to this day. Flagler bought up the many disconnected railways in Florida and standardized the rails, which had previously been all different widths, and then he connected them. He even had the vision to build a railway over water to Key West, which at the time, people termed, "Flagler's Folly." He certainly proved them wrong. Inside the house we saw a letter to Flagler from Thomas Edison, detailing a new kind of cement that would best suit the over-water railway. Florida also had a deal at that time that for every mile of railroad a person layed, 800 acres of free land would be given to that person, which gave Flagler plenty of room to build luxury hotels for his friends to visit. Had Flagler not protested, the city of Miami would have been named "Flagler." When we visited the home, they were setting up for a huge celebration of Palm Beach's 100th anniversary, Sunday, April 17, 2011.

16: The upper left photo is of the Grand Hall (entrance), and below it is the red Library. I was intrigued the the Library ceiling, because although it looks just like wood beams, it is actually made of plaster and painted to look like wood. It was impressive. Pictured below it is the dining room, where the gigantic green rug was actually specially woven for the room and is recessed into the parquet floor. The lighter-looking room is the Drawing Room, which was often occupied by Mary Lily and her female guests. The silver-colored plating lining everything in that room is actually just aluminum leaf (pictured on the right). The process of extracting aluminum had not yet been perfected, and as a result, aluminum was more expensive and precious than gold during the Gilded Age. The Flaglers had 30-some? sets of china on which to serve themselves and their guests during their annual 6-weeks of living in their winter home. Some of the larger rooms of the Flager mansion are still used for social functions today. | Flagler did not have quite as much success in his personal life as he did in his financial life. He and his first wife lost a 3-year-old child, and then she died in childbirth with their second child. Flagler's second wife bore him one son, who later had 3 daughters of his own. (One of the reasons the Flagler name is not as well-known as the Rockefeller name is that there weren't sons to carry on the name, as was the case in the Rockefeller family.) Flagler's second wife eventually developed a mental illness and was institutionalized until her death. Flagler divorced her and married a woman 45 years younger, Mary Lily Kenan. They were married about 8 years, with no children, when Flagler fell down the stairs and died at the age of 83. Mary Lily was left with Whitehall and the extremely valuable neclace of perfectly matched, uncultured pearls with a diamond clasp. She remarried about 2 years later, and then died about 6 months after that, leaving her fortune to her 21-year-old niece. That niece sold Whitehall to investors, and it was converted into a hotel in 1925. By 1959, the hotel was in financial distress and the entire complex was in danger of being razed. Henry Flagler's granddaughter, Jean Flagler Matthews, then purchased the property and formed a nonprofit corporation, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Inc., leaving a large sum of money for renovations. The following year, Whitehall was opened to the public as the Flagler Museum. How did Jean afford such a purchase? Flagler left each of his granddaughters 800 shares of Standard Oil at his death. Much of what we know about the Flaglers came from the diary of the hired organist who lived in the home.

17: Flagler's private railcar , Railcar No. 91, was described by a newspaper as "A Palace on Wheels" in its day. The railcar was one of two private railcars Flagler used to survey his railroad empire. Flagler traveled by this railcar in 1912 along the Florida East Coast Railway to Key West to celebrate the phenomenal engineering feat of the completion of the Over-Sea Railroad. The railcar even has a large tank for water beneath it, because Mrs. Flagler wanted to be able to shower while on board. | This is the inner courtyard, and I know nothing about it except that it was beautiful and its fountain is not easy to imitate. Andrew Carnegie is quoted as saying, "it is well, nay essential, for the progress of the race that the houses of some should be homes for all that is highest and best in literature and the arts." The Gilded Age leaders were said to have sought to inspire and educate the public, which makes sense considering Flagler's humble beginnings and self-made status. Yet I wonder how many members of the "public" ever set foot in that home in Flagler's day? I suspect that only a few of the rich elite were invited there. | Pictured is Jean Flagler Matthews, the granddaughter who bought and restored the Flagler house (so commoners like me could someday appreciate it). Next is a marble table, for which Flagler ordered the mold destroyed. He liked "one-of-a-kind's." (I thought it was ugly.) Then pictured is the stark-looking servants' room. Most of the servants' quarters have been converted into a gallery for traveling art exhibits. Next is a picture of one of the ceilings. Although it appears to be a fresco, it is actually oil on canvas glued to the ceiling. It also appears to be a dome, but the center is actually flat. And finally on the left is the clock, which still keeps time and chimes every 15 minutes. I believe they said that there are 4 clocks like this one in the world, and one of the others recently sold for 1.2 million. Again, to me, the clock is kind of ugly.

19: The Breakers Hotel was once built by Henry Flagler. Though the original burned down, the Breakers Hotel of today was built in the same elaborate Gilded Age style that one would expect from Flagler. We took our own self guilded tour. It's quite a place, but no resort justifies the $499-$1200+ cost per room per night. I was actually surprised to see so many people there. It's a little sickening to think that people are dropping $1000 per night, not to mention food or extras, but then again, maybe 1000 people have jobs there who wouldn't otherwise. We ate at their seafood bar, and we split a hamburger and split an ice-cream cookie dessert. That small meal cost $37.22, but I must admit that it was the best hamburger I've ever eaten. That was perfect ground beef. We went mostly for the atmosphere, though. Not only was there a view of the ocean but we also ate on the bar counter, which was actually a long, thin aquarium. We happened to sit over the tiny eel, which along with several other fish, was fun to watch. We love fish. Neither of us really felt like we fit in there, and for good reason. It was interesting to observe the super rich people, and what they wore and how they acted. Back on the Dolphin Dream boat, Christopher told us that when he'd been put up in $600/night hotels for his work, he'd found that rich people were not very friendly, and "not very open to conversation," unless it was all about them and their wealth. I overheard what appeared to be a woman flirting with a man she just met. Just as Chris predicted, she was talking all about herself when we passed her the first time, and still all about herself when we passed her again.

20: The Breakers Resort, Palm Beach, Florida

21: The Gilded Age was a era of rapid economic and population growth lasting from the end of the Civil War (1865) to the Great Depression (1929). The term was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley, to poke fun of the ostentatious displays of wealth. Gilding an object is coating it with a superficial layer of gold.

22: We signed up with Pure Vida Divers but ended up on Jim Abernathy's diving boat because the two shops combined their two small groups into one. | I'd heard rumors that Florida doesn't have very good diving. I disagree. Althought the visibility wasn't awesome, we still saw a lot of cool stuff. | More Diving! | Monday, April 18

24: This Scorpion Fish is poisonous to touch. I'd have never seen it if it hadn't moved. | I layed on the bottom and hung out with this Moray Eel for a few minutes. We just had a good look at each other. | I got to swim with this Turtle for a minute; it was beautiful.

26: Nudibranch

27: You could feel that current! | At the beginning of our second dive, I had fully descended and had established my bouyancy and was drifting along when suddenly I felt myself ascending, FAST. I started kicking down, and letting air out of my BCD, and more air out, and dove down and kicked more. Yet everyone looked quite far away. About then, I feared I had lost some weight. Then to my great relief, I saw another diver swimming to our guide, Laz, and handing him a bag of weights. I yelled as loud as I could and swam down as hard as I could and grabbed Laz and motioned toward my vest. He reattached my weights, and I sank to the bottom, quite relieved.

29: Our boat had a decent bathroom on it, not to mention lots of snacks and even pop. It was awesome. | While riding back to the dock, I overheard Laz, our excellent divemaster, telling another diver about the great dive beneath the Blue Heron Bridge at high tide. And that led to how we spent the next morning. | We met Tom on this dive, who dives about 5 days/week since retirement. He goes off on his own, with no wet suit, and scours the bottom for shells. I wish I had a video of his head-first water entry. It was hilarious. ("Hey, what ever happened to that one guy?") | "If you ever wonder, 'should I inflate a safety sausage?' - Do it." There was quite a current, and we just surfaced when Matt ran out of air. Everyone surfaced at different times and places. | We saw these turtles on our safety stop, which is why I didn't drop down closer. | and kicked more. Yet everyone looked farther and father away. About then, I feared I had lost some weights. Then to my great relief, I saw another diver swimming to our guide, Laz, and handing him a bag of weights. I yelled as loud as I could and swam down as hard as I could and grabbed Laz and motioned toward my vest. He reattached my weights, and I sank to the bottom, quite relieved. Fortunately I didn't chug too much air and was able to continue the dive. | At the beginning of our second dive, I had fully descended and had established my bouyancy and was drifting along when suddenly I felt myself ascending, FAST. I started kicking down, and letting air out of my BCD, and dove down

30: The homes to the right are owned by Estee Lauder. She used to have only one of them, but when she realized that people at the Breakers Resort could see onto her property, she bought the house next door, too, for privacy. | The Breakers Resort | The Blue Heron Bridge - site of awesome high tide dives! And it looks kind of cool. Except up close, where it's under construction, and "Bob's Barricades" are everywhere. To the right is an attractive condo complex with its own marina. These condos were once selling for about a million a piece. One guy bought 10 of them then. But he went bankrupt. Now there's a sign on the building that says, "The million dollar view hasn't changed, but the price has - starting in the upper $200,000's."

31: We took a side trip during our safety stop for Laz to try to get some pictures of a giant Leatherback turtle. We were lucky to see its head when it came up for air. I would have loved to see one while diving, but we were told that is quite rare because the turtles are shy. They are also FAST. At 8 feet long and 1,000 pounds, they don't look like they're swimming hard, but they are really moving. Laz also did some free diving into a bait ball. He has some incredible underwater photographs. On his business card (above) is a picture of male seahorse giving birth. I think he shot that at the Blue Heron Bridge dive, which is where we went the next day, thanks to his recommendation.

32: I sat out here and read for a while. It was beautiful. (No one polices the chairs after 5pm.) After finishing Heaven Is For Real, I was reading The Same Kind of Different As Me. What awesome books to read on vacation.

33: The Blue Heron Bridge Dive, April 19, 2011 | I'm so glad Laz and Shana (from Pure Vida Divers, from which we rented gear), told us about this awesome under-the-bridge dive at Phil Foster Park. There were so many cool little creatures, some we'd never seen anywhere before. Another woman there said that she dives here every week, and it was "octopus season," for which I was quite thankful. We saw 3 or 4 of octopuses. Matt found them based on the piles of broken shells by their dens. They eat shells, and they leave a mess behind. | Who knew that this beautiful bridge has even more beauty beneath it?!

34: Invisible Flouder Fish | I don't know if the Flounders we saw were babies or another smaller species, but they were really well hidden. We only saw them when the "sand" moved. And then they were fast.

35: Go, Matt for finding this hidden scorpion fish!

36: What Is THAT? | Batfish

37: These little things were funny. I nicknamed them "decorator anemones" because much like decorator crabs, they grabbed anything and everything available to stick on themselves in order to blend in with the environment. (i.e. shells, coral, other creatures, and parts from other dead creatures, like a lobster claw and tentacle - my favorites.) What helped us see them is that they were moving. That white one up there was checking out my gloved finger. All the little spikey things moved, in addition to the whole creature sliding along. | I was pretty excited to see that batfish. Matt thinks he saw one in St. Croix, but I don't remember it, so I'll call this a first sighting for me. I kept snapping pictures of the batfish, getting closer and closer, thinking that any second he'd take off. But he didn't. He didn't seem to have a care in the world, and didn't mind me watching him. | I don't know what those fish below are called (probably some kind of goby fish), but they were everywhere, guarding their dens until we got too close. Then they'd jump into their holes, like lightning fast. You'd see them moving (i.e. diving into their dens) - almost like waves of them - as we glided along.

38: Isn't she beautiful? | I Love octopuses! | I considered it a gift from God to see several octopuses on my birthday. This one was especially interactive. I kept touching it gently with my finger, and it would swim out of its hole for a second, give us a nice show, and then swim back in. It grabbed my finger with its tentacle a couple times. How cool.

39: I love octopuses!

40: Hermit Crab | Bristleworm

41: Flying Gurnard

43: Some guy on a boat got the great idea to start dumping stuff overboard, to create his "own reef." That didn't go over so well. | After seeing video of cleaner shrimp "cleaning" Madison's teeth, I was tempted to give it a try, but these shrimp didn't seem super friendly and outgoing. Maybe they weren't the cleaning type.

44: This is a juvenile (striped) turning into an adult (spotted) angel fish. | Blue Heron Bridge

45: Back at the Seaspray Inn Beach, Our last day in Florida, April 19

46: I watched a kid bobbing around in the water with this branch/tree. Then we found the "tree-castle," complete with a dead fish. | I love the ocean. What a beautiful beach day.

47: On April 19, 2011, I turned 35.

48: Run, Jump, Smile, Splash!

49: I love a deep pool!

50: We love dogs!

51: Happy 35th Birthday, Staci! | This cake tasted like Bill Knapp's, or maybe better.

52: $34,500,000

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