Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jean's Excellent Palm Beach Adventure

On the Friday morning before the inauguration, as temperatures in the northeast were about to plummet to record breaking lows, Jean left Valerie behind and headed south to spend five days in Palm Beach Gardens with five college friends. Sweet!   It was very therapeutic to see girlfriends who have known each other since 1967. After 46 years, we have no secrets!  Stick around as I spill the beans on our adventures. (Click on photos to enlarge!)

Three of us arrived at Palm Beach International Airport from Newark Liberty Airport and had to wait for the other three's delayed flight to arrive from Philadelphia. While we were waiting, I noticed this great looking pair of women walking right toward me. Both ladies are named Carol and are from Toronto (how easy is that to remember!). The lady on the left recognized me and stopped to tell me how much she liked the blog and that she had a copy of Life Dressing, Joana Avillez' book of illustrations of me and Valerie. She also pointed out her Trippen boots (as if I hadn't already spotted them when she was 40 yards away!) and her terrific black trapeze top by Sympli. They promised to stay in touch and look us up when they come to New York City next year. Getting recognized in public? A terrific thrill.  Having it happen in front of my friends? Priceless!

Rogues' gallery: Mary Joy (our hostess), Ginny, Rosemary, Peggy with Elaine (above) and Jean (below). When we get together, we pick up right where we left off. We even finish each other's sentences. It dawned on me half way through the weekend that this is where I picked up my terrible habit of interrupting -- from this quintet. We interrupt each other all the time, and just keep talking over each other.

On Saturday, because rain was forecast, we flip-flopped our plans, decided to spend the day at inside events and made a bee-line to the West Palm Beach Antiques Show. It was a real treat to see a familiar face -- Adrienne Astrologo of  Lady Bay International.  She's in Florida for three months but will be back in New York City in time for the Pier Show in March.  To see Adrienne in action and view some of her many amazing handbags, check out her YouTube video:

Rosemary and Elaine scouted out D. Brett Benson's booth which had bakelite jewelry and this amazing Oleg Cassini feathered hat.

I just had to try it on. Here's a closeup which gives a better view of the detailing.  In a later post, I will wear the beautiful 1950's black satin and horsehair Oleg Cassini cocktail hat gifted to me on the trip by Rosemary, so stay tuned.

I met these two dapper gents in the Howard Price Fine Arts booth. (The eponymous Mr. Price is the one on the left.)  For more information on Howard Price Fine Art Panama City, Panama, click on the link:

The gentleman on the right (above) was kind enough to show me the bracelets fashioned out of silver and Anasazi pottery shards. Each one is different and wonderfully graphic.  (Valerie covets these!!!)

After the antique show, we drove to Pompano Beach to the indoor flea market on West Sample Street. It was huge and featured booths with everything from consignment and vintage outfits, to furniture, watches, clothing, shoes and health and beauty aids. We ate dinner at Spoto's, famous for its oysters. Ginny and Rosemary posed for a shot.

Mary Joy and Ginny -- and the oysters!

Elaine and I were roommates in our freshman year.

On Sunday morning, the sun came out, so we went to downtown Palm Beach, to Testa's, for brunch. Left to right: Ginny, Peggy and Mary Joy.

My inner celebrity beeper was going off like a siren in my head.  Suddenly, over Peggy's shoulder, I spotted writer Joan Didion at the next table!  She looked great. An author in her own right, she was the wife of screenwriter and critic John Gregory Dunne and sister-in-law of writer and investigative journalist Dominick Dunne.  Joan and John co-wrote the script for the film The Panic in Needle Park, produced by Dominick, which starred Al Pacino.  Joan was sporting the classic straw brimmed hat favored by many of the Palm Beach ladies of a certain age.

Elaine and Rosemary and I got into the act.

Our next stop was Whitehall, the Beaux Arts mansion that houses the Flagler Museum. Mary Joy, Elaine, Rosemary, Peggy and Ginny paused outside before going in for our docent tour.

Although our day-to-day styles are very different because of where we live and our occupations, because we were traveling in Florida in high season, everyone (even I) opted for color!

It didn't occur to me until I was home and editing my photos that I should have documented everyone's footwear. (Double duh!) Daywear shoes ranged from Mary Joy's chic Chanel flats to my black and white creepers. However, in the evening, half of the group actually opted for heels (Rosemary, Ginny and Mary Joy). I'm making a mental note to cover this in depth next time.

Now, on to the museum tour!

Built by Henry Flagler for his third wife (don't raise your eyebrows - he outlived the first two), Whitehall was amazingly constructed in only 18 months! Here is the grand staircase in the entrance hall. The tall columns are made of Vermont marble.

Here is the view if you look up. What appear to be frescoes are paintings on canvas affixed to the ceiling. These design innovations helped speed construction.

Flanked by a pair of Sphinx, Peggy takes a break on one of the benches in front of the main staircase.

Henry Morrison Flagler was a friend of John D. Rockefeller and both made their first fortunes from Standard Oil. Henry Flagler eventually built a railroad that ran the entire length of the state of Florida, from Jacksonville to Key West. At the time he started, southern Florida was very sparsely populated, so the railroad spurred population growth up and down its length. Unfortunately, a hurricane in 1935 devastated the tracks and it was never fully rebuilt.

The ballroom reflects the opulence of the era.

Although it was built rather quickly, there was no skimping on the detail work as evidenced by the flooring in one of the dining rooms.

Likewise, the ceilings were also ornate. What looks like wood is actually plaster painted to look like oak.

This coffered ceiling is in a hallway just off the billiard room.

In the center of the building are a courtyard and fountain fashioned after one in Florence, Italy.

The Marie Antoinette bedroom was one of our favorite rooms on the tour. Check out the ceiling and her portrait over the mantle.

We loved the flowered lampshades in that light and airy bedroom.

Separate from the mansion is a lovely skylit building that houses the Beaux Arts Cafe and Henry Flagler's private rail car.

This Tiffany clock graces the entryway. A number of Louis Comfort Tiffany pieces are in the main house.

Flagler's railroad car #91 has been restored and is open to the public.

I'm channeling my inner Eva Peron, from the observation deck.

Here is the sitting room. Note the tiny transom windows which provide additional light and ventilation.

In this room, sleeping berths fold up out of the way during the day. The Flaglers had their own separate bedroom and bathroom, equipped with a state-of-the-art "needle point shower" lined with perforated copper tubing so that the heated water shot out in tiny jets.

Sunday was just chock full of fun. From Whitehall, we headed to the Breakers, another of Flagler's Beaux Arts buildings, which was designed and constructed as a hotel. Guests who arrived by train went to the beach or "the breakers", so the name eventually changed from the Palm Beach Inn to the Breakers. Not exactly your Motel 6.

At the rear of the building beyond the patio are the beachfront and the sea wall.

In the Breakers' Seafood Bar, we had a lovely large round table facing the ocean. I love this photo of Virginia.

Rosemary, Mary Joy and Elaine.

Ginny and Peggy are my bookends.

We spent the rest of the time hanging out in Palm Beach Gardens, cooking and eating; watching the inauguration on TV; hanging by the pool or (my personal favorite) sitting in the jacuzzi. It was hard to say goodbye to the warm weather, palm trees and flowers and head north. Needless to say, it was a rude awakening when the pilot announced before we landed in Newark that it was only 16 degrees! Brrr.  For those of you who stuck it out to the end of this story, I do hope you enjoyed the journey!


  1. Fabulous pics! What a wonderful trip. Palm Beach is gorgeous. All are beaches in FL are very clean and beautiful. Glad you had such a great time!

  2. Jean, you cannot take a bad picture! You always look great.

  3. Oh, the feather hat! Very dramatic and a preview to the gifted black satin and horsehair. Will be waiting for it's debut!

  4. Ok ladies .... I love you and I want to find a fellow arts grad to hang with and have the kind of fun you're having ........ O my but isnt this what its all about . We lovde and live as Artists .. thats not only how we are born but how we live . We love nature and it is our innate nature to do so.