Thursday, February 11, 2016

Let's get away from it all!

It is gratifying to report that we haven't lost an appetite for adventure and discovery.  We have just returned from an agreeable jaunt to Florida.  What however conspires against this frivolity is that we have been on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for the past three months. It's not as though we have at hand a ready excuse to "get away". Nonetheless the capitulation to go abroad reinforces the equally persistent adage that a break from anything is welcome.


What contributed in no small degree to our thoroughly enjoyable excursion was the unparalleled weather, nothing but a dome of blue sky and yellow sunshine for the entire time!  Granted the temperatures were not warm and the unusually high winds (up to 43 mph from the West) intensified the coolness whether walking on the beach or reclining in a chaise longue on the extensive private patio at the hotel. I have however long maintained that, no matter where on earth one may be, if there is but sunshine, all is well!


Our destination was an unusual one - Daytona Beach Shores, FLA. The resort is unusual because it is directly south of Daytona Beach, FLA which is renowned for its less than stimulating parade of vehicles on the beach and its equally tacky strip of night clubs, macho bars, T-shirt emporia and (now) tattoo parlours. The demarcation between Daytona Beach Shores and Daytona Beach is however unmistakeable.  This is so even though both cities are nestled along Route A1A lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intra-coastal waterway.  Daytona Beach Shores is a barrier island only five miles long and home to 4,300 residents (80% of whom live in high-rise condominiums on the beach). It is a resort and retirement community with no schools or manufacturing industry. While some of the homes are easily characterized as impressive, there are many smaller homes which capture the erstwhile Florida flavour peculiar to this part of the State in the '50s. I confess too that our initial journey through Daytona Beach (proper) reignited what I recall from my first visit to Florida over half a century ago. Certainly it has a "charm" which might be lost on some but which for me has an authenticity and approachability. When we left Daytona Beach Shores to return home we travelled through the old section of Daytona Beach which harkened back to the 1930s.  The architecture of many of the art deco buildings was reminiscent of the appeal the City would have then had for the well-to-do interlopers from the Northeast.

Just before I explore what we did in Daytona Beach Shores, I should interject that we interrupted our jaunt there by first going to Saint Simons Island, GA for lunch at the King and Prince Hotel.


The King and Prince Hotel is a refurbished resort from the days of the Prohibition when New Yorkers travelled there to escape the punishment of the restrictive legislation.  I have no doubt that the patrons of the resort contributed to the well-being of the local constabulary.  Saint Simons Island is another of the barrier or sea islands on the Atlantic coast, among them Hilton Head Island and Kiawah Island, SC; Tybee Island and Jekyll Island, GA; and Amelia Island, FLA. In spite of its grand veneer, the Hotel has relaxed its dress code to allow almost any visitor to feel comfortable. The modification has however done nothing to compromise the quality of services or products.

After lunch we reconnected to the famous Interstate 95 and headed straight south to Daytona Beach Shores. The only time the journey became jittery was when speeding through Jacksonville, FLA which is a comparatively large urban centre en route.  Otherwise the I95 through Florida is a flat, well-maintained 6-lane concrete highway bounded by palm trees, sea pines, inland marshes and sea grasses while at times suffering the proliferation of billboards.

The hotel at which we stayed in Daytona Beach Shores was called The Shores Resort and Spa. By some accident of fate we were assigned what I esteem to be the best room in the house.  The room (615) was located at the top of a pyramid-style collection of rooms at the southeast corner of the Hotel. Its singular feature was a vast adjoining balcony which, because it was at the top of the projections, afforded constant sunshine from sunrise until sunset.


In addition to two chaises longues, there were two regular chairs, two sofas and a large low wooden table between the sofas. The beachfront patio of the Hotel provided a perfect view of the beach and the crashing Atlantic Ocean surf.  There were also two fire pits, a large (and hot) jacuzzi and a reasonably sized swimming pool.  The beach is undeniably attractive, one that I consider even better than Fort Lauderdale for example. The Hotel restaurant (called "Azure") did not disappoint. During our brief three-day stay there we ate all our meals in the Hotel. Each evening we made a point of ordering the "specials" which included fresh local fish and superb filet mignon. The accompanying vegetables were never over-cooked; the bread was an in-house "monkey bread" concoction which was wickedly delicious! Perhaps most importantly the staff (which included everyone throughout the Hotel from the Bellmen to the Front Desk to the restaurant to the housekeepers) were polite, upbeat and friendly. The crowning delight of our visit was a massage at the spa.  Often it is impossible to get anything other than a mere "relaxing" rendition of a massage.  Here however we were able to get a genuine deep-tissue massage which unquestionably soothed our ancient anatomy!

As always one of the highlights of our venture was the simple pleasure of driving.  The one-way trip between Hilton Head Island and Daytona Beach Shores exhausted about five hours of painless travel. During that time we diverted ourselves by listening to an inspiring audio book ("Up from Slavery" by Booker T. Washington) streamed from my iPhone through the car's onboard speakers. We also capitalized upon our inertia to telephone my mother and sister in order to reconnect and update.


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