Decades ago my parents owned a condo in Hollywood, Florida. In all those years, I visited only once to be with my ailing father.
As a young woman, the idea of sitting around the pool, getting a sun tan as dark as possible (which I didn’t do then and pat myself for this clever assessment now), listening to the talk about the next meal which was usually before 6PM, certainly didn’t give me the inclination or yearning to return. That old phrase that Florida was “God’s waiting room ” stuck with me.
However, recently I had to ‘eat my words’. Awesome, surprising, overwhelming describe my revised impressions of this part of Florida.
From the 21st floor of my ocean front room at the Westin Diplomat Hotel, with the door to the balcony always opened, (a/c be damned. I love the ocean breeze), I could hear the waves splash against the shore, and see the long and wide sandy beach and the pools below. A early one night I even witnessed a destination wedding which was truly lovely. It really was a most romantic scenario.
After imploding the original Diplomat Hotel about 10 years ago, in its stead now, this large 960 room hotel is devoted to conferences and family getaways. But strangely, the stunningly designed lobby with the interior filled with rows of real palm trees under the glass roof and perfectly placed seating arrangements, makes it feel so much smaller.
What has changed my feelings of long past times? Was it that I had matured? Sure, but I don’t think that’s the main reason. There is now a sophistication and city planning that didn’t exist then and with a variety of activities that Hollywood now offers the option isn’t only beach oriented.
After my first walk on the beach, dipping my toes into the luke warm sea, visiting the Diplomat’s tucked away golf course and luxurious and well serviced spa for which the hotel provides shuttle for the mile away facilities, I decided to investigate much more of this developed city.
Donald Trump doesn’t lease, give, licensee or whatever he does with his brand and name , to anything but top end enterprises. Given these facts, a visit to the dignified, elegant Trump Hollywood where condos start at a mere $700,000US, was pure indication that the Trump name does have a certain cache for the most luxurious brand available.
For those who have deep pockets, it’s small wonder that these ‘homes’ are sold at a steady rate. However, with prices that have tanked by double digit percentages in Florida, to many it’s a bargain.
Benny, a most delightful and thoughtful concierge walked me through the stunning, minimalist lobby, a masterpiece of design by the Canadian firm, Yabu Pushelberg. Filled with the finest sculptures, well placed and decidedly thoughtfully chosen paintings and furniture, it was only a prelude to a visit to the 5,000 square foot ‘|Sky Residence’ that was sold with all the furnishing, just days before. Every detail, top end appliance, exquisite finishings, you name it, there it is and in the best possible not- in- your -face taste.
The ocean and intercoastal view is just another plus and left me longing to stay a bit longer for décor ideas and a wait for a knight on a white horse!
And of course, if it’s a Trump property, there’s always something special. Lunch had been ordered from Billy’s Stone Crab (400 N. Ocean Dr.) and Benny had the table set at the condo’s pool deck, making us feel like one of the residents and a rare feeling that was.
Then there’s the Broadwalk (yes that’s the correct spelling to differentiate it from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City). Along side of the brick walkway is a well used cement cyclists only lane. Imagine a lovely beach with swaying palms on one side and a long line of sidewalk cafes and restaurants plus low rise hotels, some old some new but all very colorful, on the other side. A few hotels seem to be the originals , certainly not contenders for best architecture from the 50s but also there are a few wonderful Art Deco designs. All have been upgraded and just a few giant steps to the sandy beach. One that impressed me was due to its ‘chutzpah’ of color and design….a bubble gum pink, turn-of-the-century design small boutique hotel, the Walkabout Inn.
If you’re in Hollywood, there’s always a gnawing hidden thought about meals. The Sugar Reef (600 N. Surf Rd) has a fine menu where I ate a scrumptious meal of the day’s catch. What could be better than sitting outside on the Broadwalk, watching the sun go down as throngs of people, some with their ice cream cone licking kids, taking advantage of the soft evening breeze on what had been a scorching day.
Other areas that cater to locals and tourists is Hollywood Blvd., an area in the centre of the street lined with palm trees, where there are seemingly always filled outdoor cafes mixed with small retail shops and not far from some green park. Nearby is Harrison Street and one of the most popular restaurants and a ‘happening’ place is Lola’s on Harrison, (2030 Harrison St.). Four of us decided to share and each and every dish was wondrous. Certainly the BBQ ribs made with Coca Cola, is their signature dish as the tasty meat just fell from the bone, the crab cakes with no additives was remarkable as was the light, delicious gnocchi and the finale couldn’t have been better, Key Lime pie.
There’s little question that one needs a car in this part of Florida. There are so many other areas to visit like the Hollywood ArtsPark with a list of musical evenings, art shows and looking at the magnificent baobab trees. But then there’s also a steady stream of cars heading to the shopping centers like the huge and inviting Aventura Mall and “uber” Bal Harbour Shops with the best high end designer label boutiques anywhere in the world. Chic is only one of the adjectives for both the shoppers and the boutiques.
And not-to-be-missed is Aizia, a waterside restaurant (3660 S. Ocean Dr.) where there are stations of every Asian type food from India, Singapore, China, Japan and all delicious. Great for Sunday brunch
There just seemed to be so much to do in Hollywood, Florida, where the cost of living is less than Palm Beach, Coral Gables or South Beach but certainly more understated, seems to have all the amenities and activities that could keep anyone happy especially for those who like privacy mixed with entertainment .
For me, seeing the difference has left a most indelible impression and the urge to go back again. Hollywood Beach, please forgive my innocence lo those many years ago.
The Hollywood Trolley is the best deal in town. Every Wednesday through Sunday from 10AM to 10PM you can get around Hollywood Beach to downtown and explore the city. Get off and on 12 times for only $1 and free for the kiddies 5 and under. For more info. Tel. 954 021 3551
From Hollywood, there’s a water taxi which connects you to the top ports Tel. 954 467 6677