Staycation: Hidden Gems in Your Own Backyard

Stay·ca·tion, stāˈkāSHn, noun, a vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.

Ours may be the age of travel bucket lists — we’re 76 and 82 — and if that’s your thing, great! We decided to staycate and be footloose in West Palm Beach, about 12 miles south of where we live, and trade our local Walkscore of a meh 21 for something significantly higher. What follows is our version of the 36 Perfect Hours in … format.

Our intention was to experience what gets missed when you’re rushing by in a vehicle: how the locals live; what the world looks like from one of their windows; where they walk their dogs; whether they stop to converse (yes); shop for food; how they enjoy the common space: streets, gardens, parks, galleries. Thumbs up for traffic-calming islands and a slower pace.

Thanks to Airbnb, we found what we were looking for in the Flamingo Park (Walkscore 77) area of West Palm Beach. It came as no surprise that this neighborhood of Mission and Spanish Revival homes built between 1921 and 1928, many of them lovingly restored, has earned a Historic Residential District designation.

So far, we have had mostly excellent experiences with Airbnb, including a long stay in Providence, RI, to which we’ll return this summer. But we’d put Coconut Cottage in Flamingo Park, a semi-detached studio space that once served as our host’s Pilates studio, at the top of the list: pristine, tasteful, with an eye for maximum comfort and convenience, and of course, location. The Armory Arts Center, where one of us once regularly attended life-drawing sessions, was less than a half-mile away. The Norton Museum, soon to close for the final phase of its expansion, was also a leisurely 10-minute stroll away.

As an aside, we are huge fans of Airbnb for some less obvious reasons. We like being part of the sharing economy. We like meeting new people and having an insider’s view of their community. Philosophically, we’re on the same page with Airbnb founders, who recently wrote in an email: We believe that travel is a transformative and powerful experience and that building bridges between cultures and communities creates a more innovative, collaborative and inspired world. Amen!

Day 1: We began our first evening with a short walkabout that turned more into a pause, take picture, stroll, repeat. At a home on Lake Avenue, we stopped to browse the titles at a Little Free Library (70,000 libraries in 85 countries), picking up Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. In its place, I plan to donate Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, found in Pawtucket Village’s Little Free Library last summer. See how that works?

Howie at LibraryNext, Art After Dark, the Norton’s signature program, and currently free along with access to the collection, while the Museum undergoes extensive renovation. The courtyard was offering the mellow sounds of keyboardist, Bashaum Stewart, with vocalist, Brittany Lustig, in a program of pop and soul classics, and an outstanding rum-based cocktail for $5. Art classes and lectures were going on simultaneously. A WPB treasure, the Norton will close July 16, and reopen in 2019.

Friends had recommended the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba, 716 N. Sapodilla, and it didn’t disappoint. Doro Wot (National Dish), a spicy chicken concoction and a vegetable sampler with injera, the delicious spongy bread made from teff flour, was perfect shared by two, along with St. George’s Amber, an Ethiopian brew. Utensils optional. Friendly service, recorded world music, and native artifacts made this a very attractive destination. We’ll be back!

Day 2: Local friends joined us for a neighborhood stroll and breakfast at City Diner, 3400 S. Dixie, near Antique Row, one of the friendliest places around, even welcoming of our friend’s service pup. As former residents of New Jersey (Exit 154), we have pretty high standards for diners, especially their breakfasts. City Diner’s breakfast special: two eggs how you like them, with home fries and rye toast at $5.99 is pretty hard to beat. Décor: 50’s memorabilia. At meals other than breakfast, the scuttlebutt is: order the special, Honey. Walkable from our Airbnb, but in cooler weather.Flamingo house

Closer to noon, we walked off breakfast in the direction of The Armory Arts Center to check out a student exhibit (artist faculty: Deborah Adornato and Sam Perry). We’ve attended Salons here and many exhibits over the years. The faculty exhibits are always worthwhile. Another local treasure.

After a short break at ‘home’ and a cup of tea, we drove down Dixie Highway/US 1 to Lake Worth, to the Stonezek, a tiny indie film house (and Black Box theater) that is a favorite of ours. With just enough time before the 4:15 showing of On the Seventh Day  – don’t miss — (Spanish/English with titles), we stumbled upon Victoria’s Pisco Lounge, 806 Lake Avenue (just a few months old, though they have a sister restaurant in Lantana), where a World Cup game was in progress on several screens. The atmosphere said Spain or a Latin country. We shared a Peruvian beer and ceviche (perfect, served in a martini glass), plus the Causita Trio (mashed potatoes with aji Amarillo and lime) topped with tuna, chicken and crab meat salads. As good as Ceviche Arigato on Northlake Blvd., Lake Park. Victoria’s Happy Hour menu is 4-7 pm, and they are open until 2 am, (R U?)

Back to West Palm Beach to the Clematis Street area – somewhat less lively than usual for a Friday evening due to a torn up street in a key block. Our destination was Subculture Coffee, 509 Clematis, for a cappuccino and pastry. This is worth a stop for the ambience alone, but dang! that cappuccino was out of the ordinary. EinsteinSubculture has a great little courtyard that I once considered for a spoken word performance, but this evening it was filled with young people attending some kind of costume event. You can get tacos and some Indian appetizers from the sidewalk café, too. Next door, Longboard’s has given over to Kapow! Asian Fusion, at 519 Clematis. Next time.

Day 3, before check out. Flamingo Park for early breakfast was calling us, this time toward the Armory, where a search had revealed the Grandview Public Market, just over Parker Avenue and the railroad crossing. Here we found great coffee and a bagel at Rabbit, just one of a collection of eclectic eateries. Palm Beach County’s first food hall, we hope for their success. See Palm Beach Post’s Liz Balmaseda.

Next time, in cooler weather: Society of the Four Arts, long hike/bike on Flagler along the Intracoastal, and Antique Row. Staycaters, unite!

4 thoughts on “Staycation: Hidden Gems in Your Own Backyard

  1. Hey M – This is great…what fun! Looking forward to your visit. Give the little guys ears a tug for me. Sending love, R

    Ronald Browne The Years Ahead 561-301-4131

    60 North Market St – #107 Asheville, NC 28801


  2. Marika, this is really delightful and so informative.  Great photos!  Howard, not that it matters, I thought you were in your 70’s! Is it possible you could send me this in a PDF form? I would love to frame it and hang it in the cottage. Wonderful and personal info for Airbnb Guests. Of course, I love the one with Howard in the Cottage. Thank you both, Glorianna Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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