This is a dumping ground for past trips I’ve taken as vacations.  I expect these will be very different than my future explorations, which will be focused on staying in places for a good length of time, getting to know people and cultures.  These vacations were just trips to enjoy and relax.


Puttin’ on the Ritz

Having never been, a stay at the Ritz has all kinds of connotations to me.  The black tie and gown kind of crowd.  People with their pinkies on the air, staring over their martinis, judging silently through their monocles.  Movie stars, corporate big-wigs, the elite jet-setting crowd.  Either that, or an awesome number by Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder.  Either way it played out, I was up for it. 

Fashion Athlete and I arrived by open-air jeep, and were greeted as “Mr. and Mrs. Athlete”, which is fair since she had done all the work and reservations.  Note to those interested: if you can find a way to ingratiate yourself to a beautiful, competent, and organized woman, I highly recommend it.  We both got Lei’d, which wasn’t nearly as exciting as I’d imagined (it was over in seconds), then given a quick and friendly tour on the way to our room.  Brief impressions on the way:

–          No black ties or gowns.  I assume since it was noon-ish, they were saving themselves for nightfall.  I was a little disappointed, but could understand the reservation what with the sun and 80+ degrees along with 250% humidity.

–          A stark lack of musical numbers.

–          Not a monocle in sight (this seems unexplainable and unforgivable)

–          The bell in the elevator sounds like there’s a rat wrapped around the bell portion, yielding an unsatisfying “clink-clunk” when you arrive.

–          Beautiful, rich, opulent furnishings.  I almost grew a monocle just stepping into the room.

–          Super friendly and efficient bellman from L.A. I think his name was Scott.  He’s about 9 feet tall and lean, with a toothy smile that touches not one, but both ears.  I tipped him the largest denomination in my wallet both because he did a great job, and I didn’t want to imagine what happens if that amount of teeth turns from friend to foe.

We quickly situated ourselves: 4 bottles of pre-mixed mai-tai in the fridge, Fashion Athlete’s clothes hung, put away neatly, or stored in a travel bag; my clothes heaped in the corner in what one could kindly refer to as “a mess”, and all electronics plugged in (note: we travel with 3 smart phones, one of which functions, 2 laptops, 2 Kindle Fires, and 1 Surface.).  The front desk called to ask about the sudden drain on the resort’s electricity system, but I coolly explained we had mistakenly put the hair drying in the freezer causing a battle of epic proportions which should be over soon.

First order of business: the beach.  The Ritz is, in a word: ridiculous.  On your way to the beach you will stroll past 3 pools that cascade into each other (one adult only pool), 2 hot tubs, a lovely restaurant with a view of the ocean (the Banyan Tree), shuffleboard, tennis, the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s environmental center, and immaculately crafted grounds of rolling greens with (why not) a golf course.  I’m pretty sure this is where the black tie and gown folk spring from once the sun goes down.  The beach itself is a lovely curve of sand, but on the day we stopped by the waves had decided they couldn’t be bothered and instead the ocean was almost a placid sheet of glass clear out to the horizon.  Foreshadowing: the following day would see much larger waves and even some flooding up north.

Having made our rounds, we returned to our room and promptly fell asleep.  You can imagine how tired we were from all that activity!

Waking up, I was elated to see that the sun had set, and the black tie crowd would surely be about.  This, I’m sure, would be the Ritz of my imagination.  I could almost hear the opening strains of music from the hall and deeply regretted not bringing my own top hat.  Since she is, after all, the Fashion Athlete, she was dressed in a lovely black number and looking stunning.  She would fit in perfectly.  While I had to content myself with black shorts, a white linen shirt, and sandals that F.A. assured me were “dressy”.  My regret in regards to the lack of top hat now extended to any number of accoutrements: tux, cummerbund, cuff links, million dollar bank account, vacation house in Belize, corporate lackeys, you name it.  Regardless, I bravely took her hand and we ventured out.

The elevator click-clunked it’s announcement we had reached the main floor.  I took a breath to steel myself for the site that would greet us.  The doors opened.

No black ties.  No monocles.  Gownless and top-hatless, and basically crowded with every-day looking vacationers, I wondered if we had come on some “dress like a commoner” night.  There was music, but that was in the form of a guy on a guitar in the corner belting out covers of 70’s classics like “Peace Train”.  Not quite the Broadway music I was picturing.

We were seated at our chosen sushi restaurant (again: F.A. made the plan and reservations.  If you can convince a woman like this to allow you along, I recommend doing so).  The in-house sushi restaurant was everything you could hope for.  Efficient and skilled chefs behind the counter, excellent fish, friendly and attentive wait staff, and creative cocktails.  The Ritz had done a fabulous job of helping us forget that we were not hobnobbing with oil barons and movie stars (or if we were, they were dressed up in their finest “commoner” outfits).

You might think since we had napped before dinner, that we would then be up for some more adventures that night.  You would be wrong.  The bed at the Ritz is a combination of clouds, foam, angels, and sheer acreage.  We flipped channels for a while, giving each show exactly 2 seconds to grab our attention before moving on.  When each channel had failed us 3 times through, we proclaimed the night finished.  I dreamed of Broadway numbers performed by resurrected monsters.  Amongst other things.

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