Friday, July 11, 2008

Holy S#*t! We've Arrived!

OK. We get to do a TON - and I mean a TON - of cool stuff thanks to Bart's job. Two years ago, we got a full ride long weekend at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra. Really nice resort, and apparently there's some famous golf there too. Then last year, we got the two-for-one bonus summer: A weekend at the world famous Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, and a weekend at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. In order to get you to fully appreciate where I am right NOW (um - that would be The Contemporaray Resort at Walt Disney World), I need to give you a little history. Funny history, I hope.

Until last year, I had never even heard of The Breakers. Several people I know literally gasped when I told them we were going there. It seems that whenever the Travel Channel does it's Top 10 US Beach Resorts, The Breakers is almost always on it, usually top 5. One friend told me that she and her now-husband had looked into getting married there, but it was crazy expensive.

So The Breakers. I drove there with the kids and met Bart there. I had ear infections in both ears, but was determined to make the best of it. As soon as we pulled up, I knew I was in trouble. No fewer than 3 young men opened the car doors for us almost before the car had stopped. I told one of them who I was, and they helped us all out of the car and unloaded our luggage. (It's worth noting here that from that point on they always addressed me by name: "Good afternoon Mrs. Edwards - how was your dinner?" "Welcome back Mrs. Edwards, is there anything we can do for you today?" They always spoke to the kids too, which gets them big bonus points in my book.) They didn't even look at me funny when they unloaded a cooler full of food and a bunch of pillows and blankets. Needless to say, this Holiday Inn kid was a little awestruck. The hotel and the room were gorgeous - I felt like I was staying in a French chateau someplace. I don't think we did too much that night - drove out to an IHOP to get the kids pancakes. The next day while Bart was Conferencing, I decided to take the kids to the beach and pool. I'm a Gulf of Mexico beach snob, so the Atlantic beaches have never really impressed me much. But if I was ging to lay on an Atlantic beach, I would pick this one. It was beautiful - one of the only times I have ever been able to get Karlin to swim in the ocean. Anywho, I put on my suit, a pair of denim shorts, a Florida gators t-shirt, flip flops, and a baseball cap. (I'm going to the beach, remember?) I throw some snacks and a few juice boxes into a small cooler for the kids, and out we go. I notice right away that something is off. All around me are women in large straw hats & designer bags wearing LOTS of diamonds. In many cases, they had their 19 year old nannies in tow to watch over their LL Bean-clad kids. As we made our way to the beach, I was stopped by a very polite woman in a blazer and asked for MY ROOM KEY! She was very nice, but apparently my t-shirt and flip flop clad self looked a little out of place. I showed her me key, and then she politely explained that coolers, food, and drinks were not permitted at the beach or pool. Huh? I showed her that it was just granola bars and sippy cups, but no dice. She offered to hold my cooler, but reminded me that "we'd be happy to get you anything you'd like from the pool snack bar." Okay. So we trot our coolerless selves down to the beach, where Jason met us. Jason is what me and my cougar friends might call a "pool boy", cute and young. (Yes Amy - you are now officially a Cougar too...) Jason somehow knew who I was (did they call down from the cooler jail or something?), and immediately greeted me with "Good mroning Mrs. Edwards - may I get you a chair?" Why yes, Jason, yes you can. "Mrs. Edwards, would you prefer to be by the water, near the Lifeguard, or over close to the kid's toys?" (They have a wonderful little sandy play area with a lifetime supply of sand toys - I chose there.) Then Jason got me a chair, laid out a towel, made a pillow out of another towel, secured it all down so the wind wouldn't blow it, pulled a side table over, left me with 2 extra towels for the kids, then asked "Can I get you anything, Mrs. Edwards? Sparkling water? Soda? Cocktail?" Oh yeah - I could get used to living like this. So I had Jason fetch me a beer, and then me and the kids enjoyed the beach for a bit. (DUH! Mental note: always have tip money on hand at The Breakers.) Later on, we moved to the pool. I chose my own chair (it had fluffy folded towels on it already), and within minutes another boy came by to see if we needed anything. I tool a look at the snack bar menu and almost spit my sparkling water all over the 2,000 thread Egyptian Cotton towel. Guess how much a PB&J sandwich is? $10.50! And a hot dog? $11.50! A slice of pizza? $12.50! O-M-G! Bart's company is paying for the room, but anything we order is on us. The cheapie girl in me just couldn't stomache those prices - I could buy 3 loafs of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of jelly and make 30 sandwiches myself for $10.50! So we went back to the room and raided my stash of food for lunch. The rest of the weekend went well - no major disasters. All that service took a little getting used to, and I didn't really have the appropriate wardrobe, and we didn't eat any food on property (except what we brought), but overall, I LOVED the place! (The kids did too.)

A month later we went to the Ritz - just me and Bart. Now, by most standards, the Ritz is a kick-ass place. But after staying at the Breakers, well, it's just not the same. It's the difference between having 3-4 guys open your car door, and just one. It's the difference in being on the beach, or having to take a shuttle to the Beach Club. Bart and I kept joking about what a "dump" the Ritz was. (FYI - The Ritz sarasota is a really great - I would stay there agin in a heartbeat.) The only real problem we had was that the valet could never seem to find our car. One time it took almost half an hour and a number of progressively higher ranking valet people to find it.

The point of all this is that I/we get to do things we would NEVER get to do otherwise. Most times I feel that we are a "wealthy" family. We are quite comfortable. We live in a nice house, have 2 nice cars, and a kick-ass swimming pool. We take pretty good vacations. But then you visit a place like the Breakers, and you realize that no matter how rich you think you are, there is a whole other level of people out there - people that most of us don't know about because we never come into contact with them. I can pretend (which I did this year on our return visit, but that will be in the next post), but I don't really belong there.

In the meantime, I'm going to sit here on my balcony at The Contemporary, where in a few hours we will get a million dollar view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show.

Life is Good.

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