Spending the weekend in Florida’s beautiful first coast (PHOTOS)

As we all struggle to find new ways to “get away” while also staying close and safe, my husband and I embarked on a trip to a place that is so very beautifully different—across the state of Florida. It’s a place that is so close, and once was very close to my heart, but also is culturally very far away.

We loaded up, kissed the fur babies good-bye and headed to where the Atlantic’s waves crash against the shore—the one thing that I do miss now, living on the West Coast.

While I used to make the trek to the Jacksonville/Ponte Vedra area regularly – it had been some time.

Regions grow, things change and, boy has it.

The GPS took us through a forgotten part of Florida. There were cattle, and nothing but pine trees, for miles. There weren’t gas stations or even public restrooms. It truly was the old Florida that I have often imagined.

We drove through Hawthorne, which unfortunately is where my grandmother died, 30-plus years ago, but the memories of our visits there flowed as we leisurely passed through the area. As I wrote earlier, it’s a short 3½-hour trip across the state that can be long with fond memories and imagination.   

We arrived at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club with high hopes of an unplugged, relaxing weekend. The resort did not disappoint. Upon arrival, we were greeted with safety protocols and smiles. When we crossed through the threshold of our home for the weekend, we also crossed through a transformation of what was 2020. No detail was left unchecked, no expense spared, it felt like COVID didn’t exist there. 

Ambiance, for us, is key and the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club delivers. Every light switch has a dimmer, undercabinet lighting abounds, there are USB ports bedside and couch-side. Different colored towels for your head, and body, so as not to confuse which one to use. And the best?

Amazing blackout shades, a breeze and crashing waves that just won’t quit.

We had an exclusive, beach-side balcony and didn’t have to see another person at the resort if we didn’t want to. The room was more than spacious, with a bathtub and bathroom built for a king. It was our own slice of paradise.

I don’t know how to describe the luxuriousness of the bedding. Can I say it was light, but also heavy? It didn’t feel heavy, from a weight perspective, but one moment in bed made us feel a swaddle as warm as your mother made them. They enveloped us, in a good way. Cozy doesn’t even begin to describe it.     

At the time of our visit, it was the holiday season. The first morning of our stay, we headed to the clubhouse for breakfast and found ourselves in a Christmas wonderland. The most breathtaking thing we saw was a real, 18-foot Christmas tree. It smelled terrific and was decorated as if an interior decorator had chosen every piece. Everything was larger than life, even the packages that were stowed under the tree.

At the golf course-side restaurant, our bread arrived warm, luscious and adorned with a seahorse (the Inn & Club’s signature) pat of butter. 

We shopped, we had cocktails, we strolled the beach, we found old friends and we made new friends.

Every meal was delectable and there was high-end shopping, memorable holiday décor, beautiful landscaping and a true sense of escaping 2020. We joked that our only complaint was a grandiose Rueben sandwich, that was more than enough to share (too much, we simply couldn’t finish it all), exploding with sauerkraut, delicious sauce and corned beef.

We bought gifts for the family and, of course, gifts for ourselves. The longing for Peterbrooke Chocolate, over the years, was satisfied in the gift shop (if you haven’t had their chocolate-covered popcorn, you must). 

The pro shop, even for this nongolfer, was brimming with cute clothes, accessories and sundries that didn’t require a day on the links—just a little bit of taste for athleisure wear at its best.

Sunday morning required repacking and heading home. It was bittersweet. While we had an amazing weekend at the Club, there’s no place like home. For a goof, when we were almost back, my husband had the idea to pop into the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I wasn’t dressed for it (or was I?) and I wasn’t happy about it. And then? We promised to only buy one drink each and only drop $20, each, into the quarter slots. Guess what? Bonus to an already amazing weekend! We walked away from a $65 investment, and a little more fun, with almost $400 in profit. 

The moral of the story?

Get away! You can work from anywhere now, so why not mix it up? The hospitality industry has worked hard to make us feel safe and we need to do the same for them.

Take a drive, visit somewhere you haven’t before—or return to the places that have made you feel special in the past. Shop “local”—meaning regionally or statewide. Support those businesses that need us most, right now.

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