Ahhh, travel dreaming. In this age of international lockdowns and quarantines, we are all dreaming of being somewhere else. Anywhere else. So, with my travel friends posting dream trips right now (and with an April snowstorm keeping us indoors), here are my Top 10 Beach and Pool Days (in no particular order).
- Seabourn Odyssey off the coast of Cyprus. The attempted coup in Turkey put a wrench in our Athens to Istanbul cruise, but a new itinerary in the Greek Islands wasn’t the worst idea and I was especially delighted when they added the island nation of Cyprus. After a hot morning climbing over Roman ruins, marveling at mosaics, and steeping in history, I was ready for the pool. Back on board, I snagged my usual spot on starboard side poolside sun deck and was soon sipping a mojito without even asking the bartender to bring it. (Welcome to the cruise life on Seabourn.) What made that poolside day so memorable? There was something about laying in the sun by the pool, listening to my “world domination” personal playlist, and sipping a drink, looking out at the shore of a place I’d always heard of and never been. The hot wind had a distinctly middle eastern feel, different than the Med breezes elsewhere, and I watched the palm fronds sway on shore as I baked in the heat (with sunscreen, of course) all afternoon. It made me dream of chucking it all in and becoming a professional jet-setting party girl. I had one of those distinctive “How did I get here?” moments as I let my cares slip away.
- Myett’s, Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI. Life was crazy. Family was nuts, and work was insane, so I took a two week break at the holidays and rented a villa with a friend on Tortola. Our first day, we went down to the beach and had a bloody mary at every beach bar. Based on what we liked best, we made chose our beach bar our home for the duration. The winner was Myetts. Every morning, we’d head down to the beach, greet our bartenders, chat about how they were doing in that relaxed Carribbean way, and settle in for the day on the beach. A bloody mary would turn into a beer, which would turn into lunch, then a post-lunch nap and swim, and a toddle up to the villa for another nap before pre-dinner G&Ts. It was a really, rough vacation. NOT! But the best part? It was those long days reading good books, just enjoying the comings and goings of sailboaters and beach life on the white sand at Cane Garden Bay.
- Mistral Beach Bar at the Radisson Blu, Split, Croatia. We arrived in Split a few days early to enjoy the old city which is really an old Roman palace. Our plan was to have a few days to explore before a two week yacht charter. It was hot. Really hot. Like worst-heatwave-Europe-has-had-in-10-years hot. So we headed to one of the best beach clubs in the city — the Mistral on the beach below the Radisson Blu. Perched on a stony beach, the wooden deck was hot under our feet but the shady umbrellas were perfect as the waiter brought what seemed like bottle after bottle of cold rose’. Hotel guests get priority and while we weren’t officially guests, we tipped well and they always had a chair and towels waiting for us.
- Inn on Fifth, Naples, Florida, USA. Looking for the perfect place for a girl’s weekend? Look no further than the ultra-tony Inn on Fifth in the heart of Naples. I’d stayed there before and knew it would be a perfect home base for our girls trip since we love great food, wine, and pampering. One afternoon, after a leisurely lunch, we were craving the beach, and the staff at Inn on Fifth was happy to oblige. They loaded us up in a hotel suburban along with beach chairs and umbrellas and drove us to the beach, set everything up, and told us to call them when we were ready to return. Of course, one of us happened to have cold vintage Champagne in her beach bag while another of us produced a box of Cards Against Humanity. We sipped and laughed until late into the afternoon making it one of the best beach days on record.
- Neighborhood pool, Indianapolis, IN. Since this is a personal list, I have to include at least one amazing pool day that was simple and perfect. My father had passed away and I was finally home from a crazy summer of travel and work. A friend invited me up to her neighborhood pool for a much-needed pool day and it was fantastic. We talked all afternoon, laughed, and cried (I was kind of a mess), and drank too much, naturally. I remember being tired, and sun burned, and so released in a way that a good pool day — and a good cry — can bring you. All made more special by the weekday peace of a neighborhood pool and a friend.
- Capo Nord, Portofino, Italy. Portofino isn’t really a beach or pool town, unless you count sunning yourself from the deck of your anchored private yacht. The public beaches on this part of the Italian Riviera closer to Santa Margharita Ligure are stony, gravelly affairs. But there’s a secret: many restaurants have luxurious pool decks and lounge chairs perfect for late morning reservations which turn into lunches and snacks and many bottles of fine Italian rose. If you find yourself in Portofino on a summer day, make your way to Capo Nord, just a couple of kilometers out of town. From the road, it looks like an unassuming cafe’, but once you walk through the gate, it’s a perfect beach bar with elegant decks stretched over the water. Just call head and they’ll have your lounge chairs ready.
- Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’ve heard this hotel has been renovated since I was there plus, I have to admit, I was there in the fall, on the cusp of the off season. My room wasn’t great, but they have a gorgeous pool area and a small, calm beach. I found myself staked out next to the pool one afternoon when I was free. The beaches in San Juan are fantastic with white sand and crashing waves, but the pools give you an easier option where you can still hear the water. I was in the middle of writing a book and spent a lot of time resting my brain, just staring up at the private jets flying over my head into and out of the airport, wondering who was on them and where they were going. On my list for next time? Hotel El Convento in Old Town San Juan with a gorgeous pool and access to a private beach club if you’re in the mood.
- Mamaia Beach, Constanta, Romania. This beach town on the Black Sea is a popular summer resort for Russians, but was deserted in late September. Still, it was hot. Our cruise ship was docked just past the famous abandoned ruin of the Art Nouveau casino. I had decided to skip the pool that day and go to the beach. On Seabourn, when you head out for a beach day, they ensure you have towels, sunscreen, and bottled water, so I stuffed my bag full of goodies as I left the ship. The small bus took us directly to enormous stretch of nearly deserted beach which looked blissful to me. (It would have been nightmarish in high season packed with 1000s of people.) We were a small group and well taken care of at a local beach restaurant with great lounge chairs and cold local white wines. I remember the music in my headphones, a great book, and the vastness of the Black Sea, wondering what it must have been like for the ancient Greeks who first made their way up the straights and into this new, mysterious body of water.
- Le Beausset Vieux, Bandol, Var, France. That summer, six of us rented a great house via VRBO in the south of France. OK, it wasn’t just great, it was fantastic! Perched on a hillside near Bandol and just down from the 13th century Notre Dame Chapel, rumor was Kermit Lynch lived just a few houses over. We had to drive through Tempier’s legendary vineyards to get there. We could see the Mediterranean from our kitchen window and the owners had pool floats for the infinity pool. Even better were the enormous pool umbrellas that were fully adjustable when the June sun was just a bit too intense. It was the first time I’d ever taken two weeks off from work and I’d decided to read a classic I’d never tackled — Anna Karenina. I spent hours floating in that pool, looking out over the vineyards below, listening to the drone of cicadas, and reading (or “reading” as at least one photo of me napping can attest.)
- Castellelare di Castellina, Chianti,Italy. Through a strange series of events, a group of us rented a spectacular villa in the middle of a working vineyard on summer in Tuscany. A pool is mandatory and this house had a great one tucked into an orchard where we could hear wild boar and deer munching on fruit at night! I was exhausted when I arrived and reading one of Frances Mayes wonderful books on restoring her home just an hour or so away. As she often notes, there’s something about the sun in Tuscany. It’s somehow magic. It’s restorative. And every time I stretched out next to that pool smelling the olives and vines, I could feel my internal batteries recharging. I’m sure it was the sun, but the terrific wines may also have had something to do with it.
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