PALM BEACH - We cross the bridge connecting West Palm Beach with this posh playground for the rich and powerful and are instantly impressed by the rows of pencil-straight palm trees lining trendy Royal Palm Way.
Turning onto South Lake Drive, we marvel at the crayon-coloured mini “castles” standing stately behind 10-metre-high hedges, the multi-million dollar yachts docked in a small harbour and laugh when we see a local woman pushing her two dogs in a baby stroller.
A vintage Bentley catches our eye as we turn onto shaded Australian Ave. and an awning stretching all the way to the curb invites us to stop at the front door of a Palm Beach landmark, the Brazilian Court Hotel and Beach Club.
Our car is quickly swarmed by neatly-attired attendants who invite us to visit the legendary property that first opened in 1926 and remains one of Palm Beach’s most desired addresses.
As we enter the chic lobby, we’re awestruck by the colourful art lining the walls of this boutique beauty which boasts 80 of the most sought-after rooms in Florida.
We follow the lobby until it becomes a small lounge area and then drifts off into the hotel’s renowned Café Boulud Sud, another of French chef Daniel Boulud’s fabulous American restaurants which has become the place to “be seen” in Palm Beach, where such noted Canadians as the Westons and Mulroneys like to vacation.
Above: The hotel features lots of cozy corners.
An outdoor courtyard off the lobby leads to Brazilian Ave. (from which the property gets its name) and features a small fountain with an angelic figure holding a water jug. Small tables and comfy chairs invite guests to linger with a beverage while soaking up the rich scents coming from the surrounding gardens.
That’s where I meet Maureen O’Sullivan, the property’s Director of Marketing, who offers to take me on a tour of the historic hotel where Rose Kennedy would house guests when America’s First Family of politics invited friends down to Palm Beach.
I follow O’Sullivan through an archway book-ended by two terracotta staircases painted Mediterranean yellow into the “hotel’s original courtyard.”
“The courtyard off the lobby was added later but this was here when the property first opened and it remains very popular with wedding groups,” says O’Sullivan.
The Brazilian Court is one of the most popular wedding venues in Palm Beach and in 2013 alone the property hosted over 140 ceremonies, with the bride and groom taking their vows in the romantic courtyards.
Because it’s an elegant holdover from an era void of electronic entertainment, the Brazilian Court showcases several public areas where guests once gathered to read or write to friends and family back home in New York or Philadelphia.
TVs and DVD players have been added to those spaces today, but wooden shelves filled with books are a lovely reminder of the property’s simpler days.
The Brazilian Court still hosts reading weeks every year, and they attract an A-list of authors,like Tony Mendez, of Argo fame, and Rebecca Miller, the daughter of Arthur Miller and the wife of Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis. Miller’s bestsellers include Jacob’s Folly and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
Most of the property’s public areas are decorated in rich cypress wood and limestone imported from France covers the floor.
Above: The hotel's swimming area is a delightful place to relax.
O’Sullivan points to the purple streaks running through the soft limestone and reveals that in a former life the stone was used in a winery and the streaks were caused by dripping wine.
As we make our way up a flight of stairs to see one of the well-appointed rooms that come decorated in dark woods and the finest of everything, we notice familiar names on plaques outside some of the suites: Lancaster, Fairbanks, Brando, Cooper and Bogart. The suites are named after Hollywood heavyweights from the Golden Era of film, many of whom stayed at the Brazilian Court when they vacationed in Palm Beach.
The elegant suites feature a cozy living room, bedroom and wet bar and some are privately owned by well-heeled easterners who come to Palm Springs during the winter months.
Many of the brides who get married at the Brazilian Court can be seen the day of their wedding getting treated like a princess in the property’s Frédéric Fekkai Salon and Spa. The world-renowned celebrity hairstylist has three venues in Palm Beach — the Brazilian Court shop opened in 2004. It offers massages, facials and other spa treatments as well as hair styling, but the prices can be a bit hair-raising.
Boulud’s room at the Brazilian Court is every bit as good as his restaurants in New York and the Palm Beach property is named for the café his family once ran back in his native Lyon. The menu features many French classics with just a pinch of Mediterranean dishes tossed in for good measure. The main dining room reflects a relaxed elegance, but most guests ask to be seated on an open-air terrace overlooking the famed courtyard.
A short stroll from the property on South County Road (US Hwy A1A) you’ll find the appropriately named Worth Shopping Centre and you have to be worth lots of money to buy anything in the designer label shops. But window shopping costs nothing and people-watchers can very well catch a glimpse of some very famous faces.
But hanging around the quiet pool area at the Brazilian Court and soaking up the Florida sun in the courtyard areas is how most people like to spend their time at this one-of-a-kind beauty.
The Brazilian Court is located at 301 Australian Ave / Info: www.thebraziliancourt.com/ - The Brazilian Court is within walking distance of the world famous Breakers Resort. In fact, some people refer to the Brazilian Court as a “mini Breakers.” / Summer rates at the Brazilian Court start around $199 U.S. a night – a bargain for so much luxury. January is the Norton Museum of Art at 1451 S. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach. The museum boasts a collection of 7,000 works with a concentration in European,American and Chinese art as well as contemporary art and photography. Go to www.norton.org