Splendor in the Palms

for the Washington Post's FW magazine
One imagines it possible that the flowers are painted to match the citrus-hued furniture. Anything seems possible in a place where a sign announces that today the ocean -- not the beach -- is closed due to stormy waters.

This is The Breakers, after all. The many star and diamond studded Italian Renaissance hotel that presides over the Palm Beach waterfront like the world's most splendid cruise ship, though there's no reason to disembark.

Like a cruise ship, the resort is capable of comfortably mingling guests of all ages and pedigrees, from the brilliantly bejeweled to the elaborately tattooed. Kids as well, with day and evening camps,  playgrounds and game rooms to keep them out of your ...coif.  

Modeled after the Villa de Medici, filled with  tapestries, murals, gilding, and chandeliers dripping Venetian crystals the size of mangoes, The Breakers, built in 1926, is tended by a chicly-clad staff of two thousand.  

At crack of dawn, teams of workers appear to prune the very air along with microcosmic snippets of errant grasses that have dared to breach the perfect gap between paver and lawn.  Throughout the day the stone chalices (dare one call them ash trays?) that dot the property are instantly cleaned and raked.

Set on 140 acres, there are four pools along the half mile stretch of beach ocean front, two golf courses, ten tennis courts, and eleven boutiques, including branches of Ralph Lauren, Guerlain, and Lily Pulitzer, of course.

The spa offers everything from manicures to full-day indulgences, three fitness centers serve those who prefer the treadmill, and complementary classes are offered in belly dancing, pilates, and yoga. Given the level of service it comes as a shock that you're expected to swab your own yoga mat.

Among the eight restaurants there's the Seafood Bar with aquarium bar tops where neon tetras startle the stem of your mojito. HMF, in the fabulous Florentine room, tenders a palimpsest of mid-century modern furnishings with a 21st century menu featuring cocktails and shareable small plates of duck orecchiette, cloud-light meatballs, and sushi.

An ocean front room, should you be so lucky, has a wall of sliding glass with a balcony framed by palms. An orchid nestles in succulents and seashells at the foot of the bed, the baths are marble, the soaps and creams custom to The Breakers, and the robes a wonderfully stretchy terry.  

It is not in the least surprising that it takes $25 million per year to keep this fantasy afloat. All you need is a wallet with enough heft to indulge. Rooms begin at $480 per night in high season.

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