The World of Lake Worth/West Palm

Lions and man­goes and arts! Oh my!

Cape Coral Living - - Cape Departmens - BY DAYNA HARPSTER

We were warned to drive slowly through the fenced-in area, leav­ing the car win­dows up at all times. Se­cu­rity per­son­nel were sta­tioned through­out the 4-mile en­clo­sure. We may be tempted to give the res­i­dents food or call out to them, we were told, but we must not, even if they come up very close to the car and stare at us. We could stare back, def­i­nitely, but we were not to get out of our cars. That was fine, es­pe­cially since so many liv­ing there had scary horns. Lion Coun­try Sa­fari in Lox­a­hatchee was the least civ­i­lized of the places we vis­ited on a fall-feel­ing-like-sum­mer late Septem­ber week­end near Florida's East Coast. As West Coast­ers, we set out to see how the other half lived. Some 900 were a real bunch of an­i­mals, in­clud­ing nosy-look­ing os­triches, snooz­ing lions, swing­ing gib­bons and a few Asi­atic buf­falo that stood de­fi­antly and blocked most of the road. Far less prim­i­tive but still pleas­antly rus­tic was the Mango Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lake Worth, a 10-room inn owned for just a year or so by the re­laxed and ac­com­mo­dat­ing Chet and Po Pa­tel. Chet acted as host in a low-key, old-friend way, ex­plain­ing that the cou­ple and their two young sons live next door so we should just give a ring when we ar­rive and he would meet us to check in. Hid­den from the street at the inn was a court­yard with a barely tame land­scape sur­round­ing a lovely Mediter­raneanstyle pool, with at least one red hi­bis­cus flower per­pet­u­ally float­ing on the sur­face. The Mango Inn is in a res­i­den­tial area of mostly old Florida–style houses, a few blocks away from

the bridge to Lake Worth Beach—on Palm Beach Is­land—in one di­rec­tion and an artsy down­town in the other. Mango trees on the prop­erty sea­son­ally yield the in­gre­di­ents for the inn’s sig­na­ture mango jelly and mango French toast, served free, year-round, be­tween the civ­i­lized hours of 9 and 10 a.m. Late Septem­ber tends to be a lit­tle slow, Chet Pa­tel ex­plained, so he reg­u­larly up­grades guests’ reser­va­tions, which put us in the pool­side Mag­no­lia Room, decked out in a beach theme and open­ing to a veranda with café ta­bles and chairs. Lake Worth bills it­self as the place “where the trop­ics begin,” and that’s al­most true. In lat­i­tu­di­nal terms, it’s the north­ern­most point of the sub­trop­ics. Its seven square miles con­tain 37,000 res­i­dents, a pop­u­la­tion much more di­verse than its Palm Beach neigh­bors. Its first res­i­dents, in the 1880s, were an African-Amer­i­can cou­ple thought to be ex-slaves. Af­ter World War II, re­tirees from Que­bec, Fin­land and Ger­many ar­rived. The week­end we vis­ited, the lo­cal Mayan com­mu­nity was hold­ing a fes­ti­val in a nearby park. For a lit­tle more than two decades, Lake Worth has fash­ioned an image as a haven for art. On Feb. 25 and 26, more than

For a lit­tle more than two decades, Lake Worth has fash­ioned an image as a haven for art.

100,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to at­tend the free Street Paint­ing Fes­ti­val, the city's 23rd, when about 600 artists with chalk will turn down­town streets into an out­door gallery of de­signs. In fall and win­ter, the Lake Worth Art League holds Art Al Fresco gallery days at the Casino Build­ing (de­spite the name, no gam­bling) at Lake Worth Beach ev­ery two weeks. The Cultural Coun­cil of Palm Beach County is head­quar­tered in down­town Lake Worth and serves as an arts hub for the re­gion. It’s in­evitable that Lake Worth seems a lit­tle rough around the edges com­pared with neigh­bor­ing West Palm Beach. But we agree with Mango Inn guest Mar­lene Ruiz of Mi­ami, there with her hus­band, Michael. Avid stay­ca­tion­ers, they pre­fer a smaller inn over a pala­tial ho­tel, à la the Break­ers in Palm Beach. “We love the lo­ca­tion. It’s quiet and peace­ful. And the own­ers are so wel­com­ing,” she says. They had ar­rived on mo­tor­cy­cles the night be­fore for a Toby Keith con­cert at the fair­grounds in West Palm Beach. We walked on the well-heeled side in West Palm, am­bling in for lunch at the new Hil­ton Ho­tel, opened last year. Shar­ing the ho­tel that day was a Sweet 16 party, headed to the 100-plus stores a street away at down­town’s City Place. Seem­ing equally at ease were a young woman with cobalt hair and a young man in a “Dark­star” T-shirt, “ComicCon” nametags swing­ing on their necks. From the Hil­ton, we walked less than a mile to the Nor­ton Mu­seum of Art. In­cluded in its 7,000-piece col­lec­tion are works by Pablo Pi­casso, Robert Mother­well, Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Marc Cha­gall, plus ancient Chi­nese ar­ti­facts and a world-class pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion. We were high­est on the food chain for din­ner at Pis­tache French Bistro near the West Palm Beach water­front. Chef de cui­sine Isaac Cerny’s fresh in­gre­di­ents, art­ful pre­sen­ta­tion and tasty and imag­i­na­tive menu were de­light­ful—so much so that I didn’t flinch when telling my ve­gan daugh­ter later that I had dined on duck and snails (Hud­son Val­ley, with truf­fled po­lenta, spinach and sweet cherry sauce, and es­car­got), fol­lowed by a quin­tes­sen­tial crème brulée. Back at the Mango Inn, the si­lence—bro­ken only by the sooth­ing sound of the pool wa­ter­fall—was all the night­cap we needed.

The Lake Worth pier reaches into the At­lantic and of­fers some spec­tac­u­lar fish­ing. Be­low: The city of West Palm Beach glis­tens.

Lake Worth Beach has an ex­panse of sand and cool, blue At­lantic water. Feed­ing the gi­raffes (right) is a high­light of Lion Coun­try Sa­fari. The an­nual Lake Worth Street Paint­ing Fes­ti­val (be­low) turns the down­town streets into mas­ter­pieces.

Manor is one of the restau­rants at the new West Palm Beach Hil­ton. Right: The Nor­ton Mu­seum of Art con­tains 7,000 works of Amer­i­can, Euro­pean and Chi­nese art. The sky­line (be­low) of West Palm Beach glows in pinks and pur­ples.

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