This June, I had the pleasure of staying at the Courtyard by Marriott (1617 N. 1st St.) in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
Never before having stayed in northeastern Florida, yet being bestowed the sometimes dubious honor of planning the trip, I spent more time than I care to admit browsing review upon TripAdvisor review of area hotels. Naturally, for each person who gave a glowing 5-star rating of any given hotel, there was another who warned of the alleged shadiness of the neighborhood, vampire bats in the closet, and equally blood-sucking front desk employees. In spite of it all–thanks mainly to luck–I was able to choose what I can safely call the best hotel at which I have ever stayed. Health reasons abound!
From the balcony: uncrowded, mental health nirvana.
One of the best things about this Marriott was the extensive breakfast buffet, including a full-service, made-to-order omelette bar. Had I known then that I would be discussing this later on a blog, I would have snapped crazy photos of the oatmeal station, ready for business with raisins, dried cranberries, and brown sugar; bowls of freshly-diced pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, and chopped strawberries; pre-wrapped pink grapefruit-halves with cherry centers; boxed cereals and breads, some of which looked whole-grain; the cute make-your-own waffle station; hot-trays of scrambled eggs, and more*. (*”More” (n.) – see ‘less healthful options,’ i.e. sausages, bacon, gooey danishes, and mini-muffins.) All in all, it was a fabulous and extremely convenient, anticipated daily visit.
Enjoyment of this surprisingly excellent hotel was secured by a few key points:
1. A stunning natural environment. The same way that hospital patients supposedly react better to treatment when there are flowers present, we thrived on the beauty of our surroundings. Taking in the sunrise on the Atlantic every morning is nourishing for the psyche and the soul.
2. Fabulous, attentive, friendly staff. Maybe it’s just Southern hospitality, but this courteous staff went above and beyond, offering up the names and locations of local natural food stores when asked (I am not ashamed!) and the breakfast waiters even kindly waiving the reasonable buffet fee one morning during the stay. Sadly, some vacations can make one’s heart pound with nervous excitement and overwhelming expectations of all the things he/she would like to do and see in a short period of time, with the long-term damaging effects of seemingly intangible “stress” often overlooked. A relaxing, stress-squashing atmosphere is crucial!
3. Community. This hotel was more of a resort than a hotel, with a tremendous, open lobby and bar sitting area, where families convened and enjoyed each other’s company. The full-length glass windows, open to the outside pool and beach areas were nice for watching everyone else have a good time splashing around.
4. Most of all, it was obscenely well-kept. The floors literally sparkled and glowed. The food was fresh and delicious. The tables were speedily bussed. The rooms were beautifully made. And the pool and beach areas–assuring safety and banishing evil free-loaders–were accessible by room-card-swipe-only.
Nothing quite matches the serenity of watching the waves slowly roll onto the shore or feeling the sand swim beneath your toes.
What a great escape for the mind, body, and spirit. You’re probably thinking, “Wow! I guess the only way it could have been better was to get a little massage action in there!” But, be reasonable. That would just make me–uh, you–very greedy. Save some room for later, Augustus.
Sigh, parting is such sweet sorrow. ‘Til we meet again! —– Oh, you’re still here? I was talking to JAX Beach.