“To escape and sit quietly on the beach – that’s my idea of paradise.”

Everyone who is familiar with South Florida knows there is a world of a difference between east and west of the intracoastal. So when I got the opportunity to venture out east, I packed a bag and headed over the bridge without hesitation. The beach was beckoning me and it was my duty to answer.

My love for the beach began as a child. My fondest memories were weekends spent at the shore, soaking up the sun, riding the waves and eating sandy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was a place of joy, where time stopped and the only expectation was to have fun. It is no surprise that as an adult my passion for the beach steams from the association of freedom and childhood wonder. Within minutes of being by the ocean, every care in the world dissipates and I am embraced with a flood of relaxation. In short, the beach is my happy place.

Crossing over the threshold leading to the island which is known as Fort Lauderdale Beach, I heard the grates of the bridge thumping underneath my tires, each marking me closer to my destination-Paradise. Turning the bend on A1A, I saw the famous palm tree lined promenade and immediately felt every ounce of stress melt away. Greeted by a picture perfect day and sand spanning for miles, I arrived at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The sign indicated that my staycation had begun.

Check in was smooth and easy. Within minutes, I stepped off the elevator onto the eleventh floor and promptly entered my room, just as the description had read, Ocean View Premium King. The room featured all of the necessities: ample drawer and closet space, a shower/tub combination, small refrigerator, coffee maker, air conditioning, flat screen TV, desk and lounge. The interior design was appropriately nautical with oars fastened above the bed and light wood tones. The room was simple, yet modern with all of the conveniences one would require from a hotel. My favorite part aside from the king sized bed was the view overlooking the pool deck and of course, the ocean. I suited up ready for a beach day and a special tasting at the onsite restaurant, Lona Cocina Tequileria.

Lona Cocina Tequileria is Chef Pablo Salas’ signature restaurant inside the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The bright colorful décor and the extensive patio dining instantly captivated my attention. Not only are there multiple areas with spacious seating options, but there is also a private tequila room for large parties and private events. Speaking of tequila, the restaurant boasts a selection of 200 tequila options. Considering my visit coincided with National Margarita Day, it was only fitting that I ordered the Lona Margarita. The house specialty cocktail was blended with Jose Cuervo Reposado, lime and Agave served on the rocks with a salt rim. The tasting commenced with a bowl of guacamole with homemade chips and a distinctive variation on traditional salsa. I liked how the guac wasn’t overpowered by seasoning, but relied on the natural ingredients for flavor. After devouring my fair share of chips, salsa and guac, it was time for the next course, the appetizers. The server presented the Tuna Tostada prepared with chipotle aioli, soy, ginger, serrano peppers, sesame seeds and crispy leeks. It doesn’t get much fresher than this sea to table catch. A starter you definitely won’t want to miss are the Lamb Flautas made with braised lamb, habanero tomatillo salsa, cortijo cheese, blonde frisee and refried beans. The tender meat rolled into to the crispy tortilla and topped with cheese and beans produced a palatable experience that was unique and delicious. Onto the main course, which began with Salmon Mole, a thick steak-like piece of salmon topped with roasted cashews and mole sauce. The smoky, chocolate flavor of the mole paired perfectly with the fish and the cashews complimented the dish by adding an elevated level of texture. Next, I tried the Chicken Poblano entrée made with suprema de pollo, papas rajas, and poblano béchamel. This creamy creation was the ultimate in Mexican comfort food, both savory and satisfying. Finally, a meal is never complete without a sweet treat. I ended my epicurean journey with a churro and chocolate sauce. The crunchy, sugary churro was ideal for dipping into the warm, creamy chocolate sauce. Pleasantly stuffed, I left Lona just in time to walk the beach and swim in the ocean.

Back in my room after a few hours of beach time, I had a full belly and full spirits. I sunk into the plush bedding and pillow top mattress fit for a king or queen and prepared to binge watch episodes of Guy’s Grocery Games. Sprawled out in the king sized bed, I reflected that one of the benefits of sleeping alone is that you can sleep right down the middle of the bed, legs and arms flailed out. No one to accommodate. No interruptions. No obligations. Just pure me time. I opted for fresh air and slept with the door open. The waves crashing were the lullaby that rocked me into a restful sleep. There is no other place I would have rather been than curled up in that bed in my hotel room, but for those who are seeking a little more action and aren’t content with a lazy night of sedentary bliss, there are plenty of live entertainment options and bars in walking distance or a short Uber ride from the property.

The next morning the sun snuck through the blinds. I awoke to one of those moments where I didn’t recognize my surroundings. Realizing that I was in the hotel room and not my apartment, I jumped out of bed with the ambition that only one who needs caffeine to fuel any decisions possesses. While the coffee brewed, I enjoyed a long moment of gratitude as my eyes spanned the room thinking that I could really get used to this hotel life. I relished the first long sip of the Starbucks Blend provided and thanked the universe for the gift that is coffee. I was now ready to take on a day of pool lounging and spa treatments.

Paradise is within reach. Reserve your room today. I stayed midweek and the hotel was sold out. Make sure to book in advance. No wonder, the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort was ranked in the top ten best Fort Lauderdale hotels. For Marriott rewards members, the hotel is part of the Marriott family, so guests can use and earn points with each stay.

*In this two part series, Escape to Paradise, the first section focuses on the overall property and the second goes into detail about the spa experience. Stay tuned for the play-by-play on the ultimate day of pampering.

For more information visit: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/flllw-the-westin-fort-lauderdale-beach-resort/?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2

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